So the road trip ended with the thud of anticlimactica. (Pretty sure that's not a word but it fits what was witnessed) That shouldn't smear all the good that was percolating after wins at Carolina and Washington. A .500 road trip used to be an acceptable take-away, and still should.
Let's deconstruct the swing in the East if not for the simple reason I need to produce a blog.
The Stars kicked the snot out of the Tobacco Road Canes in a matinee affair. Benn - Eriksson - Ryder did a lot of the damage. It was a peppery and manly outing for the boys who registered a powerplay goal, a shorthanded goal, and killed 7 of 9 penalties while making the Jussi Jokinen-less Hurricanes appear as threatening as a warm tropical shore breeze. The most passion their side showed was play by play man John Forslund's frenetic and maniacal cranking of the hurricane siren prior to puck-drop.
How deeply did they embarrass the then unbeaten at home Caps? Well the dismantling was followed by a next day bag skate for Ovechkin and company, so... The Stars outhit, outworked, and severely out-executed the bewildered Capitals and had their faithful silent most of the night before retreating to the exits with half of the third period still to play. Ovechkin looked ordinary at best as Benn and his brigade again had a tip of the spear night.
Next day the boys enjoyed some team building at a go-cart track, Yes indeed, it felt like the good-life in the fast-lane for the surprising Stars who were no doubt basking in the glow of sitting first overall in the National Hockey League.
Then came the blue-collar pit stops in Steel Town and Motown, and with them some speed bumps and a little dose of reality.
Dan Bylsma didn't grab a Stanley Cup and a Coach of the Year Honor because he's decent at putting Sidney Crosby on the ice. (Crosby didn't even play) And James Neal wanted to remind Starsnation what they gave up. With a full 6 days to prepare for the streaking Stars, Bylsma's team choked the life out of the Dallas attack. Sure the officiating was sub-NHL quality but the Pens were decidedly better too. Two powerplay goals, a successful penalty shot, and an easy night for goalie Marc Andre Fleury led to a new #1 overall. Neal potted both PP tallies and the man he was traded for, Alex Goligoski broke his hand blocking a shot. Ugh! :(
Take that Bylsma stuff and substitute "Babcock". Back to back nights Gulutzan and the Stars faced arguably the two best coached teams in hockey. This time Mike Babcock used his fire first approach to outshoot the Stars 40-27 en route to a three goal third period and a convincing win. Andrew Raycroft didn't handle traffic well in yet another tough start on the road and the Benn line was again suffocated, this time Henrik Zetterberg shut him down, the night before it was Jordan Staal, you won't find two more formidable centers to counter. On the heels of mounting success vs the Wings and at the Joe in recent years, this one felt like so many defeats of yesteryear, a little déjà vu, eh?
However, at the end of the day (which is phrase that needs to die) the positives on the trip probably slightly outweighed the negatives as I deeply pondered things with the wheels touching down at Love Field.
They were tied entering third periods in both losses against good, motivated teams in difficult buildings.
They throttled a top team at every position in D.C.
They bonded a little tighter as a group with some precious downtime on the road.
The Fiddler - Dvorak - Nystrom line continued to be a shining, 'pacey' example.
And, as stated in the beginning, they picked up 4 of 8 available points on the swing.
It might not have felt like it as they strolled out of odorous Joe Louis Arena but it was in fact "a good trip".