|Jordie Benn scores on Yann Danis, who has a 10-2 all time record against Texas. (Credit: Texas Stars)|
Keys to the SeriesAgree or disagree?
I'm going to put on my TV analyst hat here and try to break down an incredibly complicated series with dozens of competing factors to a few key points. Because, you know, that's what it's all about.
Cristopher Nilstorp was fantastic in the first round. In case you missed the stat I dropped earlier, he's got a 0.96 GAA and a .963 SV%. Those are video game numbers. Yann Danis has a 2.97 GAA and a .913 SV%. Now, that doesn't mean that he's going to be some pushover. Danis always plays Texas very well. In the the season series, he faced Texas seven times and sported a 6-1 record. The sticklers will point out that four of those wins came during the NHL lockout and therefore put their legitimacy into question. I would argue it doesn't matter. If you think you can't beat a goaltender, it can get to you, regardless of the truth of it. Danis, for the record, has only two losses against the Stars in his career. He's 10-2 lifetime.
For Texas though, Nilstorp has to help keep the Stars in these games against the potentially devastating Barons' offense.
Avoiding the 'Texas Relays'
For those not from Austin, Texas Relays are a yearly event at the University of Texas that brings thousands of people to the downtown area as they watch high school, college and university students participate in track events.
Much as many Austinites look to avoid downtown during that weekend (and SXSW and ACL and many others...), the Stars should look to avoid getting into a track meet with the Barons. It is extremely conducive to OKC's game to get into those situations. They can score a lot of goals, and it's not that Texas can't (3.06 goals for per game, 6th in the league). It's that the playoffs are a dangerous place to get into track meets. It is not the Texas Stars' game plan. They are a team based on defense, much like the Calder Cup finals year, but with extra scoring punch. That is their differentiating factor.
Rolling Four Lines (and Solid D-pairings too)
After mixing things up through the end of the season with Fraser, Chiasson and Benn in Dallas, some injuries in Texas and the general mayhem of adding players on PTOs, ATOs and recent draftees, things have settled. After the addition of those players from Dallas, Texas sported the following lineup for both games, minus Travis Morin for game four as he was out with an injury. He's expected back for Game 1.
Coach Desjardins said that he likes to keep a steady lineup once he gets into the playoffs, and it looks like he's found it. In Desjardins' system, the play of the fourth line is just as critical to the teams' success as the play of the first. The teams' ability to roll four lines was a strength all year. It's what helped wear down the Admirals in their series as Milwaukee had to dress two defensemen as forwards in Game 4 to attempt to get a quality fourth line on the ice.
The good news for the quarterfinals is that the fourth line was very effective. While they didn't have any points in the series (barely any points were had by anyone), they were effective in moving the puck up the ice, keeping it out of their zone and getting the change for the first line without the puck ending up in their net. It's a thankless task some nights, but they did it well. (Sidenote: they did combine for 19 shots in the series, so it wasn't all dump and change)