Sturm: A Great 40-Day Ride
“I can honestly look at those guys that we have – starting with Brenden Morrow – and say they left everything on the ice. Everything.” – Dave Tippett, after Game 6.
The darned thing about these fairy tales is that sometimes you might not care much for the ending. And so it goes as the 2008 Dallas Stars season ends at Game #100. A 4-1 loss to the Stanley-Cup-Finals-Bound Detroit Red Wings killed the collective buzz of the 18,584 – but when the dust settles, the journey will be seen for what it was – a fabulous 40-day ride that will stay with those of us who love this sport and this team for a long time.
The truth is that this team squeezed everything out of its ability. There really was not much of a case to be made that the Stars deserved this series. Detroit, sadly, is better. And at times, it seemed obvious that they were quite a bit better.
But, what is that saying? That there is one team in the Western Conference that is better than the Dallas Stars? We’ve come a long way, baby.
In the life span of the Dave Tippett/Marty Turco era, the Dallas Stars have made the playoffs every year. But, as we all know, when they got there they were not quite sure what to do about it. From 2003-2007, the Stars accumulated 11 playoff wins. This spring, they gave us 10. They truly gave us something to Believe.
Let’s wrap this run up with some notes and thoughts from Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals:
-- You could tell the Stars just weren’t themselves last night. Give Detroit all of their due. Tough questions were asked of them, and they answered all with such overwhelming power that they had grabbed momentum by the throat within 5 minutes of faceoff last night. Having said that, as a Stars fan that starting feeling greedy about potential accomplishments this spring, allow me to point out that the errors from our boys were tough to take. Datsyuk took the puck from between Grossman’s legs on his goal, Morrow set up Zetterberg with a very poor turnover, and the other two goals were scored when Marty couldn’t find the puck and for some reason an unmolested Red Wing was allowed to stand right next to him and poke home a near-freebie. Detroit crashed the net with great urgency last night, but we have seen the Stars stand up that barrage with far more effectiveness in recent games.
-- When I started calling Brenden Morrow our very own William Wallace a while back, I would have the occasional e-mailer respond to me that I obviously didn’t remember that Wallace died in the end while fighting bravely and valiantly for Scotland. Nope. I remember my favorite movie quite well. The sad reality is that 29 teams end in a figurative “death” every-year. But do they surrender? Some do. Not William Wallace. He fights to the death. And Morrow, with injuries everywhere, fought like a Captain should. To the End.
-- One truth that is told every spring is that hockey is the ultimate team game. 20 guys are required to each do their part. We saw it in every round, and in this series, who could ignore the great battle between Stephane Robidas and Dallas Drake? With players making $7 or $8 million a season on the same ice, both of those veteran warriors will take bruises forward at a much lower salary, and for Robidas, he forever will hold a special place in Dallas’ heart for his heroic efforts all year long. He properly demonstrates the guts of a professional hockey player. I have to think he might need a few weeks to heal up. Well deserved.
-- I cannot stress how proud I was of the Dallas hockey fan last night. I am not sure I heard a “Boo” all night directed at the home team (no matter how bad they played at times). Personally, I think they earned a “boo-less” night given the fact that it was only due to their sheer will that there was even a game last night to begin with. Then, to top it off, the final minute of the game gave me chills. The full house was waving their white towels and showing proper appreciation for the 40 nights of playoff enjoyment. You paid a proper tribute. And when Morrow and Mike Ribeiro skated off and saluted the crowd, it was a wonderful portrait to remember as we wait for October.
-- Not to reference Brett Favre or Roger Clemens here, but there comes a time in every athlete’s career when you wonder if you just saw their last performance. I am almost positive that Mike Modano will be back, but the thought did cross my mind as I saw him leave the ice. Next month, Mike will celebrate his 38th birthday.
-- Another few thoughts on the Red Wings. Chris Osgood was very solid when he needed to be this series. It may be easier to be the goalie for a team like that, but the truth is that there will come a time when you must make a save to bail out your team, and he was seemingly always up to the challenge. Last night in the 3rd period, he was the best he had been the whole series.
-- The Detroit Penalty Kill has given the Stars fits all year. They are so aggressive that the Stars never find a comfortable posture when setting up the man-advantage. It helps when you have the talent, but even more so, that team seems to be the smartest team in hockey. Very few mistakes, and when you see a botched line-change like you did in Game 5, you are almost amazed that Detroit was capable of a mental gaffe. Smart players make smart plays, and it is obvious that Ken Holland and Scotty Bowman know a little about finding players with a fine Hockey IQ.
-- I think I would install Detroit as a slight favorite in what should be a fine Finals matchup for our sport. If you love hockey, you must find some pleasure in an attractive match-up for the nation to take note of in the next few weeks. I wanted Dallas there badly, but short of that, Pittsburgh and Detroit is good for the game.
-- In 1997, the Stars lost a painful game 7 in Round 1. In 1998, they lost in the Western Conference Finals to Detroit in 6 games. In 1999, they won the Stanley Cup. Hmmm. In 2007, the Stars lost a painful Game 7 in Round 1. In 2008, the Stars lost in the Western Conference Finals to Detroit in 6 games. In 2009…..
-- Michael Scott, Branch Manager of Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton Office sent me his thoughts on Game 6’s loss and the end of the magical Stars run: “it feels like somebody took my heart and dropped it into a bucket of boiling tears... and at the same time, somebody else is hitting my soul in the crotch with a frozen sledgehammer... and then a third guy walks in and starts punching me in the grief bone... and I'm crying, and nobody can hear me, because I'm terribly, terribly... terribly alone.”
-- Cheer up. This thing is headed in the right direction. The next wave, with Morrow, Ribeiro, Richards, Turco, and the gang, is ready to march forward with all of this new confidence and experience. They have learned what they are capable of. I refuse to believe they came up short. I believe they exceeded everyone’s expectations. Moving forward, those expectations will raise, and then it will be time to figure out how a Stanley Cup can be grabbed again. But, for now, enjoy the progress. Enjoy the memories. And, enjoy a few months without hockey. Because 2008-09 is on its way. And I suspect our boys will have some unfinished business to attend to and complete.