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Sturm: Sweet Victory

by Bob Sturm / Dallas Stars

18,532 Proud Parents looked down on the rink Sunday Night in Dallas and roared their approval as the Stars sent the Ducks to April Tee Times.  Those who were lucky enough to be in the building or watching on television were able to witness something special from the Stars franchise.   They put out the most determined effort that this city has seen since Reunion Arena rocked many years ago.  Those teams had a fighting quality that would not be denied, and this one showed the defending Stanley Cup Champions that despite an insane number of direct hits, the Stars would get up, skate away, and often, hit back. 

Bob Sturm
The story of this series will be written many different ways, but just consider a few things here:

-- In the 4 wins for Dallas, the Stars outscored the Ducks, 16-4.  There was no need for a lucky goal or a bad call.  In their 4 wins, they averaged a 4-1 win.  The final score of Game 6, was 4-1.

-- In the 3rd period of the series, the Stars outscored the Ducks, 12-4.

-- In the series, the Stars outshot the Ducks, 188-138.  Or, 31-23 per game.

-- In the series, the Ducks racked up 38 more penalty minutes, giving the Stars 14 more cracks on the power play.   Where Dallas outscored the Ducks, 10-5 over the six games.

So, without having to play 1 second of overtime, nor ever facing a point in the series where they were tied or behind in games, the Stars survived wave after wave of Ducks attacks and in the end, were on the proper side of a playoff handshake in Dallas for the first time since Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals in 2000. 

And how sweet it is.  Before you consider what lies ahead in Round 2, spend the day enjoying what happened.   Be happy for the guys who have taken plenty of blame for the last several years, starting with Dave Tippett and Marty Turco.  They will tell you that they have always given that effort, but for reasons I bet even they would struggle to explain, they found a new level of performance this time.  They were not going to be sent home “1 and done” this year.   They would not be denied.

Notes and Observations from an unforgettable night to end Duck Season:

-- What can you say about the 3rd period?  In the building, the nerves in that 2nd intermission were nearly unbearable.  I was hoping to fast forward through the intermission and get back to the game, but I realized I wasn’t Tivoing the game.  Instead, conversations were being held all over the building about the odds of winning a Game 7 on the road.  And then what?  Who gets fired?  Who gets traded?  How could they have let this series slip?  But, They didn’t let it happen.  Led by fan favorite – but journeyman, Stephane Robidas and veteran grinder Stu Barnes, the Stars went from frustrated to freight train in :52 unforgettable seconds.

-- If you have the game recorded (don’t you?), you must go back and watch Brenden Morrow’s celebration on the bench during Modano’s empty net goal.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, I don’t know how many words it would take to describe Morrow’s jubilation and joy as he sees his buddy score and his team overcomes their demons.  And how perfectly symmetrical was it to see Modano end the series?  He has been through plenty, too.

-- How was that tension as you began counting down the 3rd period at about the 16 minutes to go mark?  I swear, blood pressure in the building had to be dangerously high.

-- The “could have fooled me” stat of the night?  How about noting that Anaheim went 23:58 without registering a shot on goal in the 2nd and 3rd period.  I was certainly aware of the shot total not growing because it is posted in the arena, but if you want to talk about stats that are misleading, that would seem to be one.  When watching the game, the Ducks were in the Stars zone for a huge chunk of the 3rd period, but the tenacious D of the Stars kept the Ducks from actually getting pucks to Marty.  What a full-team effort.  Amazing.

-- Despite writing this blog after every game, I see I have yet to mention how Turco’s ability to handle the puck just about totally neutralizes the dump and chase strategy of the Ducks.  It just frustrates the opposition when Marty is on his game, and he can swing the puck harmlessly away to his defenseman in the corner.  I think it is tough to appreciate unless you have ever played against him.  He saves so many opportunities against him without ever making actual saves.

-- Brad Richards, Joel Lundqvist, and Loui Eriksson.  Who would have thought that combination would work like it is?  Amazing.  I thought Tippett was really reaching putting these 3 together, and leaving Nik Hagman for other uses, but it has been a factor in every game of that series.  Lundqvist has shown great physicality, Richards sets the table for everyone, and Eriksson seems to have plenty of finish, despite being Swedish.  Brilliant job.

-- That Ducks Penalty Kill was great for quite a while.  They finally figured out that without Sergei Zubov, the Stars have a hard time entering the zone, so make it even more difficult with aggressive PK for 200 feet.  They got away with it for almost 3 games, but if #56 is back there, they would not have been so bold.  It would sure be nice to get him back in the mix soon.

-- I am not going to miss the throbbing head ache that hits every time Teemu Selanne and Ryan Getzlaf cross the blue-line.   If Selanne wants to retire, I am fine with it, but it sure seems he has 5 more years of quality left if he so chooses. 

-- This is the first time that Jean Sebastian Giguere and this generation of Ducks have been dismissed before the Western Conference Finals.  Think about that!  2 Stanley Cup Finals and a Western Finals to this point.  They were due for “1 and done”.

-- If you want to get a good laugh, check out my series preview for this first round.   To say that I thought the odds were against our boys might be considered an understatement.   I swear to you, losing your 2 All-Star defensemen, and playing 3 rookie defensemen in key roles in a playoff series against a very formidable opponent is not the recipe for success.  But, then again, this is a fine example of why gambling is not a very good idea.  You don’t play hockey on paper or on a message board.  You cannot predict this stuff.

-- That decibel level was amazing last night.  The emotion of a moment of sports brilliance is rare, and the sound of last night proved that the 18,532 understood what they were looking at.  We all got spoiled years ago, and I recall being unimpressed with a 1st round victory back in the day.  Well, starved for success, nobody is unimpressed this morning.  Dallas finally has a team that has advanced in the playoffs.  It is ok to fall in love with hockey all over again, North Texas.

-- Who is next?  For now, it doesn’t matter.  We have learned not to hope for one team over another from past mistakes.  know this:  Another battle awaits.   But, also know this:  Your boys appear up for it.  This is a fabulous day for this Organization.  Now, playing with casino money, perhaps they are feeling a little greedy.  Rest up, this isn’t over.


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