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Disciplined game plan has Stars riding high

by Dan Rosen

Stars captain, Brenden Morrow, believes his team is ahead in the series, because they have stuck to their game plan and have not modifying it to match Anaheim's physical play. Morrow highlights
Outside of a minor meltdown bridging the second and third periods of Game 2 Saturday, the Dallas Stars have done exactly what any team needs to do against the Anaheim Ducks in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Play your game, boys. Play your game.

Instead of falling into the trap of playing a physical, in-your-face, over-the-edge brand of hockey that almost assuredly would favor the Ducks, Dallas is up 2-0 in their Western Conference Quarterfinal series with Anaheim heading home because it is focusing on what it does best, instead of letting the Ducks dictate.

"We have played to our strengths and with an edge, but not over the line," Stars captain Brenden Morrow said. "We have played our game plan to a tee so far."
Anaheim, which normally is the more physical team in any game it plays, still leads the series with 70 hits as opposed to Dallas' 50 heading into Game 3 tonight in Dallas. However, the Stars haven't gotten tangled in any fights, and they have four more power-play opportunities as a result of their discipline, especially against the Ducks' aggressive forecheck.

It helps, of course, that the Stars' power play is by far the best in the postseason to date, with six goals in its first 13 chances. They scored four goals with the man-advantage in Game 1, and another two in their six power-play opportunities in Game 2.

Anaheim is just one for its first nine on the power play in the playoffs, including an 0-for-3 stretch from 17:41 of the second period to 4:41 of the third in Game 2, when the Stars uncharacteristically committed back-to-back-to-back penalties.

"We've been moving it around pretty good on the power play," Mike Modano said. "It's been something that has been a real strong part of our team the last two games. It won us (both games). We're doing some real good things on it."
Dallas coach Dave Tippett believes his Stars are up 2-0 in this series for a reason even simpler than just a successful power-play unit.
"It's how together they are," Tippett said. "They're together in everything they do, everything they're talking about and everything that is being said on the bench and in the dressing room. For the most part the results are there because we're together on the ice. The strength of our group is the group. That's what we believe and we'll see if it continues to push us forward."
That togetherness Tippett speaks of is evident when dissecting one of the most unsuspecting trios in the NHL postseason so far. Brad Richards is centering a line with former checking-line center Joel Lundqvist and second-year Swede Loui Eriksson, who appears on his way to reaching the expectations Stars management has for him.

The Richards line has combined for three goals and five assists against the Ducks. All three linemates had a hand in the fourth and fifth goals Sunday to clinch the 5-2 victory. Richards also dealt the puck to Eriksson for a power-play goal in Game 1.

"You always know that when he has the puck, if you get open he can get the pass where you want it," Eriksson said of Richards. "He's fun to play with. I feel good with him. I'm just trying to get open because I know he's a good passer."

With the Richards line providing offense, too, the Ducks can't focus solely on the Morrow-Mike Ribeiro-Jere Lehtinen line, which has produced four goals and seven assists against the Ducks so far.

"We have to play a certain way for us to be successful, whether we're at home or on the road," Tippett said. "That's what I like about our team. We talk about the belief system, and right now the belief system is strong in what we have to win hockey games."

Asked by their local media if they expect the Ducks to make any significant changes in their plan for Game 3, almost to a man the Stars suggested that certainly wouldn't be the case.

"I'm pretty sure they're going to keep up the physical play," Stars defenseman Philippe Boucher said. "They're a physical team and they're going to come after our 'D' again to try to make it hard on us."

Morrow said he is expecting the Ducks' best effort yet, but perhaps Anaheim's enthusiasm to get back into the series could play right into Dallas' hands, as well.

"We expect them to be physical, and we're going to hope they're over that edge and take a few penalties because that holds them back a little bit," Morrow said. "They're not going to change their game. They've had a lot of success the last couple of years of bullying people around and that's the type of game we're going to expect."

Just don't expect the Stars to try to match it. It's not their style.

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