The Stars were throttled tonight after what was sort of a good game early. And I do mean “throttled.” Doug Weight told his team to crank it up, and the Stars (and their lovely assemblage of defensemen, many of whom are capable of driving a car) got overwhelmed. There’s your game.
Ales Hemsky returned from his time on Dagobah to play with Hudler and Shore, and the trio created chances at-will early in the game. It was nice, early.
The Islanders’ first goal was Jamie Benn’s fault, because why on earth would you turn the puck over at your blue line and leave Niemi to defend a breakaway? That is not something this model of goaltender is built to do, Jamie Benn. You oughta know by know. /Cut to third Islanders goal/ You really, really oughta know by now, guys. And yes, this is the only thing I have to say about that third goal. It was embarrassing.
Dan Hamhuis really did end up doing what he was signed to do this season, except for one important thing: mesh with John Klingberg. Hamhuis has been a stable 2nd-pairing guy for what amounts to most of the season, and if not for John Klingberg’s own funk (that starting the season beside Jordie Benn couldn’t cure), perhaps fans would feel differently. But no matter what your opinion is about his place on the team, you have to be glad that Stars youth has had his presence on this hot bed of coals known as a blue line. Julius Honka and Stephen Johns (lately) have been benefited from Hamhuis’s presence, and that’s what you want your kids to do.
Of all the injuries this season, Ales Hemsky’s is the one I’ll count as a blessing in disguise, from my standpoint. Because in this disaster of a year, we at least got to be driven home by (we hope) 18 more games of Jim Nill’s biggest free agent contract. With Hemsky on the “other” power play, I firmly believe the Stars’ second unit would have scored more than like one goal this season. This is a bold statement?
Hemsky’s “skating” or “speed” is something I’ve heard a lot of folks talk about as he returned to the lineup, but that really isn’t the biggest thing he adds, to be honest. Korpikoski has “Speed.” Tom Wandell had “Speed.” Hemsky, however, has a brain connected to his hands, and he uses his legs to create momentum that the rest of his body employs to its advantage. Sometimes people criticize players for not “stopping and starting” on plays, but Hemsky is a master of finding ways to always be moving, much as it might drive some old-school coaches crazy. He uses his edges consistently to work his way into dangerous areas of the ice, and you know what? Just watch him. You should be doing this already. He’s been on the team for three years.
Jason Spezza tied the game up, even though Jamie Benn shot the puck. Spezza’s mind-bending stickhandling around Nick Leddy (and I do mean “around,” because he just totally circumvented him) would lead to a Seguin pass to Benn in the slot, and the captain redeemed himself after the giveaway. A fresh hockey game is a nice thing, and it was, for a bit.
It’s weird to see Patrick Sharp on the ice post-deadline, but it was weirder to see Tyler Seguin and Ales Hemsky killing a penalty in the second period. Has Lindy Ruff really and truly let Jason Spezza call all the line changes now? *Looks at top line* I think we know the answer to that. Now for our next question: what did Seguin and Hemsky ever do to Spezza that he wanted them to be fronting Boychuk bazookas all night? Stop doing that, Jason!
Oh, and by the way, Antoine Roussel got knocked out of the game (and is likely done for the season) after taking a slapshot to the hand, and Hemsky took a Johnny Boychuk slapper to the skate (on the PENALTY KILL, I remind you) as well, limping off the ice. Is this “take your lumps” time for Dallas or something? I thought the lumps were in the first 60 games of disappointing hockey, but that shows what I know.
Also, ha ha, were Seguin, Sharp and Hemsky on the Kill Ruff simply saying, “Well, you took Korpikoski away, so I have no choice but to put out my skill guys on the kill” now? Jason Spezza was killing penalties earlier this season, for goodness sake, but now you’re using Seguin and Hemsky when one forward goes down? Is there are worse example of managing your assets? My goodness, that was asinine. Throw Ritchie, McKenzie, Eakin and Shore out there while rotating a 3D-1F mix or something.
What I liked best about Faksa’s goal was the Tony Hawk grind along the boards on his way into the zone, but I am now finding out (as I review this before publishing) that thousands of people have already said this same thing. I don’t know if you played any of the Tony Hawk video games, but, wait, I think John Tavares just got two more scoring chances while I was typing this, sorry. That’s the Stars defense for you, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! They did not get their own video game, unless you count Asteroids. Or maybe any of those games where the screen moves constantly, forcing the characters to run to stay ahead of the action. That feels like the Stars’ blue line, does a moving Mario Bros. level.
In case you still didn’t know that John Klingberg is the Stars next Sergei Zubov, the third goal solidified this, for me. Klingberg walked up, wound up, and fouled up Thomas Greiss and everyone else on the Islanders when he instead passed to Spezza, who had roughly 107% of the net in which to put the puck. Spezza put the puck in there. It was eerily similar to one of Jussi Jokinen’s goals from way back when, and it’s just one of those plays that elite defenders make. It was beautiful.
Question time: who is this new guy, name of Greg? There is a player on the Stars now, and his name is Greg. During the hockey game, Greg and Jamie Oleksiak watched the Islanders get open in front of the net and eventually score their second goal. This was not a good first impression, Greg. Also, do you work at Best Buy? You seem like perhaps you work at Best Buy, Greg. In addition, Greg was wearing Steve Ott’s old number. Did no one tell Greg that numbers are supposed to be a big deal in hockey? It’s a shame that no one cares about who wears what number in the NHL any more. I wish people made a big old deal about this.
It was pretty cliche for the Islanders to come back. It was even more cliche for Oleksiak to rush to lay a hit on a man in front (that is, to “clear the crease”) and in so doing, totally and completely eliminate Niemi’s vision at the worst possible second. Then again, we saw what Niemi’s unobscured vision did on the third goal, so maybe Oleksiak was just trying something different because why not? I can’t totally blame him.
Also, did Leddy take Spezza’s dangle personally? I suspect so, because Leddy basically just re-shaped the game after that, and his assist to Nikolay Kulemin came after a nice foray up the ice. It’s great to have defensemen like that. When you call them up from the AHL, at least. I’m sure it will be nice, someday.
If I had a favorite part of this game, it might have been what Jamie Benn did after looking over on a shorthanded rush and seeing that his pass option was a “number eleven.” Benn just decided to hold the puck, beat his guy, and beat Greiss with a backhand. When we say “Jamie Benn,” these sorts of plays are integral to that term’s definition.
If I had a least favorite part of this game, it would be how Hemsky played like none of the latter half and how the Stars stopped also playing in the latter half. Play better, Stars.
Radek Faksa was great, and I loved his goal. But the MAHPOTG has to go to Tyler Seguin, who seemed to have a golden chance early on before being foiled by Greiss’s stick, forcing Seguin to then watch as his team surrendered a breakaway. This is the Most Ales Hemsky Play of the Game because that is what Hemsky had to do for much of the night, was watch his team surrender. Sheesh, they need some new players. Why didn’t we trade for good players at the deadline to make this team better? Golly.