Saturday, April 19, 2008
The first round of this Best-of-Seven War is going to take at least six games to decide, as the Stars allowed the Ducks a stay of execution Friday night in Anaheim. Whether it turns out to be the beginning of a full-fledged pardon will largely rest on how the Stars respond to adversity back in Big D.
Game 5 boiled down to creating chances and converting said chances. You could make the case that for every Selanne, Getzlaf, or other Duck chance in front of Marty Turco, there was a Richards, Ribeiro, or other Star chance in front of Jean Sebastian Giguere. The Ducks cashed in, the Stars did not often enough.
And such is the margin between victory and defeat in this series. The winner gets the spoils, and the loser contemplates how they lost a game in which they played pretty well. I would imagine the Ducks had similar feelings after Game 2 and Game 4.
So what do you do? Re-rack and get ready for Sunday.
Here is what I is on my mind after a stirring NHL Playoff game that did not go the Stars way from Friday night:
• The most glaring stat from last night had to be the power play times. The Dallas Stars spent 13:01 on the power play. They had some shots, but not the overwhelming power play of their last trip to the O.C. 0-7 was the result on the man-advantage. Meanwhile, with 3:57 of power play time, the Ducks cashed in twice. You simply cannot spend almost 10 more minutes on the power play than your opponent and be a -2 on the special teams. That is a killer. Now, I would suggest that in a 7 game series things even out, and maybe the law of averages is taking its toll on the Stars PP after 8 goals in 3 games, but they need this thing to rise to the occasion on Sunday. When you get 7 Power Play opportunities, you also have a hard time complaining about a call, but allow me this one thought:
• Trevor Daley’s penalty that put the Stars down two men was a clear penalty most nights. But last night, when the refs decided to allow the clutch and grab fest all night, to then turn around and put the Stars down 5-3 for 1:27 for what had been allowed the entire game was a bit harsh. Further, it set up a “matter of time” Teemu Selanne goal on that power play that looked to put the game on ice for the Ducks at 3-1 early in the 3rd period. Again, I don’t deny that Daley held his man, but it sure looked like holding was ok last night until that call that proved lethal.
• Welcome to the world of raised expectations, Loui Eriksson. A few months ago, nobody would expect him to convert those chances in the 2nd period. But, now that he has demonstrated what he can do with the puck on his stick, I was disappointed that he was unable to beat Giguere from in tight twice within just a few minutes of each other with the score tied 1-1. If he gets one goal, the Stars take the lead, and you wonder if the Ducks back begins to break. But, if “ifs and buts were candy and nuts we’d all have a Merry Christmas”. He did not convert, and we have a hockey game Sunday night.
• Anyone else wonder if Todd Marchant’s slap shot off Stephane Robidas face was an accident? Professional hockey players can pick the top corner when they shoot at goal, so it would seem that they could also avoid a head when clearing the puck if they so desire. I am such a cynic.
• Defensive hockey is a 6 person job. A few times last night, you could see poor technique from 1 guy break down a play. Matt Niskanen could have certainly done better on Ryan Getzlaf’s amazing seeing-eye and something tells me that Antii Miettinen was supposed to have Sean O’Donnell on that huge 4th goal. If one person doesn’t fulfill the assignment, the red light goes on.
• Nice save, Marty, on Selanne’s wraparound. I believe that puck was 95% over the line.
• Niskanen may be taking his lumps, but man, to see those 3 rookies on the blueline play so much in crucial situations can only get someone excited about the arrival of a real nice nucleus for Dallas. In the salary cap era, to have young quality at a reasonable price will really help.
• Speaking of quality youth, the Ducks have so many big, young forwards who are leaning on the Stars. It is hard to imagine that these guys had the huge Dustin Penner, too, until the Oilers stole him away. In the 2003 draft, the Ducks had 2 first round picks: Ryan Getzlaf (6’3/221) and Corey Perry (6’3/209. In 2003, they signed “little” Chris Kunitz (5’11/195) as a free agent, and in 2004 Dustin Penner (6’4/245) was signed as a free agent both out of college. Talk about building your team up front in 12 months, with high quality impact forwards. And over two weeks, with help from Todd Bertuzzi and Chris Pronger, you can understand the wear and tear they are putting on the boys.
• We haven’t talked enough about Brad Richards’ impact on this series. I think he has done quite a job of stepping up his game in the playoffs (as he has always done) and that 91/21/39 line looks threatening every time on the ice. They will need to keep cashing in, but I really like what I see from a weakness on this team that has become an improving strength – secondary scoring. And how can you not like the future of the Stars up the middle now?
• Was it just me, or did the players look gassed last night? This series is wearing both teams down quite a bit. 3 games in 4 nights is goofy.
• Marty Turco and Jean Sebastian Giguere have taken turns stealing chances and saving games for their teams. Marty was decent on Friday, but would surely like the Perry goal back. I expect Marty to be ready to roll again in Game 6. Let’s all understand that this is not the same Marty Turco that we saw a few years ago. This one believes in himself at crunch time.
• I found this on the Ducks blog ; it is what was on the Ducks chalk board before Game 4: This is not easy, this effort, day after day, week after week, to keep pushing. But it is essential. If it was easy, everyone would win. There can only be one winner in this war. - General Patton. That gives you chills, doesn’t it? Of course, the Ducks lost Game 4, but it sounds like General Patton knows a little something about motivating his troops.
• This is not the time to panic. If I would have told you the Stars would have 3 cracks at 1 win at the start of this series, you would have recommended me for psychiatric counseling. Now, the fate of the Stars rest on their ability to win Game 6 at home, or to do it the hard way and win Game 7 in Anaheim. I am not sure I could subscribe to “Believe” a few weeks ago, but these first 5 games have brought me around to the Stars. They are worth Belief. 18,532 – do your part on Sunday, and let’s hope the 20 in Black do theirs.