This game recap is going to be a little bit different because a) I was at the game in person, and b) I’m still reeling from the events of last night.
You see, I wasn’t even going to go to this game. I didn’t have tickets. And then Wednesday, when it was clear that Jamie was tied for the scoring title, I was thinking about it. On Thursday my friend Mary said she’d go with me. By Thursday evening, I told her I had to be responsible and save my money since I was already going to a Texas Stars game on Friday. And then by Friday afternoon, I’d had my YOLO moment and we had tickets.
We drove into Dallas and it was like a fog lifted. Because it did. Literally. Austin is grey and damp this weekend, but Dallas was sunny, mid 70s, and perfect for splitting a pitcher of margaritas. Which we did. YOLO.
Needless to say, Mary & I were feeling loose by the time the game rolled around. We got the AAC early, caught warm-ups and Jordie’s new haircut.
Since I’m a twitter addict, I was already aware that Seguin had been scratched. Hearing that was gutting as a fan, because the entire reason I bought this ticket was so I could watch him feed Jamie pucks all night in hopes at the shot at the Art Ross. Logically, I knew that Lindy had to be consistent with his punishments (Dallas released a media video of Seguin – he clearly knew it was coming), and as a stats nerd, I logically knew Jamie was very capable of scoring without Seguin at center. But I didn’t care. I’d paid to see the duo, and I was only getting one half. So I got a beer.
On the other hand, Nashville was in full on “Playoff Prep” mode, sitting literally half of their defense (Weber, Josi, and Franson), their starting goalie (Rinne), and Carrie Underwood’s husband who apparently plays hockey kinda good (Fisher). While this bolstered my confidence in Jamie’s scoring ability, I was still very nervous about his chances.
See, the Art Ross tie breaker is total goals scored, and Jamie was ahead of Crosby but behind Tavares prior to last night’s games. He would have to win the trophy outright. Complicating matters further, it was the last day of the regular season, and every single team was playing. The Penguins were playing Buffalo, a team not known for their defensive prowess, and while the Islanders had the streaking Columbus Blue Jackets, CBJ elected to play McElhinny instead of Bobrovsky, and well, he’s not quite the same caliber of goaltender.
Mary and I set all of our Game Center notifications and made our way up to our seats (gotta love the cheap balcony seats at AAC – they have great views of the ice). The AAC was buzzing; everyone was here to watch the captain make history. Every time Jamie stepped on the ice the crowd would roar, and in the first period our enthusiasm was rewarded, not once, but twice.
Going into the first intermission Crosby had zero points. Tavares had zero points. Jamie was in the lead for the Art Ross.
I had goose bumps. We could do this. We could really do this.
The second period was uneventful, though the Stars got a lot of good looks. Val continued to impress, playing with Spezza and Hemsky, muscling his way past Seth Jones to get a great shot on Hutton. Enroth made a few big stops to keep the score 2-1, in favor of the Stars.
Still, no one seemed to care about the score. We wanted Jamie to win this trophy. We wanted his hard work to be recognized, to send a signal that the flukiest thing about this season was that we missed the playoffs, to say that that’s the aberration going forward.
During second intermission, my phone pinged with notification – Tavares had a goal. Jamie would need another point to stay ahead of him.
The third period was frantic. The Stars went on the power play, but very quickly it devolved to 4v4 as Spezza took exception to something a Pred said and slashed at his legs after the whistle had been blown. Again, Jamie parked himself in front of the net, fans cheering every time he touched the puck. But it nothing was going our way – passes weren’t connecting, Hutton was gobbling up rebounds.
With 7 minutes left in the game, I got another notification. Tavares had recorded an assist. One point in 7 minutes was doable. But to win the Art Ross, Jamie would have to put up two.
Nashville made a late push, and the Stars spent much of those 7 minutes in our own zone, doing actual defensive things. I was pleasantly surprised to see Daley getting back and forcing the turnover on multiple occasions. I give the guy a lot of grief, but he’s one of the best Dmen we have at pressuring the opposition for the puck.
With only 3 minutes to go, Nashville pulled their goalie for the extra man. The Stars scrambled to block shots and try to clear the puck. A few times it got to the line but not out – and then finally Jamie scooped it up and batted it down the ice.
Watching that puck felt like it was in slow motion, praying for it to go in, and when it did, the hats came raining down.
But the celebration wasn’t as jubilant as I expected. We were all still holding our breath. With both Jamie and Tavares at 86 points, Jamie would come in second. Tavares still had the tie breaker.
The Preds put Hutton back in net, resigned to losing a game they barely played. I was trying to mentally prepare myself for the disappointment of being that close and missing out again.
But with less than half a minute left, the Stars brought the puck into the offensive zone – Jamie passed to Daley who took it behind the net, centered it to Eakin, and then with 8.5s left in the Stars’ season, Eakin elevated it past Carter Hutton.
The AAC exploded. For a moment, we weren’t even sure that Jamie had gotten the official assist, but we didn’t care. It was good enough for us. When Jeff K began reading off the scoring list, you could hear a pin drop. Eakin with the goal. Daley with the primary assist.
And number 14, with three goals…and the secondary assist…your captain…JAAAAAAAAAAAAAMIE BENN.
I started laughing. I couldn’t help it. I’m pretty sure this was what hysteria feels like. I was screaming so loud that I could feel my throat becoming sandpaper, and then when I needed to breathe, I would start laughing.
He had done it. We had done it.
No one even noticed when the game ended. You could barely hear the announcer when they presented Jamie with the Mike Modano award. The only time the arena quieted was when Jamie took the mic to give his speech.
And the first words out of his mouth were “We appreciate your support” and “I know it’s disappointing” and “I know we’re all upset.”
Jamie Benn had just made history, and he was apologizing to us for it.
No, no one is ok with missing the playoffs. But we proved something last night. The Stars fans are here for this team. Not their happy memories of Modano, or salivating over the potential of a team in five years. This team.
And this morning I don’t think there is a single hockey fan across the globe that isn’t excited to see what the Stars will bring to the table next year.
Anyway, here’s wonderwall.