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Game 74 Afterwords: Adam Cracknell Is the Best, Tonight

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Tonight was for smiling.

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Adam Cracknell has been forced to earn every single minute he’s gotten this season. Cracknell has gone, in 74 games, from AHL depth signing to fourth-line placeholder to sometimes penalty killer to surprise goal-scorer to hat-trick collector. This isn’t totally the NHL version of The Rookie, but it’s not without affect, either. In a season bereft of greatness, we were treated to some true goodness. I can’t imagine how a player like Cracknell processes this sort of thing, but I hope he went to bed smiling like a kid Friday night. He deserved it. Nights like these are gifts that kids can appreciate better than anyone.

***

At this point in his career, Antti Niemi is about as distrusted as one can be by his coach. The Stars started yet another back-to-back by watching Kari Lehtonen 2: Again. There is no reason on earth, in a lost season, most teams wouldn’t play their backup there. But Antti Niemi has apparently worked his way into whatever the opposite of Ruff’s circle of trust is, so he instead got to watch his old team from the bench.

Jiri Hudler finally did news outlets the courtesy of coming down with a “real” injury, and that meant Jason Spezza’s back was called into action at 4RW, yes really. Spezza at 70% was not ready to displace Cracknell at 4C, and it turns out that this is an okay thing because Adam Cracknell Scores Goals. (And because Spezza racks up assists, 70% or no.)

The first goal was, to be fair, more about where Cracknell went than what he did. It was even more about what Micheal (that’s how he spells it, don’t blame me) Haley did for Aaron Dell, which was, specifically, to score on him. Still, Cracknell is great, and has been great, and deserves every break he gets. This is where I don’t spitefully mention his multiple healthy scratches earlier this season for reasons that I still don’t understand.

The second goal was the icing on a giant Shark-Slapping cake, courtesy of Jason Spezza. Cracknell was rushing up the ice behind Oleksiak while Spezza looked to pass, and Jason Spezza, Who Is Still A Very Good Dallas Stars Player--I don’t know that we’ve appreciated this fact enough lately—wisely chose to pass to the open guy who would score a goal. Cracknell did that. It was awesome. Having Hemsky and Cracknell post multi-goal games in two nights is a blessing of which I am wholly undeserving.

The third goal was basically the best thing. Aaron Dell just kinda murphed the puck right to him, and Cracknell suddenly got a breakaway drill with major implications for haberdashers in the DFW area.

If you’re keeping a tally on Eakin and Hemsky, tonight was fun. The Eakin faceoff win that led to the sapient Hemsky assist on the Jamie Benn goal that sent Peter Deboer into an fit of apoplectic rage meant that (this is a terribly long sentence) Cody Eakin doubled his season total of secondary assists, collecting his second.

Seguin set Ritchie’s table, and he remembered to put the salad fork on the outside and everything. In fact, all three of the Stars’ second-period goals were results of beautiful assists that needed only a standard finish into a lot of unguarded twine. That’s always fun to watch.

If you were watching the broadcast, you heard plenty of talk about how to play a simple game and minimize chances and how John Klingberg was foolish to leave the defensive zone in order to create offense in a 4-1 game in the third period. I get all of that, but man, I don’t want to live in a world where John Klingberg isn’t allowed to create offense when he sees fit. I get why Craig Ludwig values defense so much, but there is something to be said for scoring when you can, and that’s what the Stars did tonight. It’s all about cost/benefit, and I think goals are a very huge benefit. Also, I am a fan, and I am selfish. Entertain me, hockey guys.

Stephen Johns took a penalty in his return, though he also lost his beard, so maybe that evens out? Apparently so, as Ruff decided to give Johns some time on the second power play, which I found remarkable (clearly).

Patrik Nemeth hit a pipe right after Cracknell’s 2nd goal, and man, did I ever want that one to go in. We are running out of chances to watch Nemeth’s first NHL goal in Victory Green, I fear.

And speaking of chances, the Stars’ PK excels at allowing those, as the Sharks’ seven-second power play proved right after that (hey there, Joe Thornton). It was a bit unfortunate, but I mean, this season is a bit unfortunate, so a power play goal allowed is just a scheduled reminder that all is not well.

Aside from the Great Goodness that was Cracknell’s hat trick, I also appreciated the recognition of Benn and Hemsky’s chemistry doled out by Razor tonight. It’s almost like two really smart players can play well together, even if neither of them is a legendary grit guy. Weird how that works., eh? Even if Hemsky was stopped late in the third by Dell, I almost didn’t care since it brought us a nice little moment between the two forwards playfully arguing in each other’s ear. Those are the simple gifts.

***

I can’t write enough words to do this game justice. Jason Spezza is still amazing, Ales Hemsky is still slick, and Tyler Seguin is still just plain sick. (That one is for the kids.) But Adam Cracknell and his wife are expecting a baby next month, and in the throes of that sort of unimaginable sort of anticipation, they were treated to the enjoyment of a childhood dream with the ability to appreciate it as grown-ups. This is what hockey has to offer from its bosom of kindness, when it choose. Tonight, it so delighted in Cracknell as to give him a cornucopia of blessings. Let’s just smile with the Cracknells for a little while. What else can you do but smile?