The 2013-2014 season for the Dallas Stars has been a campaign of unknowns. New general manager Jim Nill remodeled the team in the summer with various on and off ice personnel changes. The expectations created by these moves were inconsistent. Some analysts and fans alike, predicted the Stars to surprise everybody and make the playoffs. Others predicted the Stars to surprise nobody and take a comfy seat on the couch when the playoffs started.
No matter who you are or what your pre-season predictions were, if you were told that the Stars would be tied in a first round playoff series with the best team in the Western Conference after 4 games, would you have believed it?
That very fact can become a reality when Dallas takes the ice tonight at the AAC in front of another sold out Stars faithful. With a win tonight the Stars can knot the series up 2-2 and head to Orange County in good spirits.
Here are a few headlines to keep an eye out for tonight in game 4.
Over the past couple of seasons the Dallas Stars have earned the nickname “Pesky Stars”. The nickname was in regard to their hard working, grinding style of play when players like Adam Burish, Steve Ott, and Brenden Morrow were still playing in Big D. Over the past few seasons, the Stars approach to playing the game of hockey has changed. Lindy Ruff has instilled strategies that help the Stars get away from being a grinding team, and move towards being a team that utilizes speed and finesse more. The strategies that Ruff has instilled have worked wonders for the Stars, but they showed a little bit of their old selves in game three. Dallas annoyed Anaheim all night long with their pesky play and took the dynamic duo of the Ducks completely out of the game. The best defense against the Ducks forwards, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, is the defense you do not have to play. This means either you constantly keep the puck in the offensive zone against them, which is highly unlikely with their incredible skill level, or you force them into taking penalties. Antoine Roussel, Ryan Garbutt and Co. walked an extremely fine line on Monday night, forcing Getzlaf and Perry to become frustrated and take uncharacteristic penalties. If the Stars can continue to insert the right amount of “pesky” into their game, they will continue to frustrate the Ducks. If Monday night was any sign of what happens to the Anaheim Ducks when they are frustrated, it is in Dallas’ best interest to do it all over again tonight.
KEEP YOUR COMPOSURE
After Monday night’s defeat, Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau vowed that his team would not allow the Stars to walk all over them again. He went as far as saying that the Stars showed disrespect and a lack of class when targeting Getzlaf and Perry. Ducks forward Patrick Maroon reiterated those comments and promised to do whatever was needed to avenge what the Stars did to the Duck captain. The writing is now on the wall; Dallas knows exactly how Anaheim is going to come out in game four. They will come out with vengeance on their mind while looking to take every liberty they can against the Stars top players. It will be very important for the Stars to stay level headed and play a well-disciplined game when this happens. The Ducks will try to start scrums after whistles, throw cheap shots when nobody is looking, and maybe even forget to stop en route to the Dallas net. By staying level headed and sticking to the game plan, the Ducks will eventually become penalized for their acts of vengeance, and open the door for the Stars. Scoring a couple goals on early powerplays will help the Stars to calm their nerves and get into a comfortable mindset for sixty minutes. They have no need to match the Ducks moronic play when opportunity beckons for a potential 2-2 series tie heading back to Anaheim for game five on Friday.
Dallas Stars fans had waited a very long time before playoff hockey finally returned to the AAC on Monday night. The atmosphere that was created in game three was nothing short of spectacular. National audiences and broadcast teams were impressed by the type of atmosphere that a non-traditional hockey market could generate. John Forslund, play-by-play announcer for NBC, constantly made note of the energy that was being generated by all 19,000 plus Stars fans inside the AAC. Head coach Lindy Ruff also commended the Stars faithful for the energy they created in his post-game press conference. When the building is rocking, the home team always seems to find an extra gear to get to. The Dallas Stars exemplified that perfectly as they played well all night and looked like a team that was hungry to get their first postseason victory in six years. Heading into game four, you can guarantee that the house will be rocking with excited Stars fans. The next domino that needs to fall into place will be the home team’s urgency and hunger to get this series back level. Look for another sellout crowd to create a very advantageous environment for the Stars.
Other Headlines To Look Out For:
-Stars Brenden Dillon skated with the team yesterday and is still considered a “long-shot” to play tonight. For now, consider him doubtful.
-Erik Cole was made a healthy scratch on Monday night in favour of Chris Mueller. It will be interesting to see who Ruff decides to go with tonight. Does he side with the experience of Cole or continue to go with the youthful exuberance of Mueller?
-It will be interesting to see how Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen will respond after shutting out the Ducks on Monday night. If he can catch fire with another great performance tonight, the Ducks will be in big trouble.
-Gametime is 7pm CST. Be loud, be proud! Go Stars!