Before most of the fans at Cedar Park Center knew where all the bathrooms were, Texas had accumulated a first place ranking in the AHL's West Division. The Stars were going at a blistering pace and this blog wasn't even around yet. Then, the big news item for the first half of the season struck. Texas Stars goaltender Brent Krahn, who was 10-2-0-0 at that point, was taken down with a sports hernia. November 22nd was Krahn's last game until late in the Stars inaugural campaign. With Krahn down, Richard Bachman was called up from the ECHL's Idaho Steelheads. Late in December though, the Stars decided that there needed to be a longer term solution.
The signing of Todd Ford, a goalie out of the ECHL's South Carolina Stingrays, was one of the first stories that I reported on here at Hundred Degree Hockey. Well, that and the own goal by Ivan Vishnevskiy in the San Jose game. Brad Lukowich was recalled to Vancouver on the first of January and thus began the doldrums for the Stars this season. During Krahn's injury, the Stars went 18-18-1-2 but managed to hang on to a playoff spot thanks to solid early season play. Texas fell from #1 seed to #4 seed during that period. Krahn returned on March 10th for a home game against the Peoria Rivermen.
One of the biggest stories for the Texas Stars happened during this period. Our young fresh-faced top pair defenseman, Ivan Vishnevskiy, became trade bait and went to the division rival Chicago Wolves in a trade for goaltender Kari Lehtonen to help out the nets in Dallas. I broke down my analysis and feelings on the trade here on Hundred Degree Hockey. It was a big blow for a lot of the community around the Stars, our first big trade. The worries at that point were not having an offensive defenseman, but it seems that veterans like Stafford and Hutchinson stepped into that role nicely. The addition of Ethan Graham late in the season also proved pivotal to playoff success.
From March 10th onward, the Texas Stars went on a run, going 11-5 to finish out the season. Their end of season heroics got the close to the #1 seed, but ultimately they settled for the #2 seed and home ice advantage against the Rockford IceHogs in the first round.
The Stars received a gift package from Dallas in the form of Jamie Benn, who scored 20+ goals in the NHL in this, his rookie season. With the season over in Dallas, Benn was sent down to gain playoff experience. I don't think he anticipated how much playoff experience he would gain exactly.
The Stars made quick work of the Rockford IceHogs, who they had defeated 6 of 8 times in the regular season, with a clean sweep of four games. Brent Krahn backstopped the Stars to victory in all 4 games, neer allowing more than one goal and never allowing a goal in the first or second period. Texas never trailed at any point in the series. The Stars reward for beating the IceHogs: the #1 seeded Wolves.
Texas would not have home-ice advantage for the rest of the playoffs as they went up against the three highest point scoring teams in the league in reverse order. Chicago was on deck first. Texas split the series at Allstate Arena and came home with a 1-1 record. After a disappointing 5-3 loss in Game 3, Texas stormed back in Games 4 and 5 to gain a 3-2 series lead. Game 5 was the biggest game for Jamie Benn in the playoffs. Benn had 5 points in the game, including a hat trick, the first playoff hat trick in Texas Stars history. The series moved back to Chicago with Texas only needing to take 1 of 2 to win. The Stars were shutout in Game 6 and starting keeper Krahn was injured, a concussion. Matt Climie would have to shoulder the load the rest of the way. Game 7 in Chicago put all the chips on the table. Texas, as you all surely know, would win it in overtime off the stick of who else but Jamie Benn.
Next up, Hamilton. With the Montreal Canadiens also enjoying a deep postseason run, the Bulldogs were without some of their upper echelon talent, but seemingly no worse for wear, having made it to the West Conference finals. The Stars dropped Games 1 and 2 in Hamilton and came back to Texas facing a 2-0 deficit in the series. The Stars won back-to-back heartstopping OT games to even the series at 2-2, but then dropped a stinker of a Game 5 3-0 to give the Bulldogs the 3-2 series lead. Texas would have to win both in Hamilton to advance to the Calder Cup Finals. And boy did they. Game 6 was a nailbiter that was won off the stick of Aaron Gagnon. The true Star of the game was Matt Climie though, who stopped 51 of 53 Bulldogs shots to preserve the win. Game 7 saw the Stars in a two goal hole halfway through. Texas would go on to win 4-2 on four unanswered goals from Graham, Beaudoin, Lindgren, and Benn.
And then Hershey. The wounds are still fresh, so we'll be gentle. Plain and simple, Texas had it and saw it slip away. The Hershey Bears, who set more season AHL and franchise records than I care to count, just turned it on and overwhelmed these Texas Stars. After winning both Games 1 and 2 in Hershey, the Stars would not win another. Perhaps the Bears underestimated the Stars, perhaps Texas ran out of gas having played two back-to-back seven game series. The Hershey Bears won their 11th Calder Cup in six games.
And so looking back on the season, it was an amazing journey. What Stars fans have to keep in perspective is that this doesn't happen every season. This was a magical season. Only 16 teams make it into the playoffs, 8 to the 2nd round, 4 to the 3rd, and 2 to the Calder Cup Finals. Two out of 29 teams make it to this place where the Texas Stars went this season. Cherish it.
Most commented posts on HDH this season:
- Texas shutout as Wolves win, force Game 7 - 12 comments
- Texas Stars shutout Rampage at home, 2-0 - 9 comments
- My Message to Everyone Who Wants to Learn to Play Hockey - 9 comments