The Dallas Stars have officially tied the series 2-2 with what is now a best of 3 with home ice advantage. It's a massive swing for Dallas who were being written off as a team that Ruff couldn't "adjust" to Hitchcock's neutral zone play despite the overall play of the first two games. The third game was an embarrassment, but this is how they invented the phrase #Starsing: by being as electric in victory as they are in defeat.
I didn't get a chance to talk about my thoughts on that game except to note the much ado about Ryan Reaves: Curtis McKenzie was foolish to engage him. Simple as that. Moving on...
1. The Taradome
as many pointed out...6 Stars on the ice when Tarasenko scored, too pic.twitter.com/muUdcxikHN— Stephanie (@myregularface) May 6, 2016
The game started out in a very unDallasian way. There was a lot of retrieving and patience from the blueliners with Dallas' forwards cycling with them. It was obvious that Ruff wanted Dallas to gradually build their momentum rather than force it. It wasn't exciting, and Hitchcock even took a not too subtle jab at it during the first period intermission. But Dallas seemed to be doing alright until the above happened.
Having five guys letting Vladimir Tarasenko cherrypick so easily would be one thing, but six guys? To me the real culprits here are Jason Demers and Kris Russell (the theoretical last lines of defense): there's zero reason for them to be posted so low at once. This tells me they're either not communicating, or playing too aggressive. Either way their mistakes were synchronized and so the end result was the same.
2. Ruff Neutral Zone
Instant analysis: Dallas needs to work on their 'allow a Tarasenko breakaway/60' stat. It's a little too high.— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) May 6, 2016
Dallas kept the rest of the period pretty bottled up outside of yet another prime chance for Tarasenko. It was clear from the outset that they wanted to play a conservative game. Klingberg and Goligoski in particular weren't overly aggressive, which has been their issue when their mistakes happen.
3. Radek: The Fakening
Feel it's an appropriate time to share future NHL GM Jason Spezza's scouting report on Radek Faksa pic.twitter.com/S8oA2mbrwm— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) May 6, 2016
Dallas was desperate for an answer, and as usual, Radek Faksa was up to the task. It's impossible to understate his impact on Dallas' squad; he's a defensemen who happens to play the most important forward position. That's my take at least. It was a gimme by Edmundson but the goal emphasizes Faksa's ability to finish, which was always the question mark.
4. Short Handed Stasnasty
Dallas would actually gain the lead with an actual power play goal (imagine that!). But then Dallas would take a penalty because Russell pushed David Backes back after Backes checked him for no reason after the whistle. Naturally, this led to Dallas' 4 on 4 play where they gave up possession, allowed chances, and eventually took a penalty in their own zone the way the hockey lords intended.
5. Nuke Rebuke'Em
The Val that went physical vs 2 different Blues without a stick allowing the puck to go harmlessly to neutral ice is the Val I always want.— Trey Hill (@squarerootof9) May 6, 2016
The third period was marked by more tight but technical play from both teams. There weren't many quality chances, but the most notable thing for Stars fans was Valeri Nichushkin's brief play: he was actually initiating contact, and seemed to simplify his game if just for a moment. In a vacuum, it;s nothing special. But watching the youth on this team, with Mattias Janmark, Faksa, Nuke, Johns, and Klingberg rise to the occasion was the real pleasure.
6. Moar Bakin
The other observation of note was the play of the Bakin (Benn-Eakin-Sharp line) line. They forced a ton of turnovers, and were getting a ton of chances in the 3rd. It was fitting then, that it was Cody Eakin who ended up tripping over the puck, causing a turnover, eventually getting to the man who would have otherwise had a prime scoring chance if not for his stickwork, to score off a beautiful top shelf goal on the rush going back the other way. Like many others, I've had a lot of issues with Cody Eakin. To be sure, I'll continue to have my issues but for now, he's earned some adulation. He has 8 points, tied for 15th in playoff scoring. and centers a line that is 3rd in the league in shot differential (Corsi For of 60 Percent).
As for the stray observations:
- I've always liked Demers, but boy is he struggling. I don't know if his upper body injury is still lingering but he continues to make puzzling decisions on the pinch, and has turned it over on multiple occasions in Dallas' own end without much pressure. To say nothing of his flipped over turtle shell defending.
- Speaking of struggling defensemen, Kris Russell appears to be "regressing to the mean" in a big way. Russell has gone from shot blocking to body surfing. I've been pleased with his game for the most part, but there are times when he makes me miss Jordie.
- Brett Ritchie looked like he did in the AHL playoffs; somewhat non descript. He didn't get much ice time but that's because he's on a line with Travis Moen. Dallas has the personnel to ice up something like the Islanders' Martin-Clutterbuck-Cizikas 4th line. They'd be wise to use them.
- What do you know. If you leave Ryan Reaves alone and have a short term memory over the 7 minutes he's on the ice, he's a completely forgettable player.
- It's amazing how easily the NHL fails to market their product. Jamie Benn is a 5th round pick with 14 points in the playoffs to lead the league by a lot without Seguin (next closest is 11), Faksa's story can be told on loop and still be compelling, but all the national crew wants to talk about is John Tavares, and Saskatoon.