INSIDE HOCKEY » Dallas Stars http://insidehockey.com Get Inside! Wed, 01 Oct 2014 02:15:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Tribute to A Fallen Friend and Flyer Fan http://insidehockey.com/tribute-to-a-fallen-friend-and-flyer-fan http://insidehockey.com/tribute-to-a-fallen-friend-and-flyer-fan#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 20:19:23 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=59086

Algeo Dan and Mike 1AThe one recurring scenario in my mind’s eye is of my friend, Dan Algeo as a middle school student. I remember him constantly thanking me during the late-1970’s and early 1980’s for my coverage in The North Penn Reporter of the Lansdale Catholic Crusader football (and the school’s other sports) teams.

We also had in-depth discussions about the Philadelphia Flyers, which was my professional beat for the daily newspaper when I wasn’t covering the Crusaders. Both of us were confident that the Bob Clarke-led Flyers had the personnel and grit to win another Stanley Cup or two. Unfortunately for the orange and white, they ran into a New York Islanders team that was just beginning its own Cup dynasty.

Dan Algeo seemed to possess a maturity far beyond his pre-teenage years, enabling us to talk as football fans and friends at LC football practices and games, and at other sporting and school events. He could discuss the Crusaders, the Flyers and virtually any of Philly’s other pro sports franchises.

Dan passed away at the age of 49 last Thursday, July 3 after suffering a heart attack. The shock has affected legions of people who knew Dan, including the Cardinal O’Hara High School community, where he would’ve coached his 11th season as head football mentor this fall.

The sadness and sense of loss has also hit me across the miles — in suburban Dallas – like a defenseman making a jolting (but clean) open  ice body check. Dan Algeo’s loving family and friends will celebrate his life at his funeral in Lansdale, PA tomorrow, Wednesday, July 9.

Even before he attended LCHS, Dan exuded a significant degree of pride in the school’s student-athletes, his dad Jim, Sr. as the head coach, and his brother Jim, Jr. as the on field leader – the quarterback. “Thanks for giving us so much great ink (i.e., newspaper coverage),” he said on numerous occasions in his enthusiastic inflection, always accompanied by that unforgettable ear-to-ear grin that made him an absolute pleasure to visit with. “I love reading about the team, and I know the (student-athletes) do as well.”

He also enjoyed reading my chronicles about the Flyers, to be sure.

It is ironic that my “ink” did not spread to covering Dan’s outstanding football career at Lansdale Catholic, when I left the Delaware Valley to become Public Relations Director for the Central Hockey League’s Fort Worth Texans Hockey Club (the then-Colorado Rockies’ top minor league affiliate) in 1981.

Algeo men 2xxxxI have remained in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex ever since, and was fortunate to renew my friendship with Dan a few years after he coached Roman Catholic to the 1999 Philadelphia Catholic League football title. In 2004, he repeated the feat to become one of only two Philadelphia Catholic League coaches to win championships with different schools. It was no surprise that Dan had joined his dad Jim, Sr.,  his brother Jim, Jr. (Pottsgrove High football) and his sister Maggie Algeo DeMarteleire (North Penn High girls basketball) as an outstanding title-winning coach who related so well to student-athletes.

Upon renewing our relationship, we both lamented the Flyers’ lack of a third Stanley Cup conquest.

I quickly found that Dan’s personality was even more endearing, and he continued to thank me for my articles about Lansdale Catholic during that previous era. Dan could relate to virtually everybody, and I know he had a significant impact on his students and student-athletes, on his friends, and especially on each and every one of his family members and relatives.

He also shared some words of comfort with me about me losing my wife, Ilene to cancer in 2009 when we visited, along with several members of his family, in December 2013.

I feel blessed to have known Dan Algeo, and will miss him terribly. I know that he will be in my heart forever.

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Stars Add Spezza & Hemsky, Emerge as Contenders http://insidehockey.com/stars-add-spezza-hemsky-emerge-as-contenders http://insidehockey.com/stars-add-spezza-hemsky-emerge-as-contenders#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 16:15:25 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=59070

One year ago, the Dallas Stars made a blockbuster trade when they acquired center Tyler Seguin from Boston. Adding an explosive scorer of Seguin’s pedigree enabled them to earn their first Stanley Cup Playoff berth in six years.

One year later, it appears that General Manager Jim Nill has taken it one skate step further, transforming his club from a merely emerging contender into a serious Central Division championship team for the approaching 2014-2015 National Hockey League season.

Nill celebrated Canada Day (July 1) by acquiring superstar center Jason Spezza (23 goals in 75 games with Ottawa last season) – who desperately wanted out of the Canadian capital– to give the Stars the potential of three bona fide goal scoring lines.

To acquire Spezza and winger Ludwig Karlsson from the Sens, Nill was forced to part with winger Alex Chiasson, who may on the verge of NHL goal-scoring productivity (he netted 19 during the final weeks of the 2012-13 season and last year). He also sent two prospects in left wing Nick Paul (a 4th round entry draft choice in 2013) and forward Alex Guptill (a 3rd round entry draft choice in 2010 who has played at the University of Michigan) and a 2nd round draft pick in 2015 to Ottawa.

In addition, Nill signed free agent forward Ales Hemsky to a contract reportedly worth $12 million over three seasons. “I think the options (these deals give us) are almost limitless,” understated coach Lindy Ruff.

Hemsky may be reunited with Spezza after netting four goals and 17 points in 20 games on Ottawa’s top forward following his acquisition by the Senators from Edmonton in a trade deadline deal last March. Spezza’s line may draw opponents’ premier checkers and open up even more ice for Dallas’s top trio of Seguin, team captain Jamie Benn and Valeri Nichushkin.

Spezza is a strong skater with an excellent playmaker’s touch and a quick, accurate shot. He gives Dallas a solid complement of centers along with Seguin (team- and career-high 37 goals and 84 points in 2013-14) and Cody Eakin (16), enabling the Stars to go face-to-face with virtually any Western Conference foe. Spezza can team with Hemsky, an instinctive and creative player with outstanding puck skills and perhaps one of the emerging Texas Stars who helped that team win the AHL crown.

“If you want to be one of the elite teams, you have to have (depth at the center position),” Nill said. “(In Detroit) we always had that. It was Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk. You look at the other teams that are winning (in the Western Conference) now, you need to have two elite centermen. We knew that was a little bit of a weakness on our team.”

“You look at what we have now (and it could be) a great top nine,” Ruff said, referring to a formidable third line of Eakin along with wingers Ryan Garbutt and Antoine Roussel that contributed 47 red lights last season. “(We can do a lot with that — create mismatches, get away from matchups (desired by the opponent), and juggle (our) personnel.”

Spezza and Hemsky figure to prosper in Ruff’s attacking style that last year enabled the Stars to finish 10th in the NHL with 2.82 goals per game and 6th with 31.7 shots on goal per outing.

They will also improve the team’s power play that finished 23rd in the NHL with a 15.9% success rate with the man advantage.  “We’re putting hockey back on the map (in Dallas),” Nill said. “I think there are great days ahead for this organization. I think this is a great sports town, a great city. I love the people, the players love playing here. We want to be a significant part of this city. We want to win.”

Ruff is excited about what Spezza brings to the Stars. “He’s a fantastic possession player, he’s a great playmaker, he was great for me on the power play,” Ruff said in reference to coaching Spezza with Team Canada. “He’s a world-class talent, and you see that in a lot of areas of his game.”

Spezza, who turned 31 in June and broke into the NHL with Ottawa in 2002-03, is hoping to rediscover the offensive skills and impressive productivity that highlighted the early part of his career. Spezza has netted 30+ goals five times, including career-high 34-goal seasons in 2006-07 and 2007-08. He also has amassed a career-high 92 points in 2007-08, 90 in 2005-06, 87 in 2006-07 and 84 as recently as 2011-12.

“I just really felt that Dallas was a fit for me,” said Spezza, who waived his no-trade clause to join the Stars. “I have a relationship with Lindy. He’s coached me at World Championships. I think the young group they have is an envy of a lot of the league, and I think I could fit in with helping out with the depth at center.”

Hemsky, who turns 31 in August and entered the NHL in Edmonton in 2002-03, is also looking for a return to his former productive offensive output. The native of Czechoslovakia scored a career-high 23 goals in 2008-09, lit the lamp 19 times in 2005-06 to go with a career high 77 points and 20 more in 2007-08 en route to a 71-point campaign. His best point total since his 66-point campaign in 2008-09 was a 42-point effort in 2010-11.

Nill also added free agents in backup goalie Anders Lindback (one year, $925,000) and forward Patrick Eaves (one year, $650,000), and the return of center Vernon Fiddler (two years, $2.5 million).

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Photo Gallery: NHL April Photos of the Month http://insidehockey.com/photo-gallery-nhl-april-photos-of-the-month http://insidehockey.com/photo-gallery-nhl-april-photos-of-the-month#comments Mon, 05 May 2014 17:49:00 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=58610

Here are the April 2014 NHL Photos of the Month from the photographers at Inside Hockey.

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Ducks Shock Stars in OT http://insidehockey.com/ducks-shock-stars-in-ot http://insidehockey.com/ducks-shock-stars-in-ot#comments Tue, 29 Apr 2014 16:55:07 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=58495

The #8 seeded Dallas Stars played their game, a dominating, aggressive skating style for the first 58 minutes of a must-win Game Six of their opening round Stanley Cup Playoff series against the Western Conference #1 ranked Anaheim Ducks.

Unfortunately for the sellout crowd at American Airlines Center on Sunday, April 27, the Ducks were able to play theirs during one final frantic push. Similar to a surreal accident unfolding before your eyes, the Ducks’ agonizingly scored three goals in a 4:57 span of playing time during the waning minutes of regulation and the early stages of sudden death overtime for a 5-4 victory and six-game Stanley Cup Playoff opening round series conquest.

“It happened so fast, it’s a bit of a shock but I’m proud of our guys,” Stars captain Jamie Benn said. “We battled hard all year. We battled to get into the playoffs. I thought we played a pretty good series against a pretty good team.”

“It’s so hard, and it ended so quickly, it’s just tough to describe it,” said defenseman Trevor Daley after a brilliant two-goal, one assist performance. “I look back and there were three games in that series that we lost that we really could have won. That’s hard to take right now.”

“(This is) a cruel lesson, but it gives us a platform to build off of,” said upbeat Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “Sometimes hockey’s cruel…..to a group of guys that worked as hard as they possibly could tonight. There wasn’t one guy that was a passenger.

“There was so much good in that game,” Ruff added. “The battle and the competiveness from this team have been unbelievable. I’m proud of the way they played; they played hard, they played really hard. You can’t sit here and look for blame, there’s too much good in that game. We have to learn from a couple of the incidents on the ice, just as we learned from Game Five. But we have a young team. We’ll learn and get better from this.”

With backup goalie Jonas Hiller pulled for an extra attacker during a late Anaheim power play, Ducks center Nick Bonino cut the Dallas lead to 4-3 when he walked out from behind the net and lifted a shot between the near post and Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen’s left shoulder and into the net with 2:10 left in the 3rd period.

“Quite frankly, I have to thank (Colorado Avalanche coach) Patrick Roy,” said Anaheim bench boss Bruce Boudreau. “If he didn’t start pulling the goalie so early all year, I don’t think any of the teams would have done it. He’s had such great success with Colorado. You see that more and more teams are pulling the goalie not with a minute to go, but with two or two and a half minutes. I figured, when you have to get two goals, it makes perfect sense so we did it tonight and we got lucky.”

Then, with just :24 remaining, Anaheim winger Devante Smith-Pelly culminated an extended wild scramble in the Stars’ goal crease by picking up the rolling puck and lifting it into the net for his second goal of the night to tie the score 4-4 and force sudden death overtime.

“I wasn’t confident at all (in a comeback during the waning minutes),” Boudreau admitted. “You’re always hopeful. But deep down, you don’t really think it’s going to happen.”

Early in voertime, the Stars made a brief sortie into the Ducks’ zone. Then, Bonino separated from his defensive checkers in the slot, took a pass from center Andrew Cogliano and beat Lehtonen with a wrist shot. The victory sends Anaheim into the next round of the playoffs to face the winner of the San Jose-Los Angeles series.

“It’s still hard to believe,” said Bonino, whose team led Detroit three games to two a year ago before losing Game Six in the Motor City and Game Seven at home. “I’ve got butterflies in my stomach. Scoring the winning goal in a playoff series is something you (think about when you) play in your driveway as a kid.”

“(Heading into overtime) I told them what I had been telling them all year, to bring focus and be ready to play,” said Ruff. “I thought we came out good to start but just lost coverage on the overtime goal.  The room was upbeat and I told everyone to pick their heads up and be ready to go.”

Most of the fans in the raucous sellout crowd felt certain there would be a Game Seven after Dallas took the game right to Anaheim, grabbing a 1-0 lead just over five minutes after the opening puck drop. Daley emerged from the penalty box, took a long-distance pass from center Shawn Horcoff and scored his 1st marker if the postseason on a breakaway. The Stars power play, which suffered through an 0-for-7 night in Game Five, struck for a goal midway through the session when Cody Eakin one-timed a pass from Tyler Seguin through the pads of embattled Ducks goalie Frederik Anderson for his 2nd goal of the playoffs and a 2-0 lead.

Dallas answered Smith-Pelly’s 1st goal of the night on a power play when Ryan Garbutt hit the back of the net with a rebound in the final minute for his 3rd of the playoffs and a 3-1 lead at intermission. It marked the first time the Stars scored at least three goals in a post season period since April 27, 2008, when Dallas netted four in the 3rd stanza of a 5-2 win over San Jose in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals

The Ducks cut the lead to 3-2 when defenseman Ben Lovejoy one-timed a Teemu Selanne feed past Lehtonen early in the 2nd period. But Daley — the only current player that was also on the Stars’ last playoff team in 2008 – did an impersonation of the great Bobby Orr when he took a pass from defensive partner Alex Goligoski at center ice, accelerated inside Anaheim defenseman Luca Sbisa, pulled the puck back and lifted it over a sprawling Andersen for a 4-2 lead midway through the second session.

“(Daley was) spectacular, he really brought his ‘A’ game,” said Ruff. “How often do you see a (defenseman) score two breakaways (in the same game)?  He defended against the best players in the league all year and offensively he was really coming on.  He was a machine with the number of minutes he was playing.”

Andersen, whom Boudreau admitted was ill overnight and probably didn’t get much sleep, was pulled after yielding four goals on 12 shots in favor of Hiller. Dallas nearly opened a three-goal margin later in the stanza, but rookie forward Valeri Nichushkin hit the crossbar on a breakaway 25 seconds before the second intermission. Hiller earned the win after stopping all 12 Dallas shots that he faced. “This was a little more special for me (and) it was a great feeling,” said Hiller, who won 29 games during Anaheim’s best regular season ever. “I thought I had a couple of good stops right when I came in, and that gave me confidence. When you get the chance, you get so much adrenaline going.”

Coach Ruff was upbeat despite the crushing defeat. “You can’t sit here and look for blame in a game like that, there’s too much good,” he said. “We have to learn from a couple of the incidents on the ice just like we learned from the incidents in Game Five.  Those players turned it around and were very good players again for us tonight.  We have a young team with young playoff experience and we got ourselves in a situation where we didn’t need to put ourselves but our fans can be awfully proud of those guys that stepped on the ice and I was awfully proud of our fans.  I don’t think half of them sat down the whole game.  This building was something that helped push these guys and you could just feel the energy.  That’s something special.

“I trusted every one of (my players),” Ruff noted. “We have a system that we play, and they know how to play in it. You look at the Eakin line what they were doing tonight and again they got on the score sheet, all young players no playoff experience, playing against one of the best lines in the league. It’s a great platform to push off of; my job is to make them understand how difficult it really is. We’ve set our bar at a certain level and now we have to push above that. That takes incredible work ethic, it’s hard to get in the playoffs. You guys know that, I know that, we hadn’t been in there but the work we put in the second half, some of the adversity we faced, this strong-enough-to-push-back-from, down two-nothing in this series, made us bring our A game.

“You ask what I thought our team would bring,” Ruff added. “They brought the best they could possibly bring tonight. And I told them, and I’ll say it again, I was damn proud of the way they played. I was proud of the way they competed. It’s a fun team to coach, it really is. Embrace this because we got some good players that are pushing through. My job now is to make them understand how hard it is to repeat it and to get better.”

Anaheim uses big 3rd period to pull away in Game 5

The Stars trailed 3-2 entering the 3rd period of Game Five on Friday, April 25 at Honda Center when the Ducks erupted for a trio of goals in the first seven minutes of the session to pull away with a 6-2 victory and a three-games-to-two series lead. Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf netted a goal to go with two helpers in his return to the lineup after a one-game absence due to a facial injury.

“I thought our second period was pretty good,” said team captain Benn, whose 4th goal of the series on a steal while Dallas was shorthanded tied the score, 1-1 midway through the opening period. “We came in here (during the second intermission), tried to regroup and come out with the same effort, but they jumped on us early. We took a stupid penalty, and that was it.”

Horcoff scored his 1st post-season goal on the rebound of a Vernon Fiddler just over eight minutes into the 1nd session brought Dallas to within a goal at 3-2. “I thought in the second period we utterly dominated,” Stars coach Ruff said. “(We) hit a post, hit a crossbar, spent the whole time down in their end, but it is tough. We lost the special teams battle and that was a difference.

“We played well all night,” added Ruff, whose defensive corps was bolstered by the return of Brenden Dillon, who had missed each of the first four games in the series. “We gave up an opportunity and it was in the back of the net. That took some wind out of us. We were pressing up the ice and the next opportunity was in the back of the net. We were controlling play but the opportunities we gave them were in the back of the net. (But) I like where our team is at. When we’ve been up against adversity, we’ve answered the call.”

Goalie Lehtonen made 16 saves and was pulled after the Ducks’ fifth goal, while backup Tim Thomas made one save and was beaten on Anaheim’s sixth red light.

Garbutt speared Perry at center ice as the Ducks’ star was coming onto the ice, an was tossed from the game just over nine minutes into the opening period. “I was coming back to the bench and got careless with my stick,” Garbutt said. “It was definitely something I didn’t want to do. I don’t want to put the team in that position, and I’m definitely going to learn from it.”

Ducks coach Boudreau disagreed, saying, “It was deliberate. It wasn’t an accident. It was pretty dirty.”

Dallas Stars Player of the Week – Trevor Daley

The talented defenseman brought the American Airlines Center fans out of their seats with two spectacular goals in Game Six of the Stars opening round Stanley Cup Playoff series against #1 seed Anaheim. Daley’s first marker in the first period concluded an exciting breakaway to give Dallas 1-0 lead, and his second put Dallas in front, 4-2 midway through the second period. Daley added an assist for a three-point night in the 5-4 overtime loss that ended the Stars’ 2013-2014 campaign.

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Stars Deserve Their Beat-Down http://insidehockey.com/stars-deserve-their-beat-down http://insidehockey.com/stars-deserve-their-beat-down#comments Sat, 26 Apr 2014 06:47:33 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=58430

Stories. So many stories. Will Ryan Getzlaf start the game Friday, and what’s the nature of his complaint, anyway? He said in the press that he is not the type not to play, that the decision was in the hands of the doctors exclusively. People have speculated that the issue was he stitches he’s got lacing his mouth after getting hit by a puck. But one can’t help but wonder if it’s concussion.

Another one—who would occupy the crease? Hiller came in and finished up in the game four loss to Dallas, and Boudreau said something to the effect that it’s good to have him ready, but then again, Frederik Andersen has been good. Not perfect—he’s let in a soft goal most games in the playoffs, if not more than one.

Would Selanne be effective after having been benched late in game three and scratched for game four? He was announced early in the day as playing. Good thing—his son had tweeted out against Coach Boudreau and the old man (Selanne) had had to tell him to knock it off.

Would the Ducks be able to toughen up their lineup with all of their bruisers—Robidas, Jackman, and Beleskey out? The only one returning is Beleskey, and that not until game six on Sunday.

On the Dallas side, there were also questions, the primary one being whether the team would have the services of two of its injured defensemen, Brendan Dillon and Patrik Nemeth. In part, they were needed to relieve the minute-gobbling Alex Goligoski, who had played a high of nearly 33 minutes in game four. He’s no old man at twenty-eight, but those kind of minutes are starting to take a toll, apparently.

And while we’re on age, the Dallas team was also wondering whether Shawn Horcoff and Vern Fiddler would produce as veterans sometimes do. Horcoff has answered well thus far in the series, notching four assists coming into Friday. Fiddler had a goal and an assist. Each would add a point on the evening.

Oh, and one more matter for the Ducks, the strategic question of whether they would be able to drive the puck back in far enough to get ahead of the Stars on the forecheck. Boudreau said late in the week that that was one thing he felt the opponents were doing quite strongly—turning the puck back up-ice before his team could get them pinned in their own zone.

For both teams, perhaps, was the query how nasty this series would turn out to be. There have been a fair number of penalties handed out already, including over eighty combined on Wednesday night in Texas. These came in the form of fighting and misconducts as well as the usual assortment of minors. And if the cross-town game on Thursday night was any indication, then things tend only to go downhill as a series wears on. As Justin Williams said after their game, that when you play the same team night after night, you’re going to build up some hate. That one went right to sixty minutes with pushing and fighting, with penalty minutes being handed out at the 60:00 mark.

All of this was on the line for a 7:30 start—time enough to get the OC crowd to the game for puckdrop, since they’re used to their home games starting at 7pm. Orange towels were at the ready on the back of each seat. The music was blaring. The parking lots filled, and the people with signs at the ready to declare their love for Teemu Selanne were pressing up against the glass in warmup. In short, except for the fact that the Ducks had taken two worrying losses in Dallas after storming out of the gate at home, things were pretty much as they always are in Honda Center.

The game’s beginning answered a couple of these questions. First, Getzlaf was in the lineup, starting with familiar linemate Perry. With them was Nick Bonino. Dillon was also playing, though not starting. Nemeth was not, this being essentially a game-time decision, but his absence relieved Coach Ruff of figuring out who to sit to make room for Dillon. The Stars’ other utility defenseman, it appears, is Kevin Connauton, who trades time this playoffs with Aaron Rome. Just in case you’re doing the math, Rome was out Friday, Connauton in.

In game two, Getzlaf had stormed out and scored an early goal, the face cage he’s wearing no hindrance to his courage. The Stars, in turn, had targeted him, punching him in the jaw (or the protector) repeatedly. Who knows what effect this might have had? He certainly hadn’t been scratched because of fear, and you can be certain it was not pain. But no matter on this night. What everyone in the arena was watching for was another spectacular individual play like the goal he’d potted earlier in the series, storming down the right side, fighting to the net, doing a stick fake, and burying the puck.

It didn’t take him long to get involved. He set up Nick Bonino on the power play with five minutes gone. The Stars got a shorthanded goal at ten minutes, and that’s remarkable in itself. More remarkable is the situation. At 9:11, Garbutt, a name of Dickensian perfection if ever there was one, speared Corey Perry right in the unmentionables in front of the Anaheim bench. Perry went down and stayed there, and Garbutt got a five-minute major. Of that play, Coach Boudreau would eventually comment, “I think it was deliberate. It was not an accident. It was pretty dirty, but we know that’s how he plays. I really thought the refs did a great job [to catch it]. They acted appropriately I thought.”

Lindy Ruff also weighed in on the matter. First, he thought that the play wasn’t that bad. “I was obviously something you don’t want to see, but I didn’t think it was as bad as it was made out to be. I don’t it was as bad as the spearing on Jamie Benn.” But he admitted, “It was still definitely a penalty.”

But he also said that it was not the way he wants his guys to play. “It’s something that I don’t want to see as a coach. It tells me that I have not done a good enough job with Ryan Garbutt, that’s all. We’re a young team, and sometimes we act like a young team.”

The violence of the game only increased from there, but what was amazing was how inept the refereeing was. Right off the faceoff to start the penalty, Perrault of the Ducks was slashed on the knee hard enough to put him down. No call. But shortly after that, the Ducks got a questionable cross-checking penalty. Then the Stars got goalie interference. It was like the refs had dug themselves a hole and had to keep shoveling to make everything seem alright. Despite Boudreau saying that he thought the call on the Perry thing went OK, he wasn’t entirely happy with the officiating, if the huddle IH saw him in with a referee consultant from the league office after the game is any indication.

What was surprising was the lack of physical response from the Ducks. Sure, the game was 1-1, very briefly, and then 2-1 26 seconds later when the Ducks Rakell got his first-ever NHL goal to make it so. So they couldn’t exactly abide a lot of cheap stuff that would get them a penalty.

But you can’t let your best player get knocked down at center ice and do nothing about it.

In period two, things headed up again. The home team got a goal to make it 3-1, and finally the Ducks seemed to push back. Alex Chiasson was poking at a puck under Andersen and Bryan Allen came in full-force and shoved him back. Then Dallas’s Eakin and Roussel were jawing and shoving, and finally Beauchemin skated toward them and told them, it was apparent from the body language, that it was time to knock it the hell off.

Funny that on a play a few minutes later, Beauchemin knocked Eakin down. The latter skated by for a look at who had hit him, and when he saw the number, he retreated.

In fact, watching all of this made it infuriating to see Daniel Winnik standing in the press box in the period break. He’s fast, he’s tough, and he’s brave. What does Selanne or whoever is in there in Winnik’s space contributing to a team that can’t afford to get pushed around? And it’s not like there wasn’t any warning. As was said, the players in green were punching Getzlaf in the cage the other night. They’re not going to have reformed for no reason in the four days following that exhibition.

When asked if the Dallas team might have learned that this can’t work because the Ducks were so good on the power play, Boudreau said, “I don’t think they’re going to change their game at home. Those two guys will still come at us and try to get under the skin of our better players.” So if you know this, why not act to nip it in the bud?

The Stars proved their lack of mettle again as the period went on, with Goligoski giving Getzlaf a shot in the back after a whistle. Getzlaf chased him across the center line, jawing.

But the violent energy dissipated as the Stars tried to get back to hockey. Neither team played any sort of structure as the period wound down, but the Stars were all over Andersen. They got 16 shots in the frame, but every single one of them was dangerous, right on. Andersen used every part of his body in keeping them to one further goal—arms, legs, chest, face. He flung his glove at one shot, a high one from Goligoski, grabbing it literally out of thin air. The save had flourish, but how dangerous it was. Had he missed, it’s a 3-3 game. As it was, he was up 3-2 after 40 minutes.

By the way, since we’re on Goligoski—he slashed Getzlaf behind the play when the latter finished a check on him. That just seems to be the character of the Dallas team.

The third period saw the Ducks open a can of whoop a$$, at least in terms of their scoring. In fact, by the time they had chased Lehtonen and the black-masked Tim Thomas was in net, it was 5-2. And then Corey Perry took a puck across the crease and put it into the net while Thomas tried a poke check. It ended that way, and Getzlaf, who had already had almost twenty minutes of icetime midway through P3, rested, playing just one twenty-second shift the remainder of the way.

But the violence continued nonetheless. There were roughing penalties, misconducts, and fighting majors. In the end, the totals were well over 100 minutes combined, but in large part to the tendency for refs in this playoffs (the same thing happened last night in LA) to simply give two and ten anytime anything looks like it’s about to start.

If you want a code to file this one under, put it next to “Anaheim won the special teams battle,” because the Ducks scored four power play goals. This was a franchise record for a playoff game, and their total goal output tied a team record as well. The last time they did that was in 2011 against Nashville. Boudreau said after that his power play vexes him. “Sometimes we do exactly the same thing, and we can go 0-15. And sometimes it finds its way in the net. I thought we were shooting the puck harder from the point if anything. That usually causes rebounds. They were hungry after the loose pucks.”

Getzlaf, who by the way was sporting a perfect set of teeth, much different than he looked the other night, said after, “I thought my game got much better as the game went on.” He credited the crowd, but said that in Dallas, “We got a little bit revved up [in there] last time. We got into some things that weren’t part of our game, but tonight we did a better job focusing on what we need to do. We need to do that again next time.” He did say he was glad that he got to rest his body in the last half of period three.

Of the chippy stuff that Dallas did, he said, “When you’re scoring on your power play, they aren’t going to do as many things,” of a violent or dirty nature. “As long as our power play is getting chances, we’ve got to build momentum, no matter whether we score of not.”

He tied a personal best with three points (1-2-3) and leads the Ducks in playoff points with seven on three goals. The points he has all-time in the playoffs, 66, puts him two ahead of Selanne, but as he said, “He’ll probably catch me tomorrow. I don’t think I’m ever going to have a lead in this organization until he steps away.”

Boudreau said after about having him back, “It’s like your big brother is back. The guys feel better, and he came out and played a great game.”

The teams now head back to Texas for a Sunday night game six. Dallas has the crowd, which both Boudreau and Getzlaf said makes a difference. The Ducks could find themselves right where they were last year, facing a home game seven, if they don’t get things in hand and control the Stars early.

Last year, the devoted will recall, the Ducks came home against Detroit in that seventh game and stunk it up, losing and ending their season earlier than their regular-season record would have indicated that they would.

Notes
Follow me @growinguphockey if you want firsthand accounts mixed with jokes and silliness. Most people seem to like it a lot. Why not you?

Boudreau was complimentary of Selanne’s role, being a leader on the bench. To me, that sounds like nonsense. They would be a lot better off with Winnik in the lineup to smash some heads when they need smashing.

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Stars Tie Series, Wrest Control From Ducks http://insidehockey.com/stars-tie-series-wrest-control-from-ducks http://insidehockey.com/stars-tie-series-wrest-control-from-ducks#comments Thu, 24 Apr 2014 20:42:00 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=58406

You’ll have to excuse the Dallas Stars if they didn’t quite feel that unique post-season rush of adrenalin until Game 4 of their series with Western Conference #1 seed Anaheim. After all, the Stars’ franchise hasn’t played past the April 15 tax filing deadline since 2008.

But the young team that finished the regular season as a #8 seed feels as if it’s now battle- tested in the Stanley Cup playoff wars after rallying from a two-goal deficit to upend the visiting Ducks, 4-2 on Wednesday, April 23 to tie the best-of-seven series at two games apiece.

“I really feel like we’re in a playoff series now,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said after the Stars overcame a two-goal deficit to win a Stanley Cup Playoff game for the first time since April 12, 2004 when it defeated Colorado, 4-3 in overtime. “The first couple of games didn’t feel like it, but now we feel like we have a playoff series.”

Coming off a 3-0 victory two nights earlier that enabled Dallas to claw its way back into the series, the Stars fell behind 2-0 in the first period to a Ducks squad lacking forwards Ryan Getzlaf (due to an upper body injury) and veteran Teemu Selanne (a healthy scratch in favor of more speed along the wing).

Ruff let the Stars know how he felt about trailing by two goals after the first 20 minutes. “He told us we were getting outworked and we had to play harder,” said Stars forward Ryan Garbutt after Dallas overcame a two-goal deficit in a playoff game to win in regulation for the first time since they defeated Edmonton 3-2 on April 25, 1999 (the year they went on to win the Stanley Cup). “He has a voice that carries and he made his point. That’s what makes him one of the best coaches in the league.”

“I just said I wasn’t happy,” said Ruff, whose squad played without defenseman Brenden Dillon for the fourth straight game and lost blueliner Patrik Nemeth to an injury in the opening period. “I thought we got outworked.  I thought we weren’t playing smart enough and it was our turn to answer and that group in there answered the bell.  It’s not often that we get outworked but I thought after that, the last forty (minutes) was as hard as the boys could go, they emptied the tank.”

The Stars wrested control of the game away from the Ducks and quickly halved the lead at 2-1 just :27 after intermission. Team captain Jamie Benn won a faceoff in the neutral zone, skated inside the blue line and launched a wrist shot that deflected off a nearby Anaheim player’s stick for his 3rd playoff marker. The shot’s change of direction seemed to confuse goalie Frederik Andersen, beating him over his right shoulder and igniting the boisterous sellout crowd at American Airlines Center.

“That goal was really important,” Ruff acknowledged. “To get us on the board that quickly and get the energy back in this building (is critical). knew if we could get one early in the second that would probably tip it our way because we’ve always had good push-back from adversity.”

Forward Vernon Fiddler tied the score six minutes later after taking a pass from Shawn Horcoff and lifting the puck from a bad angle from the side of the net between Andersen’s right shoulder and the near post for his first goal of this year’s post season to tie the score at 2-2. Anaheim appeared to be caught in a line change and failed to cover well in its defensive zone. Dallas continued to control play, outshooting the Ducks 16-3 in the period and 26-23 for the game.

“I’m very impressed (with the Stars’ resiliency),” said Benn, the first member of the Stars to record at least one point in each of his first four playoff games since 1980 when Minnesota North Star forwards Steve Payne and Bobby Smith notched points in their first five outings. “We are a confident group in here. We want to play the same way all the time, if we are up two goals or down two goals. We regrouped in the first and came out with a strong effort in the second and third.”

Dallas continued its strong play into the 3rd period. After a brief Anaheim probe in search of the go-ahead marker, Cody Eakin took a pass from Antoine Roussel and skated past Anaheim center Rickard Rakell — who fell to the ice after an ill-advised poke-check attempt – and into the offensive zone on a two-on-one. The red-haired pivot netted his first career playoff goal with a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle that beat Andersen over his left shoulder for a 3-2 lead with 13:38 left in regulation.

Just 1:22 later, Fiddler skated the puck toward the right wing boards in the offensive zone before backhanding a pass to defenseman Alex Goligoski in the slot. Goligoski wristed home his first Stars’ (and 3rd career) playoff goal to make it 4-2 and chase Andersen.

“After the second (Dallas) goal I certainly did (think Andersen was off his game),” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said of his starting goalie, who did not look good on all but Eakins goal. “I didn’t really notice it in the first period because I didn’t think they had a lot of opportunities. But after they scored their second goal, I told (back goalie Jonas Hiller) to get ready because I didn’t think he was that sharp, but then he settled down and I think right after that made a flurry of good saves, and I thought, OK, he is settling down. Then in the third period, when they got that goal, I thought it was time.”

The Stars shoed their maturity by finishing the game just as strong as they began their comeback in the middle period. “I think we’ve learned a lot in these four games (and) I think we’ve grown up a lot,” Horcoff said. “It’s hard to win any series, and maybe it’s hardest of all to win the first round. But we have a taste for it now, and I think that really makes a difference.”

Dallas appears primed for success as it enters what amounts to a best-of-three series beginning Friday in Anaheim before returning for Game Six on Sunday night in Dallas.

“It’s starting from scratch,” said Ruff. “We’ve got to go there and win a game.  We’ve got to be better and I have to do a better job with the team.  I thought in Game two we played, in my eyes, a real good game but we didn’t finish and we made some big mistakes.  We eliminated some of those big mistakes here and it’s now just focusing on one game…no more.  We’ve done it all year.”

“I think we feel good about our game,” said Goligoski. “They are a really good team over there and they are good in their building so we’re confident in our game and we will go in and try and get a better start than we did in the first game over there. But I thought in Game 2 we were pretty good, and it’s 2-2 now so we have to go get home ice.”

“Both teams have taken care of business at home, and we obviously feel comfortable in our building,” said Fiddler. “But Anaheim is a tough place to go in and play, and they obviously have some great players and leaders. We’re not worried about Anaheim. We want to worry about our game. I think when we worry about our own game, we are a really confident group. We know how to play. We’re not the most skilled team, but were a team that’s going to work, and we pride ourselves on that, and we don’t get out worked.”

Boudreau noted that Anaheim needs to do a better job on its forecheck to slow down the speedy Stars. “They are obviously quick,” he said. “They jump into the play very well. I think what we have to do is get our forecheck going and make them play 200 feet. And then we have to make sure we are not getting all three guys caught, because once you get three guys caught, and that happened about four or five times after the first period, then they’re coming four on two or three on two because they’re ready to go offensively right away. It’s things that I thought we controlled very well in the first period but we just didn’t do it for 60 minutes.”

Dallas Stars Player of the Game – Vernon Fiddler

The veteran center recorded the first multi-point playoff performance of his career with a goal and an assist to help Dallas erase a 2-0 deficit and upend Anaheim, 4-2, tying the best-of-seven opening round Stanley Cup Playoff series at 2-2. Fiddler’s 1st goal of this year’s playoffs and his 3rd career marker tied the score at 2-2 in the 2nd period, and he set up defenseman Alex Goligoski for a goal that made it 4-2.

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Lehtonen Blanks Ducks, Gives Stars Some Playoff Glitter http://insidehockey.com/lehtonen-blanks-ducks-gives-stars-some-playoff-glitter http://insidehockey.com/lehtonen-blanks-ducks-gives-stars-some-playoff-glitter#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 12:38:48 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=58373

Playing in their first Stanley Cup post season competition since 2008, the #8-seeded Dallas Stars wanted to make a statement after falling into a 2-0 hole against Western Conference’s #1 seeded Anaheim. That’s exactly what the men in green did on Monday, April 21, drying off the Ducks, 3-0 behind the stellar netminding of goaltender Kari Lehtonen.

Dallas trails two games to one with Game Four set for Wednesday night at the American Airlines Center.

Although the Stars were outshot 37-22, Lehtonen was perfect between the pipes in shutting down a team that led the NHL with 3.21 goals per game during the regular season. Just four minutes after the opening faceoff, the Big Finn served notice that beating him would be next to impossible when he stopped Saku Koivu attempting to slip a backhand shot past him from the short side. The save, which lifted the spirits of the enthusiastic 19,120 fans at American Airlines Center, was an omen of things to come.

Lehtonen registered 13 stops in the first period and 17 more in the 2nd to record his first playoff shutout and 6th whitewash of the season, and the first playoff goose egg by a Stars goalie since Marty Turco blanked the Ducks, 4-0 in the opening game of their series in 2008.

“At the age of 30, it was about time to get that first (career playoff victory),” said Lehtonen after posting his first post-season win in five career games (including two losses with Atlanta in 2007). “I think tonight when the puck was coming at me, it always seemed to hit something or bounce past me. In the two other games (at Anaheim), I felt like all those kind of plays seemed to go the other way. Some nights it goes that way no matter what you try to do. I’ve learned that my game doesn’t get better if I start trying to over-do things and be more aggressive.”

“(Kari) was calm, he was under control and made some great saves for us,” coach Lindy Ruff said of Lehtonen, who fueled the Stars’ stretch run to the playoffs with a 12-2-1 mark that included three shutouts and six one-goal outings. “He made some real timely saves and just looked really comfortable in net.  Kari’s play back there was a calming force for us. I think he made a statement that he was determined to be better than he was in the previous game. And I asked all the players to be determined to be better in some small areas, and I thought we were tonight.”

The Stars grabbed a 1-0 lead just :35 before the first intermission when captain Jamie Benn emerged from the penalty box, joined the rush and connected for his 2nd goal of the playoffs off the rebound of a shot by Shawn Horcoff . “We wanted to get off to a good start and we found a way tonight,” Benn said. “(I) got a little bit of a lucky bounce there and it was fortunate enough there to go in the net.”

Dallas, which went five-for-five on the penalty kill, increased the lead to 2-0 in the 2nd period after stifling another Ducks power play. Rookie Valeri Nichushkin took a pass from Tyler Seguin and beat Ducks’ goalie Frederik Andersen on a rush from the top of the right faceoff circle for his first playoff goal with less than three minutes remaining until intermission.

“I thought everyone did a great job (on the penalty kill),” Benn said. “(The Ducks have) a lot of skilled guys there. They know how to move that thing around. We did a good job as a group taking their time and space away. Any time you can get some momentum off the penalty kill, you want to take advantage of its.”

Forward Ryan Garbutt netted his 2nd playoff goal in two games to make it 3-0 midway through the 3rd period by potting the rebound of Cody Eakin’s shot. The Stars appeared to benefit from a loud, boisterous crowd that was behind them throughout the game.

“I thought the atmosphere was tremendous,” said Ruff. “I got on the bench, took a look around and it just put a big smile on my face with the energy and the waving of the towels. It’s my first playoff game here in Dallas and I thought the crowd was tremendous. You could tell they had been waiting for a playoff game. They got a game they liked and they had something they could cheer about. We wanted a little boost from our fans and, as much as Anaheim got a boost from theirs, we got a boost from ours and it was great to see.”

“We did a lot of good things but we didn’t score,” said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. “It’s a real difference playing with the lead and playing from behind in this league (giving you) confidence to take chances. When we were pressing a little too much there, it was giving (Dallas) some odd-man breaks, but I thought chance-wise and skating-wise and territorial-wise, that we were a lot better tonight than we’ve been in the first two games.”

In addition to the hockey game, Anaheim also lost former Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas, who was helped off the ice with a fractured right leg early in the 2nd period. Robidas, who was upended by Garbutt in front of the Dallas net, was unable to put any weight on his right foot and was transported to a local hospital, leaving the Ducks with only five healthy defensemen.

“It’s a huge loss because he was playing great,” Boudreau said. “And of course, I think all the guys on the bench felt extremely bad for him. Here’s your teammate who’s just fought his way back from a broken leg (suffered in his last appearance at the AAC while with the Stars in late-November). I don’t know what the extent of the injury is. I know it doesn’t look good and he’s probably out for a long time. You have to feel for an athlete that worked so hard to get back and then that same thing happens to him.”

The Ducks were not thrilled with how Stars’ forward Antoine Roussel took shots at Anaheim forward Ryan Getzlaf, a force in each of the first two games of the series who was wearing a cage to protect a facial injury suffered at the end of Game One. “It’s just something that I guess you do anything to win, but it’s not something that I think our team would do,” said Boudreau. “We’ll take them and be as physical and be as mean as they want, but obviously they know there’s something wrong with his jaw, so they’re going after it.”

Getzlaf said he wanted to stay as disciplined as possible, “but you’ve got to protect yourself, too. It’s part of the game, and obviously I never expected them to target my face that much, but that’s the way it goes. Did they cross the line? Well, there’s class. You can play hard and do all the things you want, but me, personally, if a guy has a bad jaw I’m not going to hit him (there). But everybody’s different.”

Countered Ruff, “We tried to play hard, we tried to play the man. There were a couple of scrums that I’m pretty sure if you watch (them), our guys got punched in the face a few times. When you’re getting punched in the face, I think eventually you’re going to punch back. Playoff hockey’s emotional.”

Keeping his emotions in check, Lehtonen is looking forward to tying the series in Game Four, with Game Five set for Friday in Anaheim. “Of course I feel better after this (win),” he said. “But these games are so exciting. There’s no time to think about what has happened in the past and things like that. I just have to keep going. Be patient and be alert. That’s the kind of stuff I keep telling myself.”

Dallas Stars Player of the Game – Kari Lehtonen

The Finnish-born goaltender registered his first Stanley Cup Playoff victory and shutout with 37 saves to upend Anaheim, 3-0 and cut the Ducks’ lead in the best-of-seven opening round series to two games to one. Lehtonen registered 13 stops in the first period and 17 more in the 2nd to record his first playoff shutout and 6th whitewash of the season, and the first goose egg by a Stars goalie since Marty Turco blanked the Ducks, 4-0 in the opening game of their series in 2008.

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Young Stars Fall Into 0-2 Hole against Anaheim http://insidehockey.com/young-stars-fall-into-0-2-hole-against-anaheim http://insidehockey.com/young-stars-fall-into-0-2-hole-against-anaheim#comments Sun, 20 Apr 2014 14:08:37 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=58304

The Dallas Stars’ first Stanley Cup playoff series in six years has amounted to a significant learning experience. Although coach Lindy Ruff’s 8th-seeded skaters have fallen into an early two-games-to-none hole against the Western Conference top-seeded Anaheim Ducks (54-20-8), 10 players making their post-season debuts are quickly learning what it takes to compete beginning in late-April.

“Anybody that watched the games, getting down 4-0 (in a 4-3 Game One loss on Wednesday, April 16), this team doesn’t quit,” said Coach Lindy Ruff, whose 40-31-11 team won two of three regular season meetings with Anaheim. “We almost got right back in that game. We had the lead in this (Game Two). It doesn’t feel like an 0-2 series. We definitely haven’t been dominated. In fact, (in Game Two) we dominated, we just didn’t win. We’ve got to clean up some of our mistakes and take advantage of some of those key opportunities.

“The feeling right now is we could be 1-1, we could be 2-0, but we’re 0-2,” Ruff said the day after the Stars dropped their 2nd straight to Anaheim, 3-2 on Friday, April 18. “We have to clean up a couple of mistakes, I thought our second game was a lot better than the first, but we didn’t take advantage of a couple of key opportunities and made a couple of big mistakes that turned the tide on us.”

The Stars glittered in the opening period of Game 2, taking game to their hosts and grabbing their first lead of the series when forward Alex Chiasson netted his first career playoff goal less than eight minutes into the game by one-timing a wrist shot from the slot on a power play feed from Jamie Benn.

“(The Stars) were skating and hitting,” said Ducks’ forward Perry, whose team led the NHL in scoring by averaging 3.21 goals per game. “They played well tonight. We weathered the storm (in the 1st period) and came away 1-1.”

Dallas, which was missing defenseman Brenden Dillon for the 2nd straight game with a lower body injury, turned the puck over in its defensive zone late in the opening period, leading to the Ducks’ game-tying red light. Another Stars’ turnover  in the neutral zone late in the 2nd period enabled Anaheim to take the lead, 2-1. The Ducks extended their lead to 3-1 early in the 3rd period with a shorthanded goal after Dallas was unable to control the puck.

“Every guy is walking in alone, it’s the shooter and the goaltender,” Ruff said. “It wasn’t like (Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen, who made 16 saves) gave up squeakers or anything. We’re in this together, we made the mistakes together, (and) we’re going to create the opportunities together.”

Stars’ forward Ryan Garbutt scored his first playoff goal from the doorstep to make it 3-2 midway through the 3rd period, but Dallas could not get the equalizer against goalie Frederik Andersen on a late power play (they went 1-for-6  with the man advantage) with Lehtonen pulled for an extra attacker.

“At the end of the night, we handed them their opportunities and their goals,” Ruff said. “I thought we skated well, our effort was great, but we made a couple of mistakes that cost us dearly. We didn’t capitalize on some of their big mistakes, which was the difference. But I actually like where our team was at, the pressure they were putting on. There was a lot to like. We missed the net on a couple of big mistakes and you got to give them credit. We handed them a couple. They didn’t have a lot but what we handed them, they took advantage of.”

For now, Ruff and his skaters just want to take things one game at a time. “We’ve focused on improving a couple of areas in the game,” said Ruff, whose squad will host the Ducks at American Airlines Center in Dallas for Games Three on Monday, April 21 and Wednesday, April 23. “I thought we did. I thought our transition was better. I thought we got a lot of pucks to the goal line and put him under a lot of duress. We had the puck for the most part more than they did and forced them into a lot of situations we could have taken advantage of and didn’t. Part of becoming a good playoff team is to improve from your first game, and I saw that improvement.

Stars Drop Playoff Opener to Ducks

In the franchise’s first Stanley Cup playoff game since the Spring of 2008, Dallas dropped a 4-3 verdict to the host Ducks on Wednesday, April 16. The Stars fell behind 1-0 in the first two minutes of the game and were trailing 4-0 by midway through the 2nd period against a Ducks squad that went 31-5-6 when scoring first during the just-completed regular season. Anaheim, which notched multiple power play tallies in the same game for the first time since Jan. 15, seemed on the verge of a blowout victory when the Stars halved the lead in a 1:33 span late in the middle session.

Captain Benn’s rebound wrister and rookie Colton Sceviour’s slap shot gave each his 1st Stanley Cup Playoff goal to give the team a burst of momentum and energy entering the 3rd period. “(The comeback) gave us some life,” said coach Ruff. “The (opportunity by) Benn, even at the end of the period, if we would have had that one to make it 4-3, would have been a really important goal for us. But we got one in the third. I thought at times we had them on their heels and we gave them a good push.”

Forward Tyler Seguin, who won a Stanley Cup in 2010-11 and went to last year’s finals with the Bruins, closed the gap to 4-3 on a tip-in goal with just over six minutes left in regulation. But the Stars were unable to tie the game and send it into overtime

“The way we finished was how we wanted to play the full game,” said Seguin. “I definitely liked our attitude out there. I think we were working hard. It is going to be a long series. That was definitely the message throughout the room. Now we have to bounce back and get ready for the next game.”

“We had a tough start,” said Benn. “They came out hot in their building. They are really good in this rink. I thought we battled back pretty good but it just wasn’t enough. They are going to be hard-fought games. You have to play a full 60 and maybe even more. We are going to learn from this one, we’ll watch some video. They played a good game, they were ready to go.

Goalie Kari Lehtonen, who won eight of 11 decisions down the stretch to help the Stars reach the post-season, made 31 saves in a less than stellar effort. “I think we were controlling play first 12 minutes, I felt we were playing well, but they seemed to get the better scoring chances,” Lehtonen said. “Some days it goes like that. They’re a great team and when they get good opportunity they use it.”

Dallas Stars Player of the Week – Jamie Benn

The Stars team captain helped his team begin an attempted comeback from a 4-0 deficit in Game One of the Stars’ opening round Stanley Cup playoff series. He also set up Alex Chiasson for his first career playoff goal that gave Dallas a 1-0 lead over the Ducks in Game Despite Benn’s efforts and results, Dallas lost Games 1 and 2 by scores of 4-3 and 3-2, respectively.

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Ugly Duckling Spurs Win http://insidehockey.com/ugly-duckling-spurs-win http://insidehockey.com/ugly-duckling-spurs-win#comments Sat, 19 Apr 2014 13:37:12 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=58285

It’s never good when you see your captain lying in the ice in the last few moments of a game, even when you’re winning. That’s what the Ducks players (and fans) had to endure at the end of the team’s 4-3 win against Dallas Wednesday night. Shortly after the game, Coach Boudreau said that they didn’t think things were serious. By Thursday, that was clear. The treatment for a nasty cut included stitches that look on the picture circulating on the internet like they were done by a surgeon holding a flashlight in his teeth.

Doesn’t matter. Getzlaf’s face (and forehead) are not exactly unscarred after even the relatively short time he’s been in the NHL. Though East-coasters might not realize it, he plays the kind of game where he sticks his face in there every night, and this kind of thing is bound to happen.

It was a slapshot on Wednesday, but there he was on Friday evening starting the game, one of those lower cage contraptions attached to his helmet. He was still visorless. (He’s gone back and forth on that over the past few seasons, but he’s back to no visor these days.) Actually looking him in the face after, things appeared more gruesome than on TV or from the distance of the press box. He’s got an incredibly swollen bottom jaw and can hardly talk. He’s missing at least a couple of teeth, maybe more. And those stitches are a jagged line across the upper lip and cheek. Good thing plastic surgery is available at practically every corner convenience store here in SoCal. OK, not really, but this mess will take an expert to clean up.

Was he going to play a timid game as a result? He answered any questions on his first shift, cruising over to the right boards in the Dallas zone and hitting Alex Gologoski hard into the boards. It set the tempo for a rough and nasty first period. Two highlights in that regard: A scrum in front of the Anaheim net after a whistle sees Bryan Allen spin Antione Roussel out of the crease, and Corey Perry lying on the ice in the Dallas crease with Trevor Daly on top of him roughing him up.

Perry spent most of the period looking positively ticked off. His usual smirk, which at times turns into a kind of devilish smile in the dressing room after a win, was gone. Instead? A grim, tight-lipped sneer. He had been hit hard with a knee to the backside early in the frame and retaliated with a spear that ended up getting him a slashing penalty.

After the Daly play, which got the Stars a penalty, Perry was on left wing for a faceoff taking place at the right dot in the Stars’ end, and he was standing well back of the hash mark. At the same time, Roussel was encroaching on his space, and Perry was looking to the referee after the puck dropped, again angry. He had a shot in the period, one of ten for the Ducks, and three hits, most of any forward.

He and Getzlaf led the Ducks forwards in time on the ice, and on this night, they were playing with Devante Smith-Pelly. On Wednesday, it had been Matt Beleskey, but he went out late with a lower-body injury. Smith-Pelly, as is well known, is a local kid, drafted out of SoCal in 2010. His career thus far has included no playoff games but this one, and 75 regular-season matches. He played in 19 this year, recording ten points on two goals. His lifetime NHL goal total is nine.

The Stars scored first, extending their consecutive goals streak in the series to four and effectively tying things up with the Ducks.

But then Mr. Getzlaf delivered another message. He grabbed a puck at the right boards and walked out with it. He hesitated, one guy’s stick on him, and fought that off. He cruised forward, looking to the guy headed to the front, picked up his stick and crossed it over the puck as if to suggest a pass, and then shot it high and true over Lehtonen. 1-1, and he pumped a fist and put his leg up, horse-riding fashion, in celebration. He may be ugly (not really), but he’s not going to be deterred from leading his Ducks.

The game settled down in period two, with Anaheim carrying much of the action and the only goal coming off a Dallas turnover. This one got the angry little pest Corey Perry on the board for the first time after he grabbed turnover in the neutral zone and went in, taking a slapshot from the dot and scoring to the far side.

Dallas’s response to the Ducks’ lead was, naturally, to put their best weapons out on the ice, their first line of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Alex Chiasson. The problem for them had been that the Ducks’ checking line, now Cogliano, Koivu, and Silfverberg, was on them. And when Lindy Ruff adjusted his use of the top guys so that they were out against the Getzlaf line, the Cogliano line tore it up in the offensive zone.

Cogliano took the puck in left side and zinged a wrister. It went behind the net and the next thing, Silfverberg had it on his stick out on the right side.

Ruff had seen enough, and the next time the Cogliano line was on, so was his top line. I know that sounds backwards, but it’s what happened. Through two periods, the Dallas big line had four shots, three of them, including the one that scored them their first goal, by Chiasson. Their time on ice was hoving between 12 and 13 minutes apiece, way out front of all other Dallas forwards save Cody Eakin.

The Ducks, meanwhile, were using their top line, but balancing them with the rest. They had seven guys over 10 minutes through two, and nobody even at 13. Getzlaf led with 12:50.

The lines aside from the aforementioned first and third were Selanne with Perreault and Maroon and Palmieri, Winnik, and Bonino. The Selanne retirement tour as it continues saw him play a nearly invisible game on Wednesday despite getting an assist. Friday he was more visible early, crashing the net and getting a shot that Lehtonen made a good leg save on. But his line wasn’t all that prominent. The other trio ought to be fast (Bonino) and tough (Winnik), but one wonders if the two are incompatible.

The Stars pressed in period three and scored, but before that, the Ducks did in the form of a shorthanded goal by Cogliano. It was really Lehtonen’s fault. The puck had come down to him, and he fired it slowly to the half wall. There was nobody to get it and the Ducks stole it and directed it behind the net. It came out to Cogliano at the right side of the net and he chipped it over the goalie.

He described the goal this way after: “I knew I had to get to the higher part of the net, and I don’t necessarily think that I was thinking about that before it got to me, but I think it was a good shot simply because it was coming across, he was coming across, and I had to go up top.” In fact, Lehtonen did a two-pad stack on the play, old-style, and he went over to try to make the save. Classic, but it didn’t work.

On the other hand, the Dallas point of view on the play was that there should have been a penalty behind the net. Gonchar was slashed there, breaking his stick. He felt that it should have been a penalty, and that would have put the Stars on a five-on-three. “Nobody’s happy about the game, but it’s a seven-game series. I think we’re playing better. We had a chance to tie this game, and I think the referee should have got penalty, on me, behind the net. It should have been a five-on-three instead of a goal against. But these things happen on their side too, and we just have to keep focused. We have to play the same way we played in the third period.”

The Dallas goal came off of Garbutt’s stick at about midway through the period.

Looking at the ice time stats, the big line of Dallas ended the night with just about 22 minutes each. They accounted for only seven of the team’s 36 shots, though. The goals were not theirs, either.

On the other side, the Ducks had a balanced attack through most of the evening, with many of their forwards—eight—in the 15-minute range. None were over 20 minutes, with Getzlaf being the leader at 19:40.

What might surprise you is that second behind him was not Perry. It wasn’t Koivu, or Winnik, or Cogliano. It was Nick Bonino, in large part because he got nearly five minutes on the PK. His total on the night was 18:13, with Winnik, whose 6:11 on the PK was second on the entire team only to Robidas’ 16:17, getting 17:38.

So it was a balanced Ducks offense and a balanced Ducks defense, though the coach was not entirely happy afterwards. He said that his guys were “losing their composure a little bit,” aside from his top players. He said that he hoped Getzlaf’s performance was noted given that he’d had a rough couple of days what with his injury and his wife having had a child.

“As many mistakes as we were making, including turnovers . . . we were blocking shots and getting in the lanes and doing the things that are necessary to win, and then the goalie’s making big saves in the end. I’d like to play different, I’d like it to come down different, but in the end, that’s the way it is.

He finished by saying that the Dallas fans are going to be a factor when the series resumes there Monday. “We’re going to have to go there and play really well in their building, where their fans are really loud, if we want to come back here with whatever, with another win.”

Notes

Getzlaf said that he had been at the hospital last night, gone home, then come back and had the chance to hold his new daughter, Willa, a little before going home to rest again. His goal was his second so far to go with one assist. He has five points in his last three playoff games dating to last season.

He also scored the team’s last playoff shorthanded goal, against Detroit last spring. The last one prior to Cogliano’s on Friday, that is.

I’m on twitter @growinguphockey.

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No Fear of God http://insidehockey.com/no-fear-of-god http://insidehockey.com/no-fear-of-god#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 11:50:10 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=58244

Is it a goalie controversy if you go into the post-season with at least two and possibly three netminders that you could throw in there and not worry about? That was one question that Ducks fans were asking as the team’s opponent for the first round, the Dallas Stars, rolled into town. Thing is, Jonas Hiller was the holder of the job, until he went off to Sochi. When he came back, the hot hand he’d had all year (24 wins to that point) went cold-ish. That is, he came out of the break the way he went into it—with a win—and then lost a couple in OT and one outright before winning another, then losing.

In a season when the team was mostly winning, that wasn’t good enough, and someone else got a crack. That person? Frederik Andersen, who had himself won 14 games to that point. Hiller and Andersen traded starts over the course of the next few weeks, and each posted wins. Then, with Andersen hurt, John Gibson came in, got a shutout in his first start, and posted two more wins to round out his first campaign.

Meanwhile, Hiller dressed as a backup a couple of times and was held out for the last two games of the year, presumably to rest.

He’s rested, and he’s still resting, because after making vague but very Boudreau-like statements such as something on the order of, “one of the three” will start the first game Wednesday night, Boudreau in fact started Andersen.

Early on, he didn’t have to do much. Though Dallas poured 14 shots on him in the first period, only one or two were dangerous. The Stars did penetrate in the second five minutes of the period, but by that time, the Ducks were starting to find their legs.

It had taken them only 1:53 to score the first goal, Kyle Palmieri got it, showing what one pundit IH spoke with called, “The patience of a real goalscorer.” It’s not possible for me to verify this firsthand—I was on the freeway at the time, having taken more than an hour to get to the game in late-afternoon traffic. Oh yes, Anaheim is in fact Los Angeles, as the baseball team says it is. But Dallas goalie Lehtonen talked about it, saying that he hated to allow the early goal. It was on a breakaway, and that was a drag for him. “It’s always, of course you can do something more. I closed my stick a little but not enough. You want to but you don’t want your first shot to be a breakaway, but if you make that save, you feel great and go from there. Today, I wasn’t able to do that, and it was tough to go from there.”

The Stars had the benefit of three Anaheim penalties in the period but scored on none of those chances. The Ducks, meanwhile, did covert on a power play, but that was their third goal. The second one was classic hard play on Anaheim’s part.

Francois Beauchemin gave the puck away in close to his net, and the Stars had a scoring chance. The puck ended up back at the point, where a slapshot was blocked. Immediately, the Ducks charged up ice, with Beleskey putting a puck so hard into Lehtonen’s mask that he stunned him.

Before the puck had even hit the ice on the rebound, Getzlaf whacked it out of the air and in to make it 2-0. The third goal, with about 30 seconds left in the period, was a one-timer by Perreault just inside the post. Just as in, a quarter inch. Patrick Maroon assisted along with Getzlaf.

That answered a question many have had, as did the assist added to Getzlaf’s goal, that going to Perry, given early in period two: Will what people in this area call “the twins,” Perry and Getzlaf, produce early and often in the playoffs?

They didn’t do that in the loss against Detroit in round one last year. By the end of Wednesday, they had three points between them.

Here’s a more to put this series into perspective. The Ducks got bounced by Detroit last year in a seventh game after leading their series 3-2. The Stars haven’t been in the playoffs since 2008. At that time, they defeated the Anaheim Ducks, ending the reign of the then-Stanley Cup champions.

The Stars were a marginal team most of the year, securing their playoff spot only on the weekend (Friday, actually). Despite some Dallas pundits giving the Stars the edge in goaltending due to the uncertainty cited earlier as to who is the Anaheim starter, the Stars’ number one, Kari Lehtonen, has just two playoff games in his career, with Atlanta.

The team as a whole has thirteen roster players who have never found their way to the post-season in the past. The Ducks are a group that still has the same core, albeit a small one, of players who were with the team during the Stanley Cup year, including Perry, Getzlaf, Beauchemin, and Scott Niedermeyer, though he’s watching from above as a coach.

The Stars and Ducks have almost identical power play numbers, neither very good. The home team on Wednesday finished the regular season 22nd in the league at 16 percent, with the visitors just behind them at 15.9 percent for 23rd. On the other side, the Ducks were 13th in the PK department, with Dallas 21st. The percentage numbers, respectively, were 82.2 percent versus 81.4, but the old Scotty Bowman saying is that those two numbers, PK and PP, are supposed to add up to one hundred. For neither team was that true.

That wasn’t evident, at least in the PP department, on this night, as in the second period, Dallas added two goals, one on the power play. This after the Ducks had added one to their first-period total, a slapshot by Beauchemin that Matt Beleskey got a knee on in front of the net. That, too, was scored on the PP. So the Ducks had run it to four with no answer from Dallas.

By the end of the second, it was 4-2 and could have been worse.

It was a classic case of sitting back, and the game edged dangerously close to 4-3. The Dallas goals were scored at 16:36 and 18:09, but with less than a minute left, the Stars stole a puck at the half boards and fed it out front to Benn, who deked and was alone. He was about a dozen feet out in the slot, and he fired a wrist shot that Andersen got with his trapper, but it was a dangerous shot, a dangerous chance, and all the Ducks likely needed to scare them straight.

Boudreau wouldn’t even have had to say, “But for Freddie, it’s 4-3 right now, fellows.” And it all happened so fast. One moment it was a shutout, then next, almost tied. Coach Boudreau wasn’t unhappy with the netminding, as he discussed after the game. “I thought [Andersen] was great. My confidence in him hasn’t waned one iota, and that’s how he’s played for us all year.” He elaborated, “I thought that down the stretch he played the best. He played some big, important games that we had to win, and his nerves didn’t bother him. I thought it was an easy choice for me.”

The shots had evened at 21 with about five minutes left in period two, but they were 27-22 in Dallas’s favor at the end of the period. That means that Dallas was pouring it on, obviously.

The penalty that they scored goal two on, by the way, was not the fault of anyone in particular. It was a too many men penalty, the second one the Ducks took during the game to that point. That’s something you don’t see every day. Or very often. Or hardly ever.

Boudreau explained how that happened: “We have to pay better attention. They knew who was up, and two guys went for one guy. On the second [penalty], two of our players were coming off the ice, and one stopped to interfere with one of their guys, and once you’re not off the ice, and you’re interfering with somebody else, they’re going to call that automatically.”

He also said, “When teams score goals late, they get the momentum. The other team [his] ends up playing defensively. I thought that halfway through the game, we weren’t in control of the situation.” He was not slow to critique his team. “I’m sure we didn’t put the fear of God into them tonight, and they probably gained some confidence by it. We didn’t play that good, I didn’t think. We have to play a lot better if we want to win anything. I thought we gave the puck away too many times tonight, especially early. We got a 2-0 lead, but then they had the puck in our zone. We’ll go back to the drawing board. Hopefully we’ll learn. We got the first game over with, and now that you know what you’re dealing with, we’ll be better next game.”

So what can be learned from a near-miss like Dallas had? First, that the Ducks can be defeated. It’s just a little much to ask that you come back from down 4-0 to do that. Dallas star Tyler Seguin said in his brief comments in the locker room, “We need to play the full game. Except for the first ten, twelve minutes, we played pretty good, but we didn’t capitalize on some opportunities. . . . We were working hard. It’s going to be a long series. That was definitely the message throughout the room. We had a lot of opportunities. That’s a good goalie over there, and they came away with game one.”

That their goaltending is not infallible. Sure, neither is Dallas’s—seeing Tim Thomas behind the bench on a chair halfway into the tunnel as the backup netminder is in this arena is at least a little bit disconcerting—but Andersen is not the rock that will lead the Ducks deep if he plays like he did Wednesday. His second and third goals were each at least a little shaky. The third, granted, went off Seguin in front to get by him, but it was a soft shot from the far right hash marks that started the play. Not the type of shot that ought to turn into a goal.

The second, also. That puck was low and not all that hard along the ice. Hiller might come back, but if he does, he’s going to have to solve what the press is calling his “confidence problem” in one mighty hurry.

But Andersen is still the supremely confident type. When asked how he felt about getting the start, he said he had no nerves. None. He said after, “We let them back in when we had the lead, but it’s a good thing that we won, anyway. Even when you’re up 4-0, you’ve got to play the sixty minutes, that’s one thing I learned, and I wasn’t nervous. You can’t let nerves get to you. You’re screwed when you do that. Even with the lead, you have to focus as a goalie. You can’t let up. They score two goals, two quick goals, and it’s one thing you’ve got to do, keep your focus. It’s nice to get the nod, and cool, and that’s why you practice, so you can get to play. Nerves were nothing [as a factor]. You just prepare as usual.” In his locker stall sat the fire helmet that the team gives out to the player of the game, evidence that at least nineteen people in the building were happy with what he’d done on the night.

Another lesson is that the Ducks simply have a lot of bad habits. Two of them are opposite one another. The first is starting slowly, forcing themselves to come from behind. The obviously did not do that in game one.

The other is letting their foot off the gas and allowing the other team to get back in. That’s something that Columbus did on this same evening to ill effect. It’s not something that Anaheim is going to get away with in the playoffs like they did in the regular campaign, whether it’s Dallas or their next opponent who sticks it to them for trying.

The Ducks at least ended the game strong. They charged in, for instance, with about a minute and a half left, Perry taking a slapshot that Lehtonen, way out of his net, blocked with the blocker, and Getzlaf following in trying for the rebound. That brought their shots to 35, ahead of Dallas for one of the only times all game.

Shortly after that, with about a minute left, out went the Dallas goalie and on came the sixth player. The Stars kept the puck in the Anaheim end, but they didn’t put it in the Anaheim net, and the game ended with a 4-3 final score.

One bit of bad news—with 16.3 seconds to go, Getzlaf took a puck in the face off a slapshot from Seguin, covering the point. The Stars won the ensuing faceoff but didn’t get a shot, and the game ended at 35-35 in shots.

It was a closer finish than it ought to have been. Fans now wait until Friday to see whether the team can clean things up a little. Meanwhile, Dallas feels that they’ve got life. “It ended up being a tight game,” goalie Lehtonen said, “It was fun to be out there. I have to start better, and the team has to too, and then we’ll be good.”

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