Friday, May 09, 2008
One month has been completed in the Dallas Stars 2008 Playoff campaign, and they finally had “one of those nights”. From that standpoint, the boys would be wise to shake it off, and begin preparations for entering a game for the very first time in these playoffs facing a game deficit.
Let’s start there. Can you believe that in the first two rounds the Stars were neither tied nor behind in games? They took a 2-0 lead in both series, and never were caught in either.
Well, Round 3 will not be so simple. These are the Detroit Red Wings. And if you don’t plan on playing a clean game, with few penalties and making all your chances count, you may not find your way into the win column. Game 1 was one of those nights where the mind was willing, but the flesh appeared to be weakened from the playoff wars that have already been endured.
When you take penalties, you must kill them off. The Stars did not come close to killing penalties last night, and they must start with clearing the crease of Huge Swedes Tomas Holmstrom and Johan Franzen. If you are going to allow those players to use their bodies as screens, you are going to get really tired of those guys scoring goals on deflections where Marty Turco doesn’t even see the puck. The trouble is that if you spend too much time trying to move them while killing a penalty, then that will leave 3 players to account for the other 4 Wings who happen to be some of the best hockey players in the world.
You didn’t expect this to be easy, now, did you?
Notes and Observations from a forgettable night in Detroit:
• 4-1 was a tough score. But, it could have been worse. Marty Turco will get the blame in many newspaper spaces this morning for his “Detroit Jinx”, but I can find almost no fault in his night and frankly without his performance being as good as it was, couldn’t it have been 6-1 or 7-1? His save of Hanrik Zetterberg’s wraparound was very nice, and the stat of the night to give Dallas fans pause is this: Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk combined for 14 shots (7 each) and neither scored a goal. No other Red Wing had more than 3 shots. Mark my words, if you give 40 and 13 14 shots in another game, one of those two snipers is going to light the lamp…minimum.
• Bill McCreary’s decision to put the Stars down 2 men was horrendous. Sorry, but to put a team down 2 men should happen when absolutely warranted, but not on a post whistle scrum. Further, the guy who did deserve the minor was Steve Ott for his ill-advised face wash of Holmstrom. Mark Fistric? What did he get a minor for, “2 minutes for being the rookie”? That is a devastating decision because in this round, if you put either team up 2 men, it is a more-likely-than-not goal for the opposition. It better be worth it. And, I don’t buy that call at that point of the game. There was no run-up of nonsense to lead to that occasion. It was McCreary setting the tone for how he wanted the game to be played. Trouble is, in doing so, he gave Detroit a 5-3 for 1:26. They only needed 9 seconds to score.
• The key is the 1st goal. If you don’t get it, then you have to chase the game, and against Detroit, that is not an easy task. I realize we all scoffed at the 1st goal principle in the San Jose Series. Trust me, it matters. Saturday night, the Stars really need to strike 1st.
• Another issue about playing these guys is this reality: They want their top line of Zetterberg, Datsyuk, and Holmstrom to match up against Ribeiro, Morrow, and Lehtinen. Ribeiro’s line has made all opponents beg for mercy, but the thing about Detroit’s top combo is that they are not only the best scorers Detroit has, it should also be noted that Zetterberg and Datsyuk are 2 of the 3 finalists for the Selke Award. That is right. They are noted defensive forwards. And it isn’t just Hockeytown Hype. If Ribeiro’s line gets its results here, there is officially no stopping them.
• You read all of the stories about “puck control” against Detroit. Dave Tippett and all sorts of other coaches talk about trying to control the puck against Detroit. Not saying it is impossible, but it sounds a lot like trying to keep Peyton Manning from completing a pass. They are so good that they are going to do what they are going to do. In the Colorado series, there is one sequence where they were on the Power Play, and they had the puck exchanged 32 times without Colorado controlling the puck once. Think about it, passes to eachother or shots where the rebound was collected and reset for 32 consecutive times. It is almost impossible. How do you stop it? You try to frustrate them offensively by stacking the blueline and making them dump. It is sometimes risky, and if anyone falls asleep for even a moment, you have a moment like last night when Valtteri Filppula split Fistric and Norstrom and scored. Beating Detroit is not an easy task. And beating them at their place is still something the Stars have to figure out. Soon.
• I think the Stars will need big things from Brad Richards, Loui Eriksson, and Joel Lundqvist in this round. They are a “puck control” line, and they looked quite comfortable last night. They may be perfect for playing Detroit. Let’s see.
• Love the energy of the 4th line with Toby Peterson, Brad Winchester, and Steve Ott. Just don’t take penalties, boys. It is a fine line you have to walk.
• Not all was bad yesterday. Reports are that Fabian Brunnstrom has been signed. That is not only good news for Dallas because he is a top 6 forward next year, but also because he is not a Top 6 for Detroit. Trust me, they don’t need any more skilled Swedes. Check out his skills here , and congrats to Les Jackson and Brett Hull on getting this one done.
• One game. Use your mulligan. The definition of a successful trip to Detroit is to get a win. You no longer have wiggle room, but Saturday looms with the potential for a smiling airplane back to Dallas with a big result. I suspect we will see a much better effort from our boys on Saturday. In fact, I have grown to expect it.