One team in this Western Conference Semifinal was successful in the franchise's first-ever Game 7 on home ice. The other team shocked hockey fans everywhere by sending the defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks home early.
After failing to wrap up their first-round series with the Flames in Calgary, the No. 2-seeded Sharks found themselves fighting for their lives in the first Game 7 played at HP Pavilion. Joe Thornton set the tone early, and the Sharks avoided what ultimately would have been labeled a disaster with a 5-3 win against Calgary in the decisive contest to advance to the second round for the fourth straight season.
To come out and dominate the way we did for three-quarters of the hockey game shows why we finished the year on such a good pace, why we finished second in the League.- Jeremy Roenick after Game 7 win against Calgary
Why would it have been a disaster? Simple – San Jose lost only two games in regulation following the acquisition of All-Star defenseman Brian Campbell on Feb. 26. The Sharks cruised to a second-place finish in the Western Conference and nearly overtook the Detroit Red Wings for the top seed. A first-round loss in the Stanley Cup Playoffs would have been unacceptable.
Meanwhile, the Stars surprised many by winning the first two games of their first-round best-of-seven series in Anaheim. Dallas took advantage of the defending champions' inability to stay out of the penalty box and won the series in six games.
A postseason series victory was a long time coming for the Stars. Dallas hadn't advanced to the second round since defeating Edmonton in 2003. But after losing Game 5 against Anaheim, the Stars avoided having to play a decisive game in Anaheim by earning a 4-1 win in Game 6 in front of a raucous crowd at the American Airlines Center.
It's very gratifying for a team that's been through a lot. The guys that have been here the last few years have been through a lot. This is the first step in a mission that we all hope will extend for a very long time. What it does is build a belief system in our group that we can do this. … We had a team that we weren't sure how good we were. We talked about being good, but to get the true belief system, you have to do things. I thought from the first game of the series, we were competing hard, blocking shots and doing whatever it took to win.- Dallas coach Dave Tippett
These two teams are incredibly familiar with each other, having played eight times in the regular season. And as expected, the regular-season series was close all the way. Each team won four games, but San Jose took one OT decision and another in a shootout. In the series, San Jose managed 21 goals in the eight games, while Dallas had 24.
San Jose will win if – It uses its size and speed to chip away at Dallas the way it did against the Flames. If Jonathan Cheechoo and Patrick Marleau can continue to contribute on the score sheet, the Stars will have a difficult time keeping up with San Jose's high-powered attack. The Sharks also must establish themselves quickly on home ice – which Anaheim failed to do against the Stars in the first round.
Dallas will win if – The Stars' defense can find a way to keep San Jose's large forwards away from the goal mouth. If Joe Thornton, Ryane Clowe and Marleau are allowed within three feet of the net, Dallas will be in deep trouble. But if the Stars stand their ground – and if Sergei Zubov can get healthy and contribute on special teams – Dallas may pull off another upset.
Game 2: April 27 @ San Jose
9:00 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN
Game 3: April 29 @ Dallas
7:30 p.m. ET, TSN
Game 4: April 30 @ Dallas
9:00 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN (JIP)
Game 5: May 2 @ San Jose *
10:00 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN
GAME 6:May 4 @ Dallas *
9:00 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN
GAME 7:May 6 @ San Jose *
10:00 p.m., TSN
* if necessary
* Dallas won its first playoff series since 2003 by defeating the defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks in six games. The Stars have won just three playoff series since the 2000 Stanley Cup Final.
* Stars center Brad Richards had just one goal and two assists in his final seven regular-season games this season, but had one goal and four assists for five points in the first round.
* Dallas center Mike Modano has totaled at least 10 points in six playoff seasons, but hasn't done so since 2003.
* Sharks center Jeremy Roenick had two goals and two assists in Game 7 against the Calgary Flames while playing just 12:13. Roenick has a plus-5 rating in his last 37 playoff games.
* San Jose right wing Jonathan Cheechoo, whose 23 regular-season goals were the fewest since he scored nine in his rookie season, had three goals in the first round and has scored no fewer than three goals in all four seasons he has played in the playoffs.
Ryane Clowe – The power forward picked up his game in a big way during the opening round against the Flames, tallying eight points (four goals, four assists) in the seven games. Can he do it again? If he does, the Sharks could be on their way to the Western Conference Final.
Stu Barnes – How quickly we forget how scrappy this 37-year-old is. He scored two goals against Ducks, and both of them were game-winners. For whatever reason, Barnes always picks up his offensive game this time of year. He has 30 postseason goals.