Stars Playoff Preview With Luds
It’s that time of year again when the most exciting tournament in sports is about to begin – The Stanley Cup Playoffs. And that means it’s time to check in again with our go-to hockey guy, former Stars defensemen, two-time Cup winner and current Fox Sports SW analyst for the Dallas Stars – Craig Ludwig.
ScoreBoardTX: OK Luds, the Stars have exceeded all expectations this year by not only winning the Central Division but also securing the best record in the Western Conference (after missing out on the playoffs last year). With everything that they’ve accomplished already, how high has the bar now been set? How deep do they have to go for this season to be considered a success?
Luds: When you finish on top of arguably the toughest division in the NHL, and first in the Western Conference, expectations will be high without question. So high that I would say we expect this team to get to at least the conference finals. Anything less will be disappointing.
ScoreBoardTX: Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen both won 25 games in net this year for the Stars, which if you asked Stars management at the beginning of the season might have been their dream scenario. But now it’s playoff time where goalies rarely split time. How do you expect Lindy Ruff to handle his two-headed goalie situation? Who would you go with if you had to pick one over the other?
Luds: They both seem to be on top of their game at the right time of the year. Lindy has had a fairly short leash with both if they didn’t perform as expected and I don’t see that changing. As to who starts…flip your own coin.
ScoreBoardTX: With Tyler Seguin’s Achilles on the mend the Stars are entering the playoffs fairly healthy. Besides staying that way, what are your keys to a long Stars’ playoff run? Which players need to be the Stars’ best players?
Luds: Your best players will always need to be playing their best this time of year if you want to go far. The way this team goes about its business, they’re lethal on the offensive side of things, but will also give up some quality scoring chances against them at times. So like every other team that wants to advance, goaltending will be the key.
ScoreBoardTX: So having played in the Twin Cities before moving south with the North Stars in ‘93, you’re in the position of having a unique perspective on the Stars first round match-up with the Wild. How much does this series mean to the Minnesota faithful? Who is key for the Wild to advance?
Luds: It will be more of a revenge series for the Wild fans because I believe they still feel like the state of Texas took something from them. The head of the snake for them is Zach Parise, but it sounds like he may miss some time due to a back injury. So the most important player now becomes their goaltender Devan Dubnyk.
ScoreBoardTX: How do you see the series playing out?
Luds: Stars in 5.
ScoreBoardTX: Who do you have in the other Western Conference first round series?
Luds: St. Louis over Chicago, Anaheim over Nashville and LA over San Jose.
ScoreBoardTX: So at the beginning of the season we asked you (the completely unfair) question of who would be in the Stanley Cup Finals this year, and you gave us a prediction of Anaheim and Montreal. Montreal of course won’t be there, but how are you feeling about the Ducks as your pick to raise the Cup? You sticking with it or going to change it up a bit?
Luds: I still like the Ducks, but the Stars have certainly exceeded my expectations this season. And if they get the goaltending, they can make it to the Cup Finals…then flip another coin.