The Dallas Stars locked up a playoff spot more than a week ago, but they keep adding new twists to their final regular-season games that make them feel almost as important as that clincher against Chicago. Last night's 4-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes showcased the kind of team and individual efforts that are making the 2015-16 season one for the books.
One reason the Stars are nearing their best home record since 2006-07 is the effort they've made to improve upon last year's record, writes Mike Heika:
Among the goals for the team in preseason was fixing a home record that was 17-16-8 last season. Ruff said the key has been showing caution when protecting a lead.
"In certain situations where we had good leads, we tried to up the score and ended up getting scored against," Ruff said. "I think we've been a lot smarter team... I've got to give our guys a lot of credit, they bought into making sure we're defending, making sure we got people back."
Jamie Benn, sealing his first 40-goal campaign, led the way among several team members who are putting together remarkable individual efforts to end the regular season on an exclamation point:
Benn's goal was a nice shot that was created by a great forecheck from Radek Faksa and Ales Hemsky. That line (with Antoine Roussel) was effective all game, and Hemsky now has 13 points in the past 12 games.
"It's a tough mark to get to in today's game," Ruff said of Benn's 40th goal. "There's not many players going to get there, so it's pretty special, and it's a heck of a year so far for him."
Read the whole story at Heika's place. [SportsDayDFW]
It's Friday. Treat yourself to last night's highlights.
Heika also captured the postgame in quotes from Lindy Ruff, Captain Benn, Vernon Fiddler and Ales Hemsky. [SportsDayDFW]
Even the Jumbotron was in rare form last night.
Shots fired. AAC Jumbotron back at it pic.twitter.com/4xF5efTeUU— Dylan Nadwodny (@dnadders) April 1, 2016
Don't forget it.
Oh heck, watch that 40th goal again while you're here.
Empty-net roulette winner Patrick Sharp talked about his first season with the Stars on The Hockey News Podcast. Grab it at these links.
So Johnny Oduya has some thoughts about playoff beards.
And Razor has some thoughts on Jamie Benn.
Everyone loves The Faksa, but no one more than the Stars themselves.
Last night in wildcard brutality:
- Marc-Andre Fleury became the fourth goalie in NHL history to reach 35 wins in seven seasons as the Pittsburgh Penguins took down the Nashville Predators 5-2. [Pittsburgh News Tribune]
- Jean-Gabriel Pageau earned three points as the Ottawa Senators broke the Minnesota Wild's six-game winning streak, 3-2. [Hockey Wilderness]
What'a a first overall pick really worth? Historically, not as much as you may think, says Dave Lozo, who's compiled an overview of former No. 1s, from the sublime (Mike Modano) to the somewhat less so (Patrik Stefan). [Vice Sports]
Rookie Mike Condon earned his first NHL shutout as the Habs beat the Bolts. [CBC]
Everyone has a hot take on the NHL concussion-lawsuit e-mail dump. Chris Johnston focuses on what these messages can tell us about how the league's power players make decisions. [Sportsnet]
The USA is off to a great start in the 2016 Women's World Championship and is now the top seed in Group A.
Finally: Five-year-old San Antonio Rampage fan James Evans didn't let a stray puck and a trip to the ER keep him from watching his team win in overtime.