Stack up on shinpads: Trevor Ludwig, son of Craig Ludwig, prepares for a faceoff against Rockford (Photo credit: James Mitchell)
It was a great week in Austin for hockey lovers. The Texas Stars took a long respite from playing until Wednesday when they reignited their series with the Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks) in Rockford. Texas managed to win both Game 3 on Wednesday and Game 4 on Friday to sweep the series. It was the first playoff series win in franchise history. Now, the waiting has begun. The same night that the Texas Stars locked up their berth in the second round, the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators) rallied back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Chicago Wolves (Atlanta Thrashers) in overtime and force a Game 7 in that series. Chicago closed out the series with a 2-1 win on Monday night and will face the Stars in Chicago starting Friday.
Below the fold here, we'll take a look at the Stars 3rd and 4th playoff games and break down the matchup versus Chicago.
Stars take 3-0 series stranglehold, win big 6-1
(HDH blog link)
Stars bring the brooms, sweep Rockford with 4-2 win
(HDH blog link)
The Texas Stars first ever playoff series ended triumphantly with a four-game sweep of the Rockford IceHogs. Brent Krahn stopped 38 of 40 shots on net in the win as he got offensive support in the form of two power play goals from Andrew Hutchinson, an even strength tally by Mathieu Beaudoin, and an empty netter by Warren Peters. Perttu Lindgren and Travis Morin had two assists each in the game, and Jamie Benn had a sapient assist on the Beaudoin goal.
Keep in mind that tonight's two goals against performance from Brent Krahn brought his GAA up to 1.25 in the playoffs. This guy is playing out of his mind right now.
For the IceHogs, this makes 10 straight playoff losses. This isn't the Rockford IceHogs Report, so I won't go into their problems here. However, they clearly need to change something about the way that they play post-season hockey if they want to succeed again.
A note on attendance in the series
The attendance was a big item to note in the series. Attendances for Games 1 and 2 in Texas were 5,826 and 6,212. The capacity of the Cedar Park Center is 6,863. Attendance in Rockford was abysmal. The Rockford MetroCentre has a capacity of 6,500. Games 3 and 4 saw attendances of 3,232 and 2,403, respectively. Whether this was a direct result of team performance, I don't know. You can also factor in that Game 3 was on a Wednesday. However, Game 4 was a Friday night, which is right in the AHL's wheelhouse as far as attendance.
For the Wolves, the #1 seed going into the playoffs, their 7 game series with Milwaukee had to be a surprising turn of events. MIlwaukee bloggers had already started to eulogize the season when they found out Chicago would be their dance partner in the playoffs. Milwaukee has played them hard though out and came very close to advancing.
The Stars have a curious record against the Wolves. Texas and Chicago faced each other 8 times during the season, as all division rivals do. At home, the Stars were 1-2-1-0, and on the road, Texas went 3-1-0-0. Especially significant is the recency of some of those wins in Chicago. The final two games between the teams were on the epic road trip that the Stars took at the end of March. Texas won a 4-3 shooutout and then came back two days later, after playing a game in between, and won 5-0.
Brent Krahn played in 4 of the games against the Wolves, his former team in the 2008-09 season, and went 3-1-0-0 with a 1.47 GAA and .947 SV%. Matt Climie and Todd Ford took the remaining four starts. Peter Mannino is the man for the Wolves in net and has a 2-1-1 record against the Stars. Chicago is also the current home of Ivan Vishnevskiy, the Stars prospect traded for tender Kari Lehtonen back in March. He plays on a pair with Chris Chelios.
The Stars will start their series with the Wolves on Friday night in Chicago with a matinee game on Sunday. The series then shifts to Texas for the middle three games of the 7 game series to be played on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. Full schedule including start times is here.
I have to put Brent Krahn here. He allowed just 3 goals in the two games this week, all in the third period. He leads the league in playoff GAA and SV%. He would be tied for the lead in wins, but the teams out East have already started playing the second round so some of their tenders have five or six wins.
Jamie Benn had a standout week as well in Texas, earning 2 goals and 3 assists for 5 points with a plus-3 rating on the week. Travis Morin continued his excellent play with four assists on the week and a plus-2 rating. His 7 assists in only four games lead the league in rookie assists and is #3 overall in assists for all players. Andrew Hutchinson also had a good week with two goals and an assist.
The line of Raymond Sawada-Warren Peters-Francis Wathier has been very quiet this week. Aside from an empty-net tally by Peters at the end of Game 4, they have been held off the scoresheet. This all-grinder line is dynamic when it's clicking, but it doesn't look like they were on the same page this week scoring-wise. There were no minus players on the line however.
There are (finally) no injuries in the lineup now that Mathieu Beaudoin has returned. He has scored in both games since his return.