Sunday, May 11, 2008

Game 2: Detroit 2, Dallas 1 (Det 2-0)

Game 2 can be titled, “Better, but not enough”. The Dallas Stars brought more effort, energy, and executed about as well as they could, but in the end, they now fully realize what they are up against. A Detroit team that is awesome is playing at a very high level. And while we all know the suggestion that a “Best of 7 series doesn’t begin until the road team wins a game”, the fact is simply this: If the Stars don’t win Game 3 back in Dallas, not only will this series begin, but it will also end in the blink of an eye.

The thin line of win or lose in the playoffs often depends on a bounce here, or a turnover there. But, the Stars momentum, which was clearly helping them roll down the hill, is now in hiding. They have lost 4 of their last 5 playoff games, and have scored 2 goals in regulation only ONCE in the last 6 games.

They have reached a crisis point, where valuable soldiers are getting hurt, and those who are able are trying to march on.

Game 2 was very close, but I also had a distinct feeling that Detroit was never made uncomfortable. That isn’t to say that the Stars cannot compete with them, but in their business trip to Detroit, they returned empty-handed, and at no point did the Red Wings feel fear. The Wings held control for nearly all 120 minutes of hockey in this series so far, and while some would suggest they merely “held serve”, most neutral observers would likely say they have grabbed the series by the throat.

Do our boys have another gear? Many are suggesting that the first two rounds took too much of a toll, and that the opponent in the Conference Finals has too much.
I am not so sure. I want to allow the Stars every opportunity to measure up. I want to hang in there long enough to see the 20 in Black figure out a way out of this mess. But, make no mistake, time is running out. The math is starting to build up, and now, having lost the first two games, the Stars face the most daunting task of trying to beat Detroit in 4 of the next 5 games, or summer is here.

They can only win one game on Monday night, but the desperation and urgency on display in Game 3 will tell us if they have another heroic stand left in the tank, or if we have already seen the best they have to offer in the 2008 playoffs. And while it is better, it may not be nearly enough to derail Detroit.

Notes from game 2:

• When you get chances, boys, you must take better advantage. The final shot totals are slanted heavily in the Detroit favor, and they earn it. But, when you get golden chances in the first 5 minutes: Loui Eriksson in the slot with a chance that he shoots wide by two feet from two feet away, Toby Peterson with a gorgeous pass right in front that he whiffs, and a 4-1 that Steve Ott shoots 2 feet wide from 2 feet away, you must at least make the goaltender move. I know Detroit is great, but the only explanation for all these 3 squandered chances must be players squeezing their sticks too tight. The Detroit mystique was something Brett Hull admitted was a key as the series began. The Stars had to treat them as an opponent, not as the greatest team ever assembled. There is no doubt Detroit is off the highest quality, but don’t lose to them because you freaked yourself out. Those 3 gorgeous scoring chances have to at least require saves from Chris Osgood. Add in Sergei Zubov’s wonderful chance that went wide later in that 1st period, and Hagman’s semi-breakaway in the final minute that also missed the net, the Stars had as many or more chances as Detroit, and went to the room behind and frustrated.

• The Stars power play looks better, and the conversion by Stephane Robidas is a nice start. But, for this series to turn, the Stars are going to need to convert with regularity. But the chances are there, and the set-up is happening. This is the fine line that the coaches consider every day. Is the only basis for power play execution scoring? Or can you draw positives from steady improvement that may help you later in the series?

• Zetterberg or Datsyuk? I prefer the Swede, but to have them on the same line has to be against some league rule. Or maybe it just should be.

• Mike Ribeiro could have had a hat trick yesterday. Lots of good chances. Of course, that and $4.35 will get you a Venti White Chocolate Mocha. Chances must be converted or seasons end.

• I was happy to see Matt Niskanen account of himself well when he was put back into the lineup. The Stars are going to be forever pleased with the experience the young defensemen have gained.

• How tough is it to play in the NHL? Let’s count the concussions. Johan Franzen. Stu Barnes. Now, Jere Lehtinen, it would appear (I realize that the injury has been suggested to be a leg injury, and it could be, but playing doctor on my couch, I detected the strong possibility of a concussion after that collision with Brenden). And who knows how many other concussions we haven’t heard about. If you think the Stars need to dig deeper and fight a bit harder, then you are going to need Barnes and Lehtinen, two of the most likely to dig deeper and fight harder for every inch. Speedy recoveries are needed badly. Trouble is, nothing lingers like a concussion.

• Darren Helm’s goal after the 4-1 chance for the Stars was particularly deflating. I believe Turco would have liked to have taken a better angle. There haven’t been many errors in Turco’s postseason, but I have to think he didn’t mean to give up that much daylight on the post.

• Faceoffs in Game 2 were 39-16, and 35-21 in Game 1 in favor of the Wings. Fillpula, Draper, and Zetterberg are destroying Modano, Ribeiro, and Richards to the tune of 74-37. When I was just a lad, I was told that the faceoff turns into possession. Possession turns into chances. Chances turn into goals. And goals turn into wins. So, it may just be a faceoff, but to those that play the game, it is obvious that dominating in the circle leads to dominating in the game. I heard proud grandfather Guy Charbonneau is in town to witness the birth of the Morrow twins. Any chance he can take some face-offs while he is here?

• Well, let’s get to Ribeiro v Osgood. Honestly, this is the type of thing we all remember years later. Who will forget Belfour v. LaPointe? In this case, as so many before it, both acted at a level below choir-boy, and at first blush it sure looked like Ribeiro acted as a maniac and should have been locked up. After further review, you see that St Osgood not only slid a butt-end into Ribeiro’s chin with the game over, but then the finest impression of Greg Louganis I had seen in some time. Honestly, the fault depends on whose ox is being gored, and I suspect those in Detroit think Ribeiro should have a life-time ban, and those in Dallas think it was boys being boys and let’s play on Monday. In an unrelated note, I am writing this column today from Dallas, Texas. I expect to see #63 in Black on Monday.

• Mike Tyson once said that everyone has a plan until you hit them in the face. Detroit is really good, but, let’s not forget that they have had many issues of their own in the playoffs over the recent years. See, in my estimation, they are so good, that they rarely find themselves in tough spots. Often, they win by merely being themselves and overwhelming the opponent. But, if you can put them in jams, they sometimes are not quite sure how to get out, and that is how they have been bounced in several playoffs in a row. It is easier said than done, but the Stars need to execute the “punch in the face” technique, and in these two home games, figure out how to place some adversity in Detroit’s dressing room. If you can, the series turns. If you don’t, the series is over in a few days.


bill said...

In the 2007 and 2008 playoffs, the Red Wings have been at 2-2 in the series every time with the exception of their last series with Colorado.

I think that should give us all hope that they aren't unbeatable.

I think if games 3 and 4 at home are played like game 2, there's a good chance that the series turns into a best of 3. At that point, then we can revisit Turco's winless streak at the Joe, but do so with much momentum.

Can't wait to hear the crowd taunt Osgood -- it should happen early and often.

Turco's Better.

Brad said...

Nice post Bob. As a relocated Detroiter, I was very curious what your take on the game would be - and on the Osgood-Ribero stuff at the end. You approached from a game standpoint - the Stars missed their early opportunities, then got killed on face-offs and time of possession - not a recipe for a W. I expect to see a desperate Stars team on Monday night, but, they will not take dumb penalties either. They can't if they hope to have a chance at winning.

As for Osgood/Ribero - at first look, you couldn't see Osgood's move, and Ribero looked nuts, as you said. Upon review, Osgood took his shot and deserved retribution - not sure a 2 hander into the chest, but, whatever it takes. If the tables had been turned - and it was Turco who jabbed then received the chop - Dallas fans would be feeling the exact same as Detroit fans.
I agree with you, Ribero and Osgood will both be on the ice monday - and I don't expect much to come from it - unless the game gets out of hand. If it's close, no one wants to be responsible for the dumb penalty that costs the game.
I know you hate the Wings, but, you are definitely fair in talking about this series. Enjoy the rest of it and see you at the AAC.

Jay said...

2-0 down to the Red Wings is series over. You're chasing the series the whole way after that. It was a nice run, the Stars are just getting beat by a better team. I think we'll all feel pretty decent ab things this off-season.

A Silence Production said...

Rangers W 6-4
Stars L 1-2

I hate the Red Wings, they are like team Iceland in the Mighty Ducks movie.

Down with the evil empire. I expect Morrow to have something to say about it. He is the best Captain a town could ask for.

Also, I didn't realize Ginobli goaltended for the Wings, who knew.

CMAC said...

Ribero WILL be suspended. There is no doubt about it. The NHL will take no chances on messing up the Detroit and Pitt final it wants so badly. By taking Ribero out, Dallas has a less likely chance of defending its home ice.

My opinion, a suspension is deserved...for both Ribero and Osgood. Osgood could have taken Ribero's eye out or smashed his cheeks or jaw. Although he tried to act like he was move away, that stick was intentionally moved up and right into Ribero. Then that FLOP? That's reason enough to suspend him. But, it won't happen. I will boycott the NHL final..of course, I'd have to find it on one of those goofy cable channels before I can boycott it!

Oh, and by the way, Detroit is just too good for Dallas regardless of whether Ribero plays or not!

bill said...

I love you guys who are ready to concede the series. Guess we shouldn't play any more of these games, eh?

Did Golden State think that? Hell, Atlanta took the Celtics to game 7. I know those are basketball examples, but you have to play the games.

As someone we know is famous for saying, "...the first team to four, doesn't matter how you get there." Let's not be disillusioned just because there is some adversity here.

Josh said...

Stars are still very much alive. So they didn't get the split they were hoping for. No matter, just defend the home ice and go back to Detroit with a 2-2 series. Sound difficult? Nashville did it to the Wings in Round 1. I realize that Hasek was in net as the time and that the Preds eventually lost the series, but an 0-2 deficit does not necessarily mean a done deal.

As far as the Ribeiro/Osgood ordeal, because both should and NEED to be on the ice in Game 3 for this series to be decided on the ice and not in the league office.

In the end, Dallas needs to get more shots on goal. In the first two series, Dallas put pressure on Giguere and Nabokov by forcing them to make saves. Osgood only faced 18 shots last night. That has to pick up for Dallas to get back into things.

Game 3 should be exciting. Any guesses which player on either team gets tossed first?

- Josh

love johnson said...

Was what Ozzie did any worse than Turco tripping someone skaking backwards? And that wasn't called.

As for the Wings not having any adversity, the Stars fans would not have been aware of all the injuries they had during Feb, when they couldn't win a game. Babcock, Holland and most of the guys have said that that strech of games was what they needed. They were dominating the league to the point that they were on cruise control, and playing all the younger guys and having to fight through that made them the team they are now.

These are not the Wings of 05 and 06.

bill said...

Um...yeah, what Osgood did was worse. At that point in the game (which was over), it was uncalled for.

Its a moot point now, both guys fined, so let's move on.

Not sure about the point of the Stars not being aware of Detroit's injuries in February. I can't recall how bad they were, but I certainly recall the Stars not having Zubov, Boucher, and Lehtinen for extended periods of time. And in the playoffs, Boucher, Zubov, Barnes, and perhaps Lehtinen again. Not whining, just saying that it goes both ways.

Lance said...

You same people were saying that the Spurs were dead against the Hornets too, and now that series is tied up 2-2. The Stars can do this, they just have to get back to where they were early in the San Jose series. Like Bob said, the offense has struggled mightily now for the last 5 or 6 games, and that has to end starting in Game 3.

JD said...

"I heard proud grandfather Guy Charbonneau is in town to witness the birth of the Morrow twins. Any chance he can take some face-offs while he is here?"

Hilarious post. Carbonneau was legendary in the circle. I can remember a line from Modano years ago about how Guy helped him improve in that area so much. The players know how key each draw is and it's a let down to leave the circle w/o possession.

C'mon Guy - suit up for old time's ssake. We need ya.