Game 47 Afterwords: Especially Bad Teams and Esa on a Tuesday Night
Dallas had chances, but the Kings had goals. (Always choose goals.)
My brother had a beer thrown on him as we walked out after the final buzzer at Staples Center last night. To the security staff's credit, they are dry cleaning his Stars jersey for free. That was a good analogy for the game itself, as it turned out: a bad thing happened, but you can't be too upset with the process surrounding it.
Note: This is in no way saying the LA fans are exceptionally classless or something. (By and large, Anaheim's fans have always been way dumber to us.) Drunk people do dumb stuff everywhere wearing a lot of different teams' gear, don't throw stones, etc etc etc.
So yeah, it wasn't a game you can really complain about. Oh, except for the special teams. Yeah, those have been a problem. And, at risk of pilfering some of David's potential material:
Stars have lost by one goal in 5 of the last 8 gms. In those, they are 3/22 on the PP (13.6%) & 18/25 on the PK (72%). Game defining numbers— Josh Bogorad (@JoshBogorad) January 20, 2016
To my write-from-the-hip memory, the Stars have "won" exactly one special teams battle lately, and that was the game in Anaheim that they lost 4-2. Admittedly, the Stars aren't drawing a ton of power plays this season (nor is the rest of the league, come to that), but when you have two power plays and muster absolutely nothing but a missed shot and a cartoonishly catastrophic penalty on your own goaltender, something is broken.
The penalty kill wasn't any less to blame tonight, for that matter. And while the second goal was certainly not Esa Lindell's finest moment, it came just as the penalty had expired. Effectively, the Kings were 2 for 2 on the power play, and that's never going to help. This was the San Jose game, except the Stars did not get a point. They get nothing.
The Lecavalier goal was just odd. The PK box looked more like an old refrigerator box left out in the rain, and the fluttering shot from the Spezza beta version actually found its way into the top corner pretty quickly. Hard to fault Kari on a pass through the box that gets one-timed up there with that sort of action, but then again, Jonathan Quick found a way to stop Cody Eakin's one-timer from the doorstep. It wasn't entirely fair, what happened to Lehtonen, but it was the difference tonight.
Esa Lindell looked poised early, but it's clear that he isn't going to be overaggressive or anything just yet. That might have been my only complaint about him tonight, as he was a tad slow to get to a Nemeth pass early, and he also could have been a bit more on top of things in the corner, being unable to control the puck that eventually wound up on Doughty's stick for goal #2. Number two in many senses, really. Lindell made a really nice play boxing out the crease before Lehtonen was able to find a cover a loose puck in (I think) the second period, and he made good decisions with the puck most of the night as well.
I have to go to work in like six hours, so I'm going to wrap this up with a few assorted brain nuggets.
This game was so, so much more fun than the Anaheim contest. Dallas was playing perhaps the best team in the West tonight (Chicago's red-hot play of late notwithstanding), and they hung with them. Dallas had a breakaway, they had one-timers from Seguin and Eakin, and they had a glorious Spezza chance from the slot. All of their chances were stopped by Quick. You can second-guess Klingberg's choice of his countryman's move on his breakaway, or Spezza's choice of a wrist shot on his best chance (though given the "Made in China" comment the guy behind me made after Spezza's stick exploded on a later slapshot attempt, maybe the wrister was the best choice). But Dallas could have grabbed the lead back in the second period, and they didn't. That was Jonathan Quick, and it was Dallas's shooters. Take your pick.
Mattias Janmark is a joy. Janmark, Sharp and Hemsky were easily the best-looking skaters tonight, and Ales Hemsky's neutral zone traversing combined with Janmark's puck possession and backchecking were wonderful as could be. Ales Hemsky looks healthy again, and as one of the streakiest scorers there is, you'd best enjoy nights like these when they come. Janmark is already worth the Erik Cole trade and then some, and he's still just getting started. Patrick Sharp couldn't find the goal magic tonight, but he still had legs, and given the not-so-superline tonight (in terms of scoring--they certainly generated chances galore), it was nice to see the Stars' depth shining through.
Cody Eakin's goal was needed. He didn't have a bad game tonight, and I'm still holding out hope that he can stick on a line and find some confidence again. He's still young, and he's got potential. If Dallas can slot him in the right spot, that contract could start looking a lot better. I suspect Janmark's positioning by the coaches will have a direct influence on Eakin.
John Klingberg is still world-class, but you can tell he's fighting it right now. I love watching him play hockey, and he still dropped my jaw tonight; but he's barely played a full season's worth of games in his NHL career, and the Stars are already dependent on him. He'll be fine, but it's tough to see him scuffle alongside the rest of the team (though Klingberg's scuffling is still gorgeous, mind you).
Drew Doughty played practically every other shift on defense. The man is a beast, and I don't think it's a coincidence that the Stars' top line couldn't score with Doughty's pair matching up against them so much tonight. The Kings are a big, smart team, and Doughty is both of those things in spades with some elite skill tossed in. The Stars should maybe think about getting a defenseman like that, I dunno.
The other thing about the top line is Jamie Benn. He didn't look right tonight, and whether it was just being out of sync or a nagging injury, it's tough to see. Dallas has enough scoring depth to make up for his recent slowdown in points, but they haven't really done that enough to compensate for the goals they're letting in. Something's gotta give here. Hopefully.
Milan Lucic is big. He and Val are two players whose size just really strikes you in person. It's probably the broad shoulders more than anything, but the Kings found themselves a player made in their image with that trade.
I enjoyed this game, except for the dumb beer part at the end. Also the losing. That part wasn't the best either. But the Stars played pretty well tonight, and they could have easily tied this game on their heavy push in the last five minutes of the third. Sadly, they couldn't do what Los Angeles did multiple times: get shots through from the point. It wasn't really their game plan in the same way (and besides, Seguin shots from the circle are just as good) as LA, but you still find yourself getting frustrated at closed lanes after the twenty-sixth time.
I'm going to bed now. Hooray for hockey, and hooray for the Stars. I can at least sort of enjoy a loss like this thanks to the unreal start to the season. Hopefully this unreal slump will self-correct as well. I mean, really, universe? Waiting for me to show up in person before busting out a Kari Lehtonen "playing the puck outside the trapezoid penalty" is about as transparent a prank as there could possibly be. I am neither amused nor fooled. Please rectify this situation. Preferably by Thursday.