Not a flower on the wall
I am growing ten feet, ten feet tall
In your head and I won’t stop
With the entirety of California more or less punting on this NHL season, the Stars and Coyotes are the only remnants of last decade’s Pacific Division really making any effort. And on Wednesday, you were reminded that this was a division rivalry at one point, even if it’s not now.
Jamie Benn’s hit on Oliver Ekman-Larsson is going to be the big takeaway from this game, and that’s a shame. It wasn’t a good hit, not by half. Players get hurt like that, and the player delivering the hit has a responsibility to not injure people.
Additionally, let’s not forget the other time Jamie Benn got a call from the DoPS for a bit of a premeditated action:
Now, that cross check got a fine. Given that Benn was ejected Wednesday, I suspect he’ll probably only get 1-2 games for this hit, at most. It’s also possible he’ll get off with just a fine, though I wouldn’t bet on it. In any case, it was great to see OEL make it back to the ice, truly. No player should be hurt out there.
As for the, you know, game itself? Well, the second power play unit came up big, keeping the Stars in front twice after the team noticeably sagged after only getting one goal out of a mammoth start to the game.
Corey Perry is going to get lionized any time he looked remotely close to the player Jim Nill signed him to be, and that’s just something we have to reconcile ourselves to at this point. Yes, he’s been much better lately. Yes, this version of Corey Perry is a boon to the Stars. But there are 22 more games left, so I’m going to wait and see just a bit more before I start carving out a place next to Guy Carbonneau’s place on the Dallas Stars Mount Rushmore (it’s a big mountain). Still, he scored a goal (albeit an absolute gift after some slick passing by Hintz and Gurianov) and had some great setup work as well. That’s what you’d like to see from veteran scoring depth, you know? When you have it, you’re glad you do. Also, I am still extremely confused about how to feel about Perry and Goligoski’s matching minors in the second period. I am not used to the Stars rooting for, you know, the other guy.
The team should’ve had more than one goal out of the first 10 minutes of the first, though. Dallas was absolutely having their way with the Coyotes’ coverage, and then Arizona made a couple of adjustments to slow Dallas down in the neutral zone, and the Stars got cagier, and things tilted back the other way. It was inevitable, and it reminded you a lot of the game against Arizona back in December, when Dallas also hung around and ended up stealing two points in regulation (during the DBD watch party, I might add). Ben Bishop deserves all the credit in the world for doing so, in this one, as he made some really outstanding saves look almost boring. That’s the sign of a goalie on his game, and the team feeds off that sort of ennui.
The second period, however, was full of emotion.
Things got a little testy in the second period between Arizona and Dallas. pic.twitter.com/BNX7rEeH3p— Matthew DeFranks (@MDeFranks) February 20, 2020
Not to mention Benn’s 300th goal being called back for being 300 miles offside in the first period, his breakaway chance that Hill stretched to just barely save, or the Faksa goal off the post (should we be worried that Faksa’s backhand is more accurate than Seguin’s, right now?) Things were ramping up after that first 10 minutes of the first between two teams that still don’t like each other, and it seemed nostalgic, almost, that Corey Perry, Alex Goligoski, Jamie Benn, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson were at the center of things. Ah, youth.
The Coyotes scored on their major penalty, and then they also rebounded from a 2-1 deficit with a weird goal, where Fischer’s arm appeared to move the puck forward, then off a couple of other things like his stick shaft and helmet, I think, and then into the net to make it 2-2. If Taylor Hall had touched the puck before it went in, I wonder if there was enough there for a hand pass to be called upon review. Honestly, there might have been. But Justin St. Pierre isn’t here to listen to your logical arguments—he is here to shout at you and to ignore any shred of truth that controverts him. There is a reason he is the most disliked referee in the game.
Radek Faksa had to get robbed by a crazy save by Hill that looked more like a Khudobin effort, as Hill flopped down, then managed to flap his legs just enough to stop Faksa, who had tried to wait him out. Faksa really was one of the best players on the ice tonight, and he is such a joy to watch when he gets going like this. It’s the sort of thing that makes you shake your head at the Stars’ signing Hanzal back in 2017 instead of trusting that Faksa could be that player. But we won’t go back down that road again.
And finally, speaking of old roads, how about Jamie Oleksiak, scoring the game-winner? That was just a perfunctory slapshot off the post, and it sure looked like one where the player didn’t expect to score, and perhaps didn’t even recognize that he had scored. I am confident, given the postgame quotes, however, that Oleksiak did know that he scored. Hockey players are sharp like that.
The Stars are tied for first place in the Western Conference with 22 games to play. It’s good, right? Yes, the West is as weak as it’s ever been, but the Stars are also looking about as ready as they’re going to be in the next three years to really capitalize on that. The roster is deep all over the place, and lately, the players have been scoring, too. We spent a lot of this season wondering how good the Stars could be if their offense were anything more than turgid, and hey, look at this. They’re 7-1-2 in their last 10, and looking like one of the few teams that truly doesn’t have a clear need at the deadline, for good reasons. I guess 2013 is quite a long ways off.
Tyler Seguin looks like he’s going again, as he had some really hard work that resulted in good chances for Dallas. It seemed like Seguin was trying to fill the void left by the captain’s departure, and you wonder if that wasn’t a conscious effort on his part.
Stephen Johns continues to look like a man among boys, even if he has the odd lapse in tight coverage here or there. You take the good with the not great, and man, how much good is there with Johns out there?
Denis Gurianov, by the way, also had a pretty ugly giveaway that forced Bishop to look sharp early. Again, you have to take your medicine, and someone scoring at Gurianov’s pace deserves as many second chances as you can find for him. But with the Stars leading or tied for the most of the game, you were probably kidding yourself if you were expecting to see him coming over the boards every third shift. His time is here already, and also not yet.
Jason Dickinson is still high on my list of “players who could look like Jake Guentzel in a playoff series.” I love seeing him play higher up in the lineup, as he did last spring. The Stars really do have some solid depth, even if you can still see the ocean floor a little too easily. This is a team where the heroes are various, or at least can be. And after the Dallas Stars of so many years past, that’s refreshing. First place tends to be.
Friday night should be a lot of fun. One hopes Jamie Benn will be able to participate. What would a high-stakes game against the Blues be without Jamie Benn there to antagonize them, after all?