The Dallas Stars are one game away from the second round of the playoffs. Up 3-1 on the defending Stanley Cup champions, the series returns to Anaheim tomorrow night for Game 5. After a fart-and-fall-down performance in the first two periods of Game 3, Dallas picked up right where they left off in their strong third period.
Dallas defeated the Ducks tonight 3-1, with Anaheim's only goal coming with a meaningless 7.6 seconds left in the game. The Ducks hit the Stars early and often, and the Stars simply seemed to shrug them off, accept the punishment, then rebound to burry the puck.
I do worry that the very physical play of the Ducks could hurt the Stars in the long run; the long-run being the rest of this opening-round series, or the rest of their playoff run - however long it may be. It's a good thing Dallas is up 3-1 in this series, because they are being dealt so much punishment along the boards, I'm concerned about their ability to continue to shrug off these hits.
As long as the Stars are willing to absorb these hits and pass the puck up to neutralize the Ducks' forecheck, Dallas will continue to find the success they've had all series long. In the next rounds, providing they finish this series off, it will be interesting to see how much pain they can absorb. The Stars don't have the type of "enforcers" that patrolled the rink when they won the Cup in '99. The Hatcher-Matvichuck type of defensemen no longer reside in Dallas. The Stars are succeeding with younger, faster defensemen (more because they've had to as a result of injuries) instead of big bruisers.
If Dallas continues to fight through the big hits, they can enjoy a long playoff run. If not, they could find themselves at home sooner than expected.