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Ludwig: Get Right Back at It

by Staff Writer / Dallas Stars
By Craig Ludwig

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 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.

Shore Up the Little Things and Get Right Back at It

It's tough to lose a game like that one last night but there's nothing the team can do about it now. It's too bad because I thought we controlled most of the game. I think the Stars played well.

Mistakes can get magnified and I think that's why the Stars lost -- a couple of defensive breakdowns. From the Stars' standpoint, for a team that is so good defensively, the main problem was their coverage. For example, Vancouver's first goal (by Daniel Sedin) had two Stars going over to Sedin behind the net, which causes him to put it out in front. It hits Sydor in the skates and goes in. A coverage breakdown caused that.

It wasn't by accident that Dallas was in contention for the Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed. A big part of that is their excellent positioning in coverage in their own zone. Our goalies will be the first ones to tell you that our players and the way they play defense is a big reason why we were in that race. It's a big reason why the team kept itself in games with all of the injuries was its defensive coverage.

For a playoff game to have those types of coverage breakdowns the ones  where you get two guys or three guys focused on one player it is magnified at this time of year and you simply cannot have it. I thought it was very uncharacteristic of this team to have the breakdowns that they did. It seemed like when we made any mistake in coverage, they scored. We did not play like that in the regular season.

Marty was screened on the Canucks' second goal. The third one was a goal that Marty's going to wish he had back. You really need to make that stop. Naslund is a good player, but that's the type of situation where you need your goalie to step up. That was the goal I could see last night that I would be critical of Marty.

A couple of mistakes happened on the fourth Van goal. Boucher is behind the net with a guy and Mo comes in to help. Lehtinen then has to come down to support and the puck makes it to the point where it is shot. Now, Marty has to track the puck and he didn't do it. A coverage mistake and Marty not tracking the puck led to the goal. But then in the second overtime, there was as similar bounce off the glass that went right back over the net. Marty tracked the puck and simply caught it in his glove. Marty needs to be more aware of possible danger on plays that look harmless.

In the fourth overtime everybody is tired and fatigued, so hard to criticize a mistake there, but when Ohlund gets the puck in the corner, three guys are focused on Ohlund. Henrik Sedin circles around, nice pass, bang it's over.Should Marty have made that save? I think he could have but I think it was more coverage than the goalie.

Everyone is talking about how this was Roberto Luongo's first playoff game last night. Well, you know what, he's played three games now. He's going to get more comfortable in the playoff atmosphere as this series goes along. If there were any butterflies, they're gone. Luongo not only got his feet wet, he got his knees wet, his jock wet, his arms wet. He was thrown into the ocean last night. I expect him to get stronger and I also expect Marty to get stronger. I don't know if the Canucks, as a team, is going to get any better, to be honest. I think that Dallas is a better team.

If you're going to beat one guy between the pipes, we need more guys like Brenden Morrow. We need guys who are going to go to that two-foot area right in front of his net and get the hacked and whacked and pay the price so that Luongo cannot see the puck all the time. He's good enough to make a lot of those saves too, but the key is limiting his vision.

I think this series, for the Stars, is going to be all about traffic in front of the net. If you look at a couple of goals that the Stars scored, it was because Luongo couldn't see the puck. Daley's goal that tied it at 2-2 is a perfect example.

Nagy's goal in the third was a soft goal. Luongo is not going to let those in as the series goes along. I don't think you should expect to see many more of those. There's a reason that the Vancouver Canucks won 49 games this year and it's standing between the pipes.

But both goalies were about even last night. Luongo let in a soft goal, Marty let in a soft goal. Luongo was scored on a screen, Marty was scored on a screen. Both made some great stops too.

I loved Nik Hagman last night. I thought he was great. He was flying and going to the net; he's like a kamikaze pilot. When we had to play against Hasek, our whole mentality was to get him off his game, bump into him, fall into him. I really like the way that Hagman plays. I thought Miettinen played well. Modano had some flashes last night. Brenden does a lot more than score goals and he's good at doing his job.

Our best players have to be our best players because I think we have more good players than they do. The Sedin line is a priority because they are their bread and butter. I don't think they have anyone else on their team that can beat us, other than Naslund. All of their eggs are really in one basket. It's a little more difficult to get your match-ups on the road, but Dallas has several lines that play good defense. Whether its Jeff Halpern or Mike Modano on the ice, they should be able to handle that group and simply do a better job in coverage when they are out there.

I didn't notice Mike Ribeiro last night and I think credit for that goes to the Canucks, for they tried to jump on him when he got the puck to make him move it. He has great vision and is so patient, and Vancouver didn't want him to have time and space.

I still believe that if they can shut down the Sedin line and Marty plays well, the Stars should win this series. If more guys play like Brenden or Hagman, we have a chance to score more goals.

It's a whole lot easier to regroup after a long game like that when you win it. It seems like your adrenaline comes back, your legs aren't as tired, and you don't feel as mentally fatigued. I think I read somewhere that Trevor Linden said that they would have been devastated if that had not won that game. He was being politically correct; they didn't deserve to win that game.

Last night was exactly what I thought this series might be some nights, but I was figuring the score would be 1-1, not 4-4. I think this thing will go seven games and be really tight the whole way.

As tired as the guys are, they need to pour everything into Friday night's game. You can't worry about Game Three or anything else right now.

The good news is that our guys have to know that they deserved to win that game last night and that's got to give them confidence for Game Two. I honestly don't think there's a lot that we need to change. We played a pretty good game but a few lapses in coverage cost us. Clean that up, get some more traffic in front of Luongo, and we're probably coming back to Dallas tied, 1-1.


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