Stars Need Maximum Effort to Prolong Series
Tuesday, 05.13.2008 / 5:25 PM / Feature
By Ken Sins
It would be natural for the Stars to mail in the effort for Wednesday night’s Game 4. Detroit has established dominance in the first three games, seemingly leaving Dallas with little hope to prolong these Western Conference finals.
Here are the grim odds: only twice in 153 attempts have NHL teams stormed back to win a best-of-7 Stanley Cup playoff series after dropping the first three games. The last team to do so was the 1975 New York Islanders, who clawed back to shock the Pittsburgh Penguins
But after Tuesday’s practice in Frisco, the Stars were insisting that they’ll carry a put-it-all-on-the-line approach into the American Airlines Center in an attempt to force the series back to Joe Louis Arena.
“If you think this thing is over and you act that way, it’s going to be over,’’ Stars coach Dave Tippett said.
Walking around with a defeated, hangdog look is counterproductive. The Stars say they’ll take a positive stance into Game 4.
“You’re disappointed because you’re down 3-0,’’ Stars center Richards said. “You can go two ways. You can give in and let them win the series easily or you can keep your head up and your mindset going and battle it and try to put pressure back on them. We all have pride and we’re going to keep battling and try to get a win out of it.’’
The Stars were still playing hard in the third period of Monday night’s 5-2 defeat. They got off to a good start, rallied twice to tie the score, and registered 47 hits.
“We had stretches where we did some great things,’’ Tippett said. “In the first period we had them on the run, got a goal to tie it, and then we ended up giving up another goal.’’
But Dallas also committed 26 giveaways, made positioning errors and missed some choice scoring chances. Detroit continued to dominate in the faceoff circle, winning 57 percent of the draws, and maintained the puck possession edge.
“The bounces are definitely going their way right now,’’ Stars defenseman Trevor Daley said. “We’ve got to work to turn that around and get some bounces to go our way. We can’t make the mistakes that we’ve been making.’’
To get the momentum turned in their direction, bagging the game’s first goal would be advisable. The Stars have never led in the first three games, and that has put them at a severe disadvantage.
“It’ll be a different game if we can get a lead,’’ Richards said. “If we can get a win, we’ll have nothing to lose and go back to their building. You don’t know what kind of momentum you can build. It’s a whole different game when you have a lead, especially in the playoffs. The way they play, if you have a lead, it’s a lot harder to create. Detroit just waits for you in the neutral zone and turns pucks over and you get out of your game plan. That’s why it’s so important to get the first goal and play that way.’’
Richards said it won’t be difficult to hit the ice on Wednesday night with energy and enthusiasm.
“It’s still sports, it’s what we love to do,’’ Richards said. “It’s pride. I don’t think there’ll be any problem with that. It’s tough right now talking about it, but once the game starts, it’ll be easy not to think of the whole big picture, but about what you’re in right now and trying to get a win.’’
In the first two series, the Stars got most of the breaks. In this round, the Red Wings have made their own breaks.
“It’s a fine line,’’ Richards said. “In the other series, we didn’t make those errors, and we capitalized on them, what Detroit is doing to us right now.’’
The Stars expect captain Brenden Morrow (upper body) and center Mike Modano (hit in the head) to be players for Wednesday night. Forward Stu Barnes (headaches) and right wing Jere Lehtinen (leg) appear to be out. Rookie defenseman Mark Fistric missed Monday night’s game with the flu and is also expected to sit again.
They’ll need all hands on deck to contend with the likes of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Osgood and friends. Detroit’s top goal-scorer entering the series, Johan Franzen, has missed the last two games, but the Red Wings haven’t seemed to miss him.
Tippett admits that on Monday night the Stars had “no answer’’ for the Red Wings’ array of skill players.
“We tried a couple different things, but their skill level is just phenomenal,’’ Tippett said. “But it’s not the skill level that beats you, it’s the work ethic that beats you. They just hound the puck…That’s what you’re dealing with. We’re not going to rely on one person or one set of ‘D’ to do it. That has to be a group effort.’’
Dallas is attempting to avoid a playoff sweep for the first time since the 2001 conference semis when they were blitzed by the St. Louis Blues.
“We’re all honest, we know it’s a tough hole to climb out of, but we’re doing some good things,’’ Richards said. “A break or two, a little more concentration in a few areas and we have a win. We’ve got to look at it like that. Get a win and you don’t know what kind of roll you can get on.’’
Stars goaltender Marty Turco was outstanding in the first two rounds, but in Game 3 against Detroit, he yielded five goals on 21 shots. The Stars need him performing at the highest level if they want to make the Red Wings sweat a little more than they have been.
“We’ve got to do it a bunch of times in a row, but I don’t think there’ll be any problem at all with effort,’’ Turco said. “From my perspective, we can beat these guys. Whatever it takes, we’ve all got to step up, all of us together. We can do something nobody gives us a chance to do. It would be pretty cool if we could. We’ve always played our best when our backs are against the wall.’’