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Afterwords: Stars Do Just Enough to Lose the Right Way

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Points are points, and goal is goal

NHL: Dallas Stars at Boston Bruins Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Loser points on the road against the East: Ingredient #6 in the Recipe for a Successful Season.

***

I’m not going to take much time here with another game coming right up, and you already know all the salient points anyway: Anton Khudobin, The Posts, Penalties, and Radek Faksa. The Stars didn’t deserve to win this game, but they got something out of it anyway. That’s been the theme for for this road trip. I can think of worse trips.

Given all that, it surprised me how upsetting Brad Marchand’s game-winner was. In a game I expected the Stars to lose for large portions of it, a 5-on-3 goal really riled me up. Something about Marchand’s self-righteousness the other day combined with his rather checkered past made it particularly rough to see him draw a [bad] call on Roman Polák right off the bat, then another [whatever] call on Lindell in overtime. Of course he would score the winning goal. We know how this works. The Red Sox just won the World Series for the eighth time in five years, and I’m pretty sure the Patriots already got a first-round bye in the MLS playoffs. You don’t go to Boston and play sports and expect good things to happen.

Still, it really was a good point for Dallas tonight. That’s three points now that Khudobin has absolutely stolen for Dallas from Toronto and Boston, which is a pretty nice souvenir from any vacation. Put that alongside the fact that Dallas was playing a road game without Alex Radulov and giving meaningful minutes to three players on the blue line who have all been either healthy scratched or AHL players this year. Yeah, I’ll take a point outta that.

To wrap up the officiating talk: Jason Spezza got his stick slashed in half with no call, and Torey Krug’s penalty on Gemel Smith was a reallllly questionable call which reeked of the officials looking to even things up as the game wound down. That’s what happens in The NHL, I guess, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. All told, each one of the penalties in this game were pretty iffy, but the Stars probably still got the better of it, given some non-calls on Devin Shore and others as well.

No, I mean that: Esa Lindell’s shove on Marchand looked bad, even if I think Marchand was happy to go into the boards there. We’ve seen the Stars be on both ends of that call before, so it’s more a time-and-place thing to me. I just didn’t like its being called to put the Bruins on a 5-on-3 in overtime, given the whistle-gulping that we’d seen for 60 minutes prior.

The too-much-mans call was, in real time, obviously incorrect as far as the fact that Janmark played the puck after Jamie Benn had gotten onto the bench, but look at it from the official’s point of view: he’s looking for that call the minute Janmark skates to the puck while Benn is still ice-bound, and Janmark never really sells the margin. Some plays, like icing or playing the puck outside the trapezoid, you can make a bang-bang play to minimize the likelihood of a call. With too-many-men, however, I think the player benefits from a more ostentatious deliberation. I thought there was just enough of a delay by Janmark on the play, but obviously the linesman didn’t see exactly when Benn had hopped off (that’s my guess), and he was thrilled to Impact The Game, which is his purview in that situation.

Also, the Bruins hit three posts on great chances (plus another puck that trickled just wide after Khudobin got a piece), so you probably don’t want to register a complaint with the Hockey Gods customer service department after this one.

And for all the grousing, the Stars were lucky to get a point out of a game they only scored once in, and that goal off a really non-threatening shot, too. (I don’t think fans were “Tuuuuuuukka-ing” after that stinker of a goal.) But for all the contentment we’re preaching here, the Stars really could have stolen this one altogether: chances by Klingberg and Nichushkin that were gifted to them on the gift power play really begged to be put home. Rask made a save without a stick (which Khudobin surely took note of), and Nichushkin’s shot was elevated, but not located sufficiently well.

Another note on Rask’s cough-up to Nichushkin: he appeared to be playing the puck like a pre-Turco goalie. In other words, for those who haven’t read the Turco Grip chapter in Sean’s book, Rask was using his glove hand to weakly push the stick from behind as he shot the puck instead of using it as a fulcrum for more leverage. Yes, I am choosing to blame Tuukka’s Rask’s turnover on his not being enough like Marty Turco. And hey, that’s inexcusable—they were teammates just seven years ago! Gotta learn from those wily veterans when you have a chance, my dude.

***

It’s a long 60 minutes even on the tough nights, but the Stars did enough to get a point. It’s probably too much to ask that the breaks could have broken even more egregiously in their favor in order to eke out two points, but fans get greedy during winning streaks. You can’t tell me you weren’t furious at the Stars for not scoring in overtime, right? How dare they! This is The Dallas Stars, Undefeated In Overtime This Season! The gall, really.

Justin Dowling came back in and looked good; Dillon Heatherington held his own in careful usage; and Julius Honka had an eventful game that I think still made a good case for his being in the lineup every night. Perhaps I’m just damning with faint praise, but that’s where we are with Honka this year. This game showed a lot of why coaches haven’t always loved him, but it also showed his tenacity and willingness to create, which are really crucial things to have in your lineup. To that end, Honka might just need to do what all skilled players and teams need to do: keep the pace up, and hope your good outweighs the other team’s good. Watching a skilled player like Honka try to create in a slogfest like this one was like watching someone try to pick a lock with a sledgehammer. It can get you there, but I hope you don’t mind splinters.

Jamie Benn might have been playing with a splinter from what I could see in this one, as he made a rough choice to try to beat Rask around the horn on a 2-on-1 with Spezza, and generally looked a little disengaged for large stretches. Tyler Seguin wasn’t as big a factor as one would’ve hoped either, although the reunion of the Superline did seem to give the Bruins a case of the willies here and there. But again, I’m not sure how much I want to read into this game, given that the Stars just really seemed the slower, less dangerous team overall. They didn’t hemorrhage shots from the low slot, which was a nice change, but they still got out-possessed by Boston to a pretty noticeable degree. That said, if you’re Boston, you probably have similar frustrations with your own top guys, right? I mean, three posts? They could’ve lost this game if not for the power play. Dallas played them to a draw at evens, and that’s always a moral victory on the road against a decent team. One just hopes the Stars can figure out how to release Benn and Seguin’s more dangerous selves before things get too much further down the road.

***

It’s a long season, but I still enjoy watching games like this for moments like this one as much as anything else, where we see Esa Lindell channeling John Klingberg.

The Lindell of two years ago (or even last year) was much more likely to just stop this puck and rim it out on his forehand along the glass. Instead, Esa gets his feet moving here even before the puck hits his tape. He knows what he’s going to know and where he’s going to skate before the puck gets there, and it even created a good rush into the Bruins’ zone the other way.

I’ve been a member of the Esa Lindell Marching & Chowder Society for a few years now, and while he’ll never be mistaken for an elite #1 defenseman or a flawless player, it’s just ding-danged cool to see him making plays like this to dismiss the Boston Bruins forecheck. Nothing happens overnight, but one day you wake up, and they’re asking to borrow the car, you know? Even if it’s just a short trip, there’s nothing like seeing the kids grow up and learn to drive on the freeway.