Sunday, April 27
The Stars have taken yet another series by the throat and imposed their collective wills on the road.
What a great victory, and the two home games this week are going to be flat out CRAZY.
A couple of quick thoughts from the game:
I think the Nabokov wearing down observations are legit. He's not handling the puck well, he's giving up rebounds, and he 's letting passes go through him. Its costing him goals and the Stars are being opportunistic when the opportunities come about. He played a mountain of games during the regular season, and his mental and physical stamina may be at its end.
Chechoo and Thornton are not nearly as effective as they probably could be. They've got a couple of points in the series, but in general they are both being HANDLED. Neither is fighting through the defense corps for space in the offensive zone, and there are not any other Sharks lines that are stepping up behind them.
The sharks did do an excellent job of maintaining a forecheck without taking penalties. They didnt go shorthanded until the third period, and the first call was a clear makeup call (which I hate) that only gave the Stars a short powerplay. Of course, Zubov made one of those spectacular plays that just get magnified in the playoffs and the Stars only needed a couple of seconds anyway.
That said, this is a 5-on-5 series, so:
Cashing in on cheapies is key. Richard's goal off of an ugly Shark turnover tonight and Morrow's goal vs the Ducks on a turnover are the differentiators between winning and losing on many nights. If either player gets robbed by the goalie, then either of those games could have turned for the worst. Both times the goalie got schooled though, and both goals were gigantic momentum changers.
Not giving up cheapies is the other key. The D-corp has been excellent, as has the fact that the center is always back in the slot helping out for when the Sharks DO win a puck battle. There were several times tonight that a Shark would win a puck down on the boards and then fling it out to a waiting Star in the slot. Marty is not giving up soft goals at all right now, and that fact is starting to frustrate the Sharks.
I think if the Stars split the two home games Tuesday and Wednesday then the Sharks will have done what the Ducks did before them: dig a hole too deep to get out of. If they don't figure out a way to create some offense in game three they'll be in danger of being swept out. 2 goals will not be enough for them on Tuesday.
Saturday, April 26
so here's Shark's coach Ron Wilson before the series began:
Reflection on those words after a 3-2 overtime win by our little Stars reveals what could be a little fatigue by the Sharkies. I had figured that Calgary would beat up on the Stars to the best degree that they could because that's their game. They try to beat you into submission, and they just spent 7 games doing that to the Sharks.
"I don't think the anxiety level for us will be as high in this series," Wilson said after the morning skate. "Calgary's a tough team to play for anybody. It's a survival series."
The Stars, he added, are "a lot more disciplined, a lot more systematic."
If the Sharks team was in fact fatigued going into overtime on game freaking one then they're going to have a looong series ahead of them, because the Stars looked young, mean, and hungry out there when they wanted to.
Both teams showcased their defensive prowess throughout the game, and from the net out to the defense they still look like very similar teams, even with Zubov still out. But the Stars just have more forward scoring depth, and it's going to be a difficult fact for the Sharks to overcome. Both teams are capable of scoring the gritty, crash-the-net type of goals that you need in the playoffs. San Jose scored both goals that way. But Dallas has Mike Modano just hanging out there on the third line and the power play, and he's still got a full repertoire of pretty goals loaded up and ready to go. Both he and Morrow continue to show killer instinct with the one-timer and it's going to become one of those elements that defines this series.
Two other quick notes:
1)Ribero is playing great. He gets a bad rap in Canada because he played a different style there that was very Turgeon-like. But since coming to the Stars he's exhibited a gritty, determined, playoff-styled edge to his game that is setting up the kinds of goals that are winning games for this team right now. The work he did on the front end of the first Morrow goal was remarkable, and when a player with his level of skill refuses to be denied there are goals to be scored.
2)Morrow is also playing great. He's the true captain of the team: leading them in physicality, emotion, and offensive production. He scored the hard crash-the-net goal, and the pretty one-timer overtime game winner. When you go back to look at that shot, a its clear that he was ready for it, made huge contact, and didn't hesitate, and Nabakov still almost got to it. If Morrow settles the puck for just one bounce they're still playing. He didn't, he hasn't all year, and his one-timer was flat out deadly. I'll bet Hullie was pleased as punch.
Wednesday, April 23
Alright, let's break this thing down.
Unlike the Stars-Ducks series, I think that this game will be decided primarily in five on five play and in overtime. Both teams have excellent defense and penalty killing, which should negate a lot of the man-advantage edges that would usually come into play.
In fact, the Stars lead the league in penalty kill percentage until the very last day of the regular season, when the Sharks overtook them in a game in which the two team played one another and the Stars skated a win. Both teams were near the top of the league in shots allowed and goals against during the regular season.
For the regular season the Stars ranked 9th in scoring at 2.89 goals per game, and the Sharks clocked in at 19th at 2.63 goals per game. For reference, the highest scoring team in the league was the Senators at 3.15 goals per game (0.26 gpg more than the Stars) and the lowest scoring team in the league was the Islanders at 2.3 goals per game (0.33 worse than the Sharks). With that said, Jumbo Joe Thornton is always going to be a factor, and Chechoo missed big chunks of the season, which skews the Sharks numbers downward from what they should be with him in the lineup.
That still adds up to a Stars team that scores enough more than the Sharks to be significant in the series. Of course this is complicated by the fact that both teams made major trade deadline deals that help the offense - the Sharks added Campbell and the Stars added Richards. Campbell makes all of the Shark forwards better because he can get the puck to them in better parts of the ice and he quarterbacks the powerplay. Richards makes all of the Stars forwards better because he adds a third scoring line that forces opposition coaches to have to choose between shutting down the Ribero line, his line or the Modano line.
In the end I'd give Richards an edge over Campbell as far as overall team impact, but not a significant one, which means that the regular season stats should still be reasonable relevant.
In the postseason the Stars have been much steadier than the Sharks. The young D-corp, forward scoring, and goaltending have all been there for the Stars, and will need to continue to produce in order to continue on. The Sharks on the other hand, blew a 3-0 lead to Calgary after Mikka was pulled in one game, and generally let the series go to a game 7 vs a seven seed. Nabokov has not been nearly as solid during the postseason as he was during the regular season, and because he played so many games he may be tiring mentally.
So I suppose in the end it comes down to goaltending.
Both goalies have had streaks of brilliance and have let in the occasional soft goal. On pure puck-stopping ability I'd say the two goalies are comparable enough to marginalize that aspect when predicting the series. That said, the Stars carry a significant Turco advantage when you factor in his puck-moving abilities. Turco's ability to disrupt a forecheck and to neutralize a powerplay by catching and moving pucks is significant in any series, and provides a very real edge in net. The Sharks will have to skate the puck into the zone in order to attack - a strategy that the Stars D-corp is adept at breaking up. The Stars on the other hand, will have the option of skating or dumping the puck in and forechecking, which opens up strategic options that Tippett will be able to exploit.
I expect this to be a long series with at least 2 overtime games. I wouldn't be surprised to see either team skate away the victor, so I'll hope for a good bounce and say Stars in 7.
Sunday, April 20
What a matchup and what a great win for the Dallas Stars!
Stars 4, Ducks 1 and the series is over.
Whoooo boy, what a crowd tonight.
I've got so much to say, but alas it's late. I'll sleep on it and prognosticate tomorrow.
Man, what a game. What a crowd in there tonight. I don't know exactly how I'm going to sleep tonight, but I'm going to have to try.
Saturday, April 19
The series has been extended as the Ducks walked away from the Stars 5-2 last night, and despite the fact that the game Sunday will be another elimination game for the Ducks, clearly all of the pressure will be on the Stars to close the thing out at home and not have to go back to Anaheim for game 7.
I think this game was exactly what all of the prognosticators were expecting when they were picking the Ducks in 5 or 6. Giguere was excellent, make several huge quality stops in the first to keep his team in it. The Ducks forecheck ran the Stars all over the building, creating some nervousness in the stars young D corps that caused them to spit the puck up in some ugly situations. And the Ducks' veteran defense was generally smart and aggressive in their own end, limiting the Stars' offensive opportunities in the second and third periods.
I know that's weird to say given that the Stars put more than 40 shots on goal and had a number of spectacular scoring chances early, but as the game wore on the shots came from farther and farther away and the scoring chances became less and less spectacular. The Stars still could have won this game, but it just wasn't in the cards for game 5.
Even at their best, Anaheim still has some huge holes in it's game that the Stars are capable of exploiting:
-They have a really hard time clearing the zone on the penalty kill and in five on five situations.
-They lose a lot of puck battles along the boards
-They overpursue when looking for the big hits that create turnovers
-Giguere is getting beaten between the pads on breakaways or turnovers
In games 1,2, and 4 the Stars young D played fast, smart, poised hockey that turned these mistakes into goals over and over again. In games 3 and 5 they played a nervous, more timid game that allowed the Ducks to get away with those mistakes. Marty was also shakier in those games than in the wins, but that's a pretty easy one to point out.
I think this series is going to continue to turn on the play of Daley, Grossman, Fistric, and Robidas. If they take the hits and make the plays in their own zone on Sunday, the Stars are going to be very hard to beat. If they get run off the puck we're going back to Anaheim.
The Ducks are bullies, and they win with all out aggression. The Stars will have to be Matadors in this series, winning by drawing Ducks in and then sending the puck down the ice behind them.
Thursday, April 17
Man, tonight was incredible.
When you're a kid you're not mature enough to appreciate the cool things that happen in the world around you because hey, everything's cool eh?
I'd imagine that when you're older you're too jaded to appreciate the cool things that happen in the world around you because meh, you've seen it all before.
Right now I may be in the peak of my appreciation for the experiences that I have in life, and tonight was flat out incredible.
It's true, it was just a hockey game. But man it really felt like more than that. 18,000 people acting as one. The emotions in the building were not scattered and diverse, as they tend to be when thousands of people crowd together. Nope, these emotions were united and in constant motion. Like a great wind, everyones hearts and minds would soar into the air as a Stars breakaway was happening. The whole building would quake with anger and disgust when the refs waved off a goal or when a Duck laid down a cheap hit. There was nothing but pure joy when a Star put a puck in the net. It was more than just the whole building cheering at the same time. It was just a remarkable symmetry of passionate emotion the likes of which I'd never seen.
The production crew did a first-class job of letting the fans own this game. Jeff K jammed the right songs while there were goals under review, and did the best thing he could have done when the crowd was at it's peak in the second and third periods: he didn't play a thing. He just let it breathe and the whole crowd heard itself screaming with excitement and emotion and joy and that clarity of sound just caused the cheers to get louder and more intense, feeding back into itself.
There will only be so many times in my life when I'm privileged enough to partake in things like that. I know it was only a hockey game, but it was also a hell of a good time.
Tuesday, April 15
Ducks 4, Stars 2 and it wasn't as close as the score. Just about every Star had the yips and it showed. Bad passes from everyone (including Turco), missed scoring opportunities with guys clutching the sticks too hard, and defense with goaltending that didn't live up.
This game was decided in the first period on a couple of plays. Very early on, Richards had a breakaway in which he fed a sweet pass across the ice and I think Erickson missed the pass on an open net that would have been a sure goal.
Then the Ducks got going.
The first goal given up was a defensive mistake that Turco didn't have much of a shot on. The second and third were goals that he keeps out when he's at the top of his game. They were both great efforts from a determined Ducks team, but the fact remains that Turco is entirely capable of stopping those two goals.
Honestly though, I'm giving myself tired head from thinking about the technical aspects of how we lost though, so lets get into some periphery shall we?
Cool things about this game:
-playoff hockey is an entirely different animal than the regular season. The building was packed at the drop of the first puck, the team was cheered off of the ice after warmups, and this building was JACKED UP after the open played.
-Speaking of the open, I had the privilege of sound designing and mixing the video montage that played just before the Stars took the ice. I thought it translated well from the control room, and again, the crowd was just NUTTY for the start of the game.
-The blackout (all fans were supposed to show up wearing black, and to seal the deal the Stars gave away thousands of black shirts at the gate) went pretty well. I'd say close to 85 or 90% participation from home fans.
-A series of strong "lets go stars!" led by the Fanatics in the balcony was echoed by the entire building throughout the third period. This really felt like a tight fan group tonight. There was some booing of the home team when the score got lopsided early, but that's to be expected after all of the energy and emotion put into the start of the game.
-Brendan Morrow and Brad Richards played playoff hockey throughout. They never backed down, never showed nerves, never made bad plays. They're probably the only two that I can single out from the seat that I held though.
I predicted after game two that we would split the games at home, and the first leg of that has come to pass. I also figured that of the games in the series that this would be the hardest to win. Game 4 will be more important, but I think we can expect the team to come out more focused and less jittery than we saw tonight.
The pre-game presentation went great and the fans came ready to go and stayed till the bitter end in a blowout. I expect more of the same on Thursday.
Sunday, April 13
Total domination tonight. Stars over the Ducks 5-2 and the series lead moves to 2-0.
I think that the story of the series so far is the fact that the Stars young, inexperienced D corps is completely outplaying the decorated, hall of fame, proven Ducks D corps. Pronger specifically was slow and got beaten a couple of times, and the Stars generally had lots of time all over the ice in the offensive zone. Conversely, Grossman, Robidas, and Boucher were making plays all over the ice, and the Ducks generally had a very hard time making anything happen even once they got the puck down low.
Turco didn't have to be great, but I think he's still entirely capable of that when he needs to be. His puck play had a bigger impact on the game than his netminding, but his neminding did outperform what Giguere offered up.
Speaking of Jiggy, he came up with some incredible saves on lateral moves, but really had issues when he was facing shots head-on for some reason. Ribero scored on him mano a mano, Modano pounded a shot past him [untipped] from the blue line, Richards got a quick wrister past him from straight up, and Robidas got a shot on him that he couldn't stop down and gave up an ugly rebound for Lehtinen to take home. Watching his reactions after some of the goals he gave up, I'm at least partly convinced that he's off of his game mentally a bit, and if he gives up a softie in Dallas on Tuesday it could be church for the Ducks.
One last player that bears mentioning is the big tradeline aquisition Brad Richards. That guy was money tonight. All over the ice: winning facoffs, backchecking and making good defensive plays, and doing what he does in the offensive zone. I love seeing a player of that caliber in a Stars jersey. While both of these games have been lopsided enough that no one player has been the difference, Richards has shown the poetential to be that guy if the Stars need him to be when the games get tight.
A new prediction for you: the two teams will split the next two games in Dallas, and the Stars will take the ducks out in game 5 on the road.
Saturday, April 12
It goes through the basic premise that we as humans don't really comprehend the basic elements that make up the mechanics of common sense in any way that's sophisticated enough to program into a computer. Right now the vast majority of programs written by people are designed to do very specific things at an expert level, and are incapable of doing anything else. This blogging software does an expert job of collecting words and images and posting them to a web server, but its thoroughly incapable of discerning for itself whether or not I'm making any sense in what I post. It can check grammar, but not content.
It argues (as artificial intelligence studies have done for years) that programming which relies on if-then type rules will never really understand anything because of the basic fact that there are just too many contingencies to put into place. This is "logic" based programming, and it's what drives this blog's software, every videogame out there, the Windows operating system, and almost all other software that we've ever come into contact with. Instead, programmers must aspire to write programs that can do an action, analyze a result, deduce what went wrong in a very conceptual and therefore abstract way. By abandoning logic for experience, programs can potentially gain self-awareness.
Of course, it qualifies self-awareness like this:
The paper also produces a pretty cool way to look at the question of whether computers have the capacity to actually pull this off:================== ARE HUMANS SELF-AWARE? ==================
Most people assume that computers can't be conscious, or self-aware; at
best they can only simulate the appearance of this. Of course, this
assumes that we, as humans, are self-aware. But are we? I think not. I
know that sounds ridiculous, so let me explain.
If by awareness we mean knowing what is in our minds, then, as every
clinical psychologist knows, people are only very slightly self-aware, and
most of what they think about themselves is guess-work. We seem to build
up networks of theories about what is in our minds, and we mistake these
apparent visions for what's really going on. To put it bluntly, most of
what our "consciousness" reveals to us is just "made up". Now, I don't
mean that we're not aware of sounds and sights, or even of some parts of
thoughts. I'm only saying that we're not aware of much of what goes on thoughts. I'm only saying that we're not aware of much of what goes on inside our minds.
This paper was published in 1982 so it's been around forever, but this is the first time I've seen it, and I think it was written in a way that equates to timelessness in this computer age.It is too easy to say things like, "Computer can't do (xxx), because they
have no feelings, or thoughts". But here's a way to turn such sayings into
foolishness. Change them to read like this. "Computer can't do (xxx),
because all they can do is execute incredibly intricate processes, perhaps
millions at a time". Now, such objections seem less convincing -- yet all
we did was face one simple, complicated fact: we really don't yet know
what the limits of computers are.
Friday, April 11
I know that I'm already late to the party since the Stars roasted the Ducks 4-1 last night, but there's still a lot of series left to play so here goes:
Firstly, all of the analysis that I heard in the days leading up to game one was how impressive the Ducks D-core is. Add to that Giguere's playoff record and the late season slump that the Stars suffered and most prognosticators had this series going to Anaheim in 5 or 6.
I never really bought into this for all of the reasons that the Stars showed in game 1. I'm talking specifically about the Stars power play when combined with the Duck's penchant for taking lots and lots of penalties. In the regular season the Stars ranked 13th on the powerplay at 18.1 % and the Ducks powerplay ranked 20th at 16.6% and the PK was 12th at 83.1%. Figured together, the Dallas powerplay was about 10% more effective than the Anaheim one during the regular season.
In my life poker has taught me that numbers like these don't matter until you put them into the proper context. Edges must be measured against the frequency of the times that you'll encounter them. For example, if I were to say right now that I'm going to light every $100 bill on fire that I find on the street for the rest of my life, then my net loss will not be nearly what it would be if I were to instead light every $1 bill I ever found in my wallet for the rest of my life.
That's the context that I like to look at special teams numbers through, and here's how we do it:
In the regular season Anaheim lead the league in times shorthanded at 408. Dallas ranked 16th at 352. If the trend holds through the series, then Dallas can expect to see 16% more powerplays than Anaheim over the course of the series.
This adds up to a situation where a Dallas powerplay with a 10% edge in effectiveness gets on the job 16% more often. That's huge, and it could add up to a quick series win for big D unless the Ducks either drastically reduce the number of penalties they take or dramatically outscore the Stars 5 on 5 in the remaining games. I called for the Stars in 6 before the series began, and I'm sticking to it for now. If we win tomorrow I reserve the right to move to Stars in 5.