It's all unraveling for me. First I make an argument that Radek Faksa should be playing with Jamie Benn and then the third line goes and gets all the points. I question Kari Lehtonen's resolve like all bad armchair psychologists and he goes and plays one of his most focused games of the season. I picked the Blues to win in 6.
Dude. Haven't you learned anything from butterfly fan effect causalities of superstition? Your pessimism is undefeated. Shut up!
I'm still picking the Blues. I still question Kari. And that third line will come down to Earth so that Jamie Benn must cover their deficiencies. *ahem*
I really am a bit shocked that Dallas beat St. Louis with Brian Elliot playing out of his mind while Benn didn't figure into the scoresheet. But win they did, and they did it the playoff hockey way everyone assumes they're not fit for.
I thought this was amusing even though I have no way of really using it for the context of the first period except to note that people from small European countries that share geographical DNA with other small European countries who dislike each other is never not funny.
Kari Lehtonen had a tough mental workout in the opening stanza. St. Louis came out doing Blues things while the Stars fumbled around early. Unlike the San Jose vs. Nashville game there was no mistaking this bout for the playoffs. It showed in the two captains.
2. Backes to the Suture
captain on captain pic.twitter.com/syjhpSbmMg— Stephanie (@myregularface) April 30, 2016
The cliches about playoff hockey can be overbearing. Especially when it's coming from people like Pierre McGuire, who talks about obscure Canadian towns like each one owns a Lighthouse of Alexandria. But when the acrimony is real, it's nothing short of engaging. Jamie Benn had no problem disturbing David Backes' essence, and Backes had no problem returning the favor.
The first period eventually tiled in Dallas' favor. Lindy Ruff was getting the matchups he wanted, and the performances from the players he needed.
3. Et Tu, Hubris?
This morning Steve Ott said the Blues had better players to worry about than Roussel.— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) April 30, 2016
The second period began the way the first period ended. Steve Ott increasingly became a factor, which is to say, he was increasingly annoying. But it was nothing Dallas hasn't seen before. After all, they have to practice against Antoine Roussel, who I have to believe isn't blacklisted by NHL refs because he's lamenting their decision making in a different language.
While the size angle is oveplayed in the context of playoff hockey, it is fun to see St. Louis get a taste of their own grit medicine. Stephen Johns was instrumental, leveling Robby Fabbri with a clean forearm to the chest, and standing up Vladimir Tarasenko on several occasions, which is not easy to do given the tank on wheels syndrome he suffers from. Just ask Radek Faksa, who tried to do the same but ended up on his back. Faksa is 6'3: not exactly an ewok's measurements.
4. You were saying, Otter?
Roussel is not an underappreciated player among Stars fans but I do feel like he's an underappreciated element of the Fak 'Em line. Faksa gets a ton of love for being a rookie with immense defensive IQ. And you only need to follow Robert Tiffin's work here at DBD to appreciate what a 'more eccentric than electric' forward Hemsky is, who is the offense driver of the trio. Roussel's contributions to the third line tend to be 'glaucomal', for lack of a better word. He's more than just a vague collection of grit stereotypes. He's more than just the id to Faksa's super ego and Hemsky's ego. He's always had solid vision even where his raw puck handling sometimes fail him, and he has a gear that's well above loose puck speed. The fighting Frenchmen can flat out shuffle. He's not James Brown. But he can Get Up. Like a Vex Machine.
why you gotta cut away from the animated celebration pic.twitter.com/Wm3WhIsURw— Stephanie (@myregularface) April 30, 2016
St. Louis would eventually score like they often do: with Puck Andy Kaufman beating the goaltender from the point. It was fairly late in the third period, which was a bummer for Dallas fans, as overtime hasn't been kind to them in the playoffs. However, the third line once again had an answer, this time with Radek Faksa scoring off a juicy rebound that Ales Hemsky left behind for him. What is there to say about Radek at this point? He's tied for 4th in points among all of Dallas' forwards. He's tied for 4th in points among all of Dallas' forwards despite the smell of placenta still attached. Alright? The kid is all smite and brimstone.
6. .500 Hockey Wins
Dallas is in solid position but this is still, ultimately, just one game. The magic number is 16. St. Louis will come out in better shape, with a few lines probably shuffled for good measure. For me, the best sign was seeing Benn and Jason Spezza playing absolutely brilliant. Spezza in particular seemed inspired by Faksa's defensive play, blocking shots (not ideal), and disrupting plays (totally ideal). On to the bullet point breakdown:
- Hemsky's stick is often the topic of discussion. People feel like the blade is too small, and it helps explain why he "loses the puck" awkwardly. I don't know if he's ever been pressed on the issue, but everytime he toe drags, and the defender reverse poke checks (like the one on Duncan Keith in the regular season), Hemsky often has just enough room to evade the counter. Maybe Hemsky has this hockey thing figured out. Just saying.
- Because he was brutalized by fans in the Minnesota series, I feel like special kudos belong to Alex Goligoski. He played a very calm game, allowing John Klingberg to get some great chances, and generating some of his own off the rush. Would Alex Pietrangelo look good in victory green? Of course. But I suspect fans really don't know what they'd be missing if Goose walks in the summer.
- Also special mention to Mattias Janmark. Yes, he benefits from playing with Jason Spezza. But he's taking advantage of it. He doesn't get talked about much because Faksa casts a rookie shadow over him, but deservedly so: that doesn't mean Janmark isn't playing a key role.
- Don't be fooled by Tarasenko's silence on the scoresheet. He was still generating chances against Faksa's line, and was able to exploit Dallas' emphasis on targeting him with some clean passes to his talented ice mates.
- This series is just getting started. Which means so are my ulcers.