The Dallas Stars kept a red hot Nashville Predators team from clinching a playoff spot. Just as I warned, it wasn't without a struggle despite the gaggle of empty netters.
This game was a lot weirder than it gets credit for. Let's tweet this baby down shall we?
1. Southern Lumber
James Neal:— SB Nation NHL (@SBNationNHL) March 30, 2016
1) got checked into the Stars bench
2) realized it's comfy
3) didn't leavehttps://t.co/euVWeZ13ih pic.twitter.com/GqVCLVM00Z
Stephen Johns continued his solid play by sticking James Neal in the fridge. Unfortunately Neal appeared to having fun, which probably wasn't John's desired result. But at least Neal wasn't on the ice. As Razor pointed out, it's not that Johns is physical. Patrik Nemeth is physical too, but the two make drastically different impacts when physical: Nemeth tries to disrupt. Johns tries to disturb. In doing so, Johns makes a greater impact because he's also the better skater. The first period was as you'd expect from two teams who don't like each other at all.
John Klingberg would open up the scoring with an awful pass in traffic on the Power Play. Which is fine. Turnovers happen, especially to players who have the puck a lot. But I'm not digging how long he takes pinching in, fiddling around trying to keep the puck in when it's clear the forwards aren't set to retreat (he was a team worst -15 in Corsi +/-). He gets away with it at times because he's such a deft puck handler, but I see him doing this on the Power Play too, and it drives me nuts. Still, it's great to have him back, and he probably deserved more offense than what he ended up with.
2. Puck Prey
#TheCaptain @jamiebenn14 with his 38th brings the @DallasStars even with the @PredsNHL 1-1 after one. #DALvsNSHpt4 pic.twitter.com/muuBiU8kAD— Jeff K (@jeffk_stars) March 30, 2016
Jamie Benn would tie it up after a slick, patient Alex Goligoski pass to set Benn up on a breakaway. It was fantastic playmaking on Goose's part (less so on some of those turnovers). But an even greater finish from Benn who continues to slowly creep up on Patrick Kane's Art Ross lead. With Chicago slumping, as well as violating in every sense of the word, would it really shock anyone to see Benn end up defending his Art Ross title? Just saying.
Back, and to the left.— On The Forecheck (@OnTheForecheck) March 30, 2016
Back, and to the left.
Back, and to the left. https://t.co/71VGlPhXo4
You've heard it all before. I'm still not sure about this Mattias Janmark-Jason Spezza-Valeri Nichushkin line, but does it even matter with Spezza? Whoever he plays with, they're generally along for the ride and this goal on Rinne was about as good as it gets from the dapper dangler.
4. Ballistics and Gravy
Faksa, when being interviewed by @JulieAnnDobbs said he "licked the gravy" on his goal. #WhatDoesThatMean I smell a Meme.— Jason Walsh (@Jwalsh25) March 30, 2016
But let's talk about Radek Faksa. One of the things I wasn't sure on early on in Faksa's career during Derek Laxdal's tenure was his emphasis on coaching Faksa to be more ram than batter. But you see it pay dividends in the way he intelligently takes the body. As a result, he's becoming a quiet pest on the Stars. Faksa, Roussel, and Hemsky went up almost exclusively against the Ryan Johansen, James Neal, and Calle Jarnkrok line. Even better, Faksa won the one on one battle to the net on Johansen to do so. No word on whether or not Preds fans will criticize him the way they'd do Seth Jones every shift.
Fak'Em (this is kosher, right DBD?), which I'm dubbing thee, ended up positive possession players. Don't be surprised if Nill gives Faksa a sweet but shrewd deal ala Klingberg (not in terms of cap but in terms of value in proportion to cap) during the summer. Frankly, he'd be wise to.
5. Pinstripe Plague
Vintage Lindy Ruff coming out tonight, love it. pic.twitter.com/XfoacYZr2I— Playoffs Plz Bryan (@BryanWojtanik) March 30, 2016
The other story of this game was the Zack Snyder level officiating. The zebras had some very grimdark self serious interpretations of otherwise harmless behavior, and it tilted the ice in favor of no one. The holding call on Benn may have been one of the dumbest things I've ever seen. This wasn't a missed call, blown call, or gentlemen's disagreement. Even if Benn were holding, how could it be argued he was holding long enough to impact Neal's positioning? And if Shea Weber could be called for embellishment, how the hell is Neal not guilty? At no level did, or does the call make any sense even when accounting for the logical gymnastics required to defend it. The calls were bad both ways*, so it's not like either team benefited.
6. Because of the Echo...
Literally, caught a Predator in the net. How cool! @SportsSturm @bracketdan @NotJackKemp @tweetgrubes pic.twitter.com/T4M2Zxr36f— Brian Bobbitt (@brianbuddy11) March 30, 2016
Dallas hung on despite the stupid officiating. While their Power Play was listless, the penalty kill, despite being imperfect, was still generally strong throughout the game. Dallas hung on, and eventually did what they do best: score empty netters.
Gotta hand it to the Predators; they sure know how to treat Dallas to some Southern history. First they help Jamie Benn get the necessary four points he needed to win the Art Ross (the odds against on some of those points/goals were ridiculous). Now they allow Dallas to set a record in empty netters. Maybe I was wrong about facing the Preds after all.
*In order of rank from dumb to dumber: a) Nichushkin's cross checking b) Weber's embellishment c) Benn's holding. About right?
P.S. Good win for Texas last night as Matej Stransky continues his goal scoring streak, and Jason Dickinson, like Patrick Eaves, isn't afraid to have an on ice yard sale. Honka is now 4th in AHL defensemen scoring, and Legace continues to shine.