Stars take second shot at bouncing Avs from playoffs
Will it be Ben Bishop or Anton Khudobin in net for the Dallas Stars when they hit the ice in Edmonton on Wednesday in a second bid to eliminate the Colorado Avalanche from the Stanley Cup playoffs?
For now, the Stars aren't tipping their hand.
Across the ice, will the Avalanche again turn to their third stringer, veteran journeyman Michael Hutchinson, or have No. 2 goaltender Pavel Francouz in the breach when they try to force Game 6 in the Western Conference semifinal series? Or, considering all the secrecy surrounding the NHL where nothing more than "unfit to play" is needed to explain someone's absence, are the Avalanche going to shock everyone and put No. 1 netminder Philipp Grubauer between the pipes?
Again, nobody's giving away anything.
Time will tell, but expect to see two teams giving their best in a pivotal clash. The Stars, looking to reach the conference final for the first time since 2008, blew their first opportunity to clinch the series on Monday, dropping a 6-3 game in which Bishop was a surprise starter and they trailed 5-0 in the first period.
On top of eliminating the Avalanche instead of going to a deciding game, the Stars will be looking to make amends for Monday's dismal performance. Bishop surrendered four goals before being unceremoniously hooked, but the Avalanche dominated the opening frame and pinning it solely on the lanky goaltender would be wrong.
"Listen, I think 'Bish' is the best goalie in the league when he's playing at the top of his game," Stars forward Andrew Cogliano said. "That's just my personal opinion. We have full confidence in him. Our first 10 minutes was an absolute joke. So 'Bish' will take the blame and put it on himself, but let's be honest, we were atrocious in the first 10 minutes. It was 5-0 with four minutes left in the period. This has nothing to do with our goalies. We're wasting our time if we're talking about our goalies."
Regardless of who is in goal for either team, a trend that's been on the front burner throughout this series is the offensive prowess displayed by both teams. Through the first five games, there have been 43 goals. The lowest-scoring affair was a 5-2 Dallas win in Game 2.
Colorado's high-octane offense has been led by Nathan MacKinnon, who has hit the scoresheet in a franchise playoff-record 13 straight games, the first player to scored in 13 straight games to open a postseason since Mark Messier in 1994. Meanwhile, Dallas defenseman Miro Heiskanen is introducing himself to the world with a team-leading 18 points and a six-game scoring streak in which he's netted two goals and 10 points.
Throughout the lineups are players on torrid streaks, such as Dallas captain Jamie Benn on a three-game goal-scoring spree and Joe Pavelski tied for the team lead with eight goals after a 14-goal regular season, while the Avs have the likes of Andre Burakovsky having collected four multi-point games this summer.
"For me, I just love those games," Burakovsky said. "Coming out, it's a must-win situation where you have to win. I like playing under pressure ... I think I really enjoy playing those big games and pucks are going in."
Then again, either team will happily take a 1-0 win. For the Avalanche, that would mean going to Game 7 with all the momentum, while the Stars would be on to the next round.
"We're a good hockey club," said Stars coach Rick Bowness, trying to allay his team's fears after last game. "I believe in this hockey club, and I believe we're going to win this series."
--Field Level Media