All sports have those outrageous moments that make you laugh or scream, but rare is the instant you find yourself doing both. Tonight, screams of anger, joy, and befuddlement were plentiful, because it turns out it isn’t possible not to react to Tyler Seguin scoring last-second goals, killing penalties, and fighting Patrik Nemeth.
Seguin mentioned before the season started that he was excited to finally get the chance to be an outright number one center, and it’s hard to imagine a number one center doing any more number one centering than he did tonight. Seguin got a Gordie Howe Hat Trick thanks to Patrik Nemeth, and hoo boy, did Nemeth ever figure into a different part of that equation than you would have guessed.
We don’t know the history there, and there doesn’t need to be any. Nemeth might simply have been trying to prove a point to his new (and old) teammates, and Seguin might just be fired up to prove he’s much more than a one-dimensional player (which is an absurd characterization, but you know). Nemeth might just have wanted to show mister big ESPN the Body magazine man that defensemen are pretty tough dudes, too. Regardless, the fight ended with Seguin not totally getting pasted by the much-larger Nemeth (though Nemeth landed a good punch early), and Seguin re-entering the game and playing some critical minutes down the stretch in a tight game.
Nemeth, by the way, suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. One would assume he hurt his hand punching Seguin’s helmet, but that is a guess. We hope Nemeth returns to action soon, and I stress that we wish good things for him. Nemeth has been trusted with minutes in Colorado, and he’s been quite serviceable for them. What more could you wish for a good guy who suffered in a tough situation here? (Other than a goal, I mean, which somehow didn’t happen.)
That Fight unleashed a third period that shook this game up something fierce, but we could have had a whole different game before we even got there. For instance, if Seguin doesn’t backtrack and get the puck back in the defensive zone to spring Jamie Benn, who knows how long it takes Dallas to solve Varlamov?
Ben Bishop also gave the Stars That Save a couple of times, but none bigger than in the second period, when it was still 1-0, and Hamhuis got Hambuished (sorry) in his own zone, and turned it over in a very bad spot.
Ben Bishop has been very good so far, and that’s what the Stars hoped for when they signed him. Five games still isn’t much, considering the Stars haven’t been playing the top teams yet, but if they continue getting quality netminding from Bishop and out-chancing their opponents, how can you not be at least a little optimistic?
The power play has been fantastic to start the season. We all figured it would be good with healthy players and Alex Radulov, but I don’t think any of us thought it would be this good:
That’s Dallas way up where no one else in suburbia ever parks their car. Yep, you can’t be unhappy with the results, even if the particulars have been maddening, at times. That lengthy 5-on-3, for instance, needs to be better. Jason Spezza hesitated, and the team still seems to be looking for that final killer instinct that elite teams get. It’s that indefinable feeling right before the shot where a player just knows, “I am going to score right here.” The power play’s system (Stu Barnes probably deserves a shout-out here) is good enough to start creating the chances, but the players themselves are still feeling their way around the edges. That the top unit is still converting a chance per game even with the learning process is remarkable.
Tonight’s conversion was satisfying, as Devin Shore, Jamie Benn and Alex Radulov combined to just out-will the Avs in getting to the puck. Devin Shore has been a perfect complement to the top unit, and his slick pass to Seguin tonight was a great example of that. When Hitchcock talks about how perfect a player Shore is in all aspects of the game, he’s not joking. Shore captained the University of Maine Black Bears back in the day, and you can see why. I am looking forward to seeing Devin Shore become a Very Important Player for the Dallas Stars this season. Goals will help. Scoring on that breakaway would have helped a lot. Alex Radulov will also help, like he did tonight. He just outright refused to be beaten to the puck tonight right before Seguin’s goal, and I will never ever get tired of watching a dogged, effective puck-retrieving winger who can creating scoring chances. It is a good time to be a Stars fan, which is odd to say with the team sporting a 2-3 record.
Oh, and speaking of shout-outs, you have to hand it to Grubes for trolling the Avs with multiple clips from “Radioactive” tonight. Taking an embarrassing bit the team created themselves and just baaaarely (but repeatedly) whispering it back to them is pretty much perfect. Hopefully the Avs have time to create some good Mooterus jokes before the Stars visit Pepsi Center, but if it’s anything like the Wild’s feeble “Yukon Cornelius” bit or the fairly offensive South Park bit at Staples Center, I wouldn’t worry too much.
As for the other side of special teams, I am really enjoying seeing Klingberg and Seguin taking regular shifts. The repeated emphasis by Hitchcock on how his players are hungry for knowledge and it’s his job to help them learn is tantalizing. It is easy to be happy about this after a win, of course. Jason Spezza played the fewest minutes of all four Stars centers tonight, which is going to happen when you don’t kill penalties and you’re on the second power play unit and ten penalties are called.
The defense pairs were also pretty good tonight, gaffes by Hamhuis and Lindell (his early turnover along the boards really was unnecessary) notwithstanding. Stephen Johns had his best game of the season, and Julius Honka just continues to look like a player ready for the next level. I will say that you could see his difficulties in poke-checking in the defensive zone, since he doesn’t have the reach of the other (hulking) Stars defensemen, but then, he’s so rarely in the defensive zone to begin with, so I’m really not worried about that. I mean, think about it: Stephen Johns, Marc Methot, and Esa Lindell are all more or less enormous, and the Stars’ forwards are equally imposing, as a unit. Remember five years ago when the Stars always seemed to be getting pushed around? If nothing else, it’s aesthetically pleasing to see them doing the flattening. Physicality is not the most important element of defending, I must remind you.
The pairs, by the way, might stick for a bit. Hitch said he loved the Methot-Klingberg pair, and you do need to give Methot credit for his efforts tonight. More than anything, this losing record is an annoyance when I think about this team, because there are just so many danged good things that they’re doing. Ben Bishop made a really clutch save on Rantanen during the PK, Radek Faksa is playing like the playoffs are already here, and Antoine Roussel is drawing more penalties than he’s taking. (Well, he did today, at least.) Jamie Benn is shooting hard and accurately to start the season, which is refreshing after last year.
Adversity will come, even if it seems like it sort of already has. The Stars are still making mistakes, but they’re doing so as they also outplay opposing teams. When they start capitalizing on their chances, we’ll feel better. When they start piling up wins more regularly, we’ll feel a lot better. And when they’ve shown they can not only outwork and outchance other teams but outright outscore them? Well, I think that’s when the conversations start to get a lot more fun. And hey, we’re sort of having fun already. That’s the whole idea!