48-18-3-7, 106 pts
#1 Western Conference
45-25-2-4, 96 pts
#3 Western Conference
Series tied 0-0
May 23rd at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX
For just the second time in franchise history, the Stars will play on into the third round of the Calder Cup playoffs. Interestingly, both times that the Stars have made it to this round they have played a club from Ontario. The inaugural year opponent was the Hamilton Bulldogs. Texas won that series in seven games.
Thanks to the relocation of the Utica Comets, Texas had a few extra open dates on its calendar. As a result, the Stars played the Marlies four times this season. In previous seasons the two only faced off twice. The Stars had a 2-1-0-1 record against the Marlies this season. Toronto was one of only two teams in the league to post an even or better record against Texas at 2-2. Grand Rapids was the other (3-1).
For some history, you can read through the prior postgame reports for these two teams this year (Nov 17, Nov 24, Feb 1, Feb 17).
Todd Crocker, play-by-play voice of the Marlies, argues that those games and their outcomes are ancient history for these two teams on the Marlies blog this week:
"You can do all sorts of tricks to find some sort of connection but truthfully the two teams have grown too much since February to read anything into the season series. It’s best to look at their recent success to get a read on what is about to occur in the Western Conference Final."
He goes on to point out that the Marlies have outscored opponents on the road 20-8 in the postseason en route to their undefeated record. Texas, for its part, has yet to lose a home game through two rounds. Toronto has yet to lose a game at all, sweeping Milwaukee in three and Chicago in four to get here.
Coach Desjardins agrees the matchup is a tough one, "It will be our toughest test so far. Whenever you get down to the final four, you know you're going to play a good team. They have good structure to their game and [Toronto goalie Drew] MacIntyre has played well so far. I think it will be hard to score but you can never tell what will happen."
"Lots of concerns when you look at their team. They do lots of things well. They are balanced through their four lines and have defense that can jump up and score."
One big X factor for Toronto this year was the play of their AHL defenseman of the year, T.J. Brennan, one of those defensmen who can jump up and score as Desjardins noted. In the postseason, he has three goals and four assist in seven games. German blueliner Korbinian Holzer also jumps into the play often and has five points in seven games.
Their biggest contributor has been the AHL's active leader in postseason scoring, left wing Jerry D'Amigo, who has four goals and eight assists. Marlies captain Trevor Smith is second on the team in points with 2+6=8. He won the Cup in 2012 with Norfolk and brings that veteran leadership to the group.
Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Texas will look to Cristopher Nilstorp in Game 1. It will be the first back-to-back start for either Stars' goaltender in the postseason. Jack Campbell was not ruled out for this series but is unlikely to be ready for Game 1. Josh Robinson will back up.
Penalties and special teams
In the regular season, Toronto was a downright uncivil bunch on the penalty front. The Marlies racked up an average of 21.63 minutes per game, ranking fourth in the league. The Stars were the choir boys of the AHL with a league-low 12.14 per game. Texas is down to 10.44 in the postseason. However, the Marlies are only taking 8.86 minutes per game in the playoffs.
Coach Lidster noticed this trend as well, "They're showing their experience. They know they can't take a lot of penalties. It's going to be a physical game. They like to be in your face."
Dustin Jeffrey added, "The Marlies are a little more physical that the teams we have played. We aren't going to change though."
Texas and Toronto have both had success on special teams in the Calder Cup playoffs. Toronto is actually beating out Texas on both accounts. Toronto's power play is ranked 4th at 25%, penalty kill is 2nd at 89.7%. Texas is at 6th at 22% and 5th at 86.7%.
A confluence of events in and around the hockey community in Austin combined to create an interesting setup for Game 1. Disney on Ice, previously scheduled for tonight, was cancelled. However, shows on Thursday and Saturday remained in place. The Stars will not be able to use the jumbotron for tonight's game as a result of all the rigging that the ice show requires in the rafters. Score, shots and penalties will be tracked on the LED ribbons that are above the suite level at CPC.
In addition, the local alternate practice facility, Chaparral Ice, is melting their ice down for the first time in five years to rebuild the sheet. This maintenance, originally announced in April, will take a few weeks with the facility re-opening on June 5th.
The ice rebuilding forces the Stars and Marlies to the team's alternate alternate location, the Pond, as documented below by Todd Crocker.
A 'little' hockey practice at The Pond. Rink made for 4 on 4. pic.twitter.com/5GkM7mttmi
— Todd Crocker (@HockeyCrock) May 22, 2014
Coach Desjardins said, regarding the change in venue and feel of the game, "You just have to be ready because there are a lot of things that can go against you or go different. If that sort of thing throws you off, you're in trouble."
Stars injury/call up report:
Klingberg, Dowling, Campbell, Petersen (injury)
Blog (official): Marlies Blog
Play by play voice: @HockeyCrock