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Top lines get N'Sync with each other in Dallas
Posted: Saturday June 03, 2000 08:03 PM
While the Stars' Mike Modano is having another outstanding postseason, Jere Lehtinen is just getting back on his feet. AP
By David Vecsey, CNNSI.com
DALLAS - As if the Reunion Arena ice wasn't slushy enough, how could it possibly be faring today after being traipsed upon by boy band N'Sync and its hordes of overheated, shrill-screaming, bubble gum-blowing fans last night?
It is hot and muggy here, to boot, I point out to the cabbie.
"I think you'll find the weather here is pretty similar to what was like in New Jersey," is his reply.
"That's fine, except I'm in from Atlanta."
"Ohhhh .... we'll it's even more like Atlanta."
Great. Better trade your skates for some scuba fins, boys, it could be wet out there.
Devils coach Larry Robinson, of the no-excuses Montreal Canadiens bloodlines, says it's not worth worrying about the surface ... or anything else for that matter.
"When you start making excuses for the ice conditions and all the boards aren't right or this isn't well or that isn't well, then you are not being focused on what you have to do," Robinson said yesterday. "It is the same for both teams."
"You just have to be careful in the hot weather that you don't get dehydrated. You make sure that you are well-hydrated and that you are getting lots of fluids in your body."
|SI's Pierre McGuire|
|Game 2 was not one for the ages, but at this time of the year a win is a win. The Stars did what they had to do by slowing the pace to a more comfortable level. They were adept at forcing pucks deep, creating scrums after the whistle and denying the Devils a free pass in the slot area. |
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The ironic part is that both the Devils and Stars are dependant on a top line whose main strength is its speed and skating ability. Which of those lines is best able to move its legs at Reunion Arena could be the difference in these next two games.
Those lines traded heroics in the first two games: New Jersey's Patrik Elias, Jason Arnott and Petr Sykora accounted for 11 points in the 7-3 Game 1 rout, while Dallas' Brett Hull, Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen accounted for both goals in the 2-1 Game 2 equalizer.
The fun of it is that both Robinson and Stars coach Ken Hitchcock want to see these top lines paired up against each other.
"A lot of coaches in this league believe that, 'Here, this is our power; here's your power; let's go at it'," Robinson said. "I think truthfully, though, what it comes down to is you want your best [offensive line] or the best defense pair that you feel best suits the team that they are going against."
And even though Robinson didn't necessarily think his top line played its best in Game 2, and even admitted that he should have broken them up in the latter part of the game, he plans on sticking with Elias, Arnott and Sykora ... at least to start.
"It is the old adage of: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. And if it is working, why not stay with it? But if it's not, you have got to adjust. I think the one thing about being on the road is that you don't have the last [line] change [for faceoffs], so when you make a decision you have got to make sure it is the right decision.
Brett Hull and Mike Modano have been outstanding in the playoffs with 22 and 21 points, respectively. Then again, they've had to be. The rest of the Stars have been awfully quiet on offense. Besides Hull (11 goals), Modano (9) and Joe Nieuwendyk (6, suffering a quiet letdown after last year's Conn Smythe performance) no other Dallas player has more than two postseason goals. Last year, eight Stars scored more than a pair. Of course, one of those was Jere Lehtinen, who just returned to the lineup after missing several weeks with injuries, and another was Jamie Langenbrunner, who has yet to play in the finals because of a twisted knee. Langenbrunner didn't skate at Friday's optional practice, but planned on giving it a go Saturday morning. It is not likely, however, that he will play in Game 3.
Disciplined Devils |
The Devil is all about temptation, right? So what's wrong with these boys from Jersey? Through two games, the Devils have taken all of one penalty, a holding call on Claude Lemieux early in Game 2. That ended a streak of 103:36 penalty-less minutes for New Jersey, which has only played short-handed an average of 2.7 times per game through these playoffs. And when they do go a man down, the Devils buckle down, allowing only three power-play goals in 52 chances this postseason. In the Stars' lone power play in Game 2, the Devils didn't allow a shot.
Clutch players |
Did you know that you are seeing two of the all-time clutch performers in these Stanley Cup finals? It's true. Right behind Wayne Gretzky's record 24 career game-winning goals in the playoffs come Brett Hull with 21 and Claude Lemieux with 19. Then, of course, you get names like Richard (18), Bossy (17) and Anderson (17). But with his winner in Game 2, Hull kept alive the chance of tying Gretzky this season ... of course he would need to net three more game-winners to do it, which would result in a bigger prize: the Conn Smythe Trophy.