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Game 55 Afterwords: You Can Probably Blame the Drop Pass for That One

The Stars’ second power play unit found a way to get worse.

Dallas Stars v New York Rangers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Man oh man, you can apply that quote to just about any part of this season, can’t you?

I mean, not some things. Some things, this organization is very much trying to do, but some folks think they are also mistakes. Those are not the things I mean, right now.

When a team is struggling as badly as Dallas has been, it’s easy to get sour. That sort of bitterness can show up in even hoping for disaster so as to vindicate your justifications for said bitterness. You want player X to fail, or you want coach Y’s move to backfire, just to show in stark nakedness how foolish that move or how inadequate that player is.

But that road leads to death, and I opted for hope. It’s a testament to what hockey can be that I was somehow “into” this game—this game—again after it became 2-2. There were possibilities of good things happening, because the Stars had given the Senators two goals (one more literally given than the other) and yet still had a chance to win a hockey game. Sometimes, in my life, I don’t want to watch a game while thinking of Honka in the pres box; or Spezza, Hemsky and Janmark on IR; or Tyler Seguin on Cody Eakin’s right wing; some nights, I just want to watch the team win. And after things were tied up, I was happy to settle for the hope of that. It would have been nice.

Try to guess when this quote was said by Ray Ferraro: “You can’t blame the goaltending for that one.”

It wasn’t after the Jamie Benn crossbar midway through the first period, I’ll tell you that. And it wasn’t after one of the Stars’ six (five, really) unsuccessful power plays against a team icing a goalie making the league minimum who was picked up by Pittsburgh back in 2016 on waivers who is now sporting a Sv% way better than either of the Stars’ participants in their $10 million tandem.

You know when that quoute happened. And if you don’t think Valeri Nichushkin hired Ivan Vishnevskiy to do some kind of psychic manipulation of Jiri Hudler in Ottawa, then you and I are not in agreement. It was the sort of play that just cannot happen, but it had to happen, didn’t it? You needed to know that these were the Stars, still. You needed to be reminded that it is the furthest thing from their year, and hooooooooeeey, how about that for a reminder? This was a disaster that wasn’t even Hudler’s fault, so much as it was a symptom of a greater disease, which is hockey’s equivalent of that fainting goat thing. Death came via the drop pass, and it could not have come any other way. Just as Ivan Vishnevskiy’s slim chances of becoming the next Zubov ended in a puck placed in his own net, so too did Jim Nill’s last emergency pickup evaporate. Jiri Hudler has been decent lately, and we forget that his signing was lauded universally, at the time. Nothing went right for Jim Nill and Lindy Ruff this season. Tom Gaglardi probably will ask for more than a wan smile and some hope as a result.

The team is playing like a theatre cast at a dress rehearsal for The Glass Menagerie who all know that no one is coming to the performance tomorrow night. You can act your heart out, but why? No, you let your mind wander just a little bit, and suddenly there’s a dropped prop. Or you go through the motions just enough without feeling reason to give more, and boom. Suddenly you’ve lapsed just enough to not be where you should, or to send the puck where you oughtn’t, because I guess this is a new Tennessee Williams adaption about hockey or something. That would be a very bad play that you should not watch!

It doesn’t take much, but the Stars have always been willing to give just enough to make sure they lose. Dallas gave up three goals for the 12th straight game. They are not playing the only consistent goal scorers together because I do not know why, and they are not scoring enough goals. Their power play is getting worse every day, and their penalty kill managed not to submarine this game, for once, because there was no need. That is as positive at it gets these days.

***

The first power play was okay, but not good enough. The second power play went worse than the first, in that Dallas got no shots and Ottawa scored. It’s worth mentioning that said goal came off an erroneous whistle after a Kari Lehtonen clear bounced to Ottawa off the referee. It was a bad break, much like the third goal. But the referee didn’t screen Kari Lehtonen or lose the ensuing faceoff cleanly, and a Dion Phaneuf half-slapper made it 1-0, and thus the TSN crew got to hop on their “Dallas Goaltending” narrative for the rest of the night.

That narrative was interrupted by Benn losing a fight with Phaneuf, for whom there is no love lost. Those two wanted to punch each other in the face very much, but Jamie Benn just couldn’t get arm hand free of Phaneuf’s grip in order to insert Dion’s nostrils into his hypothalamus. Pity, that.

Speaking of TSN, I love listening to Gord Miller and Ray Ferraro most times, but it was painfully apparent that they had not done much more than read the media guide material, as a discussion about shorthanded save percentage was short-circuited when neither commentator knew where Dallas ranked (“It’s the same two characters, so [it can’t be much better],” said Ferraro, mercifully unaware of just how very much worse it actually is), and both gentlemen were adamant about this being only Klingberg’s second season in the NHL. I blame Aaron Ekblad for this, as should you.

***

A very smart Jordie Benn backhand was relayed to Roussel via Radek Faksa, and the Stars appeared to have a little bit of life after the goal. Is it just me, or the Stars look like Jamie Benn when he threw the monkey off his back after every goal nowadays?

After surviving some further adventures in the defensive zone, the Stars got an offensive zone faceoff. Cody Eakin lost the faceoff, but former Stars’ top center Tyler Seguin would force a turnover, and Jamie Benn sent a shot at the very middle of the net from the high slot, and Michael Condon graciously condescended (Condonscended?) to get out of the way. I have no idea what he was doing, but the game was tied, and that’s all that matters. You could maybe say that Condon was balancing out the universe for the Hudler codswallop, but hahahaha nothing balances that out, and nothing ever will. For the record, Tyler Seguin was fighting in front of the crease, and his havoc surely contributed to Condon’s vacancy. Hooray for centers going to the net!

The game-winning goal was, what? Just a stupid bounce right to Stone off the side of the Stars’ net. Nice bounces were the thing of the day for Ottawa. Dallas can’t blame bounces, and shouldn’t. Bad luck is a thing, but no one wants to listen to legitimate complaining when you’ve made avoidable errors leading up to the circumstances for your complaint. If you blow a stop sign in front of a cop, then swerve to avoid an errant deer and crash your car into the police library or whatever, the police do not care about the deer.

The Dallas Stars played a game in Ottawa, and they lost. They’re 8 point out of the playoffs, which is to say out of the playoffs. They play at like daybreak on Saturday, against Carolina. This is a can’t-miss game, but only because you can’t imagine what Dallas will be doing to top this one. Literally, you cannot imagine it, because the factors contributing to whatever ghastly happenings will occur are not available to our minds yet. Will Carl’s Jr. rule the world when hamburgers come to life and keep us for pets? These are the types of things I’d rather contemplate than asking why the Stars are doing the things they are doing. Asking for an explanation is sometimes the most masochistic thing you can possibly do. There are 27 more games left.

Julius Honka will play after the deadline. Of that, I’m certain. Esa Lindell will be given more power play time in March, and Cody Eakin is getting a lot of ice time (seven minutes of power play time tonight, along with Seguin) because Ruff trusts him a lot. Of those things, I’m also certain. The “why” those questions isn’t accessible to me, but I’m finding it hard to care anymore. What’s been done is being done, still, and that includes everything from giving up goals to not scoring them. Ray Ferraro may not be painting an accurate picture when he lumps all of Dallas’s woes on their goaltending, but how do you argue with people like that? The Stars have been losing all season, and their goaltending isn’t great. People don’t need to countenance mitigating arguments when the disaster is still a disaster. Nuance and additional causes are interesting to us, because they matter to us.

If the right changes are made, and if the right things happen, joy will be ours, as Stars fans, again. But for now, we are living under the reign of cold, dark Father Time, that cruel, wizened figure who has slowed this season down to a crawl just as the knife begins to twist. Yes, of Saturn, we know more than enough. But who does not need to be reminded of jollity every now and then? Winter must end, one way or another. And we know now that, barring the most Jovial of interventions, winter will end only after running its long, dark course. Hang in there.