Despite Dallas' proximity to a playoff spot, the scent of standings luxury feels tenuous at best. Even in victory, the game against LA last night felt like an affirmation of their struggles. The LA contest was a reflection of chaos rather than structure. Like hockey's version of Battlfield Earth, but with less grungy dreadlocks. Nobody was expecting the equivalent of Scorsese in the follow up, but surely something in between was possible? Anaheim shut out Dallas 2-0, validating Dallas’ more cold than hot temperature this season.
Define tenuous, adjective. See below.
Playoff chances, west and east. pic.twitter.com/hH8LMS633W— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) January 10, 2017
Dallas played the part of rejuvenated team for the first five minutes. They brought modest pressure, mostly coming from a Patrick Sharp-armed Radek Faksa line, who brought the heat against LA.
But the “spasms of opportunities” as Razor called them, favored Anaheim when the Hudler-Spezza-Seguin trio (which I like to call the “franchise center awkwardly at wing” line) got stuck in the zone with the Esa Lindell, John Klingberg pair. Luckily nothing came of it except a field of puck bullets that Niemi either stopped, or watched whiz past him like one of John Woo’s flying doves.
Jamie Oleksiak is increasingly fun to watch, even if his overall play demands as much skepticism as praise. I’m glad that he’s at last playing with confidence, even if the trail that confidence leads toward remains unknown. He rushed the puck up ice in one sequence, eventually finding his way into Anaheim’s corners, producing an image akin to those tiny sock stealing monsters from the Gate struggle to attack the neck of its protagonists.
Antoine Roussel had a nice odd man rush that turned into nothing when he passed into the middle of the ice. I'm not arguing that he should wear one of those explosive neck bracelets from Battle Royale from now on, but a simple shock collar reminding him not to pass into the middle would do.
Dallas PK would get tested in the waning minutes, relying more on Niemi's quiet heroics than structural wisdom.
The first two minutes of the second frame resembled the Mr. Hyde version of Dallas. Anaheim produced multiple chances with plenty of human debris setting up a certifiable campfire of pucks, sticks, and smores in front of Niemi's cobalt crease.
Random trivia: Tyler Seguin has never scored a goal against the Ducks.
Dallas received a power play opportunity five minutes into the period, which means Anaheim was on the man advantage. Andrew Cogliano, a Stars killer who probably owns his own head knocker in Anaheim gift shops next to Michael Myers, managed some great chances with speed, and anticipation of Dallas' predictable man advantage moves. Luckily for Dallas, they escaped unscathed, which is impressive since the Ducks were the ones shorthanded.
The ‘Taco Takes’ on Dallas’ broadcast are probably generated by the same algorithm that tells you which Fraggle Rock doozer you are, but I’m sure avoiding playing special teams for an entire period was one on the checklist.
So naturally, only a few minutes later Cody Eakin would hook a duck, forcing Dallas' dreadful penalty kill to keep the game tied at none. They did, but not because they countered Anaheim's man advantage structure. Instead the Ducks just either slapped the puck into Niemi’s pads, or missed altogether. In other words, Dallas just kind of passively observed.
A Klingberg high stick to a Duck’s bill would put them on the PK. Ludwig defended the penalty as a deterrent to players taking runs at him. Anaheim scored 24 seconds into the power play, snapping their 0-16 slump, probably more than willing to have Klingberg take penalties.
Laura Korpikoski ended the period by taking a penalty, completing Dallas’ middle act structure where the protagonist in the story must face difficult odds.
Oleksiak didn't return for the third period. Meanwhile, the Lovecraft portal from last night opened up when Kevin Bieksa of all people managed a breakaway chance. He didn’t score, and neither did Kesler who had a point blank chance in the low slot, but defeat seemed all but inevitable.
With the denouement approaching, Anaheim continued to rack up odd man rushes and point blank opportunities. The best chance came when Silverberg got through Lindell and Benn, who were exchanging "the blue or red wire?" looks instead of defending, allowing Kesler to hit a partial rebound that Niemi made a strong stretch move with his right pad to stop. It was unfortunate to see a strong game from Niemi squandered.
Random question: is it just me or does Kesler get away with an unusual amount of slashes?
Patrick Eaves would end up getting injured after getting crunched into an open door by Corey Perry. Then Andrew Cogliano scored to twist the dagger into Dallas' figurative hearts. Dallas was awarded a power play late in the final stanza, but except for the loud noises of Razor's play by play, the excitement was never palpable as Anaheim missed a string of open nets.
This was Dallas’ 4th shutout loss this season.
-Cody Eakin is at his possession worst when he's patient. That sounds weird, but twice he held the puck too long, and ended up just turning it over. I mention Eakin not because he's part of the problem, but because if he wants to be part of the solution, he needs to start producing. He's on pace for 14 points (I didn't do the math but it's probably close to that).
-With four minutes left, Klingberg and Lindell were -12 and -10 at even strength shot attempt differential. I hate to sound indignant, or cynical, but despite what media and fan soundbites argue, they do not have "chemistry". If this so called chemistry approximated the truth, at least some of the numbers might reflect this. They do not. The oddest part is that Dallas was previously adamant about their left-right symmetry on the blueline. Yet with Stephen Johns and Julius Honka being completely acceptable options (especially when you consider Lindell and Johns’ chemistry in Cedar Park, and the yeoman’s work Hamhuis with Honka achieved), Ruff and the gang have been allergic to giving them opportunities to grow. Yes, Oduya, Hamhuis, and Jordie (who have all been completely acceptable) guarantee one of them takes a scratch, but this is where Nill has a responsibility to make space amidst a season that is increasingly memorable for all the wrong reasons.
-Once again, Dallas’ power play just kind of floundered like a fish out of water. I’d explain why, but I already have. Still, take it away, Pat.
Stars are so uncreative on the power play lately. Half boards either just firing it at the net or trying the cross-ice one-timer to Segs.— Pat Iversen (@Pat_Iversen) January 11, 2017
-Not much else to report. Faksa with Sharp and Shore makes for a solid trio. Those three amigos should stay together.