Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Texas Stars Swept From Calder Cup Playoffs in OT

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Facing tough odds, the Stars gave it all they had through 60 minutes in Rockford. Down 0-2 in their opening round playoffs series, Texas went up 2-1 in the second period and held that lead until the middle of the third period. Jussi Rynnas put up a solid game for Texas but got pelted by 41 shots in regulation.

Stephen Johns ended the Stars season just 23 seconds into the overtime frame. His wrap around goal that saw him enter the zone unmolested and swoop around the net for the winner was his first of the playoffs and the first and only shot of overtime for either team. Jamie Oleksiak had a feeble effort on the play, and it ended up costing the Stars the game.

The defeat marked Texas' first series sweep in franchise history. It was also the first time in 11 years that the defending champion was eliminated in the first round in a sweep.

Rockford opened the scoring on a goofy play that could have defined the night for Texas. A centering pass hit Maxime Fortunus' stick and rainbowed up over Jussi Rynnas. Phillip Danault scored as he swatted the puck past Rynnas for the 1-0 lead.

Devin Shore answered for Texas before the end of the period, scoring his first career postseason goal. The ATO forward swooped in down the right side and befuddled Leighton on the far side. The goal was unassisted, but Greg Rallo was in front distracting Leighton with the possibility of a tip play.

The second period saw Jussi Rynnas and Michael Leighton both step up their games to keep the scoring tight. The two squads combined for 30 shots at the nets in the frame, and only one pierced the armor. Late in the frame, Brett Ritchie's initial shot bounced out for a nice rebound attempt by Scott Glennie. The former first rounder popped the puck around Leighton as he extended his full body length while falling down to reach the puck on the far side and tap it in.

Not to be outdone, the IceHogs thought they'd take a chance at a falling-down goal. After two solid saves by Jussi Rynnas, a defensive zone faceoff proved fatal for Stars' lead. Phillip Danault lifted one over on the oddest play. Danault had eyes in the back of his head on the shot, whacking the puck on the backhand, falling down and facing away from the net. Rynnas lifted his arms trying to stop the chip shot, but it was too late.

Texas will return home to Cedar Park for locker cleanout and exit interviews.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Morin-Ranford
Hulak-Dowling-Ritchie
Rallo-Shore-Glennie
Stransky-Dickinson-Henderson

Meech-Oleksiak
Honka-Nemeth
Fortunus-Gaunce

Rynnas

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Backman, Janmark, Troock, Smith, Ully, Valentine, Mangene, Bystrom, Kiviaho (scratch)
Faksa (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 3,905.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Rockford - April 29 2015

12 comments:

  1. I know that some people were expecting them to have a much better year and make a playoff run but like I have been saying from the start, it was not the same team. In the past 35 years there has been ONE repeat champion in the AHL. The Hershey Bears in 08-09 and 09-10. During the same 35 seasons only two cup winners have reached the finals the next year, the 05-06 and 08-09 Hershey Bears. During the last 11 seasons the cup winner failed to make the playoff the following year 5 times and lost in the first round (7 game series not 5) twice. Other than Hershey the only cup winner to get past the first round the following year was Grand Rapids who lost to the Stars in the second round last year. Considering all of the changes that the Stars went through I thought they had a pretty good season. Over the next 1-2 seasons the Dallas Stars will be stocked with lots of younger players leaving fewer spots available on their roster. This means all the draft picks coming out of junior, college and Europe will be staying in Cedar Park a while longer. This is how Hershey made the finals 4 out of 5 years, they basically had the same team as there was no one going up to the Caps. I think peoples expectation were too high. I for one will now have some more time to watch the WHL playoffs, the Memorial Cup and the Stanley Cup playoffs without having to listen to fans who know very little about hockey yelling "SHOOT" every 10 seconds even though there is no shot available (sec 101 you know who you are)! Enjoy your summer Stars fans.

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  2. Nice post Todd but any issues I have have nothing to do with them making the finals. The issue I have is the contrast between last years team and the change between old ownership and the Dallas Stars.

    IMO Dallas did half ass job this year by not provided real leadership in Cedar Park. White is the closest thing to a "real" GM and he is more involved in Dallas then Cedar Park. People can preach Texas is here to develop players all they want but until the ticket price drop I at least expect a real effort to win. I hate the open admittance of Dallas that Texas is a second class citizen and not really worthy of its own management or say so. Texas never really established a personality this year and I think that can be attributed to direction ...or the lack of. We are moving in on having to pay $3000 for season tickets for my family and I don't want this to sound like a disgruntle fan threat, although it will. But it I get the feeling Texas is going to continue to be ran like a mish mash of Dallas 2nd's I don't see us investing that kind of money.

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  3. I'm sorry, but the "it's not the same team" argument does not hold water. The following players available this year were on last year's cup team:

    Dowling, Fortunus, Gaunce, Glennie, Henderson, Hulak, McKenzie, Meech, Morin, Nemeth, Oleksiak, Ranford, Ritchie, Stransky, Troock, Campbell

    That doesn't include Faksa (injured), Peters (Idaho), and Wrenn (Idaho), but that should have been more than enough to make some noise this playoffs, especially with the Dallas call-up & Calder Cup experiences. No way this group should have gotten swept. In fact, a first-round sweep exit hasn't happened to a defending champion in 11 years.

    How many times last season did we skate into the zone and get a great tic-tac-toe pass for a beauty of a goal? Seemed like once a game. Rarely happened at all this year with the new system. Not a coincidence that last year's MVP Travis Morin only put up 63 points vs. his 88 from last year.

    Coach Laxdal took what was working and tweaked it when it didn't need to be tweaked and now you see the result: the poor start to the year, lots of OT losses during the year, and getting bumped from the playoffs early. I think the late season run to solidify playoff position was attributed more to the players and their drive to make the playoffs rather than the system and coaching.

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    Replies
    1. Nemeth played 8 games with the stars this year and McKenzie and Ritchie played 31 but if you want to count them go ahead. Wrenn and Peters? Did I miss something? These guys are in the ECHL because they are ECHL players. Morin is the only player that was on the team this year that finished in the top 6 in scoring last year. McKenzie, Sceviour (54 games), Mueller, Hedden and Ritchie combined for 126 of the Stars 272 goals scored last year. They combined for 46% of all goals scored! Jeffrey, Mueller and Hedden combined for 22 goals and 42 points in the playoffs. When you take 3-4 of your top 6 forwards the team is not the same! Troock played in one regular season game last year so I am not sure what his contribution was to the cup winning team. And then there was that Nilstorp guy! Goaltending is a huge need not only for Dallas but for Texas as well. Jack Campbell is not even ready to be a starter in the AHL never mind playing in the NHL. Rynnas will most likely be gone. Anyone interested in playing goal for a team that wont block shots and gives up 40-50 shots on a regular basis : )

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    2. I agree they didn't replace valuable parts from last years team and made the same argument earlier. In order to make a playoff run you have to have two constant lines and good goaltending (that is constant). We had neither this year or in the playoffs. I also think some of the 2nd and 3rd year guys underperformed.

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    3. I think we did a good job replacing what we lost. Not saying this team was better, but it had enough to still be really good even with the call-ups. I think where it fell apart was systems and coaching. We were still good enough to make the playoffs and should have had a better playoff run.

      My point was that if you look at the playoff rosters it wasn't that different. From last year's final game (cup winner) to this year's last game we replaced the guys we lost with similar producers. Here is who was still here and who was replaced, looking at both final games in 2014 vs 2015:

      McKenzie - Yes
      Morin - Yes
      Ranford - Yes
      Glennie - Yes
      Mueller (25/32/57) replaced with Rallo (27/22/49)
      Jeffrey (4/6/10) replaced with Shore (4/2/6)*
      Hedden (23/32/55) replaced with Hulak (21/23/44)
      Dowling - Yes
      Ritchie - Yes
      Henderson - Yes
      Faksa (1/2/3) replaced with Dickinson (0/3/3)
      Stransky - Yes

      Jokipakka (5/16/21) replaced with Honka (8/23/31)
      Nemeth - Yes
      Gaunce - Yes
      Oleksiak - Yes
      Meech - Yes
      Fortunus - Yes

      Nilstorp (2.45 GAA/.920 Pct) replaced with Rynnas (2.53 GAA/.920 Pct)

      *Gemel Smith was on the bench (10/17/27)

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    4. I think you're forgetting how much some of those players who left stepped up in the playoffs to new levels. Mike Hedden led goal scoring in the postseason, and Dustin Jeffrey blew away his regular season numbers.

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    5. I understand that and we don't know what guys this year would have done because there wasn't a sample size to compare with due to the quick sweep. But, certainly we had some guys capable of stepping it up, especially with all of the Dallas experience this year. But, what's done is done, so we'll just be looking forward to the reports this summer on re-signings and other transactions to see what kind of squad will be here next year.

      Keep up the great work as always, Stephen.

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  4. Lots of good points in all these replies. At the same time I am happy for a playoff showing I am of course disappointed with the sweep. Forget about comparisons to the Cup team this team had the talent and drive to win. To me the "giving away" of Game 2 killed this team. I was at Game 3 and the team tried hard but goal 2 was so disheartening .

    I can't point a finger for Game 2 because I don't know who decided to play Jankman and Backman.

    All in all still happy we have a competitive team and look forward to better things next season.

    Thanks Stars and thanks Stephen for having this forum for open discussion.

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  5. Overall it was a good year. You have to let the new coach come in and do what he wants to do the way he wants to do it. Even if he is coming in to a championship team, the coach himself is a winner and you don't hire a winner to imitate someone else's coaching style.

    To my eye, the Stars biggest problems are (in order) 1) physicality 2) goaltending and 3) losing talent to Dallas.

    The #1 thing wrong with the Stars is that we are not a team that can play physical. We do not have many big men on the team, we don't have very many guys who know how to finish an effective check, and we definitely don't have a guy who can go in and either fight for some respect or to help the opposition self-police themselves. There were a number of teams this year who would come in and just rough us up like grown men playing a high school team. I think Oleksiak's development has come along nicely... but this offseason, someone needs to teach this kid to use his size to our advantage.

    The second big weakness is goaltending. I don't feel like the starting goalie position was ever settled. Campbell had a first half of the year that nearly killed his AHL prospects it was so bad. Rynnas stepped up and was on the verge of solidifying the starting spot when he got injured. Campbell (luckily) stepped up when he was out and turned in some fine performances... but the result was the Rynnas lost all his momentum when we needed him at the end of the year, and Campbell is just not ready. Can we get Nilstorp back from Europe?

    And finally losing talent to Dallas. The biggest loss was Ritchie, in my opinion, as he his a large presence on the line... but this is an AHL problem that will always be a factor in any season.

    To me -- Game 2 was really disappointing. If they had just played their crew and lost, I could have dealt with it. But they so clearly were playing undeveloped players on team orders DURING THE PLAYOFFS. As someone said above, that is a major insult to those of us who invest good money into season tickets. I am on the glass, and I have to tell you that I am very on the fence about renewal this year, leaning against. I want a team that is trying to win, and I got the distinct and powerful impression last Saturday that winning was second priority during the playoffs, and that as a fan is just totally unacceptable to me. I am a big fan and I support my team in many ways... but I will not support a team that is just playing exhibitions and not trying to win.

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  6. It's been funny reading the posts supporting Coach Laxdal. You can use the excuse "It's a different team" every year. The difference is what that team does for that season. Laxdal changed a lot of things this year. He was responsible for who was on each line and how those lines were rotated. Laxdal also used the players as his excuse for losing. Laxdel reminds me of Coach Pyle, "Dump and Hope" we get the puck.

    He also changed how we shoot. Last year, we broke a club record for the number of shots on goal. This year we are screaming "Shoot the puck." because the law of averages will work for you. Assuming that you are going to keep passing until you a) get an open lane or b) lose the puck to your opponent is a stupid idea.

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