The Dallas Stars host the Anaheim Ducks tonight at American Airlines Center in what could be the final game of their season. The Ducks hold a 3-2 series lead and are looking to take care of the Stars tonight to get a breather before the second round starts.
The Ducks drilled the Stars in game five 6-2. A beating like that can cripple the confidence of even the best team, but the Stars don't have time to question their abilities. They have to win tonight to gain the privilege of playing one more game. It is officially crunch time and any energy spent on unproductive thoughts like questioning one's own abilities is energy wasted which could be more appropriately used elsewhere.
Instead of dwelling on negative possibilities we look to inspiring military leaders and military theorists of the past for advice on how the Stars can proceed tonight as they seek victory because hey, why not?
Advice from Dwight D. Eisenhower:
"Morale is the greatest single factor in successful war."
The Stars have to remain on an even keel tonight and not worry about tomorrow.
When you start asking needless questions you set yourself up for failure. Who cares why? Just don't. It isn't an easy mentality to get into, but the most successful people are able to make it happen. They don't focus on failure. They prepare for success at the task at hand. That preparation along with past success breeds confidence.
The Stars aren't about to get swept by Wayne Gretzky's Oilers. They are playing an imminently beatable team led by Shredder, knuckle-dragger Corey Perry, and Goldberg The Goalie. If they play up to their capabilities they stand a good chance of winning game six.
"There is a steady course to be followed between an assertion of strength that is truculent and a confession of helplessness that is cowardly."
This is one of the two important lessons the Stars need to fully internalize before the opening face off tonight. There exists a line in the middle of a hazy gray area that they simply can't cross.
Gently caressing the groin of Corey Perry so that he falls over as if he was hit by a bullet train in the groin? That apparently crosses the line.
Don't do that.
The Stars have to stay aggressive and smart, emphasis on smart. They've been very good about this all year. They can do it again tonight. They must.
"Change based on principle is progress. Constant change without principle becomes chaos."
The things which the Stars have done well all year have to continue, which includes playing smart aggressive hockey.
There is no reason for the Stars identity to change at this point. They are a team who plays with speed and skill. They make some mistakes, but few enough that the offensive talent they possess makes up for it. Playing any other way tonight is likely to get the Stars beaten.
Advice from Sun Tzu
"If a general shows confidence in his men but always insists on his orders being obeyed, the gain will be
Lindy Ruff has given the Stars a lot this year. His troops need his steadying influence as much now as ever. This is still a team with limited playoff experience. Ruff has been in these situations many times. He's been in at least one crushing game six defeat, and numerous other victories. The cumulative experiences he has from those games will be invaluable tonight.
If he trusts his guys to do their job like he has all series he will be rewarded. Ruff seems to follow this mantra fairly consistently as a general rule.
Advice from Europeans
"There are cases in which the greatest daring is the greatest wisdom."
--Carl von Clausewitz
It would be easy for the Stars to sit back in game six while the Ducks play for a win, but sometimes taking the most bold steps is the best course of action. Do you sense a pattern here? The Stars need to stay on the attack. Caution be damned. Put the Ducks on their heels from the first faceoff.
"Death is nothing, but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily."
-- Napoleon Bonaparte
The Ducks may win this series.
They may even win it tonight.
But under no circumstances should it be an easy road. The Stars have proven they are every bit as good as the Ducks over the past couple of weeks. They have to stubbornly cling to that belief tonight and play a loose game commensurate with their talent level. The minute they begin doubting themselves this series is over.
The Stars are very capable of winning this series, but if they don't they need to give the Ducks hell. They need to bow up tonight and metaphorically punch the Ducks squarely in the jaw. Make them earn a berth in the second round, and you might just screw around and find yourselves playing in a game seven with a chance to move on.
Play inspired. Play free. If you lose everyone will adjust, but I, for one, have my schedule cleared for game seven. The Stars have to think that way too.