In Dallas loss, Stars’ Jamie Benn speared Maple Leafs’ Nazem Kadri in groin

Jared Clinton
Jamie Benn and Nazem Kadri get tangled up. (via Streamable)

Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn is the prototypical hockey player. He’s big and strong with a great shot and good hands, and he also can have an aggressive side. Monday evening against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Benn’s temper boiled over late in the third period.

With the Stars trailing the Maple Leafs 3-1 with two minutes remaining in the tilt, Benn set up for an offensive-zone faceoff against Toronto pivot Nazem Kadri. Immediately after the puck was dropped for a faceoff that Kadri won, linesmen began to blow their whistles to retake the draw. That’s when Benn lifted his stick right into Kadri’s groin, drawing the ire of the Maple Leafs center: Read more

James Reimer opens door to No. 1 job – now he has to kick it down

Ken Campbell
James Reimer (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock seemed a little wary about heaping too much credit upon his goaltender after watching his team give up a season-high 44 shots and still win the game Monday night. Babcock has not been around long, but he appears to have fully bought into the notion that Blue & White Disease is still very alive and well and probably doesn’t want James Reimer coming down with a case of it when he faces the Winnipeg Jets Wednesday night.

But sometimes there are enormous things in the tiniest sound bites and snippets of information. And Babcock let out a doozy when he talked about the goaltending his team received from Jonathan Bernier, to whom we’ll refer as the understudy for the moment, in a loss to Pittsburgh Saturday night.

“I thought we started well against Pittsburgh the other night,” Babcock said, “and then, boom, we give up a goal and suddenly we get deflated way easier than we should.”

The Leafs were so shaky, so fragile and so riddled with a lack of self-esteem going into the game that they simply could not afford more sub-par goaltending, regardless of who was occupying the net. Some teams can get away with just good goaltending. But the Leafs require superhuman goaltending to even be competitive in this league. And when they get the kind of goaltending that had been getting of late, they simply do not stand a chance.

But then in comes Reimer and, against one of the league’s most potent offensive teams, stops 43 shots, including five off the stick of the NHL’s leading goalscorer, Jamie Benn, and eight from Tyler Seguin. There were some who made quite a big deal out of the fact that the Leafs managed to hold the Stars big line of Seguin between Benn and Patrick Sharp to just one goal, but it should be noted that the trio combined for a mind-boggling 18 shots on the evening.

“Obviously, goaltending is a huge part of our sport and it’s no different than pitching or a quarterback,” Babcock said. “It’s huge. They give you confidence.”

The Leafs entered the game as the best possession team in the league and had a 1-7-2 record to show for that. In the game against the Stars, the Leafs got killed on possession, 76-54 in the Corsi department and gave up 19 shots in the second period, but won the game. This was a team that needed an outstanding goaltending performance in the worst way and finally got it.

But Reimer has been here before. There have been so many stops and starts to his career that he’s probably lost count. One of the Maple Leafs problems at the moment is that they appear to have two backup goalies and no No. 1 man. Can Reimer change that? Well, Babcock basically said after the Dallas game that the net is now Reimer’s until he falters. “If you’re him, you want to play every night,” Babcock said. “To me, just play good and you get to start the next game and just make sure you play good again and you get to start after that and you just keep going that way.”

This is the opportunity for Reimer to grab the brass ring, with Bernier a little banged up and relegated to the end of the bench, at least for the time being. But this is also the opportunity Reimer has had countless times before and has been unable to take full advantage of it. He has been brilliant for stretches, but never seems to be able to sustain it.

“Honestly, I feel like I’ve been playing well this season,” said Reimer, who has accounted for both Leaf wins this season. “I’m not getting a couple of bounces and (Monday night) I got a couple of bounces, a couple of posts and a couple that managed to hit me when I was sprawling. It was one of those nights when you worked hard and you got rewarded.”

The job for No. 1 has never been as wide open since Bernier arrived as it is right at this moment. Since coming to Toronto, Bernier has done little to prove he is a day-in, day-out No. 1 goalie in the NHL. And it’s up to Reimer, who is due to become an unrestricted free agent after this season, to prove that he can be the one to fill the vacuum. And he’ll have a chance to prove himself all over again two nights from now.

Off-season moves already paying off for first-place Stars

Ryan Kennedy
Johnny Oduya. (Getty Images)

Give credit to Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill. He always makes the summer interesting. His tenure in Texas kicked off with a bang in 2013 when he swiped Tyler Seguin in a summer deal with Boston, and he followed that up by prying Jason Spezza from Ottawa one off-season later.

So what did the erstwhile Red Wings executive do for an encore? He snagged Patrick Sharp from the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, who happened to be in a perilous cap situation. The trade, which also saw blueline prospect Stephen Johns come to the Stars in exchange for veteran D-man Trevor Daley and agitator Ryan Garbutt, had been in the works for more than a month before the two sides came to a conclusion, and Nill was open in his admiration for trade partner Stan Bowman. “I have so much respect for Chicago,” Nill said. “That’s where we want to get to.”

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The touching story behind Jamie Benn’s OT goal celebration

Ken Campbell
Jamie Benn  (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)

There’s a good chance Larry Orr would have cringed at Jamie Benn’s goal celebration when he scored in overtime to give the Dallas Stars a 4-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks Thursday night.

The goal came with 2:28 remaining in overtime and capped a wild Dallas rally. It also padded Benn’s lead in both goals (nine) and points (17) in his quest for his second straight scoring title. And the instant after he fired the puck over Ryan Miller’s glove hand to seal the win, the usually subdued Benn looked to the heavens and pointed several times.

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Sharpshooting Stars showing they’re worthy of hype

Jared Clinton
The Dallas Stars celebrate their overtime victory over the Vancouver Canucks (Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)

The off-season hype surrounding the Dallas Stars in 2014 was huge. Stars GM Jim Nill had gone out and acquired Jason Spezza from the Ottawa Senators, brought in Ales Hemsky as a free agent and had fans in Texas excited about what could be the most gifted offense in the entire NHL.

Well, the offense certainly delivered. The Stars averaged more than three goals per game and their 257 goals were second in the NHL to only Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning, who scored 259 times in 2014-15.

But an exciting offense isn’t enough by itself to win games, and the bubble burst on the off-season excitement by the time the Stars had played their 20th game of the season. The Stars were 7-9-4, had just snapped a seven-game losing streak and the defense was weak at the best of times. Because the Stars had slid so far, it was an uphill battle to get into the post-season. Dallas made a late push, but it was too little, too late and the Stars missed the playoffs by seven points.

That was last season, though, and it seems like a distant memory. Especially considering through 10 games of the new campaign, it would seem foolish to believe the Stars are anywhere but playoff-bound. Read more

Bigger villain: Stars audio guy or puck-stealing fan?

Jared Clinton
A fan in Pittsburgh snatches a souvenir away from a young boy. (via YouTube)

Because it’s the day before Halloween, October 30 goes by a few names. Some call it Mischief Night, others say Devil’s Night and there are those who refer to the eve of Halloween as Gate Night. It’s a day known for playful troublemaking as part of the spirit of Halloween.

However, there are those who tend to jump the gun, and Thursday there were two offenders up to some shenanigans to kick off Mischief Night a bit early. In Dallas, the Stars’ production crew came up with an evil plot to hurt the ears of fans arena-wide, while one fan in Pittsburgh snatched a souvenir away from the hands of a young man. Read more

Five free-agent signings making an early impact

Justin Williams (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

The salary cap era has made it increasingly difficult for GMs around the league to improve their clubs through trades. As such, it has put more importance on being able to lock up the right free agent to add to a team’s already stacked roster or be the piece that can change the tides.

If the 2015 free agent market will be remembered for anything, it will be the cost-conscious ways of GMs league-wide, which led to some free agents having a difficult time finding work. Veteran winger Curtis Glencross, for instance, chose to retire instead of heading any further into the season without a contract. Blueliner Cody Franson, who doesn’t appear on this list, waited almost the entire off-season before signing a deal with Buffalo.

But even in a tight market, there are more than a few GMs would made savvy signings, be it by dishing out top dollar or using a cost-effective model. Here are five free agent signings who have been well worth their money: Read more

Ducks’ Wagner throws awesome hit, sends Stars defenseman Oleksiak into bench

Jared Clinton
Chris Wagner puts Jamie Oleksiak into the Dallas bench (via Streamable)

Say what you will for a big open-ice hit or beautifully thrown hip check, it’s hard to beat a jolt that sends a player flipping over the boards and into the bench. And because of that, during Tuesday’s contest between the Anaheim Ducks and Dallas Stars, AHL call-up Chris Wagner produced one of the most fun hits of the season thus far.

With less than 10 minutes remaining in the third period and the score tied 3-3, Anaheim’s Wagner lined up Dallas’ Jamie Oleksiak and levelled him with a hit that sent Stars blueliner for an involuntary line change: Read more