This just in ... STARS and Sharks in round 2 ... game 1 is Friday at 9pm (CST)! I really wanted the Avalanche for some good payback ... but the Sharks are the ones that got Dallas going again on the last day of the regular season, so bring them on! The series could go all 7, but I'm going with 6 again, in Dallas!
The Dallas STARS defeated the Anaheim Ducks 4-1 in game 6, winning the series 4-2 and knocking off the defending Stanley Cup Champions. Dallas advances to the 2nd round for the first time since 2003, when the Mighty
Ducks eliminated the heavily favored STARS in an eerily similar manner. There were more overtimes and fewer penalties, but the game decisions were exactly the same. Anaheim won games 1 & 2 in Dallas ... Bill Guerin came back for Dallas in game 3, as did Corey Perry for Anaheim in game 4 ... Dallas won game 3 ... Anaheim won game 4 ... Dallas won game 5 ... and Anaheim finished it off in game 6 ... FREAKY!
The STARS roared back in the 3rd period, scoring 4 unanswered goals. Fittingly, the final period started and ended with more Anaheim penalties ... and Dallas scored on each opportunity
. Up to this point, even though the Ducks had a 1-0 lead, the STARS had played well and it was no doubt their game to lose. During the first power play (in the first 2 minutes of the 3rd), Mike Modano shot the puck from the point. It bounced long off Giguere and straight to Stephane Robidas, who fired the rebound off Giguere's pad and in, for the STARS' first goal of the night. That got the team fired up and most certainly the crowd came to life! Then 52 seconds later, Robi came back on the ice, flew past Schneider on the boards, froze Giguere, and neatly fed the puck to Stu Barnes (who had beaten Perry) for a practical empty-netter and a 2-1 lead. Then the AAC really went nuts and everyone in the building, including the Ducks, BELIEVED
the STARS could win this series tonight!
The next 15 minutes felt like the longest penalty kill I've ever had to watch. Though the Ducks only had 9 shots on goal, they were in the STARS' zone almost the entire time. The clock would not run down fast enough! Then, finally, Dallas did something they have had trouble doing for a very
long time ... they stepped on Anaheim's throat
, stuck in the dagger
, hit them while they were down
... THEY SCORED AGAIN!
This time, as has been the case several times this series, it was the Eriksson-Richards-Lundqvist line. Joel Lundqvist tapped the puck to a hard charging Brad Richards, who looked to be going on a 2-on-1 with Loui Eriksson. Instead, the Anaheim defender went for the hit and Richards made a beautiful saucer pass to Eriksson, who quickly corralled the puck and went in all alone. He had a chance earlier on a similar play and Giguere made the stop ... this time however, Eriksson sealed the deal and gave the STARS a 3-1 lead with 2 minutes to go. Then with the extra attacker already on the ice, Chris Pronger, quite appropriately, made the final play that symbolized the entire series -- he cross-checked Brendan Morrow in plain sight and in open ice while Morrow was already going down ... BRILLIANT! There was no more of a perfect ending to the series than watching Modano score into the empty net while Pronger was in the box!
There are many reasons Anaheim lost this series but it really comes down to this -- they continued to play their
game even though Dallas continued to make them pay for it. Pronger was just the last example, but the whole team played the same. The Ducks fully expected to kill off their needless, over-aggressive penalties ... that style won them the Cup last season. This time around though, the STARS fought back and buried their opportunities. Dallas ended up with 10 power play goals on 38 chances ... that is 26.3%, which leads the playoffs. Anaheim had 5 power play goals, but 2 of them came on 5-on-3's.
The STARS deserved this win ... they were the better team throughout the series. Indeed, many monkeys are finally off the STARS' backs ... they flew back to Southern Cal to live in harmony amongst the Ducks. In order of importance, here are some issues now trending upwards...
(1) Marty Turco
-- he was as cool as a cucumber, even when he was forced to stand on his head! It is well known that Marty is not the typical goalie. He is accessible, not a recluse. He is a jokester, not a jerk. He is fun-loving and down-to-Earth, not stone-faced and callous. Most importantly, he is a leader of this team, on the ice and off it. Marty plays the puck better than any goalie in the league. He halted Anaheim's fore-check numerous times and if not for the pads he wears, he would likely join the rush on a delayed penalty instead of going to the bench! He saw the puck extremely well and his defensemen bailed him out when necessary. Starting last spring against Vancouver, Turco has 4 shutouts in 13 playoff games. He has 2 one-goal efforts and 4 two-goal efforts. That means he has held the opponent to 2 or less goals in 10 out of the last 13 playoff games. UNREAL! No coach or team could ask for anything more ... except for him to do it again, right on through late June!
-- The STARS scored more goals this season than anyone in the Western conference except Detroit. They found their scoring touch and every player is contributing. With Ribeiro, Richards, and Modano down the middle ... and Hagman and Miettinen playing on the 4th line ... every line is dangerous. Being able to shut down one line every night is not exactly a success against this team. Unlike years past, Dallas is actually putting the puck IN
the net. Unlike years past, that has carried over into the post-season. So with Marty playing like he is, that means the team has to score 3 or less goals each in 4 games to win a series. The STARS did just that against Anaheim, outscoring them 20-13. That is an average of 3.33-2.17 goals per game. Like Razor always says, "the team that ends up with 1 extra goal almost always wins!"
(3) Winning at Home
-- I have been a season ticket holder for three years now and before that I bought smaller packages and playoff tickets. Every year since 2003, no matter how good the regular season may have been, the STARS rarely did anything but disappoint me and the home crowd in the playoffs. I have three great memories from home playoff games -- Steve Ott's OT winner against Colorado, last year's 2-0 shutout in game 6 against Vancouver to force a game 7, and ... umm ... okay, I have two great memories from home playoff games! That certainly changed this year. Though Dallas lost game 3, they had a memorable third period, scoring twice and almost finishing off an awesome rally. They came within 8 seconds of a shutout in game 4. Most importantly, when the STARS had their chance to finish off the Ducks in game 6, in front of the home crowd, with all the monkeys hanging on by their fingernails ... they did!
Yes, with one ENORMOUS empty-net goal by the face of the franchise, the Dallas STARS changed their story. Even if it ends in the second round, they have finally cleansed themselves from their failures in years past. They played as a team, matched the physical play, scored often, and Marty was superb! Furthermore, they did this when all the while they were rolling out 3 ROOKIE defensemen ... that is scary awesome! Even better ... Zubov skated with the team in practice this week and is expected to be back for round 2! With that good news and the solid throttling of the Ducks, the STARS have served notice to the remaining teams -- you better bring your A-games, plus a little extra
For the record ... I, for one, happen to BELIEVE
this is only the beginning!
Detroit vs. Dallas -- Dallas in 7
Montreal vs. Pittsburg -- Pittsburg in 7
Dallas wins the Stanley Cup in 6, in Dallas!