The Dallas Stars, on the other hand, have to be wondering when their top players are going to show up.
“Their big guys over there are killing us right now,” Dallas center Mike Modano said after Colorado’s 5-2 victory in Game 2 Friday night. “Whoever is on the ice against these guys have to be on their toes and be real sharp and smart. Right now those three, four guys are taking us apart.”
At least the Stars are heading home now where they went 26-7-8 this season. They will host Games 3 and 4 of the best-of-seven series Monday and Wednesday.
The Avalanche struggled the last month of the regular season but figured their top players would be able to pick it up once the playoffs started.
They were right.
Sakic ended the regular season with one goal in Colorado’s final seven games, but has scored in each game against Dallas. Aebischer has looked a lot like mentor Patrick Roy in his first two playoff starts, turning away 56 of 59 shots.
All-Star defenseman Rob Blake is back to being his steady self after an inconsistent end to the season, staying strong at the blue line and chipping in three assists.
Forsberg has filled his usual role in the playoffs, creating havoc all over the ice with a combination of grit and grace. He had the first goal in Colorado’s 3-1 victory in Game 1, and added another along with an assist in Game 2. This from a player who led the NHL in scoring during the 2002 playoffs after missing the regular season.
Tanguay picked up where he left off before sitting out the season’s final 10 games with a knee injury. He has goals in both games and an assist in Game 2 after scoring 25 goals and a career-high 79 points during the season. Hejduk has added two assists and done a good job of cycling the puck to his linemates.
The trio has combined for four goals and four assists in two games.
“There’s a lot of desperation out there with those guys and when they get going, they’re a tough line to stop,” Avalanche defenseman Bob Boughner said. “It doesn’t matter who’s playing against them. I remember playing against the Avalanche, and when those guys are on the top of their game it’s a long night back there.”
It’s going to be a short series if the Stars’ stars don’t get going.
Modano had the first goal in Game 2, but hasn’t had room to create much else. Bill Guerin, Dallas’ leading scorer in the regular season with 34 goals and 69 points, has no points and five shots in the series.
Defenseman Richard Matvichuk was on the ice for all three Colorado goals in Game 1 and is minus-5 in the series.
Then there’s Marty Turco. He had a career-high 37 wins during the season and was third in the league with a 1.98 goals-against average, but has allowed eight goals against the Avalanche. Granted, his teammates haven’t helped by giving Colorado 14 power plays—three goals—but he’s going to need to be better if the Stars are going to send the series back to Denver next week.
“Personally, regardless of the goals, the amount of them, I just (want to) give my team a chance,” Turco said. “I’ve been trying to do that, so it doesn’t really matter what has happened. It’s what is going to happen that matters the most for us.”
But for the Stars to get their scorers going it again, they’ll have to find a way to create more space through the neutral zone.
The Stars’ top two lines are at their best when they can generate speed across their opponent’s blue line, but the Avalanche have been superb at standing the Stars up in the neutral zone and forcing them to dump pucks into the corners.
“It’s just trying to eliminate their space and time in the neutral zone and not let them wind up with some speed—just executing defensive play in the neutral zone,” Boughner said. “I think the guys that are assigned to that job, are doing a heck of job. It’s everybody coming together and doing the little things.”