Were you excited, scared or both when the Dallas Stars drew the Nashville Predators as their first-round playoffs opponent? Whatever your predictions are, you probably agree that the Victory Green gang will need to play some of their best hockey to get past the Perds. And in this particular war on ice, having a holdout pistol could make a big difference.
That’s where Mats Zuccarello comes in. In his less than two full games with the Stars, he’s looked truly dangerous – and could be their secret weapon in the playoffs, writes Sean Shapiro:
With how things have played out, Zuccarello represents more of an idea than an actual hockey player for many Stars fans. He embodies optimism and hope, but over the course of an 82-game season he played fewer games in Dallas than long-forgotten names like Ben Gleason, Dillon Heatherington, Erik Condra or Gemel Smith.
But the physical evidence, albeit limited, is rather hard to ignore. The Norwegian forward could be an X-factor in the Stars’ first-round playoff series with the Nashville Predators....
In both of Zuccarello’s games, the Stars lineup passed the eye test. While you don’t want to give a ton of credence to Twitter, the Stars are a much scarier team with their newest forward in uniform. Stars coach Jim Montgomery suddenly has a handful of interesting options, especially in a playoff series where adjustments will be crucial.
And the fact that the organization decided to go after Zucc at the trade deadline may have done wonders for the team’s own belief in itself, Shapiro writes:
The Stars’ psyche didn’t break when Zuccarello’s arm did. When they lost crucial games at home they didn’t fall into a pit of despair. Instead, they showed a level of resolve and belief that they were playing the right way and treated Zuccarello’s injury and later return like a second trade deadline. Reinforcements were coming and there was faith from multiple levels of the organization that this team was the one they wanted to invest in.
There’s more behind the paywall. [The Athletic DFW]
It’s been 20 years since the greatest moment in franchise history. Here are the players’ memories of what happened afterward, from the last meeting in the locker room to That Party at Vinnie Paul’s house.
"We put it together, we made trades, free agents. We had every piece imaginable that you would need to win. We all felt like this is a Cup year or bust for us."— SportsDay Stars (@dmn_stars) April 8, 2019
Remembering the Stars' Stanley Cup win, 20 years later #GoStars https://t.co/8GE5A6NO8h
Will Ben Bishop win the Vezina Trophy this year? Maybe not, but these stats are hard to ignore.
And if people are still asking Shapiro “who the hell is Roope Hintz?,” here’s a good answer.
Around The League(s)
Here’s a reminder to have fun but keep it safe in the stands, too.
Greetings From Scenic Cedar Park (And Beautiful Boise)
The Texas Stars make the final Calder Cup playoffs push starting tomorrow night, and fortunately they have Joel L’Esperance to help.
Top Single Season Goal Scorers in #txstars history:— Texas Stars (@TexasStars) April 8, 2019
1) Matt Fraser, 37 (11-12)
2) Matt Fraser, 33 (12-13)
3) Travis Morin, 32 (13-14)
4) Colton Sceviour, 32 (13-14)
5) Joel L'Esperance, 30 pic.twitter.com/ZFZnk7LfRR
Meanwhile, the Idaho Steelheads have announced the first-round schedule for their 22nd consecutive playoffs appearance. The Kelly Cup run begins on Friday.
NEWS: The Steelheads have announced dates & times for the 1st round of the 2019 @USBank Kelly Cup Playoffs, presented by @SmileDirectClub.— x-Idaho Steelheads (@Steelheads) April 8, 2019
The Steelheads open the Mountain Division Semifinal this Friday night at CenturyLink Arena.
DETAILS: https://t.co/Jz8iFVnNyM | #PushingOn pic.twitter.com/qeITw9C711