This will be somewhat painful, but then again as the time honored gym maxim goes, 'No Pain, No Gain"
The Chicago Blackhawks were the best team in hockey in 2013 (64-14-12 in the regular season and 16-7 en route to winning the Cup) - something the Stars hope to be in the not too distant future. Head-to-head this past year the Hawks repeatedly showed the young upstarts from Texas how far they have to go (Baby steps boys, baby steps).
Here’s a little review of the Stars’ matches against the 2013 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks with context-free (and mostly cleaned-up) excerpts from the post-game diary I keep.
Lessons a plenty from the Windy City ice mob, but as Frederick Douglass famously said, "Without struggle there can be no progress."
Struggles appear below:
3-2 loss at AAC
Ooh, ahh, Hawks on the warpath. Stars lost by only a 3-2 score but were severely outclassed – Kari was brilliant. The Stars actually had a dumbfounding 2 goal lead but penalties 100, 190, and 160 feet away from their own net lead to 3 power play goals including Hossa’s winner. No Jamie Benn, but his deal was announced mid-game.
8-1 loss at AAC
As a game, it was an 8-layer shellacking. To broadcast, it was 51 minutes of chewing tinfoil. In retrospect, it seemed insane to guffaw through warm-up in 'St Patty's Day jersies' with the 'On a Mission' Blackhawks in town - and warm-up was where the smiles and chuckles ended. The Stars appeared discombobulated, outclassed, and rattled. Hawks played blisteringly fast and the boys were left in the vapor wake. Lehtonen couldn't save them, was pulled at 4-0. Benn, “We sh*t on our goalie” (hope he showered). Hawks top forwards gave Stars a lesson in determination and execution – lead by Toews, of course. Barely enough green beer available to numb the pain after this one.
5-2 loss @ UC
It was tax day and the Stars were, well, OVERTAXED! The Hawks dominated from puck-drop then scored on 4 of 6 third period shots on Bachman to vanquish the Stars. Benn scored a pair of goals on nefarious wrist shots. Team was plucky but grossly overmatched.
5-2 loss at AAC
The Hawks speed, smarts, maturity and superior special teams trumped the speedy, dullard, yeasty and special teams deficient effort from the Stars. Patrick Sharp had four assists. The Chicago penalty kill was 6 for 6 (Stars home PP is an abomination). Dillon and Robidas had a rough one (on for 4 of 5 goals against). The Stars actually outplayed the Blackhawks in chunks of the game but didn’t play smart and didn’t show needed patience.
2-1 Shootout loss at AAC
The first sellout of season at AAC was eventually witness to an epic 22-shooter shootout before the game was decided. Prior to the ‘skills competition’ they had to endure a ‘nothing to see’ 2nd period and a dreadfully safe overtime that produced one shot a side. Chiasson hit the pipe on a penalty shot attempt. Stephane Robidas broke his leg on a freak play (big big loss). Ben Smith, of all people, won it by beating Kari on Hawks 11th attempt in Shootout.
4-3 win @ UC
Kari beat the Hawks…by himself. No Seguin. No Robidas. No problem. Just 47 saves from Lehtonen (two shy of the team
record) and a roller coaster night for Antoine Roussel
led to victory despite being outshot 50-18. Roussel’s night: Fought Shaw (and a linesman), took penalty on Toews with Stars up 3-0 (Sharp scores on PP), turned the puck over in neutral-zone (Hawks score to make it 3-3), but then redeemed himself by converting a 3rd period penalty shot for the game winner and squirted an entire container of French’s mustard on the hot dog (or 'chien chaud') during his exuberant celebration. There were 55 face-offs thru two periods, 55!! Stars spent almost as much time in their own zone as Kari. First win in five versus the Blackhawks. Hooray!!!
6-2 loss at AAC
Apparently the Stars got the Hawks full attention with the win and exploits in Chicago and so the defending Cup Champs answered back by Zamboni-ing the AAC ice with them. They played a stunningly efficient and complete two-way game, looked to be saying to the upstart division rival Stars, “So you think you can hang with our stuff?” Kari was yanked at 4-0 midway through. Roussel continued to ruffle the headdress feathers of the Blackhawks, this time with a pair of goals. The Stars home power play sunk to a feckless 1 for 47 with an 0 for 5 night. Lindy Ruff called the loss “…an old fashioned ass-kicking”…I think I spoke for all Stars fans when I said, “Well that will be quite enough of the____________________ing S Cup Champs for a while.”
"We learn from failure, not from success" - Bram Stoker
A cautionary message to the Blackhawks in 2014: When you think you have someone eating out of your hand, count your fingers. (Get ready Champs, these Stars are comin' for ya!)