The only constant in the world of hockey today is change. With the advent of the Salary Cap, dynasties aren’t what they used to be. Before the cap, dynasties were determined by winning hockey’s Holy Grail in numerous consecutive seasons or many cups in a short period of time. The NHL went from the Montreal Canadiens winning four in a row from 1976-1979, to the New York Islanders four ring run from 1980-1983, to the Edmonton Oilers winning four championships in five years led by Wayne Gretzky from 1984-1988.
Arguably, the last NHL dynasty under the current definition was the Chicago Blackhawks, winning three Cups from 2010-2015. Stars fans remember those days well for a number of reasons. First, the number of Blackhawks fans being loud and obnoxious at the AAC was almost unbelievable (Unbelievable, because they had never existed before). The amount of “new” Chicago supporters was worthy of several bandwagons.
Another reason to remember was the disparity of talent. Chicago had elite level players such as Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, and Corey Crawford. The Stars had no owner and were barely at the salary cap floor. In order for Dallas to have any chance to win, Kari Lehtonen would have to be the #1 Star of the game, and someone would have to contribute a spectacular moment like an Antoine Roussel penalty shot game winner. Otherwise, the Hawks were the better team and usually skated away with two points.
Fast forward to this year and the Stars are the better team on paper. Dallas has the elite talent—Jason Robertson, Joe Pavelski and Jake Oettinger. The only remnants of the dynasty for Chicago are an aging Toews and Kane. The Blackhawks are in the middle of a full rebuild and the Stars are contending for the top spot in the Central Division. The Blackhawks had lost four in a row while Dallas earned points in five consecutive games. The first meeting of the season should have been a complete role reversal from days past…it wasn’t, at first.
On the night before Thanksgiving, the Stars appeared to deliver a turkey. The 2nd period was the worst played at home this season as the Blackhawks scored three times. The first goal was a blown defensive assignment. The second goal was a result of Miro Heiskanen and Colin Miller getting walked by Andreas Athanasiou. On the third goal, Dallas had numbers in front of their own net, but did not take the puck or the man, allowing Connor Murphy to tap home the 3rd of the frame.
It looked like game, set and match when Max Domi buried a rebound to make the score 4-1 in the 3rd period.
In past seasons, a three-goal third period deficit was reason to head to the parking lot and beat traffic. But if this year’s Dallas Stars team seems different, it’s because they are. There is an underlying confidence that having the right system with talented players will result in a positive result with hard work.
Jamie Benn began the comeback with a power play laser of a wrist shot. That’s the Captain’s ninth goal of the month as “The Bennaissance” continues. Mason Marchment’s one-timer cut the lead to one, followed 14 seconds later by a Ty Dellandrea deflection for a tied game.
Dellandrea has been spending pregame skates working on tip-ins, learning from the master, Joe Pavelski. On this team, young players learn from the vets to the benefit of all.
Radek Faksa scored the game winner with 1:33 remaining and Jason Robertson punctuated a team record 13 game point streak with his 2nd goal of the night, an empty-netter that sent everyone in Victory Green home happy for Thanksgiving.
There were 24 third period shots in the third period and five goals for the Stars. It took forty minutes, but role reversal was complete. The more talented, experienced team overwhelmed an inexperienced club which imploded under the onslaught. It was a familiar story line. Only this time, the team coming away on top plays in Dallas. No more heartbreak at the hands of Kane, Toews and the rest.
The Stars are off to their best start since 2015-16, while the Blackhawks are headed toward the NHL lottery. None of that matters to Stars fans. It’s tough to listen to the red-clad Blackhawks fans cheer in your building. It’s even worse to hear them perform an improvised version of Chelsea Dagger after each goal. For the faithful at the AAC, providing a “7th man” atmosphere felt like a difference maker. It doesn’t matter that in the story arcs of these two teams, this kind of role reversal is now expected. After nearly a decade of on-ice abuse, beating Chicago will always matter to Dallas fans, this one game especially so.