A road team has yet to win a game in the Dallas Stars' series against the Anaheim Ducks- And it's to that fact that Lindy Ruff's bunch must desperately cleave as game six arrives, bringing with it the first true elimination possibility for Dallas this season.
We surmised in this space that the Ducks weren't particularly forceful Friday night- Not dictating, really, as much as they were opportunistic, after Dallas faltered often without provocation. Lindy Ruff appeared to have thought about the same.
"There wasn't a lot of play, a lot of opportunities, by them," he said Saturday. "I think they only had three chances at even strength. I think the difference in the game was special teams at the end of the night."
The Stars power play has been a source of great consternation from word "go" this season, and even after the painful and folly-filled start of game five Friday night it had a chance to be the hero- To save the season at long last. And it failed again, going 0-for-7.
The home power play, in particular, started 0-24 this year as a whole and did not score until November 21st in a loss to the New York Rangers. So that particular story line has been recycled more this season than a James Neal for Alex Goligoski trade argument. Yet the coaching staff stated vehemently that it will be adjusted ahead of game six.
"It's not working," Ruff told the Dallas Morning News. "The units are going to change. I think we're getting a little bit of net focus and there's not enough deception, and I think that comes with frustration from not scoring. So that part is going to change."
Dallas is 2-for-24 in the series (8.3%) while Anaheim is 6-for-22 (27.3%).
Ruff says his message down the stretch in March and into April still applies here. It's win two out of three.
"At the end of the season, we went through the theory that you had to win two out of three. We lost the first one, now we have to win the next two. The stretch run was win two, lose one. Win two, lose one. That was the pace we were going at. It's our turn in our building where we've played some fabulous hockey to take it back to them. We weren't able to break serve in their building. Now we have to be able to hold it in our court."
That was one thing. They were never really and truly pushed to the ultimate "lose and you're out" game. Until this evening. It's another thing entirely.
They will have Ryan Garbutt available this evening. He was assessed a fine equal to one half day of pay based on his salary - $1,474.36. It's a formula set in the new CBA. Sitting in the box and watching the Ducks go to work on the power play- Hearing about it from Lindy Ruff afterward, who said he spoke to both he and Roussel- has to ultimately be more painful.
Bruce Boudreau couldn't help but get in on that action.
"They've been taking little potshots, Garbutt and Roussel, all series long," Boudreau said Saturday. "Yesterday, it caught up to them. Both of them took penalties that in the regular season they get away with...and the first couple of games, they were getting away with."
And he's perfectly correct. It caught up with them in a big way. And there's a reputation that goes with those actions, this post-season, and forever moving forward.
When asked about his thoughts on the Garbutt fine he was considerably less than magnanimous.
"I can't comment on that. I'd love to because there's a lot of jokes to be made. But I'm not going to say a thing."
It's up to the Stars to respond to those things, said or unsaid, and to do it in the only place it could possibly matter- The scoreboard.
As for the game itself there should be little or nothing in the way of lineup changes for either side. Boudreau seems committed to Frederik Andersen by now, and Kari Lehtonen, of course, will be give the chance to bounce back- Pending the efforts of those in front of him Sunday.
Brenden Dillon played Saturday and should continue to do so Sunday. Ryan Getzlaf and Teemu Selanne will stay in, as should Luca Sbisa. Hampus Lindholm and Patrik Nemeth require a bit of watching, but other than that the big names are all in. It's a relatively healthy duel to end things here this evening.
Dallas has been good at home. They'll need everyone of you to survive this greatest of tests this season to date. It's a potential elimination day at American Airlines Center. And not in a good way.