Prepping for the Playoffs
Tuesday, 04.08.2008 / 5:46 PM / Feature
By Dallas Stars Staff
The Stars were back on the ice on Tuesday in Frisco after a day off to start preparing for their first round match-up with the Anaheim Ducks, which gets under way on Thursday evening at Honda Center.
The players were focused on the task at hand, and all were ready to get to work with one common goal of winning in the first round.
“I thought today was a very good day of practice,” said Head Coach Dave Tippett. “The players had a lot of focus and that is a good sign. We’re preparing as best we can and the attitude today by the team is what we were looking for.”
The beginning of April brings with it a new season – the Stanley Cup Playoffs and they are second-to-none when it comes to intensity and fun.
“This is an exciting time of year for everyone involved in the playoffs,” said Stu Barnes. “We’ve played 82 games and it is a tough road to the playoffs, but that’s our goal and that’s what we play for. We’re finally here and I think that all 16 teams that are in – the players, the coaches, the fans – everyone is very excited.”
Added Brenden Morrow, “I’m looking forward to the playoffs. Our goal is to get the job done. We’ve gone over the film and we know what we have to do, now it’s just a matter of doing it and winning the first round vs. Anaheim.
“I think we got a little momentum going in the last few games of the year. We had some success against this team this season and we know it’s going to be a tough test against them.”
The Ducks and Stars know each other well, playing in the Pacific Division, the teams met eight times during the regular season, with Dallas winning five of them. Both have a clean slate as the series starts and both know what is at stake.
“Obviously the post-season is crunch time,” said Barnes. “You’ve got to raise your game and you have to compete well. You have to know your opponent. We’ve played Anaheim a lot and we know they are a very good hockey team. We’re going to have to be at our absolute best to have any type of success.”
The Stars had the second-best penalty killing rank in the league for the regular season with 85.5% and the 13th-best power play (fourth-best on the road). Dallas will be looking to be as good, or even better, in the special teams in this series.
“Special teams play a big part in every game and it is even bigger in the playoffs,” said Morrow. “We know we have to play well on special teams, especially against a team like Anaheim. That includes staying out of the penalty box too. We can’t give them too many opportunities to hurt us.”
The Stars will look to play as a team and hopefully have success as a group. It’s not about one or two players stepping up, it’s about all of them.
“We need all four lines to contribute,” said Mike Modano. “Our special teams have been good for us all year and they’re going to have to be good in this series to have any success. Obviously goaltending is a huge factor – it always is in the playoffs.”
Dallas has not made it out of the first round in the last three playoffs, something the entire team would like to change in 2008.
“We’d love nothing more than to erase some of the bad memories of the last few years,” said Modano. “But I think it’s simple – we just need to get out there and play our type of game, have some fun and enjoy it. Anaheim is obviously a tough building to play in and they have most of their key guys back from last year so we have our work cut out for us. But I’ve been in situations where we’ve started on the road and good things have happened. We’re going to be ready and we’re looking forward to it.”
Looking over some of the early predictions of the media “experts” for the playoffs reveal a lot of picks for the Ducks to win this series. Hard to argue with people picking the defending Cup champs to win their first round series. Does it bother the Stars though? No, not really.
“That’s probably a good thing,” said Modano. “You can’t get all caught up in what the media is saying or who is picked to win the series. We want our playing to do our talking and we’ll see how that plays out.
The Stars will practice again on Wednesday before flying out to Southern California. The focus is there and the goal is clear.
“Our focus for the playoffs is the same as it was in the regular season – ‘find a way to win,’” said Tippett. “We’re going up against the defending Stanley Cup Champions and we’re the underdog in the series. They have a very good team but we’re focused on what we have to do. We have to find a way to win.”
-- The Ducks and Stars last met in the Stanley Cup playoffs in the 2003 Conference Semifinal (won by Anaheim 4-2). Only F Rob Niedermayer and Samuel Pahlsson as well as G J.F. Giguere remain from that team. Nine current Dallas players competed in that series -- F Brenden Morrow, Mike Modano, Jere Lehtinen, Stu Barnes and Steve Ott, D Sergei Zubov, Stephane Robidas and Philippe Boucher and G Marty Turco.
-- The Ducks-Stars matchup features the two teams that registered the most number of wins this season after giving up the first goal of the game. Anaheim had 21 such wins (21-23-5), while the Stars had 20 come-from-behind wins (20-20-2).
-- Anaheim boastes the second most home-ice points (60) in the Western Conference, holding visiting teams to a League low 88 goals, while the Dallas Stars finished third in the Western Conference with 49 road points and scored the Western Conference's second highest road goal total (118).
-- During the 2007 playoffs, Dallas G Marty Turco posted a 1.30 goals-against-average and a .952 save percentage before being eliminated in game seven of theWestern Conference Quarter-finals. Anaheim G J.S. Giguere led his team to the StanleyCup with a 1.97 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage.