Dallas at Colorado - Printable Version
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- T-Monay820 - 04-07-2004 05:12 PM
With a roster constructed specifically for a run in these playoffs, the Colorado Avalanche don't exactly look up to the task yet.
The fourth-seeded Avalanche open their quarterfinal series against the Dallas Stars, who also struggled at the end of the season.
With labor problems looming that could lead to a canceled season in 2004-05, Avalanche general manager Pierre Lacroix made two bold moves during the offseason. He signed Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne to one-year contracts, adding the star forwards to an already loaded Avalanche lineup with an eye on winning the Stanley Cup.
The Avs appeared to have an almost unstoppable group on paper, with Kariya and Selanne joining Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Rob Blake, Alex Tanguay and Milan Hejduk, but the experiment has not translated as well as Lacroix had hoped.
Selanne slumped and had one of the worst seasons of his career, recording just 16 goals and 16 assists in 78 games. Kariya has had an even more frustrating season, enduring numerous injuries and playing only 51 games.
Kariya's latest injury came at the worst possible time, as the left wing suffered a sprained ankle Sunday in the regular-season finale against Nashville. He is out indefinitely.
Despite the injuries and inconsistency, Colorado still finished with 100 points, but lost out on the Northwest Division title when it was passed by Vancouver late in the season.
Selanne and the rest of the Avs, though, say they're ready to go.
``Everybody feels good about this team,'' Selanne said. ``We know how good we can be. Now, when every shift is going to matter, I'm expecting huge things from this team, from myself and from everybody.''
Sakic, the captain during both of Colorado's Stanley Cup runs, says the Avs are only focused on the postseason.
``All year we've been looking forward to this moment,'' Sakic said. ``It starts fresh now. Everybody's got to win 16 games to win the Stanley Cup. We have home ice right here and we have a good chance to rebound.''
All of Colorado's star power won't matter, however, unless David Aebischer does his best Patrick Roy impression in net. Aebischer, the fourth-year goaltender who took over following Roy's offseason retirement, had a breakout season with 32 wins and a 2.09 goals-against average.
Colorado did get some good news on the injury front Monday, learning that Tanguay, sidelined by a knee injury for the final 11 regular-season games, could be ready for Wednesday's game. Center Andrei Nikolishin and defenseman Kurt Sauer could also be back for Game 1.
Dallas also slumped somewhat before the playoffs, going 1-2-0-2 to close the season following a six-game unbeaten streak (5-0-1). The Stars will have to overcome Colorado's home-ice advantage, a factor that could be very significant considering Dallas was just 15-19-5-2 on the road, compared to 26-7-8-0 at the American Airlines Center.
The Avs, though, were a much better road team this season, going 21-8-7-5 as compared to 19-14-6-0 in Denver.
``It's going to be a great series. If you're to get started and have a wake-up call in the first round of the playoffs, certainly that's the team that you'll get it from,'' Dallas captain Mike Modano said.
The Stars were the NHL's top defensive team this season, allowing a league-low 175 goals. That was due in large part to goalie Marty Turco, who had a career-high 37 wins, nine shutouts and a 1.98 GAA.
Turco returned from a four-game high-sticking suspension in Dallas' season finale. Ron Tugnutt started while Turco was out, and the Stars lost all four games, including two in overtime.
``It's a different game when he's out there,'' Modano said of Turco.
Colorado's defense will be focused on keeping physical Dallas forwards Bill Guerin, Jason Arnott and Brendan Morrow, who combined for 60 goals this season, away from the front of Aebischer's net. Modano, Pierre Turgeon and Valeri Bure give the Stars speed to go with the physical aspect of their offense.
The Stars and Avalanche have met twice in the postseason, both times in the conference finals, with Dallas winning seven-game series in 1999 and 2000.
Game 2 is Friday night at the Pepsi Center.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Stars - 97 points, 5th seed. Avalanche - 100 points, 4th seed.
TEAM LEADERS: Stars - Guerin, 34 goals and 69 points; Arnott, 36 assists; Steve Ott, 152 PIM. Avalanche - Sakic, 33 goals and 87 points; Sakic and Tanguay, 54 assists; Peter Worrell, 179 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Stars - Power play: 15.9 percent (52 for 328), 18th in NHL. Penalty killing: 85.9 percent (267 for 311), 4th. Avalanche - Power play: 20.4 percent (74 for 363), 3rd. Penalty killing: 83.8 percent (299 for 357), 16th.
GOALTENDERS: Stars - Turco (37-21-13, 9 SO, 1.98 GAA); Tugnutt (3-7-0, 1, 2.41). Avalanche - Aebischer (32-19-9, 4, 2.09); Tommy Salo (18-21-7, 3, 2.56).
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: Avalanche, 3-1. Aebischer started all four games and allowed just three goals in winning the first three matchups, including a 29-save, 3-0 victory in the first meeting Nov. 15. Turco struggled against the Avs, giving up 11 goals in the three defeats before making 15 saves in a 5-1 win on Feb. 20. Tanguay had three goals and two assists for Colorado, while Arnott recorded a hat trick in the final meeting and had four goals and an assist in the series.
- T-Monay820 - 04-07-2004 05:17 PM
Prediction: Dallas 4-3
- T-Monay820 - 04-07-2004 11:02 PM
Update: Colorado 2 - Dallas 0 3rd period
- T-Monay820 - 04-08-2004 05:56 PM
Colorado 3, Dallas 1
By JOHN MARSHALL, AP Sports Writer
April 8, 2004
DENVER (AP) -- Colorado's goalie turned away shot after shot, held up saves in his opponents' faces and heard the home crowd chant his name.
Patrick Roy? No. It's David Aebischer.
Looking a lot like his mentor, Aebischer stopped 37 shots in his first playoff start to help the Avalanche open the playoffs with a 3-1 victory over the Dallas Stars on Wednesday night.
``He kept us in the game,'' Avalanche center Peter Forsberg said. ``They had a lot of power plays (0-for-5) and he made some unbelievable saves. It was great to see him play like that.''
Forsberg, Alex Tanguay and Joe Sakic scored for Colorado, which will host Game 2 Friday night.
It proved to be more than enough offense for Aebischer.
After spending three seasons as Roy's backup, Aebischer was supposed to be the big question mark in a season that started with Colorado adding scorers Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya on the same day.
Aebischer turned out to be Colorado's most consistent player, finishing the season with 32 wins and a 2.09 goals-against average.
But once the playoffs arrived, the questions started again. After all, Aebischer's playoff experience amounted to 35 minutes of mop-up duty in two games.
But in all that time behind Roy, Aebischer was watching and learning. He was there when Roy won the last of his four Stanley Cup titles in 2001, and saw how Roy handled himself after giving up six goals in Game 7 of the 2002 Western Conference finals.
It rubbed off, if just for one game.
Aebischer faced just six shots in the first period against Dallas, but kept his composure -- a lot like Roy -- when the Stars picked up the pressure.
Aebischer blocked one shot through traffic on a power play midway through the second period, then stuffed Jason Arnott from the edge of the crease with a sprawling save that led to a chant of ``Abby! Abby!'' from the crowd.
He ended the period by stopping Jere Lehtinen, as the horn sounded, after his stick went flying into the corner.
Aebischer was even better in the third period by making 20 saves, including one with his stick after a shot bounced over his head toward the post and another with his glove that he held up in Bill Guerin's face.
``I was a little bit more nervous than usual, but after the puck dropped it went away and I felt pretty good,'' Aebischer said.
The defensive-minded Stars were sluggish on both ends early, giving up two goals in the first nine minutes. Dallas picked up the pace with 32 shots the final two periods, but couldn't beat Aebischer until Niko Kapanen's wrister trickled through his pads with 6:30 left.
``It probably wasn't the start we wanted,'' said Stars goalie Marty Turco, who faced 25 shots. ``Certainly the strong push to finish, the hunger at the end was there. It was a great lesson for us.''
The Avalanche were hoping the start of the playoffs would produce some sort of spark after they ended the regular season with two wins in 10 games.
It sure did.
Colorado was crisp from the start, with numerous good scoring chances early and tight checking at the blue line. The Avalanche outshot Dallas 15-6 in the first period and had two goals in their first seven shots.
``We had good energy to start the game,'' Avalanche coach Tony Granato said. ``We skated extremely well and we were able to get a couple.''
Forsberg opened the scoring 6:14 in, slipping a rebound between Turco's pads after tipping Rob Blake's shot from the right boards. Marek Svatos set it up with a cross-ice pass through traffic that had the Stars scrambling to get back in position.
Tanguay made it 2-0 just over two minutes later when his centering pass from the left dot hit diving Dallas defenseman Teppo Numminen and caromed past Turco.
``Just a couple of unfortunate bounces and it's 2-0,'' Stars center Mike Modano said. ``It was catch up from there.''
Sakic put the Avalanche up 3-0 just four minutes into the third period, flipping a backhander off Turco after his first shot was knocked down intraffic.
Svatos' assist was his first career playoff point. ... Dallas D Jon Klemm didn't play due to a ``lower body injury'' sustained against Chicago on Sunday. ... Colorado C Andrei Nikolishin returned after missing the final month of the regular season with a back injury. ... Colorado won for just the secondtime in its last six home playoff games.