“If you get two in a game, you’d be pretty lucky,” Canucks centre Brendan Morrison said Tuesday as both teams prepared for Game 1 of the Western Conference quarter-final series on Wednesday night. “It’s not going to be a series with line rush after line rush or odd-man rushes.”
Given their status as two of the stingiest and lowest-scoring teams in the NHL, and also the fact that they split the season series (both teams were 2-1-1) with all four games decided by a 2-1 score, it’s likely there won’t be a lot of goals in this series. They only managed five goals each in regulation during the regular season matchups, and two came in the final minute of play.
“It’s going to be a bit of a chess match out there,” said Canucks defenceman Willie Mitchell, who finished last season in Dallas before signing with Vancouver. “Obviously it’s going to be a tight series, both teams play that way, take a lot of pride in playing that way.”
Dallas finished with 107 points, two more than Vancouver, but the Stars still have to open on the road as the sixth seed because the Canucks’ 105 points were enough to win the Northwest Division and the No. 3 seed.
Both teams struggle to score – they finished tied for 21st with a 2.65 goals-per-game average – and both make up for it with strong team defence and great goaltending. Dallas was third in the NHL in giving up 193 goals, while the Canucks were fifth after allowing 197.
“These teams play a similar style of game,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “Both teams have very good goaltending.”
“That leads to tight competitive games. The 2-1 games you’ve seen are a sign of two teams that don’t give up a lot and try to capitalize on opportunities.”
Both teams were also among the top three in the NHL in one-goal games this season, with the Canucks trailing only New Jersey at 30-11-7 and the Stars close behind at 28-8-7. And both finished the regular season on hot streaks, with the Stars going 12-2-2 down the stretch and the Canucks finishing a league-best 37-8-7 since Christmas.
“The stats are very similar throughout,” Stars captain Mike Modano said. “It was pretty even throughout so it comes down to real little things that win series, and that’s to be determined.”
A lot of attention will fall to the goaltenders. Roberto Luongo and Marty Turco were teammates at both this year’s All-Star Game in Dallas and on the 2006 Canadian Olympic Team in Turin, Italy. Both are coming off impressive regular seasons, but both still have something to prove in the playoffs.
This series is Loungo’s first taste of the post-season after seven years in the NHL, the first six of which were spent with the then-struggling New York Islanders and Florida Panthers. Acquired from the Panthers in a five-player trade last summer, he quickly became the Canucks most valuable player – and perhaps the NHL MVP – by finishing among the leaders in all goaltending statistics.
Loungo’s 47 wins matched Bernie Parent’s record and trailed only New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur; his .921 save percentage was fourth and his 2.29 goals-against average sixth.
“I’m sure there’s going to be a little bit of nervousness but that’s not a bad thing,” Luongo said.
Turco, meanwhile, will be trying to overcome a playoff past that includes his second-ranked Stars losing to seventh-seed Colorado in five games last year. It was the third series loss in four attempts for Turco, who has team and league records in four regular seasons as the Stars starter, but struggled in the playoffs where his career save percentage drops from .914 to .892.
“Our past has no bearing on what’s going to happen now,” Turco said. “I’m really excited about the opportunity to give this team a chance to win. Every year is a new opportunity, a new chapter to become a winner.”
Notes: Dallas C Eric Lindros didn’t travel to Vancouver after missing the last 16 games with a groin injury. RW Jere Lehtinen, who missed the last four games with a lower-body injury, is expected to play Wednesday. Canucks C Ryan Kesler had his first full practice Tuesday since undergoing hip surgery in late January, but won’t be ready for at least the first two games.