It is finally here. The day all Stars fans had been waiting for since 2008. 5 years, 10 months and a few odd days later, the Dallas Stars will play a playoff game against the Anaheim Ducks tonight. Here are a couple headlines to help get you ready for game 1.
LET’S START FRESH
The Dallas Stars will wander into familiar territory on Wednesday night as they prepare for game 1 against the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks and Stars spent the past number of years locked in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference. They have two prior playoff matchups in 2003 and 2008. In 2004, Anaheim’s Cinderella run paved their way straight through Big D. En route to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2003, the Ducks beat the Stars 4-2. Meanwhile in 2008, the Stars repaid the favour and beat the Ducks 4-2 in the opening round. Last season the Ducks beat the Stars in the regular season series, but this season the Stars beat the Ducks. As you can see, each team has proven they can beat each other. Even though Dallas holds the regular season edge over the Ducks coming into tonight’s game, that will all mean nothing once the puck drops. All of Seguin and Benn’s regular season goals will not count for anything; neither will the Ducks Western Conference leading 116 regular season points. As soon as Seguin and Getzlaf get to centre ice for the opening faceoff at approximately 9pm CST, it is game on. No turning back, no leaning on what you have done previously. It’s time to shine!
THE REVOLVING DOOR OF GOALTENDING
In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, not many things are for certain. Teams change goaltenders, lines, defense pairings, and sometimes even pre-game rituals. It is all in an effort to find and equation that will produce success. Early in the 2013-2014 season, the Ducks seemed to have it all figured out. They were riding a ridiculously long winning streak on home ice and goaltender Jonas Hiller was in the midst of winning 14 consecutive starts. As the season progressed, Hiller cooled off and backup Frederik Anderson was given a chance. Anderson played well for the Ducks and carried the workload in net as Hiller battled some injury issues. When Hiller returned, it was then Anderson’s turn to take a seat. Hiller carried the Ducks throughout most of the season and posted a career best 29-13-7 record. He started to struggle down the stretch and Anderson again found his way into the Ducks crease. Shortly after taking over the starting job, Anderson then went down with an injury of his own. Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau then decided to call up AHL top prospect John Gibson. Boudreau gave Gibson the remaining three starts of the regular season and he won them all. As of right now, the Ducks are carrying three goaltenders. Anderson has recovered from his late season injury, Hiller is battling to win back his crease, and newcomer John Gibson is turning heads. Boudreau has not tipped his hand at all about who he will give the game 1 start to. My best guess is we will see Frederik Anderson in net for Anaheim. Boudreau seems to have lost all confidence in his former starter Jonas Hiller, and it would be completely surprising if Gibson, who only has 3 NHL games of experience, was thrown into the NHL playoffs this quickly. But like I said above, not many things in the playoffs are for certain. We will only know who coach Boudreau decides to start in net when the puck is dropped!
When Tyler Seguin was acquired from the Boston Bruins back in July, not many people envisioned the season he has had to date for the Dallas Stars. The 21-year old Seguin was coming over from Boston with a terrible knack for partying too hard, a recent Twitter meltdown, and a public roasting by his general manager caught on tape. Lucky for Stars fans, he moved to Dallas and proceeded to form one of the league’s best dynamic duos with Captain Jamie Benn. Benn and Seguin both found themselves in top 10 for points scoring in the regular season and were creating matchup problems for opposing teams on a nightly basis. They quickly solidified themselves as the leaders of the team and led Dallas back to the playoffs for the first time in 5 seasons. Does any of this sound familiar? Two players who found instant chemistry, both in the top 10 of NHL scoring, and are regarded as one of the league’s best duos? Of course it does, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are the duo that the Ducks possess. Like Seguin and Benn, the Ducks duo wreaks havoc on opposing defensive systems night in, night out. They are both 200-foot hockey players and both register at over 6 feet tall and 200 plus pounds. In the 2013-2014 NHL regular season, Getzlaf and Perry paced all duo’s in the league in combined points (169) while Seguin and Benn were second best (159). These two duos’ are viewed by both teams as vital pieces to winning each night and will be leaned on heavily in the series. Boudreau will most likely want to try and matchup Getzlaf and Perry straight up against Benn and Seguin. By doing this, the Ducks believe they will be able to expose the top line of Seguin, Benn, and Valeri Nichuskin physically and defensively. As for the Stars, they will likely try and get their dynamic duo away from Getzlaf and Perry. My guess is that Stars Head Coach Lindy Ruff will try and match the “Pitbull Line” of Cody Eakin, Antoine Roussel, and Ryan Garbutt against the Ducks main men. No matter how the matchups pan out, this will be one very exciting series. Arguably, the two best tandems in the league will try and out duel each other for a minimum of 4 games. I cannot wait!
Other Things To Look For:
-Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen will be making his 3rd career postseason start. His last two starts came when he was with Atlanta in 2007. His last memory of the postseason was a 7-0 loss to the New York Rangers. So you can be sure he will be ready to erase that memory tonight.
-Stars Brenden Dillon will be a game-time decision. This is potentially a massive loss for the Stars if Dillon cannot play. He is one of the bigger defenders (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) Dallas has to try and combat the size of the Ducks.
-The Ducks 3rd line of Andrew Cogliano, Saku Koivu, and Jakub Silfverberg should be of note to the Dallas Stars. This line has the ability to use their speed to get in on the forecheck and make the Stars defence turn pucks over.
-And one more thing….BE LOUD, BE PROUD! GOOOOOOO STARS!