48-18-3-7, 106 pts
#1 Western Conference
45-25-2-4, 96 pts
#3 Western Conference
Series tied 3-3
June 3rd at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX
Last night the Marlies had their backs against the wall. Tonight, the Stars will join them.
"[Character] is always revealed in big games," said Coach Desjardins after last night's loss. "[In Game 7], we know what we need to do, and we just have to find a way to do it."
It is the first elimination game for the Texas Stars this postseason and the first Game 7 at Cedar Park Center in franchise history. The Stars have played two Game 7s before, both on the road, and won them. The last time they did was a 4-2 victory over the Hamilton Bulldogs in Ontario to advance to the Calder Cup Finals.
Toronto has also played two Game 7s in franchise history, winning both. Only one team can remain unbeaten in Game 7s after tonight though.
This series has shown so well that the Stars are a team based on speed. The Marlies have taken huge advantage of that. Clogging lanes and taking away passes for Texas. Especially with the lead, Toronto is very happy to sit back and be opportunistic with their offense. With the first goal in the bag at even strength last night, their remaining two goals were on the power play and on an odd-man rush. Yes, the first goal would be the best possible thing to happen for Texas. It would make Toronto play from behind, which is something they aren't as good at. If the first goal comes for Toronto, the key is not to panic. They key is to play their game. The key is to execute on the plan that they've had all year.
Another place where the Stars can improve and must is the power play. Going 1-for-8 last night brought their series total to 3-for-33 or 9.1%. That is just over a third of their regular season percentage (25.3%). The Marlies are doing well to clog the middle of the ice, preventing cross ice passes that the Stars love so much on the power play. This keeps things at the perimeter, necessarily lowering shot quality. They are also aggressive at the point. In the overload with one man at the point, Toronto has a better chance at shorthanded rushes with this aggressiveness. Of course, it can also bite them if the Stars could get interior on the net. Their success in the series with the 5-on-4 advantage has come on the overload from the trigger man on the left wing circle. Mueller scored there in Game 1 and Ritchie did in Game 2. With men up the middle, that's an ideal way to score. However, you have to get the puck to the man on the wing without allowing the goalie enough time to adjust. That's the rub.
Taylor Peters was hurt in last night's game in the second period. He did not play in the third, and his status is questionable for tonight. If Texas loses him, Derek Hulak would be his likely replacement. That is a blow to the ability of the fourth line to match physically with the Marlies. That line did not have success in Game 1. However, given that it's Game 7, Justin Dowling could be a factor. The center was injured against Grand Rapids but was skating with other scratches yesterday in morning skate. If there is any chance he can be effective, I think you have to use him. Before injury, he was a point per game player in the postseason. The physicality of the series might point away from subjecting him to action too early, but if you don't win, there's no tomorrrow anyways...
Stars injury/call up report:
Klingberg, Campbell, Petersen (injury)
Dowling, Peters (questionable)
Blog (official): Marlies Blog
Play by play voice: @HockeyCrock
Leafs TV correspondent: @HockeyAbbs