WCSF Game 1 Afterwords: Third Line Has First and Last Word
What a game.
Short and sweet today, but go ahead and re-live last night once more, mm?
1. Home ice advantage is huge in the playoffs. The Stars were able to score on the Blues' 4th line for the opening goal, and the third line from heaven racked another goal later on. Depth scoring is one thing, but the Stars got two goals from their "checking" line at home, and that's about as wonderful an evening as any third line can wish for. The Stars' third is magical even when they get out-attempted.
2. Kari Lehtonen was absolutely fabulous. After 2014, and especially after last season, Kari has a fair amount of doubters out there. Then he went and shut everyone up Friday night when he found pucks through traffic, corralled shots in tight, and generally declined the Blues' requests for goals to take place. If you're the Blues, you can't be thrilled about seeing Prime Kari right off the bat.
3. Brian Elliott was equally good, which came in handy as his team surrendered 42 shots on goal. For all the talk of how the Blues would try to strangle this game into submission, the Stars found ways to transition, push the pace, and give up relatively few chances against while doing it. It wasn't perfect, but I'd be hard-pressed to come up with a more ideal scenario for Dallas than a win in which they held St. Louis to a single goal, racked up 40+ shots, and generally did what they needed to do when they needed to do it.
4. If my math is correct, I believe there are 1,500 new hockey fans in your apartment complex after that game. Is there a better way to proselytize for hockey than to show someone this game? Even a measly (for Dallas) three goals felt like more given the action that finally started to define the game as things opened up.
5. Jamie Benn, John Klingberg and Jason Spezza led by example tonight. Those are your best players, and they tried all sorts of things to get the offense flowing. it nearly worked multiple times, but give the top boys credit for not breaking down amid St. Louis' eventual push.
6. Playoff Antoine Roussel, Playoff Ales Hemsky and Playoff Radek Faksa are the best. This is another point about the third line, because it is the best line.
7. Janmark is looking like OG Janmark again, and that's comforting.
8. Stephen Johns made an ill-advised pass into the slot that turned into a solid shot again, but he also played some great defense as the game wore on. I like having players like Stephen Johns and Radek Faksa when playing teams like the Blues. It is nice to have a team with good players on it!
9. Seriously, Kari. What a game.
10. Steve Ott's beard still looks pretty forgettable.
11. Roussel is winning a lot of hearts and minds with his play, and it's hard not to get caught up in the moment. Personally, I'm abandoning mind in favor of heart (for Game 2, at least).
12. The defense pairings actually look good. That is always subject to change, of course, but it's hard to pick out a couple of blue liners that didn't more or less get their job done and done well Friday night. The Dallas Stars: We Have a Balanced Defense (Now) and Can Play Better!
13. Hitchock will adapt, and it wouldn't shock me to see (as was recommended on the Postgame Show) Tarasenko get some new 'mates atop the Blues' depth chart. I don't care how defensively reputable you are; you need to score more than one goal, and even Ken "Yes, I'm Ken" Hitchcock will surely admit to that.
14. This game was visceral, it built, and it was ultimately satisfying in every way. Dallas took the team that everyone said was best suited to solve them, and Dallas peppered them with shots until they wilted. I had a blast watching this game, and that is what the playoffs are all about. Well, that and paying full price for a Gameday! jersey. That is the other thing the playoffs are all about.
15. Enjoy every moment of every game. This is a blast, and it's still only getting started. Hockey is amazing, but it is a Special kind of Amazing when you dominate a favored team in the playoffs. If this is Dallas proving a point, then let's hope everyone continues to doubt them.
16. MAHPoTG: Because Hemsky marches to the beat of his own waterphone, he chose to try taking the puck to the net off the rush and tucking a backhand in rather than shooting it. Brian Elliott was able to stop him with relative ease, but clearly Ales Hemsky had no time for Elliott's physical world and its rudimentary rules. Hemsky's attempt left a Fat Camp rebound for Faksa, and the newest member of the Fire Up the Crowd club cashed the check his fellow Czech wrote. Do I want Radek Faksa to score forty goals in the playoffs? Yes, because I am not a monster. Also, because it's hard to doubt anything after the sterling performance by Dallas Friday night.
17. Patrick Eaves doesn't seem likely to return soon after taking a puck off the ankle/foot, so Nichushkin will likely draw in for Sunday. It's easy to forget how skilled Eaves is sometimes, but don't underestimate the importance of a net-front guy with a great shot. That isn't a role Nichushkin can quite replicate just yet; maybe this will be the time he learns how to do that!
18. The Blues will probably score more than one goal once or twice, so Dallas will need to escalate their game as well. the Stars will have to finish more of their (many) chances, convert on the power play, and make good decisions in the defensive zone if they want to advance once again. These are also the things every hockey team ever invented needs to do, too.
19. Playoff hockey is the absolute best always, but it is even more the absolute best when your team wins.