Game 50 Afterwords: Two Outta Three Ain't Bad
(Even if the Colorado game was the game in which Dallas most deserved a win.)
Dallas needed this one. Of course, Dallas also needed one or two of their other recent seven losses, but when you're going into a long break after a tough stretch, the last thing you want to do is sit on a loss to the Calgary Flames.
The Stars got 4 of 6 points out of the homestand, and that's going to have to be good enough for now. The Stars are starting to right the ship, and when you finally do correct the balance of your listing naval vessel, it has a tendency to rock to the other side a bit before finally settling true atop the briny sea once again.
Valeri Nichushkin partied like it was 2014 again on the top line, as his slick pass (after a nice Goligoski feed to help him gain the zone) set up Jamie Benn for the legendary "High Quality Chance" that has so often eluded the Stars as of late. For whatever reason, Tyler Seguin didn't get quite as much rhythm on the top line as Benn and Nuke seemed to have, but Seguin is going to score his hockey goals, so I'm not inclined to worry about it.
Speaking of Seguin, he also got his first shot on the power play in way too long, firing a one-timer into Ramo's gut on the Stars' first (and only) full power play. There's not much point analyzing the man-advantage when Dallas was barely on it (stay tuned for that little diatribe) tonight, but there were at least some positive signs. Chances were created, and while I don't think Demers is going to supplant Klingberg on the top unit (again) for more than a few games, Dallas seemed to have a new commitment to getting pucks at the net with traffic tonight. That's the idea.
Another issue with the Stars' slump has (had?) been the lack of top players pulling them out of it. Sure, Seguin and Benn and Spezza have chipped in here and there, but they usually hadn't been quite enough to yank Dallas out of its funk. Tonight, they scored two beautiful goals thanks to Benn, Nichushkin, Spezza and Klingberg. Using your most dangerous weapons (and that's what Val will continue to become) is the point of the whole thing.
In fact, I wonder if anyone besides Spezza would have had the patience to corral that prescient pass from Klingberg before trying to deposit it. Not to make too much of it, but Spezza is a veteran leader, and these are the times when narrative dictates that those sorts of players have to step up. Yes, Spezza had the easiest job of the four folks mentioned above, but I'm also not sure he wasn't the fittest for it. There is a joke in here about Hemsky hypothetically collecting that pass then trying to deke Ramo out and go back to the other side of the net--and succeeding in doing so--before hitting the crossbar, but I won't make that joke. Hemsky had an ugly turnover tonight, but that's why forwards don't usually have the puck back there with pressure. Who knows what's going to happen?
If you want a big Play of the Game commendation, how about Antti Niemi's stop on Michael Frolik's breakaway? Much like Colorado, that was a moment where all of Dallas's good was this close to evaporating, only to have Niemi's leg pad hold the post. Niemi actually had a few "whoa!" saves tonight, as well a couple other "whoa...?" moments. But he gave the Stars exactly what they needed tonight, which was a win in which Dallas did not score three goals. There have not been very many of those this year, but you'd hope catching a bad team on their second game in as many nights could be one of them. It was.
For all that though, Calgary still gave Dallas a scare with an early third period goal. Esa Lindell wiped out on the same ice that had given most puckhandlers fits all night long, and I wouldn't blame you for tipping your cap to Jiri Hudler for a nice "welcome to the bigs" move to make it happen. I also wouldn't blame you if you harrumphed at Cody Eakin for leaving his post and opening a lane for Hudler to feed Joe
Rogan Colborne, but remember what we said about forwards in unfamiliar positions? It's tough to be someone you're not.
Esa Lindell probably wishes that minus wasn't going to be his most recent memory on his way back to Texas, but it's hard to say his time up here was anything other than a win for the organization. Lindell isn't going to crack the top-four this year, but management seems to have designs on getting him into the mix for good by this fall, and his play hasn't really proven that plan to be a foolish one. But then again, we are talking young defensemen in Dallas, so who knows where things are going to all shake out?
One other thing about Eakin is that Lindy Ruff put him back out there with Benn and Seguin to bring the game home with a minute to play, and Eakin rewarded Ruff with an offensive zone penalty. Eakin clearly didn't think he had done anything penalty-worthy, as he proceeded to touch the puck and give Calgary a faceoff by the Dallas net with ten seconds to play, but that (as well as Janmark's failed rush at the empty net earlier) made Dallas's life even tougher than it needed to be tonight.
But that leads me to my final point, so please skip on to the comments (5-star reviews get a free donut, btw) if you're offended by criticism of the officiating. I am talking about, of course, Brad Watson and Dave Jackson.
Do you remember Brad Watson? You may recall him from the penalty-polluted game seven against Vancouver in 2007 in which Dallas was served ten penalties and still only lost by one goal (before two empty-netters sealed the deal). I have mentioned this game before, and it still rankles to this day. Yes, these are Dallas Stars three coaches, two uniform changes and an entire roster removed from those of 2007, but if you'd like to start rumors about Brad Watson having a bias against the color green, I wouldn't call the police on you. That 2007 series had been as tight as they come, but the proverbial rug was yanked out from under those players in a power-play fest that was as much an abomination to the game then as the lack of scoring is to it now.
Dave Jackson has much more recent history with Dallas, although he's also been on the "oh, not this guy" list for a while. Perhaps my favorite of the (many) Jacksonian decisions in games involving Dallas was last season's creative attempt to review a non-reviewable play in Los Angeles before magically deciding that, yes, the puck did hit the netting, even though no official blew it dead; thus, Jamie Benn's goal will not count. (Apparently I half-whined about that before, too, it turns out.)
Anyhow, I'm sure hockey officials are all trying to do a great job, unless you ask Milan Lucic. But tonight featured a couple of moments that were, as Razor put it, "embarrassing." The most humiliating of all was obviously Markus Granlund's head-snap after Nichushkin's stick hit his shoulder, which is not something officials generally take kindly to. The most regrettable thing about it was the fact that we'll never hear about it unless Granlund had already gotten a warning from the league (though given the laughably thespian nature of his move tonight, one doesn't doubt that Granlund has some practice).
So, that's how the Flames managed to get the few chances they did. You don't like it, but as Erin has said in the past, you can't really blame the players for doing so without a harsh punishment awaiting them. In a way, they'd be foolish not to try.
For that matter, you also can't totally blame the referees who get in the habit of calling what they suspect instead of calling what they see. They'll never get a public shaming akin to James Neal when their mis-calls are made public, although I'm hard-pressed to wish for it. Officiating really is a completely thankless job, and I guess they can't all be Mike Cvik and Don Van Massenhoven.
Full clip pic.twitter.com/xlDgFx7Pyv— Robert Tiffin (@RobertTiffin) January 26, 2016