Dallas is now 7-2-1 in their last ten games. The only teams hotter heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs are the Pittsburgh Penguins (9-1...better watch your backs Washington), and the Philadelphia Flyers.
Sure I'm biased, but 7-2-1 in the Western Conference is just more impressive. Along with netting a Lindy Ruff milestone, this game had pretty much everything.
1. Anterior Bennetration
Jamie Benn is first from the 2007 draft class to hit 40 goals in a season. pic.twitter.com/by3pBCmxLu— em (@emhall_) April 3, 2016
The first period was an ideal start for Dallas. Not only were they pressuring Jonathan Quick with the puck, but they were the ones instigating the physical contact. And this is all without Brett Ritchie in the lineup. LA is a team influenced, sculpted, and defined by the image of Sutter's system. Dallas is a team influenced, sculpted, and defined by the creativity Ruff provokes within his team. These are two radically different philosophies, but one is no more efficient than the other with the right roster, and coaching.
2. In Defense of Kari: A Quick Lesson on Sports Science
The LA Kings' 12 forwards combined for 4 shots on goal in the 1st period. Dallas' Valeri Nichushkin had 3.— Greg Beacham (@gregbeacham) April 2, 2016
The first goal would happen thanks to a Tanner Pearson shot from practically the blueline, triggering groans as far as the metroplex can see.
Listen, I've been as harsh a critic of Kari Lehtonen as anyone. Keep in mind, this isn't counting the words I use away from DBD in the comfort of my own house (which needs some serious Stars memorabilia ASAP). So I should have been on the front lines here.
But two things deserve clarification. A) we're too used to thinking that the closer the shot, the more dangerous it is, which has merit, but is a zero sum way of thinking about how dangerous shots are, which does not have merit. And B) shots like these can be tough because they're glitches of puck physics. Athletes don't rely on reflexes. They rely on anticipation. That puck normally travels above Stephen Johns and into the stratosphere. It doesn't, so Kari is reduced to his reflexes. An athlete's reflexes aren't superhuman. Albert Pujols famously finished in the 66th percentile among college students on a visual reaction test. And famously got struck out by Jennie Finch.
When an athlete is stripped of their intuition, they tend to falter. And Kari faltered here. This doesn't absolve Kari of blame. But it doesn't indict him. Oh yea, Jamie Benn would tie it up with three seconds left in the first because he's awesome.
3. That 70's Fandango
Ahahahah Rousell just got shhhh'ed in the box. pic.twitter.com/0y98sKcejX— Jen Neale (@MsJenNeale_PD) April 2, 2016
Even the penalty box timekeeper was getting in on the "Enough Roussel!" mantra. Speaking of which, I imagine these forever genial penalty box timekeeper dudes have stories that would make Hemingway blush. I guess they have some sort of unspoken Cancun code.
Antoine Roussel is, as Razor so eloquently and crudely defined, the feces disturber extraordinaire*. The sultan of smut. The gerent of guano. Or at least that's how other teams see him. Even the typically stoic box keepers couldn't remain unrattled. I'm totally cool with that. To paraphrase Brad Pitt, planning is peaceful. Winning is violent.
4. Rook Takes King
3:50 left in 2p, I enjoyed Johns rag dolling Kopitar. He deserves a gif-filled blog entry after the NFL Draft.— Bob Sturm (@SportsSturm) April 2, 2016
Jeff Carter would score off a deft interception from a Kari Lehtonen pass. The goal itself was incidental. Carter lost control of the puck and once again, Kari was reduced to his reflexes because Carter's inability to corral the puck resulted in a wholly unanticipated route. Again, I don't mean to sound like an apologist. I just happen to think that Kari was victimized more by chance than choice. These were the only two goals that would end up going in, after all. In the meantime, Stephen Johns and Johnny Oduya continued their rugged play, which makes you wonder what the defense will look like when Jason Demers comes back. Heika seems to think that Russell and Goligoski will be reunited. Demers and Klingberg? Who knows.
5. Brothers in Charms
YESSSSSS, JORDIES 2ND GOAL OF THE SEASON!! Stars now hold the lead against the Kings pic.twitter.com/TMwQlGmJaR— Annie (@AnnieDevineTX) April 2, 2016
Patrick Eaves would later score thanks to yet more yeoman's work from Radek Faksa (who accounted for 25 Percent of Dallas' high danger scoring chances at even strength), and a helmet-less Roussel on one of Razor's more inspired play calls. I mean just listen to this one:
Then, of all the players to tie it up, hockey's own Yukon Cornelius. Jordie had a good game too, so it's not like his goal was the only worthwhile contribution.
6. Ruff Milestone
Dallas not only held the lead, but missed at least several hundred chances on the empty net to put it away. And with that, Ruff earned his 700th win. As I said at the outset, I think Ruff has always been a good coach. That was my impression in 1999 when he took a ragtag group of players to the Cup Finals and pushed a vastly superior Dallas team to six games. Yes, he had Dominik Hasek. But he also had 12 brilliant forwards, 6 excellent defensemen, and a brilliant heads up goaltender to contend with on the other side. If systems are about hockey literacy, then possession offense is about creativity, and Ruff knows how to unlock the latter, which leads to hockey education all the same.
*Don't worry. This isn't a link to Germany's cultural underbelly of excess. It's Ryan Getzlaf letting loose on Rouss in the 2013-2014 playoffs.
I can't stop watching this clip of Quick just despising those guys trying to put the puck back in his net pic.twitter.com/Jk5I9gLhqN— Erin (@ErinMiHaley) April 3, 2016
Here's the fantastic footage of Klingberg and Goligoski teasing Quick during the first period scrum.