The term must-win gets tossed around a lot in sports, often times when it is not really a must-win. Sunday is a must-win for the Dallas Stars. It is win or get eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Stars feel confident they are up to the challenge.
“When this team has faced adversity they’ve answered the call,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “I’m positive that they’ll answer that call again.”
Ruff likes his team’s mindset heading into Game 6 of their first round playoff series against the Anaheim Ducks, which they trail 3-2 after Friday’s 6-2 loss in Anaheim.
“You liked the fact that there’s disappointment and some frustration,” he said. “We’ve been a pretty focused group coming home and I anticipate that again.”
The Stars said they’ll shake off Friday’s loss and look to pull even at home, where they have played well over the last half of the season and won Games 3 and 4 of this series. Including the playoffs, they have won 10 of their last 12 games at American Airlines Center.
“We feel like we can do well at home, and we have to really do that tomorrow and keep our hopes alive that we can move on,” said Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen. “I think that makes everybody a little bit more comfortable after a bad game like that. The next game is at home, and we’ve done well there in the past.”
Twelve Dallas players have made their NHL playoff debuts in this series, and this will be the first time they’ve faced an elimination game at this level. At the same time, they have a lot of players who have been down this road before and can provide some insight.
“That’s one thing with experience, you get it from playing and being in those situations. We have enough guys in the locker room that have been there before,” said Stars forward Shawn Horcoff. “Everyone that has been there knows that the fourth game is the hardest game to win in a series. The pressure is squarely on them now to come in and win a game in our building, where we have been good. We have to take confidence in the fact that we can play our type of game tomorrow and try to take it to a Game 7, where anything can happen.”
But to get to a Game 7, the Stars will need to win Game 6. It will be another tough test for the Stars, but they’ve never taken the easy route to get this far.
“We started out 0-2 [in the series], we made it 2-2. We lost one game,” said Ruff. “At the end of the season, we went through the theory that you had to win two out of three. We lost the first one, now we have to win the next two. The stretch run was win two, lose one. Win two, lose one. That was the pace we were going at. It’s our turn in our building where we’ve played some fabulous hockey to take it back to them. We weren’t able to break serve in their building. Now we have to be able to hold it in our court.”
Ruff looking to shake up power play
Special teams haven’t gone the Stars’ way in two of the five games in the series against the Ducks, and on Friday things tilted heavily towards Anaheim. The Ducks were 4-6 on the power play, while the Stars were 0-7 with the man advantage. The Stars are 2-24 (8.3 percent) on the power play in the series, and rank 15th among the 16 teams in the playoffs.
“We’re going to change that up. It’s not working,” Ruff said. “The units are going to change. I think we’re getting a little bit of net focus and there’s not enough deception and I think that comes with frustration from not scoring. So that part is going to change.”
The penalty kill has been up and down. It allowed two goals in the first game of the series, was perfect in the next three games and then got lit up for four goals on Friday.
“The penalty killing had been good up until the last one. There were a couple breakdowns,” said Stars forward Shawn Horcoff. “I think the second one deflected off a guy in front, there’s not much you are going to do there. We just have to find a way. We’ll watch some video, make some adjustments. Special teams are so important in the playoffs and we are going to have to refocus on that.”
Garbutt fined for spearing Perry
The NHL fined Stars forward Ryan Garbutt $1,474.36, the maximum allowable under the CBA, for spearing Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry in Friday night’s game. It happened midway through the first period. Garbutt was given a major penalty and game misconduct.
Stars coach Lindy Ruff talked about Garbutt after the team arrived back in Dallas Saturday afternoon. The Stars forward has struggled this season at times on the penalty front.
“That process during the year wasn’t quite hard enough for him,” Ruff said. “I didn’t get him quite where I needed to. It’s been a give and take. It’s been a tough road for him, but he’s got a ways to go yet. Playoff spirit and playoff embellishing and playoff gamesmanship is a whole lot different from the regular season. He got caught with a little playoff gamesmanship there.”
Perry had little to say about the incident Saturday.
“It’s just something that happened,” he said when asked about it.
Any reaction to Garbutt being fined?
“No,” said Perry.
Ducks watch: Learning from the past
The Ducks are in familiar territory with a 3-2 series lead. They were in the same boat last season in the first round against Detroit, and they ended up losing the series. They lost Game 6 in Detroit and then lost the seventh and deciding game in Anaheim.
“I think there’s always a desire to end the series as soon as you can. We learned a little bit from last year, being up 3-2. We just got to go in and play a good road game tomorrow,” said Ducks forward Nick Bonino. “I think just wanting it enough to close out a series. Teams don’t play their best hockey until their backs are against the wall and they can be out. We expect nothing less from Dallas than their best game. We’re going to need ours to win it.”
The Ducks are hoping to avoid a seventh game. Even though they would have home ice, it is down to just one game and anything can happen, which is what they learned from last season’s loss to the Red Wings.
“When you corner a bear or whatever, they fight the hardest,” said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. “That experience with most of the guys that were here last year, I hope works for tomorrow. We don’t want to wait for a seventh game if we can help it. Obviously Dallas wants to push it as far as they can go because in Game 7s anything can happen. But that would be the experience we gain from it. That’s sort of the message.”
“You learned all those things,” said Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf. “When you have opportunities, you want to take advantage of them. And I’ve said that throughout the second half of this season. Our group has done a great job of having opportunities and seizing them. Whether that was closing out the Western Conference at the end of the year or different items throughout the season where we had the chance to do things. Those are things that we obviously learned from last year and build on now.”
Quotable: Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau on Jamie Benn
“He’s a great player. I’ve thought Jamie Benn was a great player since I saw him playing against Hershey when he was with Texas (AHL). And still do. Thought he would be a perfect fit when you’re making your mock Olympic teams up with Perry and Getzy. Just a winner. He reminds me of those leaders like Getzy and Iginla that they’ll not only play and do the right things but they’ll fight when they need to. And they do whatever it takes to win. We knew that it was going to be quite a handful. And it’s turned out that it’s true. I think he’s scored in four of the five games. And should have had other ones too.”
(Ducks lead series 3-2)
Game 1: Wed, April 16, Dallas at Anaheim: Ducks 4, Stars 3
Game 2: Fri, April 18, Dallas at Anaheim: Ducks 3, Stars 2
Game 3: Mon, April 21, Anaheim at Dallas: Stars 3, Ducks 0
Game 4: Wed, April 23, Anaheim at Dallas: Stars 4, Ducks 2
Game 5: Fri, April 25, Dallas at Anaheim: Ducks 6, Stars 2
Game 6: Sun, April 27, Anaheim at Dallas, 7:00 p.m., Fox Sports Southwest/NBC Sports Network/TSN2
*Game7: Tue, April 29, Dallas at Anaheim, TBD, Fox Sports Southwest/TSN
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