3 hours to go ... anybody else feeling that nervous energy?!?!
There is no better way to sit down at the poker table than to be given chips on the house! There is a freedom that accompanies playing with free money ... no risk to your own bank account allows for uninhibited aggression and generally (for good players) leads to a better overall game. This is the situation the Dallas STARS find themselves in today as they prepare to face the highly talented and mostly favored Detroit Red Wings ... which is why I hope Detroit and the rest of the hockey world will continue to underestimate them! That is also the very reason Detroit better hope they do not take the STARS lightly ... or this series will most assuredly turn into a monster upset. Dallas was not supposed to beat the defending champion Anaheim Ducks and they definitely were not supposed to get by the more talented San Jose Sharks. Yet the less-skilled, undermanned, and unfavored STARS found a way to give a total team effort and oust their Pacific Division rivals in consecutive series!
Dallas scored more goals in the regular season than anybody else in the Western Conference except Detroit (257-242). Though the number of games played is different, the STARS have carried that over to the playoffs ... scoring 35 goals to Detroit's 38. However, the goals-against stat favors Dallas ... with the STARS giving up only 24 goals in two extra games (or three if you count the 4OT game), compared to the Red Wings' 21 goals in 10 games. Overall, both teams are evenly matched ... offense, defense, special teams, and goaltending ... each team can hold its own. Unless Marty and Brendan can continue to carry the STARS on their backs (and I believe they can and will), the outcome of the series will come down to one thing - 'can Dallas, as a team, find a way to contain Detroit's all-world talent?' If they can, everything else will fall into place and Dallas will win the series.
"C" = Captain, Cup, and Conn Smythe = Brendan Morrow!
So far he has racked up 7 goals, 4 assists, 11 points, +3 rating, 16 pim, 2 game-winning goals (both in OT), 4 pp goals, and 35 shots on goal. His 23.5 minutes/game is third on the team and leads STARS' forwards by 1.5 minutes/game. That total trails only Joe Thornton and Alexander Ovechkin league-wide. Last but not least, Brendan has totaled 66 hits, which leads the league ... yes, that is correct - SIXTY-SIX! Along with his overtime, game-winning, power play goal in game 6 ... he had an incredible 19 hits, including one that knocked the Sharks' leading scorer (Michalek) out of the game! No doubt the hero of the epic battle! Other words that start with "C" - courageous, cool, calm, complete, complement (to supply what is lacking - how appropriate!), consummate, crashing, carry-out, comprehensive, classy, critical, and clutch.
Money = Marty Turco
Starting with last season's 3 shutouts and solid play, Marty has been brilliant again so far this postseason. His record is 8-4 with a 1.73 goals against and .929 save percentage. That includes one shutout and 10 seconds away from a second. Though Osgood's numbers are slightly better, Marty has played twice as many games. That fact alone tells the story. He has been money ... cool as a cucumber, even when he has been forced to stand on his head. Look no further than his 61 saves in game 6, including mammoth overtime saves on Marleau and Thornton. As Razor likes to say, "Larceny ... that was Turcolicious!"
The STARS have earned their way to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2000. By anyone's standards, this feat in itself qualifies as a successful season. For the fans, including myself, just getting out of the first round was nice ... much less advancing past the second round and possibly further! Anything else is icing on the cake or, playing with house money! The STARS have nothing to lose ... they have erased playoff demons of the past several years and defied the experts' odds! Beginning tonight, they can go all-out, without reservation and with reckless abandon! The STARS must continue to be the aggressor ... the best defense is a great offense. If Ribeiro-Morrow-Lehtinen continue to spend every shift in the opposing zone, that means the Red Wings will have less scoring opportunities. Same thing goes for the other lines. When Detroit does get its chances (and they will), the defense has to continue to be solid and Marty must make up for any mistakes. This STARS' team trusts in each other and fully believes they have a legitimate chance to make an even deeper run. Marty has been unbelievable, Brendan has led as the Captain, the veterans are stepping up, and the role players have become vital components ... all of this describes the look of a Stanley Cup Champion team! Anything is possible ... do not be too quick to hop on the band wagon and count the little STARS out too soon!
I picked my STARS to beat Anaheim in 6 ... they got it done and at home!
I picked them to beat San Jose in 6 ... they once again got it done and at home (though it was technically a little over 7 games!)
Before the playoffs I picked the STARS over Detroit in 7 ... however, I have decided to change my pick and go for the gusto with maybe the gutsiest prediction of all-time ... I am once again going to pick the Dallas STARS in 6 games, winning at home!