Work in Sports
Stars fall from grace
Game 1 drubbing was a team effort all the way
Posted: Wednesday May 31, 2000 09:07 PM
By Al Strachan, SLAM! Sports
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Dallas Stars saw something they hadn't expected last night -- Manny Fernandez in goal.
In fact, there were very few aspects of last night's game that were expected.
One of them was the seven-goal outburst by the New Jersey Devils, aided and abetted by a dismal performance from Dallas goaltender Ed Belfour, who was replaced by Fernandez at the half-dozen mark.
But for that matter, it was a fairly dismal performance from all the Stars, one that helped the Devils roll to a 7-3 victory in the opener of the Stanley Cup final.
Perhaps the Devils would have come out on top even if Belfour had lived up to his reputation. They established a territorial advantage, made the most of the Dallas mistakes and never appeared to be in danger of losing.
"There are no excuses," said Dallas forward Kirk Muller, who scored the last goal of the proceedings. "They set the measuring stick. They outplayed us. They outscored us and outhit us. Give them full credit. Now, we've got to respond.
"They played their A game tonight. We had some breakdowns that you normally don't see out there. They had all their game going better than we did."
There's no doubt about that. As defending champion it should have been the Stars with the poise and confidence. Instead, it was the Devils. They roared in on the Stars, kept the pressure on and, when Belfour helped their cause, made the most of the opportunity.
"For whatever reason, we have played games like this," Dallas coach Ken Hitchcock said. "The only difference between 7-3 and 4-3 has been Belfour. We have had a couple of performances from our team like this and we have always bounced back with a good performance."
They'll need it. That was far from a good performance last night.
"All their goals came from turnovers," Dallas forward Mike Keane said. "We have to tighten up and get better at it. They're very good at getting the puck to the net. They did the little things to win the hockey game. We didn't give Eddie a lot of help tonight."
It was a grim night for the Stars. They somehow gave up more goals in the opener of the Stanley Cup final than they had given up in any game all season. And they may have lost captain Derian Hatcher with an injury.
He suffered a slightly hyperextended knee when he collided with Alexander Mogilny on an innocent play during the third period. The two banged knees and Hatcher's was the one that gave.
The team said he should play tomorrow which, given the way injuries have been reported this season, could mean that he'll play tomorrow. It could also mean that the leg will be amputated.
Perhaps some of the Stars' poor performance was due to the shock that set in when Belfour started allowing easy goals. Dallas has become accustomed to strong games from him and if he had played like this in the previous round against the Colorado Avalanche, the Stars wouldn't have been around last night to be embarrassed.
He had not allowed more than two goals in any of his past eight games. Here are his numbers in this season's 17 playoff games: Eight two-goal games; three one-goal games; three shutouts.
"Eddie has been there for us all year," said defenceman Darryl Sydor, who was on the ice for the first four New Jersey goals. "We know he's going to be there in Game 2. It's not Eddie who lost the game for us, it's us. We let him down. We let so many scoring chances happen."
APPEARED TO HAVE MORE SPEED
For much of the night, the Devils appeared to have more speed than the Stars. But that may have been a misconception.
"I think they had speed because we had a lot of turnovers, a lot of bad positional plays," Sydor said. "The main point is that we weren't smart."
That was one of their problems. They weren't sharp, either. And they didn't seem to be particularly motivated.
"We had no competitiveness at all," Sydor said. "They beat us at our own game. It's embarrassing."
Keane agreed. "They did what we want to do," he said. "We have to move the puck quicker. We'll come back. We have no choice. Any time you have a poor outing, you want to prove people wrong and prove the other team wrong."
After last night, they've got a long way to go.