Thursday, October 16, 2008
Thursday Morning Cupcheck - And Then Came Fabian
Dreamy eyes, hat trick: what's not to love?
Top of the manana, hockey fans! Last week we issued presumptuous preseason prognostications for this upcoming season; this week, I was planning on whipping out by 14-part investigative series on how Nassau Coliseum was built on an ancient Indian burial ground by undiscriminating necrophiliacs, when I was distracted by the real beginning of the real hockey season!
Naturally, as the Stars bolted out of the gate at 0-1-1, Stars fans' tempers flared, foreheads were slapped and kidneys were punched: what the heck was wrong with this team? Was it not the media darling of the summer of '08, the one most eggheaded NHL experts picked up upset the 2008 Champion Detroit Red Wings? Could this team's playoff chances be over and done with with 80 games left to play? Should we dust off those "FIRE TIPPETT" yard signs?
Having a little trouble tying my electrified barbed-wire molten-lava noose around my neck while taunting my musk-enraged polar bear (it's tougher than it sounds, especially when I've just eaten four thousand red M&Ms washed down with homemade lawn dart shakes), I turned on the TV to find the 23-hour Suicide Watch Channel for some sage and timely advice. But since I'd forced Time Warner Cable to remove all non-Versus channels from my package, the television automatically switched to the Pens-Flyers game, which, besides one fight and a series of decent goals in the second, was a hockey abomination before God.
That's when it hit me: the poison-tipped chainsaw covered in West Nile virus was unnecessary! All of the top four teams from last year's Stanley Cup playoffs were sucking. In fact, if you took away the Pens' win over the Flyers, since they played each other, and Detroit's last win, since it mucks with my stats, the four conference final teams --Dallas, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia-- were a combined 2-5-2.
Conversely, the four teams that arguably had the most embarrassing early playoff exits --the NY Rangers, Montreal, San Jose and Minnesota-- were a combined 14-1-1. I'm leaving off Ottawa, since that team never technically showed up on the ice for their allegedly-embarrassing playoff performance. Plus, their pedestrian 1-1-1 record slightly dilutes my hand-selected group of pathetic postseason poseurs.
What does it all mean? That there's a new sheriff in town? That this is not your father's NHL? That it's my way or the highway? Ayatollah Asshola? No, it just means that the first week of the NHL season doesn't really exist. It has no meaning, other than being the thing that is on way too early in the year, competing with the MLB playoffs and football, and will likely have very little real effect on the end-of-the-year standings. Also, teams that go farther in the playoffs have considerably more injuries than teams that bow out meekly at the slightest whiff of pressure.
Of those overachieving teams that sucked in May, most, if not all, will likely make the playoffs in '09. We'll see if their early-October dominance translates into early-May teetimes, or vice versa.
In other news, the Stars still suck, but at least they can score goals. Through three games, they've scored 11 and given up 12, a Colorado Avs-like goalfest that hopefully isn't a precursor to the rest of the regular season. Fortunately for the Stars, a significant chunk of those goals-against were Ugly Goals, a.k.a. Lucky Bounces, meaning there will be long stretches during the regular season where those pucks will not go in.
More to the point, however, the Stars' defense has looked like crap. How Philippe Boucher is not a -10 through three games is beyond me (he's a surprising +1). Niskanen and Fistric both look lost at times, then make up for it with amazing displays of individual prowess. Only Robidas has looked like a true mensch patrolling the blue line thus far, and has four points through three games to lead the team in scoring as well.
And then there was Fabian.
The Swedish Studmuffin played his first NHL game Wednesday, and nearly singlehandedly won the game in regulation for the Stars, becoming just the third player to have a hat trick in his first NHL game. Is it too soon to remove Gretzky's old and busted stats from the record book? Brunnstrom's on a record-shattering 240-goal pace, although his zero assists through 80 games might paint him as a me-first player unworthy of Calder consideration.
More importantly, the huge gap left when Nick Hagman left for warmer pastures appears to finally have been filled. I'm talking, of course, of the once-lethal dearth of Scandanavian Players That My Wife Thinks Have Pretty Eyes. Through the first two lethargic, painful Stars losses, my wife asked about the whereabouts of Hagman a record 14 times: with Fabian on the roster, that number shrank to practically zero (two is practically zero in the grand scheme of things).
So cheer up, Stars fans: with the top four teams improving from 2-5-2 to 5-5-3 with a single swipe of the pen, in no time your favorite team will be piling on wins like Oprah piles butter-soaked slabs of french toast on the back of her tongue. Tune in next week when I ask Stars fans the question: is 80-1-1 good enough?. Their answers may surprise you.
See more stories in:
- Thursday Morning Cupcheck - The Good, The Bad, and The Fugly
- Thursday Morning Cupcheck - Dallas Stars Hockey Horoscope
- Thursday Morning Cupcheck - Predictions for the 2009-10 Dallas Stars: Big and Bright
- Thursday Morning Cupcheck - Remember the Dallas Stars?
- Thursday Morning Cupcheck - Happy Hockey with Paco Muy Gusto