On The Road With DotCom
Monday, 04.28.2008 / 5:39 PM / Feature
By J. Douglas Foster
SAN JOSE, Calif. – So let’s see … the Stars opened a playoff series on the road, against a team that closed the regular season on an incredible hot streak, and in spite of that, they return to Dallas from those first two road contests with a 2-0 lead that is sure to raise a few eyebrows.
No, it’s not a replay of the Stars’ opening-round playoff series win against Anaheim. But just as was the case in the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Stars have surprised everyone but themselves in round two by winning each of the firs two games in San Jose, against a Sharks team that went 20 consecutive games without a regulation loss late in the regular season.
As mentioned, a surprise to everyone but the Stars themselves.
“It almost seems like we’ve been better on the road all year,” Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas said. “I think for this team it’s good to get the guys on the road together and get off to a quality start, and we’ve done that in both the first two series now. That’s two big wins so far.”
No, the victories haven’t been as dominant or as decisive as they were in Games 1 and 2 in Anaheim, but the Stars – no strangers to success in northern California – have simply continued a trend that has lasted nearly two seasons now.
At HP Pavilion – considered one of the best home-ice advantages in all of hockey – the Stars have come in and put their feet up on the furniture for the better part of nine games. In those last nine meetings, regular season and playoffs combined, the Stars are 8-0-1, having outscored the Sharks 31-16.
In a venue feared by others, the Stars find themselves right at home.
“We just seem to respond to that challenge,” Robidas said. “They are a great team, and that’s a tough building to play in because the fans are so into the game, but it’s exciting. It’s a real challenge, and we have a team that seems to respond to that kind of challenge.”
For all the different offensive heroes, it can’t be overlooked that in those nine games, the Stars have allowed three goals or more just once – which came in the one, lone, overtime loss. The other eight games, the Sharks have been held to two or fewer.
That’s been the case in the playoffs as well, as the Stars have given up just four goals in a span of more than 124 minutes.
Thank the defense. Thank the team effort. And of course, thank Marty Turco.
“Everything comes back to goaltending,” Stars co-general manager Les Jackson said. “If you don’t have quality goaltending, it doesn’t matter what players you have in front of him, you’re not going to win. Marty is a terrific goaltender. It doesn’t surprise me that he’s played as well as he has.”
Equally impressive has been the play of 37-year-old Mike Modano, the Stars’ all-time leader in every statistical category, both regular and postseason.
He’s looked anything but 37 against the Sharks this season, and that has continued through two games. He had a game-tying power play goal in Game One, then registered the game winner in Game Two off a highlight-reel feed from long-time teammate Sergei Zubov, who returned from a three-month absence with a broken foot and a sports hernia to play his first game this postseason.
That goal extended Modano’s playoff goal streak to three games, and extended his point streak against San Jose in both the regular season and playoffs to 10 games (every game this season). He has 13 points in those 10 games, including three game-winning goals.
Despite all the positives, and everything that can be taken from two quality road wins against one of the best teams in the NHL, the Stars realize that you don’t stop playing golf after nine holes.
At the same time, you don’t win a best-of-seven series with two victories. There’s two more to go, and they return home to face a Sharks team that had the best road winning percentage (.707) in the NHL this season.
Not only that, the Sharks have won four of their last five games at American Airlines Center.
“Each game gets harder and harder,” Jackson said. “It’s hard to get that fourth win, and we’re facing the best road team in the NHL. Our hands are going to be full.”
*Brad Richard’s four-point night in Game Two made him the first Stars player since 1991 to register four points in a playoff game. Brian Bellows had four assists for the Minnesota North Stars against Chicago on April 12, 1991. Richards is the first with four points in the same period since Dave Gagner accomplished the feat four days earlier, with four points in the first period against the Blackhawks on April 8, 1991.
*Turco now has 14 wins in the regular season and playoffs combined at HP Pavilion, breaking a tie for second place among visiting goalies with Curtis Joseph. He’s three back of all-time record holder Patrick Roy, who won 17 games at HP Pavilion (12 regular season, five playoff).
*The Stars are the fifth team in NHL history to win Games 1 and 2 on the road in consecutive playoff series. Each of the previous four teams to do it (Toronto in 1945 and 1949, Minnesota in 1981 and Anaheim in 2003) reached the Stanley Cup Final, with both those Maple Leafs teams winning the Stanley Cup.
*The Stars have dominated third periods through this postseason, outscoring opponents 17-5 in the final frame.
*Zubov played 16:19 in his first game back since Jan. 17, registering the one assist with two shots on goal.
*The last time Modano had a three-game goal streak in the playoffs? The 2000 Western Conference semifinals, against San Jose, when he registered a goal in four consecutive games.