Last season Dallas owned Chicago throughout the regular season. This season...well...there's no reason to belabor the obvious when it comes to the Stars 2016-2017 season. Despite the surprise of Dallas finally surviving overtime and getting into the shootout, Chicago swept the five game series in the end thanks to Kane and Panarin doing Kane and Panarin things.
It was strange seeing Oduya back in red and black. Perhas not as strange as seeing Antoine Roussel absent from annoying Blackhawks fans and players alike.
The game began with a relatively deliberate pace; the kind of tempo you expect from a team going through the motions of trying to enter the playoffs healthy versus a team going through the motions of prepping for golf.
Jamie Oleksiak got away with crushing Hartman in the corner. Remi Elie, however didn't get away with tripping Jonathan Toews.
On the power play, Jamie Benn and Esa Lindell powered up ice for the improbable two on one. They missed the prime opportunity (Benn shanked it wide), but little did they know Cody Eakin was about go give Chicago a better one. On a 2 on 1 from the PK, Eakin actually pinched (!), yes, pinched (I've been trying to figure it out myself), giving Chicago numbers going the other way.
Patrick Kane didn't miss on the odd man rush. 1-0 superior intelligence.
The rest of the period was a haze. I was still aghast at Eakin's decision, and Ruff's decision to trust Eakin with some of hockey's most important minutes. Patrick Sharp and Ales Hemsky looked good, but that's because they have difficulty doing otherwise.
The second frame was full of icings, turning the first three minutes into six. Cody Eakin took a penalty soon after, rubbing lotion to the notion he should be protected for expansion.
Dallas successfully killed the penalty. The most notable action was the new Dallas philosophy on display; in trying to play more defensive, working to contain chances against rather than prioritize chances for. It's a philosophy that has helped clarify their weaknesses. The problem is that it doesn't tap into the team's (former) strengths. For as much guff as Dallas has received for "outscoring their problems", outscoring your problems can at least result in wins. It's hard to see this newfound style as sustainable.
Eventually a fight broke out. Ryan Hartman was being a four star jerk, so Dan Hamhuis obliged Hartman's bloodthirst, and the two chuckled knuckles. Unfortunately Hartman got the better of the scrap (his first fight in two years when he threw down in rather savage fashion with Ryan Nugent Hopkins).
Perhaps the cliches rung true for a time. Not long after Ales Hemsky blasted the vulcanized rubber past Corey Crawford for the tie game after some. I'd criticize Hemsky for not scoring on a double toe drag rush for the breakaway that missed only to turn into a wraparound tally, but I'll settle for a slapper.
Though Dallas would gradually work on gaining the advantage in shot attempts, there was a somnambulence to the game unlike contests of yore. The only thing I remember through the first half of the third was the usual video shots of Dallas coaches chewing gum furiously with index cards over their mouths.
Marian Hossa scored halfway through the final frame to give Chicago the lead. It's a shot Kari Lehtonen probably should have had. I could write a whole paragraph on each little play that allowed Hossa to chamber the shot that beat him, but Kari's not a good goaltender, so I prefer the simpler explanation.
Dallas would get a Czech defribiliator as Hemsky buried a rebound off an Esa Lindell shot. Hemsky's game has been a great example of what Dallas truly missed: speed, the kind of two-way ability befitting of a number one center (has Ruff tried this formation?), and finish.
Radek Faksa took a penalty in the waning minutes of the third period. Dallas killed off the power play (shockingly), though not without its chills and thrills. Kane beat Kari but not the post.
Once at 3 on 3 Chicago dominated the extra frame. Dallas survived the Kane-Hossa-Keith Emperial Trinity, eventually counterpunching with a Benn-Hattrick sniffing Hemsky.
Elie got a breakaway but couldn't bury it past Crawford. The teams exchanged a few more 3 on 3 chaos, but the netminders kept the cobalt gates shut.
Tonight marked only the second time Dallas has gone to a shootout.
Toews stickhandled himself out of the play when he lost the puck on his backhand. Seguin didn't waste time trying to dangle the goalie out of his pads, and stuck it past Crawford.
Kane was up next. You can probably guess how that went.
Benn followed up Kane with a chance that kind of wimpered.
Then Panarin beat Kari with a filthy backhander.
Hemsky would close out the shootout with a whiff after some brilliance.
It was a decent game for Dallas, all things told. The Stars are not of Chicago's caliber. This game felt like a stoic reminder that even at their best, and most careful, a great team half awake is better than a hard working team half as talented.