Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Let’s start the Game 3 column the same way we ended the Game 2 Column : “This series is far from over. Do not underestimate the defending champions.”
Of all the things the Stars were guilty of last night, I doubt underestimating the Ducks was one of them. But, from a Stars perspective, a long list could be made of things that must be done better if they are going to survive this series and be on the right side of the post-series handshake.
Timely Saves, Converted scoring chances, clean breakouts from your own end, and strong special teams were needed, and for a great portion of Game 3 were not found. The Ducks employed a ferocious forecheck that’s main objective was to turn the puck over in front of Marty Turco. The shots the Ducks totaled last night was not a huge sum, but the quality of those chances were such that the red light behind Turco was busy early and often.
Can you draw some consolation from the way Dallas finished the game? Absolutely! I am a big believer in carry-over in a series like this. But, the bottom line is the bottom line. That read Anaheim 4, Dallas, 2, and a series that now hinges on a Game 4 that should be listed in both dressing rooms as mandatory. This would be the case especially the Home Dressing Room. I cannot imagine the psychological damage that would be done from dropping both home games after working so hard to quiet your playoff demons in Southern California.
The following are a collection of random notes and observations from my notebook, the night the Ducks proved they will not go quietly…if at all.
• Randy Carlyle certainly deserves some positive reviews for his maneuvers last night. The idea of putting Brad May on the top line with Teemu Selanne and Ryan Getzlaf seemed somewhat puzzling, until May’s physicality led directly to the Getzlaf goal. Also, a very solid job of replacing Rob Niedermayer on the checking line with Todd Marchant. Marchant was excellent. Most importantly, despite being the road team, the Moen, Marchant, Pahlsson group were joined by Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger as a unit of 5 just about every time Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow were on the ice. It is not an easy task for the Stars to score at equal strength against that unit, which further requires that Brad Richards and Mike Modano cash in when they get their opportunities.
• The Stars “looked jittery” is how Dave Tippett described it. I don’t disagree. In fact, they have looked jittery on home ice for about 8 years now in the playoffs. When you win just 7 playoff games in your last 23 home opportunities, and have lost 7 of your last 8, and 9 of your last 12, I think we could say the Stars have a bit of an issue protecting their home ice. Why has this happened? There are a number of ideas and they are all partly correct. But the simple fact of the matter is that this is reason #1 why the Stars have lost 6 of the last 8 playoff series they have played in. You have to play with poise and composure, and to be frank, both of the first two goals scored by the Ducks were direct result of meltdowns that occurred in the blink of an eye, and then ended up behind Turco. And honestly, two delay-of-game penalties for shooting the puck in the crowd is not a play that speaks to great amounts of poise and composure.
• I know close doesn’t cut it in the National Hockey League, but the Stars had a number of golden opportunities in the first flurry last night. Joel Lundqvist slid a pass over to Loui Eriksson two minutes into the game that had Eriksson with an open net if only he could have settled the pass. Morrow had the puck bouncing in the crease with a scramble, too. Lehtinen skated in and had a chance to beat Giguere. Even Hagman had a few chances to break the ice in the first period, the most notable his breakaway off a great pass from Nick Grossman. If one of those finds the net, it is a different game. The Stars did not lose Game 3 because of a lack of scoring chances. I think the Stars can still feel pretty good about finding many chances to put the puck in the net. And 3 games in, they have done it 11 times. If they keep anything close to that pace, they will win this series.
• The Ducks are putting the Stars defensemen through a meat grinder of a high order. Mattias Norstrom was a huge target last night on the forecheck, and Robidas was hit so hard by Todd Bertuzzi that it is a wonder that Robidas can just hop back up and skate away. The key is to take the hit and not cough up the puck. Norstrom had the puck taken away by Moen on the first goal, and that set the tone for a tenacious forecheck from the Ducks all night. There is no doubt how they win hockey games. Create turnovers by monster hits. In Games 1 and 2, it didn’t work, but last night, it gave them plenty of hope moving forward.
• This team can go as far as Turco can take them. He had 2 solid road games, but in my estimation, the Stars needed him to rob Getzlaf or Pronger in the first period of Game 3. Were they tough saves? Absolutely. But for this team to get over the hump in the post season, the Ducks have to have more than 4 shots to get 3 goals at the start of a crucial home playoff game. I think the Stars will need Marty to be the #1 Star on Thursday night, or this series may get away from them.
• I am still wondering what effect of the 3rd period rally from Dallas. They put enormous pressure on Jean Sebastian Giguere and scored twice. It looked like it was a matter of time when the Stars received a 4 minute power play and the Ducks were hanging on for dear life to their 4-2 lead. But the Stars were unable to draw closer, and despite getting the arena cooking, it was too little, too late. Does this show the Stars have a different resolve than the last several years? Time will tell.
• The “Black Out” idea was pretty successful in the upper parts of the arena, but down in the lower bowl, it appears some of the corporate types could not interrupt their sales calls to get with the program. Down there, too many were not conforming to the directive that was required of the 18,532. Get with it, please.
• There can be no denying the ability of Chris Pronger. What a player. His
performance was challenged by all after the first two sub-par efforts, but last night he regained his all-world status by dominating huge chunks of the game on both ends of the ice.
• I don’t think Steve Ott and Todd Bertuzzi like eachother.
• Game 4 is so important. If the Stars lose that game, and then must play 23 hours later in Anaheim on Friday, they will have a hard time stopping that rolling momentum freight train. They must figure out a way to limit the meltdowns, cash in on their chances, and build a stone-wall in front of their goal. A split in Dallas is fine, but to be swept would be almost impossible to overcome. In short, they must do what they have not done very often in recent years – the Dallas Stars must win a playoff game in Dallas.