The wonderful thing about the story the Dallas Stars are writing during this depressing time, making it to the Stanley Cup Final against all odds, is the number of people they appear to be making happy.
And that’s really remarkable here in Hub City, considering the number of occasions the Stars eliminated Edmonton in those sensational playoff series a couple of decades ago.
Whether it’s individually or collectively, the Dallas Stars are an easy team to embrace and a fun team to follow.
Everybody loves an underdog and they are the ultimate underdog, picked by most to lose every series they’ve played — as will quite probably be the case with the next one, too.
For one thing, there are few teams to ever bring hockey statisticians such joy.
Monday after the Stars sealed the deal to force the Vegas Golden Knights to check out of the bubble, the fun facts were flying about this Dallas team that was receiving the Rodney Dangerfield get-no-respect treatment since they showed up.
The Stars, we were instantly informed, became the first team to enter the Stanley Cup final with a negative goal differential in the post season since the 1968 St. Louis Blues.
Countering that stat, however, is the one that says Dallas is 10-1 in one-goal games and 5-0 in overtime games in the playoffs. The Stars also managed their eighth comeback win of this coronavirus pandemic Hub City playoff run, the most in NHL history prior to a Stanley Cup final.
Monday, the Stars put away a second playoff series with a winning goal scored in overtime — this one by Denis Gurianov on the power play resulting from quite possibly the worst rule in all of sports, the puck-over-glass delay-of-game penalty.
Back in 1999 when Dallas won the only Cup in franchise history, they ended a series with a goal in overtime three times. So there’s some déjà vu, too.
Joel Kiviranta became the first player in Stanley Cup history to score the tying goal with less than five minutes to play in two separate series in the same year. Only one other player has done it over his entire career, Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard in a series in 1944, then and another in ’47.
The Stars also became the second team in NHL history to overcome a multi-goal deficit in multiple series-clinching wins within a playoff year. Only the 1980 New York Islanders did it previously.
There are a lot of people in hockey who couldn’t help but be delighted for Dallas because of Rick Bowness.
The interim head coach of the Stars is one of only three people who can claim to have been a head coach in five decades in the NHL. The other two are Scotty Bowman and Pat Quinn. The man they call Bones, however, has worked as an assistant coach and an associate. You could form a lineup of players, without social distancing, around Rogers Place to testify how he helped their careers. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a hockey writer who hasn’t enjoyed working with him.
The immediate reaction from around the hockey world was unbridled happiness for the guy.
The Stars didn’t go goofy and parade the Clarence Campbell Bowl as Western Conference champions around the ice. They didn’t touch it. Indeed, they posed for a sober tam picture with NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and the trophy.
They briefly allowed themselves to celebrate it on the ice, seemingly oblivious to there being no fans in the stands. It was Bowness who supplied the jubilation pictures with unrestrained and unapologetic joy on the bench.
“When you’re behind the bench and you see that puck go in and you know you’re going to the Stanley Cup final, words just can’t describe the emotion that comes through,” he said.
Celebrating on that bench with Bowness were two of the most popular hockey coaches ever to work in Edmonton.
Derek Laxdal won a Memorial Cup here with the Oil Kings and Todd Nelson became interim coach of the Oilers, called up from his head-coaching job with the American Hockey League’s Oklahoma City farm club to work as interim coach when Dallas Eakins was fired.
On the team are relatively popular ex-Oilers Andrew Cogliano and Andrej Sekera, along with local product Taylor Fedun on their roster.
And in addition to Saskatoon, where he played his junior hockey, who isn’t cheering for the unexpected brilliance of back-up goaltender Anton Khudobin in the series in which Dallas was outshot 166-118?
The Dallas Stars may not be favored in the Stanley Cup, but they’ll definitely be the sentimental favourites.
On Twitter: @byterryjones
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