Skip to main content

Stars' depth among storylines in first week of playoffs

by Kevin Weekes

We're barely a week in, but multiple storylines have developed in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

You can start with the Dallas Stars. They did a great job of defending their home ice against the Anaheim Ducks. They won those two tough games in their own building, and their stars continue to be stars for them. Jamie Benn started the comeback in Game 4. Who wins a neutral-zone faceoff to himself and scores an unassisted goal? Jamie Benn did, and it was super-impressive to me.

In the bigger context, it was all about the support in Game 4. Cody Eakin scored a huge goal for Dallas, Jordie Benn had an assist, Shawn Horcoff had an assist, and Vernon Fiddler scored a big goal. As great as Dallas' stars have been, the depth guys really stepped up in Game 4 to complement Benn and Tyler Seguin, who have been carrying the Stars all season long.

I'll say this until I get blue in the face: Smart teams and smart coaches value every player on their roster. It might not appeal to you in Game 22 of the regular season, but once you get into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, you can't win without a full roster.

Depth was a big part of Game 4 between Dallas and Anaheim, but it's impossible not to mention the Ducks' goaltending situation after Frederik Andersen was pulled in favor of Jonas Hiller. Regardless of who starts Game 5 for Anaheim, the great thing for them is that they have options. As far as I'm concerned, I think Andersen definitely should have stopped that Fiddler goal. The Benn one was questionable. That being said, I'm not sure Hiller gets the start in Game 5. Hiller wasn't even going to dress, but their American Hockey League affiliate in Norfolk made the playoffs and they felt that John Gibson's development would be better-served playing in the AHL playoffs than being a backup in the NHL.

I wouldn't be surprised if they started Gibson in Game 5. It's not out of the question. As bold of a move as it would be, they know he can handle it and they fully believe in him. It would shock the world if they went that way, but I wouldn't be shocked. That being said, I think Andersen is a really good goalie, and he's had a really good year. I'm not down on Andersen at all.

Of course, we can't talk about goaltending questions without mentioning Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Fleury for the most part played very well in Game 4 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. He made 42 saves, so it's not like he can't stop anything. He was heavily criticized for trying to play the puck on a dump-in that led to Brandon Dubinsky's late tying goal for Columbus. Ryan Johansen was already on the far-side post when Fleury came out, so he was already pressured and couldn't have made a play even if he got to the puck. They just swarmed him. We know that it was a bad bounce, but there was no upside to him coming out at that time.

As far as Nick Foligno's game-winner, that's a shot that Fleury just has to stop. What makes it even more amazing is that Foligno called his winning goal before the overtime started. Still, Fleury has to take accountability for that goal and see the glass as half-full and see how he made some big saves, especially in the second period, when Columbus dominated and outshot Pittsburgh 18-6. There are positives for him to take away from that game, but he's got to come out for Game 5 on fire right from the start.

While we're talking about Columbus, we need to mention Dubinsky. There are not a lot of players who are going to relish the opportunity to play against Sidney Crosby in a seven-game series. A lot of guys would get weak-kneed just thinking about it. Dubinsky has not only relished that opportunity, but he has thrived. He's outplaying Sid right now. That's not an overstatement; he is outplaying Sidney Crosby.

There's usually one hot goaltender who emerges during the playoffs and steals games for his team. That hasn't happened yet this year, but Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins has been excellent. He doesn't have to steal games because his team is so good. In terms of playing on that level, Tuukka is playing like Tuukka. Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers was great in Game 3 against the Philadelphia Flyers. There have been some great performances, but no one goalie has emerged quite like Jonathan Quick did with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012.

All of this, and we're still barely more than a week into the postseason. I can't wait to see how these great storylines play out.

View More

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.