Because it is summer, I have been re-watching a few hockey sundries. Most recently, I revisited Game 6 against Minnesota, and man oh man, that game. It’s still, it turns out, way too soon for me to impassively watch that 4-0 lead crumble in the face of a 3rd period onslaught that revealed what happened when the Stars’ defensive strategies were put to the ultimate test. (Also, both power play goals were pretty no-chance for Lehtonen, but the Kari Pressure Narrative and all that.)
Anyway, I was struck by the contrast in eras as much as anything. Well, no, that’s a lie--I was mostly struck by the way Pierre was simultaneously insufferable and uninterested in a Stanley Cup Playoff Game, but hey, when you can say anything with impunity, why wouldn’t you mail it in now and then? I digress.
So yeah, here, just last summer, were two NHL coaches who couldn’t get a grip on their teams when it mattered most: for John Torchetti and the Wild, they couldn’t drive play until they were on the brink of elimination and embarrassment. For Lindy Ruff and the Stars, they couldn’t find a way to close out a team that had suddenly noticed a weakness inherent in the Top Western Conference Team. The hockey that followed was banana sandwich, with the ultimate game-winner coming of a Goligoski point shot that deflected up into the air, only to be eventually kicked into the goal by Devan Dubnyk himself.
Anyway, the contrast: looking at this 2007 Dallas/Vancouver series which this post is actually supposed to center on, it is apparent that here, in the midst of My NHL’s “More Penalties Will Fix Everything!” campaign, were two coaches who could still get their teams to play a certain way. Tippett’s Stars were persistent and methodical, and Vigneault’s Canucks were crafty and deliberate. These are all just adjectives, but the point is, this was completely different hockey, ten years ago, than what we saw in the Stars’ most recent playoff run. I will forever love the 2015-16 season (and on a personal note, it also coincided with a very sweet year in my own life) for the chaotic goods it bestowed upon us Stars fans, but I do miss the days of Playoff Hockey without the Bane-Juice machine hooked up the to the television set.
Anyhow, Game 3: the Stars were headed to Dallas fresh off a victory, and the stage seemed set for them to start to impose their will on the series. In two games, the Stars had largely seemed to drive play, and the Last Change seemed not an insignificant advantage for a team still very much capable of matching up against almost* any team in the league.
*Detroit was still insane back then, remember
So it was that the Stars finally gave their home fans a playoff game. It just kinda sucks that it turned out to be this playoff game, whoops spoiler sorry hey don’t worry, maybe they’ll win this time, better keep reading and click on some ads thanks. Okay, let’s talk about
Steve Ott apparently impressed in his three minutes of play in Game 2, and thus he retained his spot in the lineup. He would play 10 minutes on this night of hockey and take two different roughing minors (one was a matching minor with Lukas Krajicek). Ott was still pretty good back then, you know! Loui Eriksson sat in the press box. Eriksson is still pretty good now!
For the Canucks, Alex Burrows returned, and I dunno, probably some other dudes stayed or something. I mean, it was the 2007 Canucks. Ask a Sea World employee about the lineup changes in that series if you’re that curious.
Okay, so here’s what happened:
So, you can’t quite pick it up on the Zapruder-level footage the NHL has generously archived for us, but Stu Barnes got a piece of the Robidas one-timer on the power play to put Dallas ahead. Poor old Stu. 30 career playoff goals and nary a ring to show for it. Let’s get him one this year.
Still, a power play goal was news for this series, and Vancouver’s 0/3 on the job contrasted mightily with Dallas’s 1/5 in this game. Taking advantage of opportunities is something that teams should do more of. I keep telling them this, but no one listens.
Additionally, I can’t get enough of how smoothly Turco moves around his crease. This was a goalie with confidence, albeit more than was wise to possess, at times. It was, and remains, something to watch him patrol his crease, start the breakout, and stifle a scoring chance with aplomb.
What, one wonders, might have become of this series had Dallas not given up the third period goal to Jan Bulis? (Which came right after a great Turco save on Jannik Hansen) Would the series have carried its way to an earlier conclusion instead of stretching out to seven games? Would Dallas have advanced to try their hand with the Ducks? Would Corey Perry have met the wrath of Trevor Daley soon enough to dissuade him from sticking with hockey as a career? We can only speculate, but yeah, probably. I’d say probably.
*makes discrete note in “time machine to-do” binder on desk*
So, the Stars surrendered their 1-0 lead in the 3rd period after a Phillipe Boucher turnover, and just like that, Overtime began to loom. I hate it when things loom. Does it seem like everything has been looming over the Stars in the playoffs for, like, forever? It feels like it to me.
And, like a weaver who just really doesn’t like you, the Loom bore its poisonous fruit once again:
The Stars’ Finnish line was out against Trevor Linden and Taylor Pyatt, and Jokinen just gave up a fraction of a foot too much to Pyatt, who got a hard-worked-for feed from Linden and blasted a one-timer that may have* tipped off Jokinen’s skate before beating a screened Turco. Gave over, in overtime.
If you were the Stars, it had to feel a bit like the universe just wasn’t on your side at this point. Even though Vancouver had ruled the shots column 37-30, this game had been there for Dallas to take, and they hadn’t been able to do it. Modano and Lehtinen were still goal-less in the series after leading the team in goals during the regular season. For a team that had a lot of playoff questions to answer, this game did them no favors:
"When we scored, we could tell they looked scared," said Jan Bulis, who scored Vancouver's first goal. "It was like they didn't want to win it in regulation, they wanted to get it into overtime. They never found their rhythm and it was up to us to take it."
Dallas may have looked eager for overtime, but the record shows that wasn't wise.
This was the Stars' sixth straight overtime playoff loss. They're in a 1-9 rut since 2001, the year after they last made the Stanley Cup finals-- and all but one of those losses have come with Marty Turco in goal.
Turco, who's lost his last three postseason series, is trying to shed the label of playoff underachiever. Coming off his first career playoff shutout, he was headed toward another until allowing a tying goal in the third period, then Pyatt's winner.
He was good, making 35 saves. It just wasn't good enough.
"It's a matter of not getting frustrated and sticking with your game plan," Turco said. "The overtime loss speaks for itself, but I believe in these guys. The next time we get in an overtime situation we'll be playing to win again."
Turco’s words were, at the time, just words. No one knows what comes next in the playoffs, or in life. Marty Turco could only only hope in speech or despair, and he chose hope. It remained for his teammates to follow his lead.