LCS Hockey: Born Again
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March 24, 2019
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First Round Recap: Dallas vs Anaheim



Dallas Stars (5) vs Anaheim Ducks (4): Dallas won series, 4-2

I gotta tell ya, I didn't see this one coming. I knew Dallas was a solid team, but I didn't think they had the toughness up front to beat the big bad Ducks. So wha' happened?

For whatever reason, the Ducks were never able to impose their will. Dallas wasn't intimidated in the least, matching the Water Fowl hit for hit. The Stars actually outhit the Ducks in three of the six contests, including the decisive Game Six.

A playoff series is like a boxing match. If you work the body early, it'll pay off in the later rounds. The Ducks never put in the body work. They were either unable or unwilling to soften up the Stars, and it came back to haunt them in Game Six.

After blowing the first two at home and falling behind 3-1 in the series, the Ducks responded like champs in Game Five, beating the Stars 5-2 behind 40 saves from J.S. Giguere. Anaheim also outhit Dallas 36-22. It was like old times.

Returning to the Lonestar State for Game Six, the two clubs waged a tight-checking, defensive affair, combining for just 25 shots through the first two periods. Corey Perry had the lone goal, putting a snapper through Marty Turco from the right wing at 2:11 of the second.

Leading 1-0 heading to the third, the defending champs were 20 minutes away from extending the series to Game Seven and keeping their hopes of a repeat alive. But since they weren't punished early in the series, the Stars had plenty of juice left to hang four goals in the third and send the Ducks packing.

The rally started with Ryan Carter getting whistled for a very questionable holding call just 17 seconds into the final frame. C'mon, stripes. Keep it fair. On the subsequent man-advantage, Jere Lehtinen was set up along the left wall and sent a pass back to Mike Modano at the center point. Mikey Mo let rip with the big one-timer, but he missed the net by about 10 feet. The puck caromed off the back boards to Stephane Robidas skating in from the right point. Robidas uncorked a one-timer of his own, beating Giguere for the equalizer.

Robidas struck again only 52 seconds later. The gritty defender, who wore a cage to protect his broken nose, carried the puck into the Anaheim zone on right wing and muscled his way around Mathieu Schneider. Ryan Getzlaf didn't seem real interested in stopping him either, hanging back to cover the man in the high slot and letting Robidas swing free towards the cage.

Perry also bought a ticket to the Robidas show, forgetting all about marking good ol' Stu Barnes. But who can blame him? I forgot about Stu Barnes long ago. But the crafty veteran jumped right around the preoccupied Perry, depositing a sweet Robidas pass behind Giguere to put the Stars in front 2-1. Stu Barnes? Really?

After Giguere made a couple huge saves to keep the Ducks in it, Loui Eriksson finally bagged the insurance goal at 17:42, taking a nifty saucer pass from Brad Richards and busting behind the defense. The speedy Swede showed off his soccer skills to settle the pass and then buried a wrister by Giguere's glove. Modano closed out the scoring with an empty-netter.

It was an impressive performance from the Stars. Like I said, I didn't think they had it in 'em. They took it to the Ducks all series long. This wasn't a fluke.


TURNING POINT
Obviously, the series hinged on the opening minutes of Game Six's third period. If things go back to Anaheim, I'm not liking Dallas' chances. But the third period of Game Two was just as important. The Stars erupted for three goals, including two 55 seconds apart, to break a 2-2 tie and escape Anaheim with a 2-0 series lead. It's one thing to lose the first two games on the road, but dropping them at home probably isn't all that bright. The Ducks were cooked.


HEROES
Stephane Robidas was the man. He had a goal and five assists in the series, and his performance in Game Six will become part of playoff lore. And he did it all with a busted nose. It's not Rich Franklin busted, but it still doesn't look good. It's flatter than a Matt Morris curveball.

And how about Stu Barnes? He scored two goals in the series. The Hall of Fame has already requested the pucks, not to mention the shovels the Stars used to dig him up. Stu Barnes? Really?

Going into the series, everyone was sweating Anaheim's veteran defense of Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer, and Mathieu Schneider. But it was Dallas' young trio of Matt Niskanen, Mark Fistric, and Nicklas Grossman that won the day. All three were in the lineup for Game Six and acquitted themselves nicely.

Last year, Marty Turco stood on his head in the first round but lost his goaltending duel with Roberto Luongo. Statistically, Turco wasn't anywhere near as good this year, notching a .912 save percentage compared to .952 against Vancouver, but he came through with enough clutch saves to beat the champs. It snaps a string of three straight first-round defeats for Marty.

And as much as it pains me to say it, Mike Ribeiro was a hero. He led the Stars in scoring with two goals and eight points in the series. He only had one point in the last three, but he was instrumental in Dallas escaping the Pond with the first two games.

I tell you what. Out of respect for what he accomplished against the Ducks, I'll refrain from making any cheap Ribeiro jokes for the rest of the playoffs. Or at least until he completely disappears next round. You're welcome.

Corey Perry was making a heroic run for the Ducks, returning from his leg injury to notch two goals and an assist in the final three games. But it's tough to be considered a hero when you get beat by Stu Barnes for the series-winning goal. Stu Barnes? Really?


WEASELS
Mathieu Schneider was rather dreadful, posting just one goal, no assists, and a minus-3 in the series. His turnstile imitation against Robidas in Game Six will be tough to live down. At least they're not paying the guy $6 million a year. Oh, sorry. Never mind.

And how about Todd Bertuzzi, huh? He's very good. Six games, no goals, two assists, and a minus-2. At least he didn't break anyone's neck. And it's not like they're paying the guy $4 million a year or anything. Oh, sorry. Never mind.




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