46-27-3-4, 99 pts
#2 West Division
49-24-1-6, 105 pts
#1 West Division
Series tied 1-1
May 4th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX
The Stars bring it back home to the Cedar Park Center for the first time in two and a half weeks. Texas managed a split of the games in Chicago, which gives them a distinct advantage coming back to central Texas. The Stars have 3 remaining home games to the Wolves' 2 and have a chance to wrap it up at home if they can manage to win all three this week. For now, the Stars are concentrating on the game at hand though.
The first matter to discuss is the Stars loss on the blueline, Garrett Stafford. Stafford was suspended by the league Monday for his elbow to the head of Kevin Doell just before the Wolves' first goal on Sunday. Texas will definitely feel the loss of his presence on defense, as either Ethan Graham or Tyler Ludwig will slide into the lineup to replace him. Neither has ever played in an AHL playoff game. Graham has had experience at the ECHL level with in ten games with the Steelheads and Checkers. Tyler Ludwig does not have professional playoff experience but did play for the Texas Tornado during their two league championship runs in 2005 and 2006. Ludwig's Western Michigan Broncos never qualified for the NCAA tourney and did not advance past the first round of the CCHA tournament in any of his four years at the school.
I really thought this series was going to be about goaltending with the Stars and Wolves having two of the best goaltenders in the league between the pipes. That is not to say that Mannino and Krahn haven't both had fantastic scintillating saves. The games have had more offensive flair than expected, with 7 goals scored in each so far.
Despite this, Krahn still holds the second best record in the AHL with a 5-1 mark, 1.83 GAA, and .942 SV%. Peter Mannino ranks in at #9 with a 5-3 record, a 2.84 GAA, and a .899 SV%. The Stars have allowed far too many shots in the first two games of the series. Through 3 periods of play on Friday, Texas allowed 35 shots. Through three on Sunday, Texas actually beat the Wolves on shots through regulation at 29-27, but then allowed 19 shots to their 9 through 32 minutes of overtime hockey. A defensive game has a couple of key parts and one of them is shot blocking and getting sticks in the lane. Texas needs to do this more effectively to make it a game out there. Remember Krahn's comment in the first series against Rockford about being able to see the shots due to his guys getting sticks in lanes and such. I don't think he's getting as fair a chance as he did in the first series.
As far as players to watch, Andrew Hutchinson is a good one to keep an eye on. The Texas defenseman has 6 point (3-3-6) in 6 playoff games. Also Jamie Benn is always a good player to watch. He has 8 points (4-4-8) in 6 games played as well.
The Stars and Wolves are two of the most disciplined teams in the playoffs, ranking 4th and 3rd from the bottom in PIMs per game. This means power play opportunities will be at a premium. Texas went 0 for 3 on Sunday afternoon while the Wolves scored on one of their two opportunities. Texas's usually stout PK has been mediocre at best in the playoffs, allowing 5 goals on 21 opportunities. However, the power play has been better scoring on 6 of 25 opportunities. However, the Stars are only 1/10 on the power play at home so far in the playoffs. Chicago's road power play ranks just behind Texas with 2 goals on 7 opps. I don't know if 7 PPs is enough to make that number statistically significant though, so take it perhaps with a grain of salt.
The Texas Stars have again called for a white-out. The Cedar Park Center has a reputation to defend. Texas has the third highest attendance total for the playoffs, ranking just behind Hershey and Manitoba with 6,019 fans on average. The next highest is Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with 3,772. That's quite a gap and certainly speaks to the success of the team. I think we can certainly say that Texans love a winner, no matter what sport it is.
Stars injury/call up report:
Garrett Stafford (suspension, game 1 of 3)
Blog (official): UnMic'd with Jason Shaver
Blog (unofficial): Call of the Wild
Message Board: Wolves Forum