So is the challenge facing your Dallas Stars. Not just the Anaheim Ducks, who are certainly a most formidable opponent in and of themselves, but the entire post-Bob Gainey, post-Ken Hitchcock era is facing the larger opponent: Their legacy.
|Bob Sturm |
I realize that these 20 Dallas Stars have to focus on the Ducks, but to those of us who go to the games regularly, never miss a game on television, and spend many of our idle hours thinking of ways to get the Stars another Stanley Cup, this series is more than just the first round of the 2008 NHL Playoffs. This is a chance to prove that they are not the team that fell in the first round in 2004, 2006, and 2007. Another chance to prove that this is not the team that cries “uncle” first in the post season. Another chance for our boys to bear down and figure out a way to get on the proper side of a post-series handshake.
Will they take it? Will they seize the day? I really hope so. I am not sure I can take another playoff “1 and done”. These guys work too hard all season long to hit another thud right out of the gate in the playoffs.
But, because of the tailspin of March that knocked the Stars down the standings, they face the prospect of opening on the road against the defending Stanley Cup Champions. The Ducks are certainly a strong favorite to win this series, and to even make another bid to win the Cup again – being the first repeat Cup winner in a decade.
Good thing for the Stars, though, is that this series is not a trial. If it was, the evidence would not treat them well.
While the Stars face the daunting prospect of rolling out a blue-line that is still in playoff-diapers, the Ducks have some of the most playoff-tested and highly-decorated defensemen in the sport today.
128. That is the number of games the entire 6 Stars Defensemen who will take the ice in Game 1 will have under their belts in their careers. Interesting to note, that is also the number of playoff games (128) that Chris Pronger has played in himself. Of course, Scott Niedermayer has played in an absurd 183 playoff games! Mathieu Schneider has played in 103, and Sean O’Donnell has played in 81. It would sure be nice to get Sergei Zubov’s 153 playoff skins back in the lineup, but I am pretty sure that is not a realistic possibility for a few weeks.
So, defensemen who are green will have to be propped up by a playoff Goaltender. Unfortunately, the evidence also demonstrates that the Ducks Goalie in the playoffs, the famous J.S. Giguere, has far more on his playoff slate than Marty Turco.
Look at these shocking numbers:
Giguere: 45 games, 31-13, 1.96 GAA, 92.9% Save percentage
Turco: 29 Games, 11-18, 2.21 GAA, 90.9% Save percentage
To make matters worse, in playoff games that go to overtime, Turco is 2-8 and JSG is 12-1. Yikes.
The evidence continues to show that the Stars goalie is pretty good; especially his job in Vancouver last year with 3 shutouts, and a monstrous effort, but the Ducks goalie is better. He has been the man between the pipes in 11 series, and has won 9! Turco, 1-4.
How about playoff scoring? In Mike Modano’s playoff games since 2003, he has 3 goals. That is one more goal than Mike Ribeiro
has scored in his 24 career playoff games. Brendan Morrow has 3 playoff goals since 2003, which happens to be the exact number of goals scored by Jere Lehtinen in those 17 playoff games, too. The Stars averaged 1.4 goals per 60 minutes in last year’s playoffs. They must put the puck in the net far more than the 12 times they scored last year in 7 games that were loaded with overtimes. The Ducks won the cup last year by averaging 2.6 goals per 60 minutes in their run. That is the type of number you will need. Add Ribeiro, Modano, Morrow, and Lehtinen’s total goals since 2003 and you get the number 11. Eleven happens to be the number of goals Teemu Selanne has scored in the last two playoffs.
This mountain of evidence would not help the Stars win a trial. But they are not in a trial. They are in a series. A series where one big goal can turn the momentum. One big save or one big puck battle can get the Stars to shake this bad feeling around these parts. Heck, one goal off a defender’s skate. Don’t you remember the days when playoff hockey meant 2 months of exhilaration? Now, it has become less than 2 weeks. This has to change.
I believe the Stars can do this. Yes, I am going against 800 words of evidence. But, I honestly believe that we should not hold Brad Richards accountable for what Pierre Turgeon could not accomplish. All of those numbers are interesting and troubling, but they don’t matter.
The Stars have 2 weeks to change their legacy. If they advance, I believe anything else they accomplish this year will be with casino money. This is a series that can change plenty around here. In this bandwagon city, many are skeptical about whether these 20 guys are worth their discretional entertainment dollars.
But, let’s look forward to the boys taking a courageous, William Wallace-like stand. This city needs a playoff success story, and it might as well be the Stars.
Good Luck, boys. We are all counting on you.
Visit Bob’s Blog at http://www.sturminator.blogspot.com