Quick hits today, but that was kind of a nice ending to what seemed like assured disaster, right?
1. Ales Hemsky led the team in 5v5 shot differential (Corsi Relative), as if that should be surprise to any of you. He played...not the most minutes on the team, but Ruff did put him out there with an empty net alongside Eakin and Benn. What is that line, you may ask? I have no idea either. Perhaps that is Ruff telling Spezza and Seguin that they don’t deserve to play the Empty Net Bonus Round, or perhaps that was just what “felt right” for the coach.
Either way, let this lesson stick with you: Faceoffs are about as related to possessing the puck as defensive zone hand passes. They can be very occasionally crucial, but on the whole, they’re really not worth a lot of the attention they get. This is your Del Taco Takeaway. By reading this, you have won a very inexpensive and delicious chicken soft taco at your neighborhood Del Taco for a small participation fee.
2. This was the most 2016-17 Kari Lehtonen Game of the Year. To make 41 saves on 42 shots while ensuring that your team still gives up a tally on the PK? That’s almost too obvious. We know what you’re doing, Kari. (Nice game, though. Very nice game.)
3. Jamie Oleksiak is Very Physical, lately, and he is Progressing Nicely, and then he goes and gets caught on a bad pinch (which, if you’re GWG-scoring Klingberg, that’s one thing; if you’re not-Klingberg, that’s another) a bit before he decides to do I don’t even know what to call it to Kari Lehtonen. From bowling him over during play to play-acting as his Mariokart ghost while Kari made a sparkling toe save ahead of him, Oleksiak was on a different planet tonight. I have no doubt that he has gotten a bit better with more playing time. I have plenty of doubts that his ceiling (oh ho, what jokes might be made of this) is anywhere near as high as optimists would say it is.
4. The best players on the Dallas Stars are Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, John Klingberg and Jason Spezza. The Panthers’ Lockdown didn’t allow them much space, but I’m getting very tired of hearing about how creative players like Seguin and Spezza and Klingberg are liabilities, or how [insert lower-event player] should have their minutes. The season is gone and done with, but let’s try to ease up on the crazy pills as we play out the string, huh? Both goals scored tonight came as a result of sweet passing and (in one case) a glorious shot. These are your best players, and it’s great for them to be recognized as such, from the coaching staff on down to your belligerent coworker who thinks McKenzie Is Tough and Should Lead the Team or whatever.
5. Patrik Nemeth played tonight, and he isn’t named Greg. That is a big plus for Patrik Nemeth, in my book.
6. I miss Jussi Jokinen a lot. Also, Demers. Also, every single one of the ex-Stars on that team. I don’t think Sceviour would have been the make-or-break player on this team if he’d been retained, but he’s always been one of My Guys, too. Did the Stars really have to spend one of their few road wins on a brutal stab of a takedown against the Pretend Stars? Just let Jagr win another cup already, ya dorks.
7. None of the defensemen had a good game tonight, but at least Klingberg redeemed himself. And is there a reason players (one in particular) seem allergic to using the defense to retain possession while starting a change? Tonight proceeded like Dump City, and while that phrase should be taken in the entirety of its many possible connotations, I’d love to see the Stars remember that they are allowed to, on occasion, pass the puck backwards and try again.
8. Cody Eakin played fewer minutes than Patrick Sharp and Jason Spezza tonight. That might be a first for the season. Hemsky and Faksa, meanwhile, played fewer minutes than Remi Elie, who debuted to much laudatory color commentary. Elie had a couple of chances, Worked Hard, and Was Dogged in His Pursuit of the Puck. He more or less did the sorts of things you’d expect a fringe player to do in his NHL debut. I’d love it if Elie carved out a place on this team going forward, but this game wasn’t much meaningful data in that department. Instead, it was simply a nice moment for a nice player. Maybe he’ll get more chances, maybe he won’t. But tonight was a great night for him, and I’m sure he’ll remember it for the rest of his life. It’s a privilege to be a part of that, even vicariously.