The Stars have 11 road wins, which ties them with Arizona for second-fewest in the NHL. They have not been scoring goals, averaging like not even two goals over their last ten road games or something. It’s been bad. Tonight was bad. But don’t worry, the lack of goals was far from the worst part. I mean, a rather bored Pierre McGuire showed up to wax poetic about Kris Russell over the Stars’ deathbed. You didn’t really think this season was going to get better as it waned, did you?
Ales Hemsky was battling an injury, and played just about no minutes in the third period. Stephen Johns was battling Stephen Johns, and playing just about No Minutes in the second period. Curtis McKenzie got a nasty high stick that sent him to the hospital for stitches (though Ruff confirmed that his eyeball is okay). Antti Niemi had to play goalie behind the Stars. Lots of folks had it rough tonight.
Julius Honka, of course, played like 17 minutes. All right! That’s what we’ve been asking for, right? Time for Julius Honka to come in and show what he can
First, let’s hope Curtis McKenzie recovers very quickly. He’s been fighting for every NHL shift he’s gotten, and the last thing this season needs is anything more than an NHL-quality scratch derailing him. Best wishes.
Second, I’d like to thank everyone who didn’t love Hemsky enough to keep him from getting sucked into the injury vortex. It is your fault, specifically the fans. All of the fans are to blame.
Third, let’s still blame the fans. We are a fickle bunch who are never happy, and we take it out on beat writers and coaches and basically anyone who will listen when we are unhappy, which is, to review, all the danged time. Jim Nill didn’t bring Honka up as quickly as he might have, and that was just poppycock! Then he brought him up and Ruff gave him 20 minutes, but hey, what’s with the benching of Johns? That’s marshberries! Then someone looked at the forward time on ice allotments, and fans started lighting their commemorative NHL Guardian Project trading cards on fire. It escalated quickly. (Also, those cards are probably worth something if you have them, just FYI.)
One thing to keep in mind is this: Lindy Ruff is not deciding who gets protected in expansion. Jim Nill may like Ruff personally, and they may still have a good relationship (as good as you can have in this season, at least), but when I see Johns getting punished by Ruff once again for making a mistake, I have to remind myself not to let it get to me. This is Ruff making a point, or something, and Nill has allowed him to do that. I don’t think it’s optimal at all—you could argue that Nill hurt Johns by choosing to let Ruff play out the string—but that’s all it is. GMs have to plan for years, while coaches get the luxury of taking out their frustration on one player. Ruff has done it to Johns with benchings and scratches, and Hitchcock berated his guys back in the day to the point where they couldn’t stand to be in the same room with him. NHL coaches believe in themselves because they must. You can hardly blame them for doubling down when things get bleak.
Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin did not score goals on their prime chances, and that’s not nothing. I mean, it was nothing tonight, which was the problem, but it’s significant in its impact. Last year, Jamie Benn totally scores that counterpunch goal in the first to level the game 1-1, right? This is not last year.
Adam Cracknell hit the post, which means something! Adam Cracknell is the lone remnant of goodness, so it’s fitting that he helped McKenzie off the ice. Cracknell has metaphorically been helping the entire team leave the ice, slowly, this entire season. Adam is a true leader.
Tukka Rask is good. The Stars made some mistakes. Antti Niemi was good enough to win, but the Stars as a whole were not good enough to do anything but lose.
I am happy for Reilly Smith, though. It’s good to see him playing on a team that might make the playoffs.