There was plenty to play for from a Stars' perspective Thursday night against the Colorado Avalanche. With several ways to start checking off "clinched" boxes, all of them started with a win by Dallas.
Well, they got that.
As not to bury the lede, the Blackhawks and Blues game went to overtime shocker* with the Blues completing the comeback at the United Center. Because of this result, it means the Stars will have to earn the same or more points than St. Louis on Saturday.
The game in Dallas was not close ever. Colorado mailed it in, and I guess that isn't difficult to understand. Duchene and company looked lethargic, and the Stars look like they wanted to take the suspense out of this one quick. All 3 periods were a Corsi-slaughter. Realistically, this was probably what every Stars vs Avs game should have looked like the last two years.
The first period was a carbon copy of every game the Stars and Avalanche have played this year. The Stars got chances and shots, and the Avs did not. The shots were 15-4 in the first. Dallas was relentless on the forecheck and when Colorado did get the puck, they were virtually forced to dump the puck and pray it wasn't icing.
The only goal of the first was scored in his NHL debut by Jason Dickinson. The forwards hounded the puck away from the Avs and shot it around the net. As Pickard went behind the net to play the puck, he was jumped by Nichushkin who immediately found Dickinson alone in the front of the net. Pickard was caught with his pants around his ankles, and Dickinson easily scored his first NHL game.
An otherwise boring game was spiced up early in the second, as the Avalanche tried to get some extra-curricular activity ramped up after the whistle. Erik Johnson got a 5 minute major with an early shower for boarding Johnny Oduya. The Stars turned 5-minutes of a man advantage turned into a goal and one-minute of 5 on 3. Jordie Benn (!?!) scored with 2 seconds left in the extra extra man situation, and it was 3-0 Dallas.
Colorado thought about putting up a fight in the second, but got discouraged and let the Stars continue to bludgeon them. Literally, in the sense that Roussel clobbered Pickard on a charge to the net (with a little help from a shove in the back).
The final frame was the same song different verse. Colorado generated little bit of possession window-dressing (in the sense that they got to double digit shots), but the conclusion had been drawn. The Avs did score about midway through the period and again with a minute to play, but Antoine Roussel scored an empty netter in between for the final score of 4-2.
Jason Dickinson started the game pretty invisible, but the goal in the first seemed to inspire him. The Nichushkin, Dickinson, and Sceviour line appeared to work well together. For what it's worth, Nichushkin looked dangerous all night. Sceviour might have been the best player in Victory Green.
For all the Stars have been through this year, and continue to go through on the injury front, this one felt routine in a good way. Dallas needed some help to clinch the Conference, and they did not get that help. Oh well.
The Colorado Avalanche are a mess, but there is something to be said for taking care of business. The Stars did that tonight.
The value of home ice in the Stanley Cup Playoffs has been debated for a few years now, but with the Stars' record at home this year, it feels pretty important that the Western Conference road could go through the American Airlines Center. Because of the result in Chicago, the Stars have been guaranteed at least one home-ice series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Dallas held serve against the Blues, and still control their own destiny. Once again, a Dallas Stars season will come down to the final game.