Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill gave this quote to media during the game this evening after trading defenseman Johnny Oduya to the Chicago Blackhawks from whence he came-
"We got 20-something games to go here and they’re going to be playing every night now and it’s a great opportunity for them," he said of the team's young blue line. "It’s a great chance to earn some experience. We have to make decisions for next year and this will go into deciding a lot of those decisions.”
And thus the tonight, and the remainder of the season, are well-framed for your viewing and judgmental pleasure. The white (bearded) flag has been waved and the early spring marching orders are pretty clear. So how did it go tonight?
Pretty crappy. And then really, really well. For some reason.
Early on it looked like one of my beer league games where you can tell that one team is far superior to the other, and the other might hang on for a while and fist bump each other at intermission at how well they're keeping up with that clearly superior team. And by the time the third period arrives it's run clock.
So the Pens took a 1-0 lead and had the lion's share of the quality opportunities no matter what the shots on goal said in the first period. It wasn't pretty.
The second was better, but the Pens still managed to be the only team that scored a goal, and after Craig Ludwig enumerated and examined recent defensive gaffs by the whole team in recent games, tonight included, we learned that the Penguins were 26-0-0 when leading after two periods or some absurd number.
So it looked like a foregone conclusion, Mike Modano was tweeting about fire sales, and the rest of Stars twitter was speaking of a team that looked like it had finally given up the ghost and thrown in the towel.
Again, even though they had many more shots on the Pens net. That Murray guy is going to make something of himself, btw.
Then Stars things happened in the third- Usually they happen in reverse, for my point is that they're an emotional lot, and are susceptible to momentum swings much more than you'd like them to be. Last season they fed off their own. This season too often they've let the slightest bit of the other team's wreck them.
Tonight Brett Ritchie scored on a rebound put back and they looked like a completely different group of individuals for the remainder of the game.
Jason Spezza and Antoine Roussel would provide the balance in the 3-2 win thanks to exposing Murray's glove hand, so trusty early on, but disastrous in the third period.
And so they won the game- Which as you know by now is largely immaterial and, some would argue, perhaps even counter-productive to asset management, as Jim Nill would say.
What of the long term goals? What of the short?
Patrick Sharp, it was reported, will "see a doctor after the game" about... something. He looked fine tonight, bordering on positively swell. Do the Stars seek a doctors note that says "really is OK to acquire at deadline, love Dr. Upper Body" or is that an erroneous report?
Either way, he did nothing to swing that needle either direction. We'll keep an eye out tomorrow.
On the long term goals you might focus on the gaff that Luds pointed out. or a couple of others. A blunder by #3 and #23 late in the third on which Antti Niemi made a gargantuan save. Or the Oleksiak shift where he pancaked a guy before getting up and shoving the same dude on his arse and out of the zone. That was fun.
But did anyone stick out? Four of the six d-men were in the red in 5-on-5 Corsi, only Oleksiak at +9 looks any good- But it was the Penguins.
Perhaps looking at it as a platoon helps- Ah yes, only 20 shots allowed. There's something to be said for that, despite the way it felt early.
It's just one game, and another 14 hours or so of trade deadline time to go. So we wait.
Accompany this with the sound of bowling pins being struck in your mind...