The Stars are officially in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That's the good news. The bad news is that if you're a fan, you're gonna need your own set of smelling salts, and perhaps even an active swim with live sharks to calm whatever is left of your nerves.
I don't think Lindy Ruff will be too happy about the game. Dallas was up by 4 going into the third. How on earth did this game end up a nail biter that required centimeters of room for the puck to cross the goal line and a blown play by Zucker to survive?
1. Good job, Minnesota
First off, this was a cool gesture. I grew up on Soundgarden, Body Count, Metallica, Kyuss, and lots of stuff that made me cringe at anything that didn't involve some chest hair generating guitar riff. Prince never resonated with me. But like David Bowie (end already, 2016), both were instrumental in showing how to be comfortable with being weird. And their music will endure. The Wild, however, not so much.
It wouldn't take long for Dallas to get back to doing Dallas things. Coyle and Friends took some bad penalties until Dallas ended up with a 5 on 3 that gave John Klingberg the opportunity to score his first goal of the playoffs.
2. Stealthy Dagger
get you a man who can do both pic.twitter.com/pYIkVKjgt5— AOL KEYWORD:Playoffs (@mikeFAIL) April 24, 2016
Minnesota slept walked through the first period. They played like a team who knew the writing was on the wall. They generated basically nothing, which allowed Dallas to eventually get Jason Spezza on board. Then Patrick Sharp would score to make it 3-0 with less than two minutes to go that shushed the Minnesota crowd. So far so good.
The second period was pretty much a replay of the first without all the Dallas scoring. The main thing is that Kari Lehtonen was looking sharp. Dallas wasn't giving up much either, and everything was going according to plan.
4. Brawn Smythe
Stars running away with it now.— Winging It In Motown (@wingingitmotown) April 24, 2016
...which isn't a concept entirely unfamiliar to how this franchise acts in Minnesota.
Jamie Benn leads the league right now with 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists). His shockingly not game winning goal was a perfect snipe, top shelf. It's the kind of goal 6'6 Devin Dubnyk would probably like back, but it's Jamie Benn. Part of Benn's success in the playoffs is that he's dangerous from the perimeter, but nobody can just force him into perimeter shots if he decides otherwise. Everybody talks about players having "less space" in the playoffs. Except Benn not only creates his own, but doesn't need it in the first place.
5. Victory Patronizing
Minnesota would start the white knuckler portion of the afternoon with a Power Play goal by Jared Spurgeon. It was a deft little pinch in that allowed it to happen. Colton Sceviour and Jason Demers helped the play develop by giving Spurgeon too much room and Kari Lehtonen left Spurgeon way too much room to grab a rebound. For some reason he actually drifts out of his crease. It wasn't a great play on anyone's part but all of this misses the mistake that began it all: Vernon Fiddler having all the room in the world with no pressure to clear the puck out of the zone, and clearing it right onto a Wild's stick. Guh.
Then the Brodin goal happened. John Klingberg's pinch wasn't a great play but once Minnesota is in the neutral zone it's just Erik Haula in against Jamie Benn, Alex Goligoski, and Cody Eakin. So my question is how do we go from this:
Which is completely acceptable. To this:
Which is not.
I can kind of see Goligoski's logic. Jamie Benn is actually trailing Haula before Goose ends up behind the net. Brodin is Cody Eakin's (who was the 3rd worst forward in shot differential) man all the way. I'll save the Eakin criticism for a full post assuming I'm allowed to write full on polemic here on DBD, but these blown plays are killing the Stars.
Spurgeon would get another on the Power Play after a Stephen Johns penalty. It was another breakdown in front of Kari was Goligoski and Sceviour bit way too hard to give Spurgeon an absolute gimmie. I couldn't tell you much about the Pominville goal. I was unconscious at the time.
6. Blues or Hawks?
Normally I don't take requests, especially when there are plenty of good crying Jordan memes, but this is quite the tasty treat. As well as flattering. So Dallas would hang on, but only by chance. Not choice. Zucker (who has had a dreadful year) missed on a functional open net, and they were that close to tying it late. The clock was ticking at a snail's pace, and the game couldn't end fast enough. Dallas played great for two periods. I can't help but think that the third was a combination of system breakdowns and just plain old fashioned bad luck. The odds of a team scoring four goals in one period are unbelievably slim. They won't have any excuse to be unprepared against St. Louis or Chicago. 1st place or not, Dallas will be the underdog against whoever they face.
On to some stray observations:
- About the Valeri Nichushkin scratch. Sometimes it pays to watch a game from afar. This is largely why we turn to stats. Our eyes aren't meant for pure processing. What we miss we use numbers to discern patterns that heighten our vision. Perhaps this is what Val will do as he sits. Perhaps this has even been communicated to him. I believe in Nuke. But I also believe he needs to simplify his game in the playoffs. His perfect plan tomorrow approach needs to be sacrificed for a good plan today philosophy. Once he does that, things will begin falling into place for him.
- As I've said before, I believe Ruff needs to try Faksa at center with Jamie Benn during the away games. It's not about abandoning a checking line so much as promoting the team's best defensive weapon into a role that can't be merely "matched". More ice time means less line matching. Faksa has earned Ruff's trust. It's time for him to earn his status.
- Everyone keeps calling for Goose and Klingberg to stop being a thing, but over what? Oduya-Johns is set on stone. This would leave a Russell-Klingberg, Goligoski-Demers pair, which means someone is losing a lot of icetime.
- I'd probably rather have the Hawks next round just because it'll make for more exciting hockey, but without Tyler Seguin, a series loss seems inevitable. Especially with the way the defense and goaltending have been playing in the postseason.