Wednesday, November 12, 2008

King me! Stars lose in LA, 3-2 (SO)

First, before I say anything - positive or negative - about the Stars loss in Los Angeles on Tuesday, you are required to watch the goal Mike Ribeiro scored in the shootout. Note: you'll probably end up watching it more than once.

Okay, breathe.

But seriously, can I really be upset with the Stars tonight after being on hand at Staples Center to witness such a great goal? It's not just that Ribeiro made a great backward-between-the-legs-drag-the-puck-a-la-Jussi-Jokinen move. The remarkable thing is that he did so after just minutes earlier leaving a pool of his blood on the ice after being run into the boards by Dustin Brown. And then he shhh-ed 'em all. Classic.

So, to answer my question... can I really be upset with the Stars tonight after that goal? Unfortunately, yes.

Defensively, the Stars were already feeling the upcoming holiday season. It was a time for giving, and Boucher, Daley and Peterson gave plenty back to the Kings. Heck, at one point early in the third period, Toby Peterson looked like he forgot how to skate, fell down, and Marty Turco bailed him out with a great save. What was this team doing?

It seemed like each time Dallas got the puck into the offensive zone, they were good for one shot before the Kings were off and running the other direction. Los Angeles then sustained constant offensive pressure, putting multiple shots on net with each scoring chance. When Dallas did put shots on net, they never forced Kings goalie Erik Ersberg to make great saves. Routine shot after routine shot, Ersberg turned Dallas back.

With the game tied, 2-2, late in the third period, Kings captain Dustin Brown put a rough hit on Ribeiro, sending him into the boards and *seemingly* knocking him out of the game. But what happened next continues to boggle my hockey mind.

The two captains, Brown and Brenden Morrow locked up in the game's only real fight. Morrow was clearly coming to the defense of his fallen teammate as Ribeiro remained on the ice, clutching his face for the duration of the fight. Somehow the referees decided that Morrow deserved to be hit with an instigator, five minute fighting major, ten minute misconduct and automatic one-game suspension. Quoi? The dude just saw his teammate obliterated into the boards, sparking the fight.

Here's the sequence:

It seems that after the hit on Ribeiro, Brown throws the gloves off first which makes it odd that Morrow got tagged with the instigator penalty. And with all the hubbub that comes with an instigator in the final five minutes, this is absolutely ridiculous. Morrow, coming to the defense of a teammate, is now facing a suspension and his coach facing a $10,000 fine?! Can someone explain the logic here, please?

I realize you don't want goons jumping players in the final minutes of blowouts, but can't that be something the league can determine on a case-by-case basis? Even the No Fun League rescinded a fine it levied this week once it really took a hard look at the play and realized the set punishment was wrong.


The NHL has rescinded both the one-game suspension for Morrow as well as the fine for Tip. (STORY) Good call. Again, the fight was merely the result of a captain defending his team's best offensive weapon.

After the Morrow-Brown fracas, the Stars were awarded a three-minute power play which included the final minute of regulation and the first two minutes of overtime. Yet the Stars couldn't capitalize. So losing in a shootout, I can live with. But losing in a shootout after not being able to capitalize on a great man-advantage opportunity in OT, that's much harder to stomach.

On the positive side, the Stars left the West Coast with 3 points, which is where I pegged them before their trip to California. I just figured they would be able to earn 2 points against the Kings. After Dallas clobbered the Ducks on Friday, I had high hopes for this California road trip, but after Marty gave away a point in San Jose, Dallas was brought plummeting back to the reality that this team is severely underachieving this season.

Let the case be made for why and how to blow up this team, but the talent is absolutely there for Dallas to make another deep playoff run. Last year, if you remember, the magic didn't start until the mid-season shake up of firing GM Doug Armstrong. Don't expect the Les Jackson/Brett Hull regime to end any time soon. But what of Dave Tippett? And if he goes, who coaches this mess?

Dallas needs to rebound in a big way when they face this Kings team in two days on home ice. Without Morrow. But can they be the team they used to be? Or is the simple answer that this team overachieved last April?

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