Saturday, May 03, 2008
Ah. Adversity. I thought it was odd that we hadn’t heard from such a familiar force in a while. Where had adversity been? Adversity is what the playoffs are all about. Handle it well, and you emerge on the other side a better team. Don’t handle it well, and it becomes folk lore in your franchise’s history as the year “that should have been”.
The simple fact is this: We all know the Stars were dealt a weak hand last night. I am not sure anyone would dispute that they likely deserved a better fate. But, it did not go down like that – with plenty of blame to fall on the shoulders of the Stars, so what are they going to do about it?
Game 6 is the biggest hockey game that has been played in this city in a very long time. If possible, I would like the game scheduled for right this second, as waiting for Sunday night, 8pm, will be a difficult process for many of us. But, know this, if this team is made of a different fabric of those that preceded it in this decade…and I strongly believe that it is, then they need to unleash all of their fury, determination, and anger on that game. They need to find a level that San Jose can search for, but will not find. I expect the Stars to be playing as if their playoff lives depend on it, because you know something? They might.
Game 5 will be remembered for many things; let’s detail some of the moments from the night that I will best remember for that assumed replay official in the windbreaker who had an ear to ear grin after the 1st Brenden Morrow goal was disallowed.
· Seriously, this is my NHL and all, but I could only cringe last night as the wait for that review went on and on. I was thinking about all the people who have heard about the Stars run here in the playoffs, and decided to check out what the buzz was all about. So, they tune in last night and see that the league still cannot properly review a goal. If the rule states that there must be a distinct kicking motion to be disallowed, and then see that Morrow never looks to his feet but rather looks to the crossbar that is about to hurt, then it would seem obvious to deduce that he was attempting to stop and that the puck hit his skate and deflected in as a matter of chance not intent. Of course, my NHL has always puzzled us with incredibly odd rulings (some to the Stars benefit, by the way) and while I will take to my grave the idea that this league is above reproach when it comes to intentionally biased behavior, I can understand while those who only watch hockey on rare occasions would question the “WWF” nature of that routine last night. And then, after the goal is waved off, the cameras catch “windbreaker man” grinning, and Dallas felt a little shortchanged. All we needed was the guy running in with the steel chair while the ref wasn’t looking.
· Now, here is where I may anger my constituency. I hate to say it, but the referees didn’t lose that game last night. The Stars had every chance to close out the Sharks and the series with a multi-goal lead in the final period. With 15 minutes left on the clock, the Stars are ahead 2-0, and despite any outside forces that may have affected the game to that point, the fact remains that this team only had to kill the game off, and were unable to do it. It may hurt this morning, but hand any team a chance to win a series with a 2 goal lead and 15 minutes to play and every team in the league would love their chances. The Stars, who have been nothing short of money this post-season, have lost the last two 3rd periods. I dare say that they deserved their fates in both Games 4 and 5 because of that. Just like a fighter cites rounds 10-12 as the “Championship Rounds”, the 3rd period is where teams either do or die. The Stars must win another 3rd period in this series to advance.
· I know it is easy to 2nd guess coaching after a loss, and in this space we are huge believers in Dave Tippett’s decision making, however, I didn’t particularly care for the idea of playing Brad Richards only 15 minutes last night. Nor, did I like breaking up the lines – I understand that Stu Barnes being hurt affects many aspects of the team, but when 21-91-39 have been so solid in these playoffs, I would have hung in with them. Meanwhile, I assumed that 15-9-29 was a solid way to replace Barnes, but Tippett disagreed. The lines last night were radically different than they have been, and they tried to get plenty of work from the 4th line. I think in Game 6, Tippett should consider returning to riding his horses. That means that one of the rotation of 63, 91, and 9 needs to be on the ice at all times in equal strength. Richards needs 20+ minutes to put his stamp on the game, and with all due respect from the support staff on the 4th line, I want to rely on my strength in the biggest game of the year.
· Close calls would have made the night different in each direction. Both teams had crossbars hit, odd man rushes were not converted, and major saves from both of the goaltenders. This series has been competitive and close, and one team is really going be disgusted about losing this thing.
· While we question officiating, is there a rule that allows Christian Ehrhoff to cross check Morrow in the back because he decided to cut to the net in the final minute of regulation? I swear that is a minor penalty, but it appeared that the officials were unaware of the cross-checking rule.
· Have I mentioned that Morrow is the perfect captain? Just making sure I have pounded that point home. As you read this, know that somewhere he is plotting his Sunday evening.
· I certainly appreciate Versus for what they do in televising more hockey than ESPN ever dreamed of. However, a few complaints (man, I am complaining a lot in this column – sorry, it just feels right this morning): Please try to learn how to say Jere Lehtinen’s name – he is not a rookie. Also, Please do something about the exclusive broadcasts so that more people may enjoy the spectacle of Game 5. Oh, and as a Directv customer, I know that our system did not have the game in HD last night. Let’s not let that happen again, please. And, next time you have a Dallas game, maybe just pipe in the Ralph and Razor feed. Cool?
· I would not have scratched Mark Fistric last night. I know you have to scratch someone, but he has been too solid for me to sit.
· 18,532? Don’t fail us now. Leave no voice in your throat. The boys need a little help.
· In a series like this, the only “must win” games are when your team has already lost 3. So, by that definition, Sunday is not a “must win” game. Fine. However, I would like to classify it as “for Pete’s Sake, please save us all a lot of stress and discomfort by winning this game” Game. Game 7’s are great and all, but let’s do this in six.