Thursday, March 29, 2007
Thursday Morning Cupcheck
Once again, leading the charge into facts-driven hockey reportage.
In last week's Cupcheck, we learned to love laying down the lumber with lethality, i.e., fighting in hockey. Not surprisingly, as soon as the column hit the internets, other, very poorlyer written, articles started popping up across the hockey landscape. The only one of any real worth was from my longtime hero, the Pope of Hockey and future NHL Hall of Fame netminder Daryl Reaugh, who posted a brilliant counterpoint to my admittedly one-sided rantfest.
But enough about that tired old subject. Something special happened for the Stars this past week, and it revolves around the timeless concept of mensch. A mensch, also known in some circles as a stud, alpha-male and possibly even the shiz-natch, is that rare and elusive person that can take a team on his back and deliver the goods when the time calls for it. Not every team has a mensch -- for example, the Colorado Avs -- but every team needs one, especially if it has any designs on going deep into the playoffs.
Some everyday examples of a mensch: Chuck Norris, Charlton Heston, Steve McQueen, Shaft, Shannon Doherty, Kobayashi, David Hasselhoff, Yoko Ono, Sargon the Great, Hawkman, Mike Ditka, that scantily-clad barbarian chick from the Conan movie, Odin, and Ricardo Montalban. Basically, the common theme here is that if you mess with any of the fist-dispensing juggernauts on this list, you'd better be ready and willing to live the rest of your life with your balls ripped off.
This is all well and good, but how will I know a mensch when I see one? Excellent question. If you're about to go mano-e-mano with a potential knuckle-factory and want to know if the person you are about to clock will turn you into a sloppy puddle of lukewarm liquid, use this simple test: would I rather have a gorilla with a chainsaw go to town in my pants than face this hulking behemoth of cranium-flattening muscle? If the answer is yes, you might want to apologize and take back what you said about their mother.
You will know the mensch when you see it in action, normally when his team is playing like crap, and said leader takes it upon himself to make things right. Dirk Nowitski had one such moment last year in game seven against the Spurs. After Dirk passed up the easy jumpshot in favor of taking it hard to the rim, the Mavs rallied behind Dirk and were never threatened the rest of the game. The Cowboys were soaking with alpha-maledom back in the day, and the Texas Rangers wouldn't have their three World Series championships without the clutch leadership skills of their top studs.
As for the Stars, it all happened at the beginning of the third period in their first game against Phoenix. They had just lost a hard-fought game to Anaheim, in which they actually led 2-1 in the final period before two vomit-inducing defensive lapses led to two close-in 2-on-0 breaks for the Ducks, which somehow led to two easy goals. The Stars carried that terrific momentum into Phoenix, where similarly-inspired play resulted in a 3-0 deficit to the last-place Coyotes with 20 minutes left in the game. Up to that point, the Stars, who had played an extremely pounding, physical game the night before, looked like a team that had played an extremely pounding, physical game the night before. Their play was listless, lethargic, limp and flaccid, and the young and virile upstart Coyotes were flying all over the ice showing up the veteran Stars, who simply could not bring themselves perform adequately. By the end of the second period, the Stars looked like a team that had given up on winning the division and ever catching Anaheim, and were content with whatever playoff position their record would give them.
This was precisely the moment that the Stars' captain and resident mensch decided to take control of the game. In his first shift in the third period, Brendan Morrow decided that ass wasn't going to kick itself, and started the Stars' comeback first with physical play, then a goal, and then an assist. The Stars followed the lead of their hunky hockey hero and scored three times in the final period before winning in the shootout. The momentum from Morrow's clutch play carried into their next game, a 6-0 drubbing of the same Coyotes.
The results, by my calculations: before Morrow made his decision to display cajones muy grandes, the Stars had been outscored 5-0. After that moment, the Stars outscored their opposition 10-0 (including the lone shootout goal, which I'm counting because Turco stopped all seven Coyote shootout attempts and that's hella-cool and worthy of mensch-ion). Can the Stars maintain this ridiculous pace? Probably, as long as Morrow is there to pick up the slack when the team starts to sag. If the Stars can continue to score-and-not-be-scored-upon at this pace, they may finally meet my prediction of a four-series sweep in the playoffs, which might actually get them mentioned a couple of times on Versus' top-notch hockey coverage.
Even if the Stars do not go 16-0 in the playoffs, and I maintain that this is probably exactly what will happen, these recent events and Brendan Morrow's leadership abilities have me looking towards the playoffs with gleeful anticipation, rather than apocalyptic dread. Morrow's only played about 25-30 games this season, and if you take those games that he did play, project them over an 82-game season using complex mathimatical formulas I am not at liberty to divulge, and adjust for the Red Wings-paying-the-ref factor, the Stars would have a record of 74-2 with 6 games called on account of the "Mercy Rule". For those of you reading this who don't know much about hockey, 74-2 is pretty good. Project those numbers into the playoffs, and you get an unbelievable 16 to negative three, a level of playoff dominance not seen since the Mavericks of the early 90s. With a little more than a week left in the regular season, and the Stars trailing the mensch-less Whiny Ducks by just four points, anything is within the realm of possibility.
See more stories in:
- Thursday Morning Cupcheck - The Great Dallas Stars Sell-Off of 2013
- Thursday Morning Cupcheck - A Look Back at the 2011-12 Dallas Stars
- Thursday Morning Cupcheck - A Look Back at Ott-tober
- Thursday Morning Cupcheck - Introducing Mr. Stephane Robidas
- Thursday Morning Cupcheck - The 12 Days of Starsmas