Former Stars defenseman Craig Ludwig is a veteran of 17 NHL seasons and has played in 177 career playoff games, winning two Stanley Cups. Each morning after a Stars playoff game, Luds will post here on DallasStars.com to take you inside the game. He will share some of what he is seeing in the match-up that is going right, what is going wrong, and some of the "games inside the game" that will play big roles in the outcome of each contest and eventually the series.
The Stars played great in Game Two and were rewarded with the win. My opinion is that the Stars control this series. The only negative from Game One is that they lost the game (granted, it's a pretty big negative). But they controlled the game from the second half of the game and through the overtime and they carried that right in to Friday's game.
The best way to quiet a crowd, especially in Canada, is to score that first goal. Of course they did it in the first 30 seconds of the game. Dallas had two lines that just dominated the game. Dave Tippett is such a smart coach and he has a good sense of who is really going well in the line-up. It wasn't that guys like Hagman, Miettinen, Ott, Jokinen, and guys like that weren't going. But I believe that as the game went along he knew that the Stars had the game in control and Marty was on his game. Those two lines were doing the job for him and he wasn't about to mess with a good thing. Plus it gave some of the energy guys some rest after that marathon on Wednesday night. Those guys need to have plenty in the tank to do what they need to do on Sunday.
The Stars will want to send a message to Vancouver (Sunday) night and make sure they realize which team is in control of this series. I think you're going to see Hagman, Otter and Miettinen play with a lot of energy because they didn't play a lot on Friday night and the Stars are going to need their effort. Those other two lines and four or five defensemen have spent a lot of time on the ice in the last 48 hours for Dallas. So now Tippett will have some forwards that are pretty fresh and I think that he will take advantage of that. Dallas just needs to have controlled aggression. They can't take any dumb penalties though.
The Stars have made the adjustments necessary against the Sedin line. The defensive coverage was much better for 60 minutes in Game Two. I really think that there was some over-anxious moments in Game One where a player was trying to jump on one of the Sedins quick and they did it without thinking. You want to be aggressive but you have to use controlled aggression. In Game Two, they kept things to the perimeter and they sorted things out better. There was no helter-skelter in Dallas' zone from Vancouver's number one line. Marty was in great position on any scoring chances and he was tracking the puck better. And that includes shots off the net, where he knew where it was when it went by him and he also knew where it was coming back. Marty was on top of his game.
That Sedin line is their team and now Tippett has the luxury of either throwing the Halpern line at them (what I call the United Nations line with representatives from the United States, Canada and Sweden) or Modano, Morrow and Lehtinen (and that was Modano's role when Hitchcock was here -- the shutdown center). So now you have two lines that can defend the Sedin line.
I just feel that Dallas is such control of this series now that this is the Stars' series to lose. I expect the Stars to pick up where they left off and be all over the Canucks on Sunday. And if Dallas gets that first goal, there is even more pressure on those top guys for Vancouver because now they have to go score two goals to win because odds are the other guys are not going to. But it's up to the Stars to make sure those other guys don't. You cannot let up or take a shift off in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It's almost up to Dallas' other two lines to make sure that Vancouver's other forwards don't score. At this point, the way that Dallas played in those two games (other than a couple of misreads in coverage in Game One), their foot is on Vancouver's throat and now they have to simply step down on it. You usually do not say that in a 1-1 series going into Game Three but that's what I see.
Vancouver is frustrated right now and it's only Game Two. Alain Vigneault is trying to figure out a way to give his team some life. All they have to do is won one game and they get home ice back again. That's going to be their mentality for Games Three and Four; they want to steal a game so that the series becomes a best-of-three with two of the games in Vancouver.
I expect Vancouver to try and get traffic in front of Marty so that he cannot see the puck. Both of these goalies will make the save when they can see the puck. Vancouver put up 35 shots on Friday and the Canucks are going to want to get more second opportunities off initial shots.
One thing that the Stars can do to really help them is to get their power play going. And it may be as simple as just throwing it into the crease and crashing the net. Both of Dallas' goals on Friday came from two-feet out on re-direction shots where Luongo had no chance. He's too good to beat him on the first shot if he can see the puck. The Stars need to get in his face and keep doing it. Scoring a goal or two on the power play will help Dallas immensely; this team depends on the power play to score goals.
When you look at the big picture, one thing still stands out: the Stars controlled the game on Friday. Dallas wants that to continue and will keep up the pressure in Game Three.