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.
I said it after Game One and it proved itself once again -- if you continue to chase a game or a series, it will bite you in the end. And so it was for the Dallas Stars in both Game Seven and in the series with the Canucks. The Stars never led in this playoff series and found that climbing back out of a 3-to-1 games hole was not in the cards. There's a reason that only 20 teams out of 208 have come back from that kind of deficit. It's not easy. Kudos to the team for not giving up and pushing Vancouver to the limit when they could have folded up their tents and gone home.
A lot of people have opinions about the referees and some of the questionable calls made in the second and third period. Penalties are called when you're chasing your opponent in your own zone. The team that has the puck has the advantage and will get calls; that's today's NHL. If the Stars had the puck on their stick, the calls go the other way. It was somewhat of a reversal of what was going on in the series, as Dallas seemed to control the games over the last few contests and then all of a sudden, Vancouver got momentum in the second period of Game Seven and they had the upper hand.
I will say that it is a shame that sometime it looks like referees have to "make their mark" on a game or a series with some of the calls they make, especially late in games. When a game is over, you don't want it to be about the referees. You want it decided by the teams on the ice. But when you chase the game and chase the plays, like the Stars did in the second half of Game Seven, those things are going to happen.
You have to give the Vancouver fans credit for some of that. This is what the Canucks played for all year, was to get that home ice advantage and play an all-important Game Seven in their own building in front of their fans. And their fans were great, they were loud and gave them energy when they needed it most. Full credit to the fans there, because I think they played a huge role in Game Seven when the momentum turned.
The Stars seemed to have the upper hand, especially when Lundqvist scored and quieted the crowd with his blast. But all it took was one shot by Henrik Sedin and the crowd was back again, and the Canucks rode that momentum wave into the third where they ended up getting the game-winner. They came though with the timely plays.
The goalies, as we've said before, really lived up to all the hype. It's really a shame that one of them had to lose. If the Stars had won Game Seven, I think a lot of people would have felt sorry for Luongo because both he and Turco played so well. Marty Turco played very well in this series and it was a big step for him. Hopefully he developed enough confidence and has erased a lot of the doubt that he can be a good playoff player. He deserved a better fate, that's for sure.
I really thought, at the start of the year, that the Stars were going to be a good playoff team. I liked the personnel, and a lot of that is assuming that you're 100% healthy. Losing Zubie like that really hurt (and it sounds like he might not have been able to go for some time). I thought Eric Lindros was very good, as good as he possibly could be from the injury that he had. He was noticeable last night.
Other than Turco, one guy really stood out for me in this series, and that was Brenden Morrow.
There really was never any doubt about Brenden Morrow as a leader but what we saw in this series was Morrow maturing as a captain. The little things that he says in the paper, and they might only be one line, but he chose his spots and made an impact. He didn't name names but he got his message across. Morrow called a couple of guys out in his own way and that's what you expect from your captain. I think he's going to get better and better over the years. What he does is he holds himself accountable every night and he's beginning to hold other people accountable. Brenden backed up his words with his play and that spoke volumes. This is becoming his team.
Losing in the first round is another tough pill to swallow. Doug Armstrong has some decisions to make on many levels and he'll certainly take his time in looking to make the right ones. Four very good teams were eliminated in the West, as this conference was very strong this season. That's the new NHL.
Enjoy the remainder of the playoffs. It should be quite a battle and fun to watch. I'm calling Anaheim and Buffalo to meet in the finals and probably go seven games.