Stars Undeterred by Underdog Tag
FRISCO—Well, there appears to be a consensus the last couple of days: the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs will be the end of the road for the Dallas Stars.
Dallas, the top seed in the Western Conference, who eliminated the Minnesota Wild in six games, 4-2, in the opening round will now face Central Division rivals the St. Louis Blues. Many expect the Stars to bow out against the Ken Hitchcock-coached Blues. Every writer for The Dallas Morning News picked St. Louis, while all but lone soul on NHL.com also picked the Blues to advance to the West Finals.
But what do those in the Stars room think of these predictions?
“It’s the second round, anything can happen,” Stars forward Ales Hemsky, who had three points in the first round, said on Thursday. “The goal is always to pass the first round and then anything can happen. It looks no different than last year, but it doesn’t matter to us if everyone is picking St. Louis. They have a good team, obviously, but I think we proved all season we’re a good team too and we proved we can play with anybody.”
Hemsky said that he and his teammates don’t really pay much attention to predictions, saying that’s more something for people to talk about, namely us in the leering press.
Stars captain Jamie Benn, Dallas’ leading scorer in the regular season with 89 points and the leader of all NHL playoff skaters with 10 points in the first round, agrees that predictions, along with the fact that the Blues took four of five from the Stars in the regular season, carry little if any weight this time of year. “It’s a whole new series,” Benn said. “It’s a whole new ballgame. We just need to worry about what we’re going to do and what we need to do to find a way to win the series.”
This series not only features two teams who know each other quite well, but it also features two head coaches with a history. Ken Hitchcock and Lindy Ruff have faced each other in the postseason twice as head coaches, with each bench boss winning a series. But the one everyone remembers is of course the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals, where Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock led Dallas to the franchise’s only Championship, with Stars head man Lindy Ruff on the losing end as the coach of the Buffalo Sabres.
But Ruff, who has been roommates with Hitchcock on several occasions with Team Canada, most recently at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, expects a new wrinkle or two in this series from his friend. “I think that there’s always surprises,” Ruff said. “There’s got to be some ‘I didn’t see that coming.’ You still have to be able to surprise them. I think that’s part of being able to make some adjustments whether it’s matchups, whether it’s how aggressive you’re going to go at some lines.”