Julius Honka scored his first NHL goal in his third NHL callup of the season (and his career). It was a glorious goal that came on the least exciting scoring chance of the three Honka generated on his ridiculous overtime shift. Honka essentially collected the puck high in the zone, realized he was playing the equivalent of the 2012 Stars post-elimination, and Turned It On.
Here's Honka's merry-go-round before his goal. Inject 3-on-3 Julius Honka into my veins. pic.twitter.com/h1fcVoLYqw— Pat Iversen (@PatIversenSBN) April 5, 2017
Finally, Honka just decides to shoot the puck, on account of it is literally Mike Smith. This is a good decision.
That's a high degree of difficulty shot, too. A short slapper over a blocking defender & goalie's glove, short-side. pic.twitter.com/Q9Ko1IIvld— Pat Iversen (@PatIversenSBN) April 5, 2017
By the way, Honka didn’t play at all during his second NHL callup. Keep that in mind while the team determines how they benefited from a year of Nemeth, Oleksiak, Oduya and Benn rotating on the blue line. There’s a possibility none of those players is on the opening day roster next season. It’s going to be an interesting summer for a lot of reasons.
Speaking of players who may not be back, I was wondering earlier if this might be Antti Niemi’s last NHL game. It’s a morbid thought (well, in terms of his career), but I’m having a tough time finding a spot for Niemi in this league post-expansion. Would you take a 34-year-old goalie who has collapsed post-December two years in a row and been (I’d guess) bought out by his former team? I’m not sure. Maybe a backup gig in Philly or something.
The officiating was interesting, as a high sticking call on Hamhuis’s backswing (how on earth does a player avoid that?) and a legit-though-rare call on Benn for playing with a broken stick added to the fun. Gord Dwyer was involved in most of the hijinx (including a weird behind-the-net play where he half-picked Cody Eakin for a turnover), but Cameron Voss was the real newbie, refereeing his first NHL game after Mike Leggo’s retirement earlier in the week. It’s probably pretty intense to have the crowd chanting, “REF YOU SUCK!” during your first NHL game, I am guessing. Still, good job for Cameron. Also, Cameron Gaunce is still an NHL player, which, wow.
When asked about the young defensemen, Lindy Ruff mentioned right off the hop in the postgame scrum that Oleksiak and Johns were on the ice for a goal against. And, well, he’s right but...
...that seems like a bad break started by Oleksiak’s weak backhand clear and failure to recover to the net front, more than anything. That’s the problem with using particulars to validate generals: you’re begging for confirmation bias to rule the day. I’m tired of talking about which one they’ll keep, since the betting money is on Johns and always has been; but we’ll find out soon enough.
Jason Spezza is looking better as of late, denting a crossbar and making his AHL linemates look good tonight. With that said, he has scored only 2 power play goals all year. That is not a big number. That is a small number.
Also of note: Jason Dickinson’s fake shot at Smith’s five-hole to get him to drop, opening the hole over his pad for Dickinson’s eventual goal. Them’s some smooth hands, them is. Kid’s got talent, and he had a decent game tonight...though he might have sorta been to blame for the second Coyotes’ goal. Of course, Esa Lindell also broke Rule #1 in Defense, which is Never to leave the net front undefended to pursue the puck behind it. There is nuance to this rule, but Lindell left the passing lane open, and Dickinson didn’t quite have his man. Then again, these are both Texas Stars players figuring out the NHL on some level, still. Grace, my friends.
Brett Ritchie knows how to cook a pizza, burying Anythony DeAngelo’s Deep Dish Supreme there. Brett Ritchie tied Seguin (per Razor) for the team lead with 15 even-strength goals this season. I’m thinking you protect those goals in expansion, eh?
Alex Goligoski, Mike Smith and Kevin Connauton all on the other team? I haven’t been this disoriented since the Stars last played the Panthers at any time over the last three years.
The Stars won in overtime against a bad team. This is good. The Stars barely won. This would be concerning, if these were the actual Stars. But when you’re icing half of last year’s Texas Stars and pretending you’re an NHL team, you take wins and decide to be happy.
Mike Smith and Julius Honka both played with that Apple Jacks Attitude tonight. They do what they like, and ain’t no one gonna tell them otherwise. In Smith’s case, of course, it’s less due to ability and more due to whatever playing for Arizona for 29 years in a row does to a man. You don’t just fall asleep like a normal human when you’ve lived through that harrowing period of time.
Gemel Smith continues to be really good compared to what I expected Gemel Smith to be. He also yelled at some Coyotes a lot, thus cementing my belief that he is Roussel’s understudy. All great performers need one.
Ales Hemsky is done for the season (along with Hudler and McKenzie, we learned). There are two games remaining. This puts Hemsky’s final stat line for 2016-17 at 4-3=7 in 15 games played. He did not quite catch Eakin’s 3-8=11 in 58 games, but I have little doubt he would have done so, especially after joining my Apocalypse Line of 91-90-83 with Honka and Klingberg on the blueline behind them. If that’s not how you do Fan Appreciation Night, I don’t know how you do it. Maybe ice cream.
Julius Honka, man. It wasn’t quite Klingberg’s arrival on a righty-bereft Stars’ blueline two season ago, but the revelation was certainly televised nonetheless. And hey, what a coincidence: Klingberg scored his pretty first NHL goal against the Coyotes, too! It may not be a coincidence, now that I think about it.
Did you see Honka protecting the puck like a boss from much bigger players? Did you watch him effortlessly cover ground to make sure a forward covering his position on the point never had to actually play defense? This kid is going to be everyone’s favorite next season. Let’s keep thinking about next season.