The Stanley Cup Playoffs might have been a forgotten season in Dallas after a six-year drought, but the Anaheim Ducks used to be a common opponent.
Both organizations spent years as Pacific Division foes, sparking one of the Stars more fierce regular-season rivalries.
This series will be the third time the Stars and Ducks have met in the postseason. The Stars beat the Ducks 4-2 in the 2008 Western Conference quarterfinals and the Ducks beat the Stars 4-2 in the 2003 Western Conference semifinals.
Now they’re at it again in a best-of-seven first-round series which begins in Anaheim.
Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry carried the Ducks much like Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin did for the Stars. However, the Ducks are stronger in the middle ranks. Dallas struggled through the majority of the season to find a consistent scorer beyond Benn and Seguin. Beyond Getzlaf and Perry, Anaheim has three players with goal totals above the Stars’ next scorers in centers Nick Bonino (22), Andrew Cogliano (21) and Mathieu Perreault (18). The Stars’ second line has left wing Ryan Garbutt (17), center Cody Eakin (16) and left wing Erik Cole (16). Garbutt had 2 goals and 2 assists in three games against the Ducks.
Dallas’ defensemen are young, but they have played hard to somewhat solidify a long-struggling unit. Brenden Dillon suffered an injury in the final home game of the season and was listed as day-to-day. He left the stadium in a walking boot on his left foot. The Stars’ strongest defenseman to start this season will be on the ice, but wearing a Ducks jersey. Stephane Robidas was traded to the Ducks shortly before the trade deadline and is one of three former Stars defensemen on the team: Sheldon Souray and Mark Fistric (on injured reserve). Anaheim sits seventh in the league in blocked shots and 11th in total hits.
Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen led the league in games played and finished second in saves. Lehtonen finished the season with a 2.41 goals-against average compared with Jonas Hiller’s 2.48. Lehtonen’s .919 save percentage is slightly better than Hiller’s .911. There is also some thought that as Hiller struggled to close out the season, rookie goalies Frederik Anderson or John Gibson could get the nod against Dallas. Anderson played in 28 games, posting a .923 save percentage while Gibson played in only three games, with a .954 save percentage. Veteran Tim Thomas, acquired in March, is available for Dallas.
Dallas and Anaheim had a comparable season on the power play, finishing 23rd and 22nd. At home, the Ducks converted on 28 of 152 chances and 16 of 123 chances on the road. Dallas was slightly worse at home, scoring 24 times in 158 chances, but the power play has been great on the road, netting 22 goals in 132 tries. Where the Ducks take the edge is on the penalty kill, with an 82 percent kill, good enough for 13th in the league. Dallas’ 81 percent kill ranked 21st. The Stars were 79.7 percent on the road.
Dallas players have praised coach Lindy Ruff for his “everybody ropes, everybody rides” mantra of holding everyone to the same standard. Ruff’s up-tempo, forecheck-heavy style of play meshed perfectly with the speed brought onto the roster. Ruff has seen eight career playoff runs, with a record of 57-44 and is one of only 21 coaches all-time to stand behind the bench in 100 postseason games. Anaheim’s Bruce Boudreau became the fastest coach in NHL history to reach 300 wins, accomplishing the feat in 496 career games (at 312-143-62).
Prediction: Ducks win series in seven games.