Texas Stars Report: Holding Serve in the Playoffs

Maxime Fortunus prepares for a faceoff during Saturday's playoff game against Rockford, a 3-1 Texas victory. (Photo credit: James Mitchell)

The Texas Stars are two games into the franchise's first ever playoff series.  They've shutdown the Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks) at home thanks to strong performances from Jamie Benn on Friday and Brent Krahn on Friday and Saturday.  As you've all been seeing the short updates that I've been posting here as the games complete, I won't need to go into too much detail on the games.

Texas now takes the series on the road for the team's first ever away playoff game.  The Stars have yet to allow a goal in the first or second period in the playoffs and have not given up more than one in either game, winning 2-1 and 3-1 on Friday and Saturday respectively.  Brent Krahn has had a sparkling performance so far despite these two games being only his 2nd and 3rd AHL playoff starts ever.  His previous lone start came with the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights.  For the record, Ak-Sar-Ben is Nebraska backwards, and it's sort of a thing in Omaha.

Below the fold here, we'll take a second look at the games from this week and preview next weeks.  Also, there's been an update on the Texas Stars franchise status and possible future in Austin that we'll discuss.  Finally, we'll finish up with a look ahead to this week's Games 3, 4 and maybe 5, with the IceHogs in Rockford.

Media Day interviews
(HDH category link)

The Stars PR folks invited me to Playoff Media Day, which gave me a great opportunity to talk to players, coaches and the GM about the team and the series.  I've linked above to a category which contains all of the interviews.  I grabbed interviews with Landon Wilson, Aaron Gagnon, Jamie Benn, Brent Krahn, Coach Glen Gulutzan, and GM Scott White.

Franchise status

My interview with Texas Stars GM Scott White further reaffirmed by belief that Texas Stars hockey will be back in Austin in 2010-11.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, the brief recap is that Texas only has a temporary license to be a franchise right now and has to buy one before the start of next season to remain in the league.  White indicated that the club was in final negotiations, and he has been told to move forward with his day-to-day role as if there will be a team in Cedar Park next year.  That's good news.

Shameless self-promotion

If you like this thing I do and the stuff I put together on Hundred Degree Hockey, you should become a fan on Facebook, which you can do here.  Self-promotion over.

Texas Stars take Game 1 over Rockford 2-1
(HDH blog link)

The Texas Stars secured the first playoff victory in team history on Friday with a win over the Rockford IceHogs in Game 1 of their series. Jamie Benn scored the Stars first ever playoff goal on a breakaway backhander that went five-hole on goalie Corey Crawford.  Raymond Sawada added another in the second on the power play.  Brent Krahn stopped 27 of 28 shots in the game and was named the first star.  

There was quite a bit of animosity in the game as well, including a game misconduct for Rockford.  As to the level of hatred between these two teams, Stars Coach Glen Gulutzan promised after the game, "It's only getting started. It's going to heat up." Kyle Greentree of the IceHogs was suspended for Game 2 due to his actions at the end of the game when he cross-checked Stars center Warren Peters in the face.

Stars up 2-0 after 3-1 win over Rockford
(HDH blog link)

Texas held serve against the IceHogs in their game 2.  A 3-1 victory by the Stars sends the series back to Rockford with a 2-0 series lead for Texas.  Brent Krahn stopped 31 of 32 shots and was named the first star for the second night in a row.  "Guys did a good job of tying up sticks," remarked Krahn. "I can see the shot, so my guys are doing a great job of sealing out."

The Stars collected goals from Maxime FortunusPerttu Lindgren, and Ray Sawada.  Sawada's goal was his second in as many games.  Assisting on the first two goals were both Colton Sceviour and Travis Morin. "Great play by [Colton Sceviour]," said Lindgren after the game regarding his goal. "It was almost empty net."

The Week Ahead

The AHL follows a 2-3-2 format for their best of seven series, so Texas now heads to Rockford, Illinois, for 3 games (if they need that many).  Texas went 4-0 in Rockford during the regular season.  Does that mean anything in the playoffs? "It means our players know they can win in that building," said Coach Gulutzan, "but in the playoffs, you have to work to win. It's not nothing."

The first game between the Stars and Rockford is on Wednesday, with the series continuing in back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday.  If it comes to it, the series will conclude in Texas on the following Monday and Tuesday for games 6 and 7.  As to the IceHogs feelings after the game and moving forward, Coach Peters felt his team was very undisciplined. "If we continue to make those mistakes," he said, "we're going to continue to pay."

Who's Hot

Ray Sawada has two goals in as many games and has gotten involved physically as well.  Brent Krahn has allowed 2 goals in the series and has stood on his head to make a lot of the saves.  Texas has never trailed in the series, and he is a huge reason why that is true.

Who's Not

Sergei Korostin, a player who I was pretty high on in the mid-season, has not played very many shifts so far this post-season.  He dressed for Friday's game but never stepped on the ice.  He took a few shifts on Saturday after Scott McCulloch went off with a minor injury.  McCulloch returned to the game.

Injuries

Mathieu Beaudoin remains out with a lower body injury.  He is practicing with the team in morning skate but is not ready for games yet.

You can always follow the Texas Stars by reading my blog at HundredDegreeHockey.com, following me on Twitter @100degreehockey, or becoming a fan on Facebook.

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