This one seemed appropriate for today.
It’s a back-to-back at the end of a season-long road trip, when you boil it down. The Stars got continued help from the posts (which is to say the Blue Jackets shooters), but ultimately this game was probably going to be a messy 2-1 affair until a stupid power play and a stupid power play goal ruined everything. This game is the capital of Stupidville, which I guess would be a town and wouldn’t have have a capital, now that I think about it. Okay, this game is the mayor of Stupidville, except it just got recalled because no game this lame deserves authority. Recalls deserve no flowery prose, no GIFs, but only bullet points. As such, here are some quick hits.
- Julius Honka’s penalty in front of the net was really an absurd choice of a call in a game that left countless things uncalled. Honka was a bit overeager in his defense of Ben Bishop, and perhaps because he needs to be more forceful to hold his own when attacking larger players, the official decided it looked like an infraction. It was a stupid call that changed the game, but the stupidity was less on Honka defending Bishop after a perceived slight (I don’t think his reaction was really warranted, but honestly that should’ve been an even-up if I’m reffing this game), and more on the zebras, who let Miro Heiskanen and Devin Shore get...[stands up to mimic Jack Edwards] absolutely murdered out there! Who is going to have to get stretchered off before someone makes a call? It’s a war zone out there! [sits down]
- That said, I found it interesting how much differently Roman Polák was perceived for his defense of a teammate that also got him penalized. Yes, the hit on Heiskanen was more egregious than the tickling of Bishop’s ribs, and I viscerally wanted to see a physical response, but we sometimes look for reasons to affirm or denigrate a player’s actions based on his number rather than the play itself. Honka was trying to defend his goalie, and the officials didn’t like it. Certainly I am as biased as anyone no matter how detached I try to be, but it’s been increasingly fun to watch Polák ply his trade when the Stars are winning, whereas I found myself earlier in the season looking for the holes in his game. Maybe the same thing is happening with my view of Honka now, as I try to understand why he does what he does, and why coaches and observers seem to dislike it so. Still, I’m not sure how one can criticize one player and not the other for putting the Stars on the PK unless we’re just outright saying Honka doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt right now. If that’s the case, it’d be almost refreshing for its clarity. But really, the last game of this road trip, on a two-in-two? That’s not the night to be doing player evals.
- Tyler Seguin can’t find any net right now, and things are getting dire. He’ll score, because that’s what he does, but this game could have been a lot different if the players who generated most of the good chances could also have executed better in finishing said chances. It’s a tough spot, being the best players on a team. You draw more criticism because you have more ability to avert a loss, and thus more responsibility for a loss. No one blames, like, Mattias Janmark for a loss, you know? Heck, look at Honka: he’s there in front of the crease, boxing out his man—clearing the crease, don’t miss that!—and then the puck bounces off him and into the net. Some nights, you just can’t win. So you don’t.
- Really, I don’t think any one person deserves a significant portion of blame for this loss. Not Honka, not Polák, not Jim Montgomery, not Seguin, not Benn, and not the officials. Sergei Bobrovsky, bless his heart, just plays out of his mind against Dallas, while the Jackets also got a couple of nice bounces to go along with their better play overall. And if you give John Tortorella a 2-0 lead, he’s going to have his guys chop up the neutral zone ice and release live alligators in there to slow things down. That’s a tough chore for the Stars at their best, and they were far from that tonight, recovering too few dump-ins and hitting the blue line with too little speed overall.
- Seth Jones and Zach Werenski were good tonight, as they tend to be. The Jackets were playing their third in four nights as well, but the Stars haven’t really looked like they deserve to win a game for a little bit now, and that’s not the most encouraging way to end a road trip. Still, I was high on Columbus before the season started, and tonight made me wonder if they can’t be the Stars of the East, streaking here and there just enough to grab a wild card spot and do whatever it is they do in the playoffs. (Not win, certainly; these are a team named after an article of clothing, after all.)
- I think I have decided that Blake Comeau is the Devin Shore of this year, and Justin Dowling is the Gemel Smith of this year.
- Some might argue that Gemel Smith is the Gemel Smith of this year, but they’re wrong. He’s this year’s Tyler Pitlick. Try to keep up.
- The first power play for Dallas was also, like the one in Boston, a total consolation prize to make sure things didn’t look too uneven on the scoresheet. I really don’t love those sorts of calls. If Dallas doesn’t earn a penalty, don’t give them one. Or, better yet, call the ones where [stands up] the players are being hog-tied, rolled up in carpets, and thrown off bridges. Open your eyes!!! [sits down]
- Spezza and Honka had some nice setups. Dowling bonked Bob in the mask with a slick backhand in alone after a slick Klingberg exchange, and Smith poked a puck into an extended leg pad. These are the things that you might be more inclined to marvel at, had the puck gone in. Instead, there are but a bullet point. These games must demand more of us if we are to glean more from them.
- Val Nichushkin had some good moments on the top line, but again, I don’t think this is the night where you decide to relegate him or give him a corner office. The Stars need another top-six winger, and I don’t think any of us really sees that player in the organization right now. Being upset at a player for not being someone else is a fool’s errand, so I’m choosing to wait and see what Nuke can do with some more confidence. If he can have a Jason Dickinson moment, who knows? Time is short, though.
- The Kings won Tuesday after firing their coach. Ottawa blew out New Jersey after the Senators’ Cool Guys Brigade recorded an entire podcast mocking their own haplessness and bragging about not paying attention to their silly old coaches. Thank goodness the Stars aren’t playing Chicago in their first game after firing Joel Quenneville, I guess. I don’t think I can handle a 12-goal defeat right now.
- I don’t think this team is going to win many games when they don’t, uh, score goals at even-strength. Honestly, if you’re willing to give Montgomery some more time with this team (and hopefully a healthy Alex Radulov), then there’s no need to judge this team by either its results or its process on this road trip. They got enough points to continue the experiment for now. The underlyings are pretty ugly lately, but then again this team had some nice xG numbers last year, but with some other crucial flaws. Just win the danged games for now, and we’ll start to get concerned if they’re still being dominated in the neutral zone by Thanksgiving. I’d love to be able to shout “fire” out of necessity if it means the team’s record is much better than it “should” be. A prophet is never honored in their home town, especially when they’re lamenting a winning team’s flaws.
- Tyler Seguin is still leading the team in points despite not scoring a goal since the third game of the season. It’s amazing what starting off the year with 10 points in four games will do, eh?
- San Jose will be a great test. I welcome the chance to see Erik Karlsson score four goals in Dallas, just like we all hoped he would this summer.
- Finally, here’s A Random Tidbit: The most selfish players in the league are Michael Frolik (7G, 0A), then Joe Pavelski and Alex Chiasson (both with 6G, 0A). I haven’t been able to confirm this, but reports suggest that if Tyler Seguin lets Chiasson out-goal him this year, he has to wash Jim Nill’s Toyota Avalon while wearing Crocs and singing “Good Old Hockey Game.” That’s a win-win if I’ve ever heard one.