The Dallas Stars. Like I said the last time we saw this team, I don't like them. I don't like Ribeiro, Ott, Burish, Fiddler, Robidas just off the top of my head. Its not like I don't appreciate them. Hell, I'd take a few of those guys on our team. But its obvious that if anyone is Embracing The Hate, its these guys.
They revel in it. Ott goes into the corner on an icing, slashes a guy with no call, and gets his top scorer involved in a fight with Hansen. Mike Ribeiro takes a selfish penalty, whines so much it must be embarrassing ( it was a trip Mike, get over it ), cherry picks while leaving his team under pressure while he is out of the box, gets the pass anyhow ( I hate cherry picking forwards. I would guess one defenseman said under his breath after he got pwned on the penalty shot by Cory Schneider..."#@%^ing goal suck " ), and then exacerbates it by taking a brutally stupid slash on Samme Pahlsson after a whistle to go right back.
Adam Burish slashed and elbowed everyone he could, almost after every whistle. He slashed Edler's hands at the death of both the first and second periods. Their captain, Brendan Morrow, hits Edler from behind, and was a worthy addition to the list of players I dislike ( except I don't. Morrow mostly just plays hard ).
I don't know if I hate it, but how laughable is it that the Stars scorers gave Fiddler's gift goal from a Schneider whiff not one but two assists? Really? ( Late Edit ; I was wrong. I thought Schneids got a piece, but watched the US replay, and they are right. Lehtonen made a nice pass, CS had a total whiff, and the scorer is had it right. )
I love how the Vancouver Canucks played an almost airtight period in the third to prevent the Stars from looking too dangerous at home however. Thats no mean feat against one of the hotter teams in the last little while.
After a day where I should have been more productive on the job hunt, but got sucked into the maelstrom of emotions that is the aftermath of another Hawks dirty play thats somehow spun down with the "he started it" defense, it was my hope that we would have a game with a little less anger, at the least. I should have known better. That ended at almost the first whistle, with Ryan Kesler standing too close to Robidas obviously being a good reason to have a slash and crosscheck fest. I guess it should be expected with the chippy players on both sides, but it seemed like the game plan was to push that on what was hoped to be a tired road team. It did not work, as once again, the Canucks stood in well to that style of hockey. The game ended up even at 33-33 on hits. 66 hits. You'd think these guys fancy themselves a rival. Or perhaps its just playing multiple games in the same month. The Stars' roster lends themselves to that style of hockey. Hey, it is working! Since this run of good play, their walk up crowd is averaging 4,000, and they had a sell out recently versus the Hawks.
- The Stars may have a chippy, hard working lineup, but we have the Honey Badger, who was once again not giving a you know what. He seems to have found his inner angst that fueled his game last year. Engaged in every damn scrum, a big part of a superlative performance by the only line without a new addition from the last game, Jannik Hansen is playing the game that made him the recipient of a 3 year deal this past summer. 2 shots ( 3 misses ), a hit and a takeaway, in addition to a "I've had enough" dustup with Ryder that took the top scorer off for 4 minutes in the third period. Well done Beaker.
- Henrik Sedin is about the best damn passer in the NHL. There were several. The pass from the side boards that went through a Dallas player's feet before Dan Hamhuis lifted his foot to allow it passage to Raymond for his first goal in a long time. The pass after a wonderful little pass from Zack Kassian along the boards, threading through two sticks before landing right on the tape of Mason Raymond, who set up Kevin Bieksa very well for what turned out to be the game winner. 2 assists, a +2, and a blocked shot will make me give him a pass for a simply awful 2 of 14 might on the draws.
- As you might have guessed from mentioning his name, Raymond had another good game. In addidiotn to a goal and an assist, he was +2 with 2 of 3 shots hitting the net, had a giveaway, but was all over the ice on the forecheck, and the backcheck. That line might stay together for a bit, or not. But it played a strong 200' game at the expense of offensive dynamism, and still contributed to both goals. His big buddy Zack Kassian certainly showed that he deserved to stay with the captain. After a "hit" that was 5 seconds after the whistle on Henrik by Fiddler. he was right there, and was there to push back all night. His perfect screen is what gave Mase all day to score his goal. His getting 1 hit seems almost counterintuitive to the amount of forecheck pressure, and strong back checking that the young man contributed. A +2, 3 shots, the one hit, and an interference penalty on him that was laughably weak ( but hey, new NHL, at least they are giving out some power plays lately!) completed a very full 14 shifts and 10:29 TOI.
- The Canucks were bested 36-25 overall tonight on draws, but the two face off "aces" were huge tonight. I can remember maybe a couple losses on draws in their own end by Manny Malhotra and Samme Pahlsson, who went 5 of 7 and 9 of 12 respectively. That was countered by the fact that a lot of offensive zone draws went wanting with Henrik's night, but on a night where the puck control and exits from the zone were mainly excellent ( even with the stats guys seeing it as a 10-3 edge for the home team on takeaways, and a 9-3 disadvantage on giveaways for them as well ). The Stars came hard enough in the third, but even with the snackiest of "snack goals" by Cory Schneider, I never got the feeling more than once or twice ( once on a Hank line shift, once on a Kes line shift ) that the Stars were going to be dangerous. A fine example came right at the end, where an icing with 11 seconds left forced a late offensive chance that was out and out snuffed by the strong board play, and Alexandre Burrows covering the point for the buzzer beating block that sealed the deal. You aren't going to escape the occasional turnover under pressure. The recovery game of the Canucks was excellent tonight.
- As was Cory Schneider. He truly deserved a shutout. Some might want to blame Alberts there, but I won't. Thats all on the goalie and the whiff of the puck. An unfortunate mistake that might have been a brutal turning point if he did not make the save confidently and smartly all game. His rebound control was fantastic. His positioning perfect. He robbed Eriksson early, Benn late, and Ribeiro all game long. The penalty shot was a perfect example. That going in backwards move of Slick Mike has fooled more than one goaltender, and he made it look simple. You got the sense he was laughing under his mask after that one. Thats how relaxed he was in net tonight. Well done Ginger Jesus.
- Kari Lehtonen was so lucky tonight. His giveaway to Pahlsson was brutal, and he was bailed out by the post on the empty netter attempt. He made a couple saves with the screen that just hit him, and while he made the first save on the game winner, he put himself in a weak position to deal with a rebound. Nonetheless, this is one goaltender that might give a few problems in the playoffs. He was a big part of the penalty kill blanking the Canucks power play on 4 attempts that included some 5 on 3 time. The PK guys on both sides were strong ( the Canucks went 3 for 3 ), but the big difference in the final result as it relates to the goaltending is that the canucks did a far better job reacting to the first shot or rebound all night. The Stars had a few chances off of first saves that were blocked with open nets, while Kassian was allowed to screen out Lehtonen from getting close to Raymond on his goal, as well as no one stopping in front on the back check but the shooter Kevin Bieksa, who made a slick little move around a sprawling Lehtonen for the 2-1 goal.
- I know our sports radio guys have to have something to bitch about to avoid having boring shows, but I just don't get it. One day Kesler is this guy that is doing all the right things, the other he is the bitching post, to tie up to all of your perceived ills of a game. He was strong in his two way game, led his team with 5 shots, including a break taking save on the power play he should have cashed on, and was 7 of 16 on draws. I guess only having 1 hit and 1 takeaway is not good enough, and that his superlative penalty killing 1:27 on the PK, team leading as well as his 20:32 overall TOI. It just gets annoying when we hear this "he scored 41 goals last year, what's wrong"? bullshit. You'd think this team and player got to 97 points by accident or something. I imagine its only because he keeps getting trotted out there by AV that he is 14th overall in total faceoffs won. C'est la vie ? Non! Tabernac!
- In a game where it was all about the battles, the blue line pairs were once again strong. Kevin Bieksa was the best of the game, even with a giveaway that gave Benn a chance. He scored the game winner, had a blue line high 4 shots, a team high 5 hits, and led his team with 24:37 TOI. His pairing with Alexander Edler gets better every game. ( Eddy +1, 3 shots, 2 blocks, 2 hits, 1 giveaway, 24:07 TOI ), while Dan Hamhuis and Christopher Tanev were wonderful in their own end under pressure. Tanev may have been just a +1, with 1 shot, hit, and block, but his 16:28 was so cool under pressure we should call him Sully. Dan Hamhuis has a superlative 1:49 SH in his 21+ minutes, had 3 shots and a miss, a block, 2 hits, and , for him, an uncharacteristic 2 giveaways ( I am just going to assume that he recovered on both just fine ) That might be the smartest pairing on the Vancouver team. Alberts was a-1 for getting there just in time to watch Schneider fan on the puck, had 4 hits, took a penalty that was a "you both go" with Ott, and was mostly strong on the boars in his 14:07. The same with Marc Andre Gragnani, who looks very at home as the QB on the second unit of the power play, had the -1, a shot and a hit in his 14:57. But what I remember of his game was superlative passes out of his own end to spring rushes.
So, there you go. We get the pleasure of the Stars company on March 30th for the last time, and something tells me that one will crackle with some energy as well. I may not like the Stars for their style of game, but its the "Canadian style" ( Don Cherry's fave team? They do wear green! ), perhaps taken to the Nth degree. Something tells me that they won't get all the benefit of the doubt in the playoffs for the asshattery that they do in the regular season. But maybe thats because I am just jealous that they get to walk right up to that line. Can you imagine if the Canucks played like that all the time.?( they are being forced to lately, and are doing fine, but does anyone just want to play hard hockey back and forth without the BS!)
Avs on Saturday. They like to play an offensive style. That one could be a track meet.