Jamie Oleksiak was traded yesterday, and I’m still not sure what it means, other than that we fans have finally been backed into the corner (once Marc Methot returns) of having to decide whether we’d like Stephen Johns or Julius Honka to play on a given night. Yeah, that’s not a cheery way to start out, but losing in overtime rarely feels good, it turns out. At least the Stars got a point out of this, which is kind of the starting point for Eastern Conference game goals.
Anyway, the Stars are still in Wild Card Land, and with Chicago looming, this game didn’t provide a ton of clarity on what this team can be. Wait, does Chicago still loom anymore? Maybe nowadays they just cast annoying shadows when you’re trying to read an article on your phone at lunch, then move on.
Still, this game was an event in time, and that’s sometime they’ll never be able to take away from us, unless they erase our memories, which I think I still don’t want to happen, but ask me again this time next year, okay? Anyhow, let’s talk about this game, specifically with regard to the 10 ways the Stars lost this game, which is an arbitrary number to justify the title post hoc, but okay, mister big shot writing guy, tell me how you come up with dumb lists when you write late at night? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
1. Don’t Play Hitchcock Hockey
The Caps’ first goal, from Andre Burakovsky, was avoidable. Gemel Smith made a risky play to keep the puck in the attacking zone, and it ended up burning him, as the Stars defended the ensuing 3-on-2 like a flyswatter against a grumpy oppossum. (Do not try this.) I don’t blame Greg Pateryn for getting more or less nutmegged with the pass, which was fantastic, but it really did feel like the team was just sort of begging Brett Connolly to hit the open man, which he did.
Gemel Smith would make up for this mistake, though, with some lightning-quick hands in front (we’ve seen those before). I will stop talking about how this guy was scratched for nine games to start the season at some point, I promise, but it helps me to stay centered on how even coaches make questionable judgments in evaluating players. Sometimes, players play games and surprise us.
2. Waste a clutch Alexander Radulov goal
Okay, first, what’s with the “Ra-duh-lahv” pronunciation Razor was sporting tonight? Is this another Lindle/Lin-DELL thing? I don’t have time to correct enough people’s pronunciation of my favorite team’s players as it is—I don’t need them to be changing mid-season. Also, the Stars probably shouldn’t have wasted a really nice goal, and more importantly, an immensely enjoyable celebration (Craig Ludwig called it a “celly,” which is great for sixteen other reasons we don’t have time to get into here). Don’t waste good things, Stars!
Radulov also probably should have scored after that John Klingberg feed to him when he came out of the penalty box, of course, but maybe we’re just never satisfied.
3. Tempt Fate with Time Expiring in the First
Ben Bishop did a really good Patrick Roy impression, although his motivations were pure. Those goalie mittens are weird things, man. I don’t trust goalies much as it is; how much less will I ever trust something imbued with the supernatural powers of the most capricious god mythology has ever given us? Good Goaltending = Never Trying What You Always Wanted To Try, Because It Will Definitely Backfire.
Also, Esa Lindell saved Bishop’s bacon there. Never forget that. Also, Bishop saved the Stars a few times, too, so maybe you just can’t keep records of wrongs when it comes to these things. (You definitely can though.)
4. Let Tom Wilson Drag Jamie Benn to the Penalty Box
Jokes, yes. But Tom Wilson is like Antoine Roussel with a rapid-fire trebuchet following him around, and while the Stars did get one penalty out of Wilson’s antics, losing Benn seemed to throw their power play into some disarray. This game could have been amazing, with Benn, Radulov, and even Gemel Smith all stepping up to score. Instead, Tom Wilson gets to get on the bus feeling all smug. That ain’t never right, dude.
5. Be Tyler Seguin, and Don’t Score Goals
Seguin’s goal drought is well-documented, but when his great backhand shot (after some nice work by Devin Shore) was shut down, my hopes died a little. I’m good with turning Seguin into Modano 2.0 (let’s not talk about versions 2.8 and 3.7a), but the Stars need to find out how to help him out some more. Mattias Janmark is a good linemate for basically every human person and maybe some other folks too, but the Stars can’t afford to let Seguin spin his wheels for too much longer.
6. Give Ovechkin Great Chances
Not much else to say here, other than the Stars were fortunate not to be singlehandedly beaten by the one guy you really have to try not to be beaten by. Ovechkin had a clean one-timer (though not many) on the power play, and a few chances in alone on Ben Bishop, but the Stars got through those, at least. Still, that’s never a recipe for success.
7. Leave the slot open, even a bit
The Stars did a pretty good job of getting in lanes in this one, but not good enough. This goal had a couple of culprits, as Ken Hitchcock made clear, but the lost battles leading up to it were just as disappointing as the eventual shot itself. Speaking of which, here is the pass out to Burakovsky:
Yeah, there wasn’t much room there, but there was enough. Shore and Lindell could each make a case (of differing merit, I’d say) for who should have shut this down, but regardless, Bishop couldn’t get square in time (this shot reminded me of a lot of Lindell’s efforts from farther out, where he’ll just turn the puck right back on net before everyone can get set), and the puck found the five-hole from some distance. Creating offense from below the goal line is a good way to score goals.
8. Lose the Momentum Your Power Play Gave You
Hey, John Klingberg had a rough night in some ways, but his immediate shot down the throat of the team’s power play struggles got tipped by Jamie Benn, and it was satisfying. It would have been great for copy in every Dallas beat room if the power play had finally gotten a goal from its captain for the first time in (checks) oh my, that’s a long time, and if that goal had ended up being a critical one in getting the team two points. Instead, it turned out to be sort of still critical, but for the purposes of a single point. That’s less exciting, but only because we’re greedy.
9. Get walked by a great player
Dmitry Orlov gathered speed in the neutral zone, made a move at John Klingberg, then just nonchalantly dragged the puck through his legs—a move Klingberg would pull himself in overtime, just to show he could do it—and then flipped the puck over a suddenly oh-no-I-am-very-much-screwed Ben Bishop.
Yeah, I mean, you can see Klingberg turn his one skate over to cut hard, in order to keep up with Orlov if he comes inside, but that’s a move you can’t fall for, and as soon as he sees Klingberg bite, Orlov runs the table. Maybe the Caps sort of deserved to win this game?
10. Lose a Game You’re Leading with four minutes remaining
Yeah, no. The Stars got a point out of this one despite literally Alex Chiasson walking Esa Lindell at one, er, point, which is good; but there’s a reason Hitch was furious after this one tonight. Overtime is a crap shoot, and it hurt to see the Stars get stuck in the muck and finally lose in the 3-on-3, but they had too many chances to do better, and too many ways they chose to play worse. This ten-game stretch is going to define their season one way or the other. If they don’t start seizing opportunities, treading water will begin to look a lot like forgetting how to swim.