|Kostya Kennedy's Breakdown|
|Big guns Brett Hull and Mike Modano each averaged a point per game in
the first round and it won't be long before playoff force Joe Nieuwendyk (three
assists) starts scoring as well. This is an opportunistic, if non-explosive
offense. The deep Stars tend to get timely goals from unlikely sources, as they
did from Guy Carbonneau and Roman Lyashenko in the first round.
| Rough-and-tumble right wing Owen Nolan is the go-to player and a very
good one -- he had 44 goals in the regular season and six more against the Blues
in in their first-round series. Centers Vincent Damphousse, Mike Ricci and
Patrick Marleau give the Sharks decent punch up the middle; the Sharks will need
it because they get little production from the blue line. |
| The projected return of defenseman Sergei Zubov really helps the unit,
giving them some much needed speed and puck movement. As for the basics, no one
blocks shots or clears the puck more effectively than this group, and the
forwards pursue their defensive responsibilities in earnest.
| The core of blueliners, led by Gary Suter, rookie Brad Stuart and
Marcus Ragnarsson proves a reliable bunch. But San Jose will give up big plays
at bad times and has a tendency to fall apart if it makes a few defensive
| Ed Belfour was sharp against the Oilers and apart from one bad stretch
in one bad game, seems to be on an even keel. He's a money goalie who will
provide some spectacular moments even if he isn't on his way to duplicating last
|| IN GOAL
| Steve Shields got the Sabres into the second round in 1997 when he
filled in for an injured Dominik Hasek. This year he's the No. 1 and, apart from
a meltdown in Game 6, he outplayed St. Louis's Roman Turek. Shields can be
uneven and you don't want to rely on him to steal games, but he's certainly good
enough to win with. |
|Again, the return of Zubov, who is brilliant on the point, helps
tremendously. The Stars need him because their power play is always ordinary and
has been absolutely awful (2-for-26) in the playoffs thus far.
| Nolan is always a force on the power play but if you can contain him
-- and left wing Jeff Friesen -- the Sharks can be shut down. They aren't great
on the point but they do enough work down low to capitalize with reasonable
effectiveness (6-for-35 against the Blues). |
| Nobody does it better. Led by ageless center Carbonneau and younger
players such as Blake Sloan, the Stars can be suffocating. They generally keep
good positioning, but even when play breaks down into a scramble they shut teams
| They're a danger to score when down a man -- keep an eye on center
Marco Sturm -- and they won't be shy about taking risks in this series. They
have solid veterans on the penalty kill who will seek to neutralize Zubov. |
| If anyone thinks the Stars might be ripe for a letdown against the No.
8 seed, they haven't spent much time around Ken Hitchcock. He regularly finds
new ways to motivate this veteran club, and he'll have them sharp from the get-
| The first-round upset over the Blues may have saved Darryl Sutter's
job. He did well in keeping the Sharks loose in Game 7 -- even though they had
squandered a 3-to-1 series lead -- and he'll try to keep them that way until
they bow out. |
| They know they should have an easier time in this series than either
the Red Wings or Colorado will have in the other semis. They'll be focused on
making short work of the Sharks and moving on.
| They're a physical bunch and will try to set the tone with the
rough, intimidating style that got them here. Don't expect it to work against
the hardened Stars. |
| Zubov. If he's fully healthy and playing many minutes with high
effectiveness, Dallas will seem much more dangerous with the puck.
| Nolan. He's the most dangerous player in the series, on either team,
and as he showed in the first round, he can carry the Sharks.
|Kennedy's Prediction: Dallas in 5|