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The Jamie Oleksiak Conundrum

Bishop flops, Kyrou scores, and Rick Bowness works miracles

NHL: St. Louis Blues at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

This story first appeared on Page 5 (The Five Hole) of the Feb. 29, 2020 edition of the St. Louis Game Time paper, sold outside of every Blues home game. For more information or to subscribe, email gtbradlee@gmail.com

The 6’7 left-handed defenseman for the Dallas Stars who skipped a puck from the blue line and through Jake Allen to break up the Blues’ nearly three-game shutout streak is named Jamie Oleksiak. That was his third goal of the season. In his eight-year NHL career, he’s never scored more than five.

He missed all of last year’s second-round playoff series. Rick Bowness, the Stars’ interim head coach, on a recent 31 Thoughts podcast did not suggest that his team would’ve won the series, had Oleksiak been healthy — but he did say the Stars missed his presence. Maybe he has a point: Nobodies like Joel Hanley and Dillon Heatherington suited up for Dallas on D during the series. Maybe, on the other hand, Oleksiak wouldn’t have mattered one bit. But we should remember, from time to time, just how many breaks the Blues got on their way to winning the Stanley Cup. No team has ever won it — let alone made the playoffs — without some seriously good luck.

Five thoughts as we roll on, baby, roll on.

1. Ben Bishop is a flopping flopper. I know he’s a St. Louis kid and an indelible part of that amazing Pat Maroon/Bishop/St. Louis, fleur-de-lis flag photo after Game 7. And I know he’s 6’8, so perhaps his movements are more awkward or obvious than most goalies’. But he went down like a sack of potatoes a couple times in last year’s playoff series — even before taking Colton Parayko’s shot off the collarbone in Game 6. (It’s worth nothing that Bishop stayed in that game, gave up another goal, and tried to trip Ryan O’Reilly after the puck went in the net.) He flopped pretty hard in the first period of last Friday’s game against the Blues, too. If anyone’s wondering why he didn’t get a whistle during Game 6 last year as he writhed in pain while the Blues scored, the proof is in the tape: He has a history of this.

2. Jordan Kyrou’s goal in Dallas might have been his “This kid’s got it” moment. I wrote about it earlier this year, but January 9, 2010 was when I realized David Perron could be special. He already had two full seasons under his belt, but on that night in LA, he scored a goal that made my jaw drop: He streaked down the left wing, stopped on a dime, his defender flew by, and he ripped a shot past one of the best goalies in the league.

Kyrou, of course, is only in his second year and unlike Perron at that time, hasn’t notched a 50-point season. But his goal on Bishop, with a similar move, winked at the kind of next-level talent we all hope he has.

3. Down 5-0 last Friday, the Stars got a late power play. Bowness wanted to send a message to his team. He threw a group of penalty killers over the boards: Andrew Cogliano, Blake Comeau, Stephen Johns, Esa Lindell, and Jason Dickinson.

To me, that says a lot about the comfort level Bowness has in his job security. I suppose it’s well earned: Since taking over for Jim Montgomery on December 10, Bowness is 20-9-3. (At last check, Montgomery, who played 67 games for the Blues in 1993-94, had admitted himself into alcohol rehab; his public drinking as Stars coach, especially given his 2008 DUI arrest, led to his firing.)

4. It went under the radar, but Derek Laxdal came in with Bowness and has revamped the Dallas power play. Before the coaching change, the Stars were 19th in the league in both power play percentage and goals per 60 minutes of PP time. As of last Saturday night, they’d improved to seventh and sixth in those categories, respectively. According to the Dallas Morning News, Laxdal has insisted on putting players like Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov, and Denis Gurianov on their one-timer sides and freed them to fire away.

Meanwhile, Marc Savard seems to have improved the Blues’ power play. Even en route to winning the Stanley Cup — that’s a real thing that really happened! — the Blues ranked only 12th out of the 16 playoff teams in power play percentage (although that doesn’t include the 6-on-5 goal Carl Gunnarsson scored in overtime against Boston in Game 2). They were ninth in the regular season. This year, as of Tuesday, they sat in sixth.

5. Jake Allen’s stick save in Dallas was the kind miracle stop goalies usually make once in their careers.

You dream about pulling one out of your ass like that — and Allen’s done it (at least) twice. In Calgary, back on February 15, 2013, he made a similar save on T. J. Brodie; remember that one?

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If you enjoyed this story — and even if you didn’t — you should check out my book, Ticketless: How Sneaking Into The Super Bowl And Everything Else (Almost) Held My Life Together.