Instead of heading home to Dallas after their regular season schedule came to a close Sunday night, the Dallas Stars went West, landing in Anaheim just before midnight Pacific time.
After all, there is a first-round series with the Anaheim Ducks to prepare for.
The Stars could have gone home for the day theoretically. After all, the team basically has today off before starting serious practice in preparation for Wednesday's series opener. But that approach didn't make much sense to coach Lindy Ruff.
"It’s something that Jim [Nill, Stars GM] and I have discussed," Ruff said. "It just doesn’t make any sense spending two or three hours flying back [to Dallas] and then flying out again. We get there, we get a day off, we practice on Tuesday and we are ready to go."
So to California it was after the perfunctory stop out in the desert for the regular-season finale against the Phoenix Coyotes, where a lineup that lacked many of the big guns hung around for most of the game before falling 2-1 on a very late goal from David Moss. The best scenario for the Stars basically held true - no one got hurt, the key guys had limited minutes and everyone got to bed at a reasonable West Coast time.
So now it's time to look forward to that wonderful second season we haven't seen in the last five years. On Wednesday, those special types of playoff ulcers will be back in the stomachs of Stars fans and management.
We couldn't be happier.
What, you want a little more on the game last night? Players like Alex Goligoski, who played only 13:52, admitted they were probably "looking forward " a little bit, but that's what you earn when you clinch early. On the other hand, Ruff said he was disappointed in some of the low-minute players who were given a better shot this time around. [DallasNews.com]
It was a fairly ho-hum effort for the Stars, who had their moments in the game (especially when the Tyler Seguin trio or Goligoski was on the ice) but were in general pretty quiet. One player who did have a very solid night was Tim Thomas, who may have played his last game for the Stars with that start. While he wasn't quite what they had hoped for at the trade deadline, he did manage to help the team pick up a few points - coming in late against Minnesota and leading the team to a win over St. Louis - that proved crucial in the end. [DallasNews.com]
But the real story of the game was it was the final regular-season game for ageless wonder Teemu Selanne, who not only got to take a touching goodbye moment on his own but also brought out former teammate and current Avs backup Jean-Sebastian Giguere to share in a final lap. [Puck Daddy]
Now back to that looking forward, for real this time. Those Ducks await in the first round, and the people at the Los Angeles Times have a brief breakdown of some key matchups. [Los Angeles Times]
The people at NHL.com have a much more comprehensive look at the series here. [NHL.com]
In fact, NHL.com has a very comprehensive look at all the series, including the Stars-Ducks one, complete with dedicated news hubs for each matchup. Among the more interesting stories right now are why the Stars and Ducks will win the Stanley Cup (which... I would give my left kidney to make it happen for Dallas, but even I find that a touch optimistic). [NHL - Why the Stars will win/NHL - Why the Ducks will win]
Far too many people are picking the Stars a possible upset favorite for me to be entirely comfortable with this thing, including one of the writers for SB Nation, who had them picked for an upset before they actually made the playoffs. [SBNation]
On the other side of the coin, Pierre LeBrun is pretty sold on the fact that an early exit by Anaheim last year means they will avoid such a fate this time around. [ESPN.com]
We already gave you the television schedule for the Stars series yesterday, but if you're looking for even more hockey (or want to know which game to root for not to go into overtime on Monday so you can catch the start of Game 3 [hint - it's Pittsburgh/Columbus]), Puck Daddy has you all covered. [Puck Daddy]