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Game 46 Afterwords: Just Another Night with Your 2016-17 Dallas Stars

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Cody Eakin paid his dues and finally cashed in.

NHL: Dallas Stars at New York Rangers
IT SHOULD HAVE COUNTED.
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Most important things first: Kari Lehtonen should have scored a goal. That penalty on Esa Lindell for boxing out Nash was bogus, and if you think it wasn’t, I don’t care. That call denied us a Kari Lehtonen goal after he came in to relieve Niemi with the Stars leading 7-6. Read that last sentence and laugh, then realize that it’s only like the fourth-craziest thing about this game.

None of us knows how to feel after that roller coaster ride, so I am not going to try to develop a coherent narrative for this hockey match of puck whacking. Let’s just go blow-by-blow here and see what we can see. It’s time for a little hockey writing game I invented called: Good and Bad! /crowd applauds as theme music plays

(Here is the theme music)

(Note: I invented this writing game. If you steal my game for your own writing, I will bankrupt your dad’s calligraphy business. Thanks for reading!)

Good: Henrik Lundqvist and Antti Niemi came into this game with matching .907 Sv%s. This would have been a very bad thing if the Stars had paid dearly to acquire Lundqvist this offseason (if he was ever even available), so let’s just be grateful for a moment that Dallas at least managed not to make the net situation triple-bad in the offseason. It is only double-bad, and I guess I am saying, hooray for that! Stick with me.

Bad: The Stars surrendered a goal during, and I double-checked this, the national anthem. Admittedly, you can’t expect Niemi to stop pucks while he’s busy pretending to care about an anthem only one guy on the team can probably sing—note to self: cute kid-reporter segment in there somewhere—but it was a bit disheartening to see Dallas defy the rules of hockey itself to surrender an absurdly early goal for the third straight contest.

Stephen Johns and Antoine Roussel both followed one guy high, and that eventually left Derek Stepan with space enough to get Niemi looking the wrong way for an easy tuck-in goal. I like to think that this was the moment when Henrik Lundqvist chuckled to himself and said, “Oh man, at least I’m not that bad.” Don’t tempt the goalie fates, Henrik.

Good: Dallas responded. Oh boy, they responded. First, Tyler Seguin shot a power play one-timer off of Jamie Benn that I think counts for a set play this season, and Patrick Eaves was just grateful that a puck hit someone else in front of the net for once, and he happily dunked it in. It was great to see the team strike back for once, as the goal came after a wealth of Stars shots in the game.

Then, Nick Holden graciously ceded Radek Faksa a still-warm slice of pizza, and Patrick Sharp beat his man to the net to make it 2-0 before Henrik Lundqvist even had time to text Gary Bettman to ask if he could suspend Jamie Benn for the first goal.

Finally, the first period was punctuated by a save by Niemi on Kreider in front, or at least I thought that was going to punctuate it. Instead, Cody Eakin decided to make me feel like an idiot for saying he wasn’t a good passer yesterday, and he dished some serious sauce to Jamie Benn—you should watch this—to get the captain back in the goal column for the first time in [it’s probably best not to look]. That was also Eakin’s third point of the season, and I was content to be happy for him as it was. But then, none of us knew where this train would be heading before the night was over. Only in New York, haha, am I right? I am probably right.

Bad: Dallas decided to play the “let the other team have a turn” game early in the second, but Niemi again made a stop on Grabner on his doorstep.

Good: Cody Eakin and Chris Kreider fought, because #vengeance and stuff. Eakin held his own despite being at the end of a shift, and it was nice to get the obligatory fight out of the way without any harm done.

Bad: Of course, it would have been nice for the officials to make the proper call and eject Kreider for cracking Eakin over the head with his own helmet—you may recall a certain similar situation with Mark Fistric and Eric Nystrom a while back—but hey, it’s not like that would end up mattering, so who cares, right? (Aside: could fans really have genuinely said “who cares!” six times if this game had been played at the AAC? I can’t imagine you’d have much gusto left for it after the game reached 7-5, but you tell me.)

Good: Antoine Roussel spent this game playing with Spezza and Seguin, and the Stars scored seven goals. Yet, Roussel’s goal came, not from either of them, but on a feed from Korpikoski, who had won a puck behind the net and fed him for a vehement goal to make it 4-1 and put the game under controhahahahaha oh man I just can’t even do this. Okay, sorry, let’s try again. Erm, Seguin’s only point of this game was on the power play while Spezza continued to be “not-scoring Spezza with a fake moustache” Jason Spezza this season. Still, they had to face New York’s top defense pairing of [seriously, how many of you know who these two guys are?]. Their names are Brady and Nick, but that could also be the opening credits for the new High School Musical film now, couldn’t it?

Bad: Mika Zibanejad got his stick on a soft wrist shot from the point, as Stephen Johns couldn’t quite lift his stick. 4-2 wasn’t really bad in a vacuum—we’d all have taken a two-goal lead halfway through this game, going into it—but momentum is bad, and you’d like to see the Stars defend a three-goal lead a bit better than they did. Oh, by the way, they would have more chances to defend a 3+ goal lead, but we’ll get to that.

Good: Antti Niemi made a nice save on Rick Nash as the Rangers poured it on, then watched as Pavel Buchnevich (which sounds like what I say when someone tickles me so much I want to throw up) missed the net. Phew! Things were still okay!

Bad: Buchnevich scored while I was finishing that paragraph, because the Rangers score a bazillion goals, and the Stars, it turns out, give up a roughly equivalent amount. Say, that might have been a hint that this game was going to be eventful, now that I think about it.

Good: Dallas turned a 4-3 lead that looked shaky into a no-doubt lead...wait, sorry, no. I was trying to ask Siri to play “Spiderwebs” there, and she must have gotten carried away. Dallas scored three more goals to turn a shaky lead into, well, basically just another shaky lead, because seriously, what would ever make you think a four-goal lead is sufficient for the Stars? Honest, I want to know. Please tell me what would make you think that. I’m waiting.

Bad: Patrick Sharp’s second goal of the game was only his fourth of the season, though it did essentially mirror Stepan’s earlier biscuit-tuck, as Henrik Lundqvist was busy staring at the bench, hoping to be pulled. Anyway, something something secondary scoring this season. Also primary scoring. Also, defense. Also, everything.

Good: But yeah, three straight goals were another great response by Dallas after this became a game again. Sharp bamboozled Hank, then Adam Cracknell popped in to say “hi, I’m still good, coach, can I play please” and rifled a top-shelf wrister that a normal Lundqvist still probably stops. That said, Cracknell also hit a post earlier, so his shot was up and running tonight.

Bad: Adam Cracknell probably earned himself another five scratches for failing to chase Lundqvist with his goal. Gotta really really score, Adam. Regular goals aren’t enough for Alain Vigneault to pull the King.

Good: Turns out I still remember how to spell Alain Vigneault’s name perfectly after looking it up a lot back in 2013.

Bad: It was hard to watch Lundqvist go back out there and get scored on again.

Good: Heh, nah, it was great. Cody Eakin went to the net and found a rebound, and he got himself a Gordie Howe hat trick and, more importantly, his first goal of the season. If Eakin can start chipping in more, it would go a long way towards curing what’s been ailing the Stars. Also, if everyone on the team not named Tyler or Patrick can start chipping in “at all,” that would be great. Still, it was somehow 7-3, and what is better than a four-goal lead? (Don’t answer that; the universe might hear you and then ruin that thing, too.)

Bad: Really though, how does Jason Spezza not score in this game? Oh, right; he is getting third- or fourth-line minutes at 5v5, and the Stars only had one power play in this entire game, somehow. Is Jason Spezza just the new Ales Hemsky? I’m not okay with that, for the record. I’ve been hoping Ales Hemsky would be the new Ales Hemsky.

Good: But speaking of special teams, the Stars only allowed one power play goal on two opportunities. I believe every successful penalty kill for Dallas should result in a parade. Not a big one, mind you. Just a little procession, maybe up a Macy’s escalator or something. Fanfare is good for the soul. Yes, the second “penalty kill” was only for like ten seconds, and it came because of a penalty that probably robbed Kari Lehtonen of his best chance for a goal in his career, but who doesn’t love parades?

Bad: Right, yes. The hockey. Dallas gave up a power play goal because “Dallas gave up a power play goal” is actually an entire auto-fill suggestion on my keyboard now. Didn’t know PCs had those. Huh. Technology! Anyway, Stephen Johns kind of had another “not the best” read where he skated towards the puck and left a guy open in front of the net, and that guy scored.

Good: However, you don’t need to worry about Johns being scratched, because it sounds like Oduya is hurt. Please don’t misconstrue this as “it is good that Oduya’s hurt”; it is not good. It is...

...Bad: Oduya is hurt.

Good: Julius Honka is healthy and available, just in case Dallas needs a great puck-moving defenseman for some reason. Not sure if that’s something teams ever need, but anyway, nice to know it’s there.

Bad: John Klingberg smiled mischievously and tried to tag out with Niemi, but it turns out “Klingberg playing goalie while a prone Niemi plays defense” only works for two shots, and Derek Stepan got his third effort past Niemi. Still, I mean, it was 4v4 at that point, and that is the equivalent of a “7-on-3 penalty kill” for Dallas over the last two seasons, if that’s the proper term. “Bucket of fetid abhorrence” is another term you could use regarding Dallas’s 4v4 play. There are many terms in our wonderful language!

Good: Niemi honestly and truly only allowed one goal he probably shouldn’t have tonight (the first). This isn’t me saying “bad goaltending is fine, let’s never get another goalie, Dallas!” This is just from watching all six goals the Stars surrendered tonight and really not seeing Niemi being egregiously at fault for the last five.

Bad: Yeah, so there were six goals, because just two minutes after Stepan scored his second of the game, Zibanejad did the same. Or, at least, he did his homework and watched recent highlights of Stars defenders, because he shot a slap-pass towards the net hoping for a deflection. And, just as Mika (I didn’t want to type his last name a third time so I saved keystrokes by being familiar and using his first name again) planned, his pass was ticked back through Niemi’s five-hole by Dan Hamhuis, and it was 7-6. Close hockey games are fun! Also, many bothans nervous fans died watching this game.

Good: Dallas decided not to sit on the fragile lead, and Tyler Seguin (and others) generated a couple of great chances on the giant shooter tutor/Bond villain that New York refers to as “Magnus Hellberg.”

Bad: Unfortunately for Dallas, that thing is like, huge. Seguin was denied,

Good: But the Stars at least pretended that they weren’t going to sit in front of Lehtonen, and that meant something. Oh yeah, I said “Lehtonen,” as Kari replaced Niemi after goal #6 because Lindy Ruff cares about his players, and no one should have to endure more than six goals playing behind the shoebox diorama with an old sticky note tacked below it that reads, “Stars’ defensive structure.”

Bad: KARI DID NOT SCORE A GOAL.

Good: We survived one more day in the void of space on this unique little planet. Life is wonderful, isn’t it? What are the odds, man. What are the odds.

Bad: The Stars are still something like 65% likely to miss the playoffs.

Good: Never tell me the odds.

Bad: How is that good?

Good: Shut up.