Stars Struck

Typically, in hockey, when you out shoot your opponent 32-19, offensively you had yourself a spectacular night.

In regards to last nights debacle in Dallas, it was the Stars who out shot the Blues by the margin previously stated. No, I’m not kidding.

For those who didn’t tune in you saved your self from nearly three hours of boredom. Despite being brutally out chanced it was St. Louis who came out on top, 6-1. In doing so they punched their ticket to the Western Conference Finals to face the winner of the San Jose/Nashville series. That game 7 is tonight at 9 pm on NBCSN.

What is even more mind numbing is the fact that St. Louis blocked another 34 attempts by the Stars. One goal, on 66 attempts, that speaks loudly to what Brian Elliot was able to accomplish after a less than memorable outing in game 6.

Story of the night? The same man who was the story of game 6, but for entirely different reasons. Kari Lehtonen stood on his head in game 6, facing 37 shots and stopping all but two of them. For Lindy Ruff it was a no brainer, live, or die by Lehtonen in game 7.  It was the latter that succeeded.

Lehtonen looked anything but calm and collective during the entirety of the first period. Despite Robby Fabbri’s net mouth scramble goal the remaining 3 goals scored in the first (one was called back due to a coaches challenge) were entirely savable pucks. I found myself repeating “you gotta have that one” over and over until the horn finally sounded to end the first.

Antti Niemi relieved Lehtonen for the remainder of regulation. However, it was too little too late. Ken Hitchcock’s squad is off to the Conference Finals after repeated playoff disappointments which included no series victories since 2012.

Dallas, who went without sniper Tyler Seguin due to injury, could have been an entirely different team had he played in the series. Which is a tough pill to swallow. Undoubtedly this will serve as a learning curve for a young and up coming team like the Dallas Stars. Chicago was eliminated by the Detroit Red Wings in overtime in the Western Conference Finals in 2009. In 2010 they won the Stanley Cup, so a quick turn around for a team still learning the ropes isn’t that bizarre.

In the end Dallas was exposed for their inability to play defense in all three zones. Their blue line could use some patching up. While their forwards could pay a little more attention to the back checking game. Regardless it was a fun season to be a Stars fan, just disappointing to have it end in this fashion.

For St. Louis this is a hurtle that will silence some of those who still believe they aren’t legitimate. As if knocking off the defending champs wasn’t enough?

The Blues look zeroed in on a championship this year, and I feel sorry for whoever plays them in the conference finals. They’ll have their hands full.

Braden Holtby #70 of the Washington Capitals reacts after allowing the game winning overtime goal against Nick Bonino #13 of the Pittsburgh Penguins (not pictured) in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 10, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Despite rebounding from a 3-0 deficit to force overtime Braden Holtby couldn’t stop Nick Bonino’s overtime series winner Tuesday night.

Deja Vu, honestly its getting predictable at this point. Yet another brilliant season from the Washington Capitals marred by playoff disappointment. So the title doesn’t just apply for the Stars, if you hadn’t caught that yet.

Sure Washington was able to slowly chip away at Pittsburgh’s early 3-0 lead to force overtime but the reality is this. If you’re Washington you have to get tired of going through all of this. The Penguins are 8-1 all time against the Capitals in the playoffs. 2009 and now 2016 are the two showdowns featuring Crosby and Ovechkin, Crosby has won both. In 2009 Pittsburgh won the Stanley Cup, after finishing Washington in the sound round. Getting the picture here?

Pittsburgh was the hottest team in hockey coming into the playoffs, they knifed through the Rangers and by virtue of a Nick Bonino OT winner its on to Tampa Bay.

Phil Kessel was a menace for Washington, scoring twice in the first period and helping set up the overtime winner.

Ovechkin, now 30 years old has to be wondering what needs to be done to get over this plateau. Ken Campbell via Twitter “Steve Yzerman didn’t win a Stanley Cup until his 14th season in the NHL. Alex Ovechkin has played 11. He will win one someday”. So you’re telling me there’s a chance?

Story of not only this series but the playoffs has to be Matt Murray, formally an AHL starter. He’s been tossed into the thick of the playoffs and performed tremendously. Frustrating the leagues most potent offense for 6 straight games.

Kessel, Bonino, and Hagelin have pulled the weight thus far in the playoffs. Whats scary about Pittsburgh is they don’t even need Crosby and Malkin to be massive contributors offensively anymore.

What could derail their “magical” run could be taking their next opponent lightly. Tampa Bay may not have been the hottest team coming into the playoffs, but they’re the most fun to watch. Dismantling another prosperous young squad, the New York Islanders in 5 games. Without Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman. That alone blows my mind.

Likewise, if Tampa comes out flat, Pittsburgh will pounce on the opportunity. While Stralman is the more likely to return to game action for the series, don’t rule out a Stamkos return if the series goes the distance. If that’s the case I don’t just like Tampa, I LOVE them to win.

While it stinks watching Ovechkin fail, yet again to keep his Cup hopes alive. You can’t doubt how good it is for the sport for Crosby to move forward, Canada loves that guy. I’m no fool I know Canada is the money maker for hockey.

But for Tampa to handle a good Islanders team without their number one center and top four defense men, you have to respect the product Tampa is producing.

7 games seems reasonable to say the least. But for god sakes Mile Sullivan please don’t play Fleury if Murray flutters. He’ll make this one end early.

Happy Playoffs.

Be sure to tune into NBCSN tonight at 9 pm for game 7 between San Jose and Nashville.

 

 

 

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