Welcome to Day Three of the Why So Star-ious Tournament of Heartbreak and Elation! Unlike Carolyn, I did not grow up on a steady diet of March Madness. I’d never even filled out a bracket before NHL Playoffs in 2013. Everything is a new adventure!
Anyhoodle, the Bearded Ladies are here with the next installment of our sometimes tortuous and frequently amusing (to us anyway) tournament.
The Soul Patch Division
Our first match up is either cruel and unusual or the height of irony, but irony in the way that Alanis Morisette means it. It’s a sad fact that every single goalie we’ve faced this year—even Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy in his fifth ever game in the NHL—looks like a Vezina candidate against the Stars. Talk about a black fly in our chardonnay.
On the other hand, we have Daryl Reaugh’s new-this-year hashtag #sprinklesareforwinners, which was never used so well or so . . . creepily as it was after a game in February when Hemsky got clocked in the mouth and then scored the game winning goal in OT.
This has been mentioned before in the tournament, but if there’s one thing that Stars fans are probably sick of happening, it’s getting goals waved off. On 10/17/15, it looked like much hyped and very much anticipated second line center Jason Spezza had scored his first goal since getting traded to the Stars. Had it not been inevitably waved off after it was ruled that Seguin had interfered with Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, it would have tied the game up with three minutes left to go. Instead, it’s waved off, and Spezza scores his first goal two nights later in a 6-5 loss to the Flyers.
But is that Star-ier this season than the continuing updates on Val Nichushkin’s hip? A sad graphic on the Fox Sports broadcast a few weeks ago lined up the Stars man games lost against other teams in the league. The poor Blue Jackets are leading the pack by a lot, but the Stars were definitely top five (and that’s not actually counting games lost by Rich Peverley, who is still under contract with the Stars). His return date has been updated and pushed back and updated and stayed the same and updated . . .
Our third match up is straight from the Bachelor files. Defenseman John Klingberg debuted in Dallas on 11/11/14 in an offensively defensive storm. He scored his first NHL goal on 11/20/14 and by New Year’s, fans were calling him Klingbae. We recently went over the Calder race in a podcast, but in 53 games played (fewer than any of the other Top 10 rookies in the points race) Klingberg has put himself in the running, or at least made it a conversation piece that won’t get you laughed at. Most of the time.
In one of our more awkward matchups in the tournament, we have rookie defenseman John Klingberg’s Calder chances going up against veteran color commentator Daryl Reaugh’s unintentional sexual innuendos during the broadcast. (At least, we hope they’re unintentionally sexual.)
The Bearded Ladies were in the house for the first half of our next match up. On December 31, 2014, Baby Rookie Brett Ritchie scores his first NHL goal on his first shot. This went on to be the eventual game winner as the Stars absolutely ROUTED the Coyotes 6-0 (the only truly happy game I’ve been to at the AAC this season).
But another Star-ry highlight this season has been the work done by the Stars media team on the arena scoreboard. Timely jokes about the dead kid from that Super Bowl commercial, trolling the Maple Leafs about their famous fan, Justin Bieber, and lists of the All-Time Greatest Rangers (none of them were hockey players but Kimberly, the Pink Ranger, made an appearance at #2) all made an appearance in the arena. But my favorite by far was the list of things to do in lovely Winnipeg:
It’s no surprise to anyone that Tyler Seguin is having his second career season since coming to Dallas . . . two seasons ago. For at least part of December/January, he was actually leading the points race. If he wins the Art Ross, this season or next season or any time while with the Dallas Stars, he would be the first in franchise history, and that includes their time as the North Stars. What makes this Star-rier (for the Stars and the entire league, honestly), is that Tyler remained in the top ten for the entirety of his three weeks on IR recovering from the Kulikov hit.
Up against this, we’ve got Ryan Garbutt taking an overly emotional penalty, again. He’s actually been benched recently because of his tendency to take these penalties at times the Stars can’t afford these penalties (which is literally all the time) and when asked when we could expect Garbutt back in the lineup, Lindy’s answer was basically “when someone else gets injured.” I don’t know about you, but if that’s the criteria, I’m hoping never.
Stars fans have been lamenting our defense all season long (and with perfectly good reason) but how Starry is it that Trevor Daley, veteran defenseman, is tied for second in power play goals? Part of the reason for this is Lindy Ruff’s new “super unit” on the power play: four forwards and one defenseman, and top line as that defenseman on the power play is Trevor Daley. He’s had more power play time than any other defenseman on the Stars. Part of this is because prior to the knee-on-knee collision from Matt Martin, Daley had been having a career high season in point production. Part of it is because, well. Stars.
Pitted against our defense, and rightly so, is our number one offensive pairing. Mid January, with Jamie Benn riding a career low shooting percentage and 29th in points in the league, Lindy Ruff made the tortuous decision to shuffle the lines a bit and split up the dynamic duo. I’m honestly not even sure the split lasted for an entire period before Lindy had them back on the ice together. Is it any coincidence that after this period apart (literally, a single period), Jamie went on a streak that now has him sitting at 12th in the league? He’d even broken the top ten for a brief moment while Tyler was out. Coincidence, I think not. Stars.
Along with our shuffling lines has been our shuffling of our young players back and forth between Cedar Park and Dallas. It’s a good thing the cities are so close? I imagine both Oleksiak and Jokipakka are very familiar with the DFW and Austin airports by now. Or, if they’re driving that distance every time (doubtful), that rest area past Waco on I 35 that has the cool windmills and the really nice bathrooms. Either way, the constant back and forth of our younger players is symptomatic of the Stars season. (And the Texas Stars season, for that matter. I can tell you WITH AUTHORITY they are missing their d-core.)
But which is Star-ier? The shuffling defense or Jamie Benn scoring from the face off with 1.7 seconds left in the period? Down 2-0 to Montreal in the first period of the game (this, after Carolyn’s post about how well the Stars play in Canada), the Stars just need to get on the board. Jason Spezza wins a faceoff in the offensive zone, the puck goes right to Jamie, and then right behind Carey Price, hockey-Jesus for the Habs this season. Because why not?
Today’s last match up involves two fights. One from a rookie picking on someone twice his size, one from a veteran picking on someone twice his size. Your job, gentle reader, is to decide which is Star-ier.
In one corner, at 6’2” and 210 pounds, we have any time Curtis McKenzie has faced off against an opponent. Literally. Pick any opponent. According to his fight card on hockeyfights.com, in six bouts this season (yes, you read that right. in 29 games played, we’re not talking about it), McKenzie has been voted the winner of only two, and one of those is so close it might as well have been voted a draw (50.9% of votes went to Muckbae). (The fight he soundly won was against Kulikov on March 5, the first game against Florida since Seguin’s injury, and you know. It was coming.)
In the other corner, at 6’2” and 205 pounds, we have Jamie Benn, who has lost three of thirteen fights in his NHL career, facing off (for whatever reason) against Jonathan Ericsson, who has two inches and about twenty pounds on him. It happened seven minutes into a currently scoreless game that the Stars went on to lose 7-6 in OT. (After going up 4-2 heading into the third, and then 6-4 heading into the last seven minutes of the game. But that’s the topic of another face off.)