The Dallas Stars’ bandwagon – so desolate three months ago that team president Jeff Cogen was bending over backward to win back fans – is suddenly more congested than the complaint line at American Airlines.
Just as it should be. Because Dallas isn’t a sports town, but rather a winners town. And the Stars, in case you’re late to the party, are four wins from the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Stars, in their first Western Conference Finals since 2000, begin their series tonight against the hated Detroit Red Wings at 6:30 on the most obscure sports channel in the history of ever, Versus. If you find it, you’ll see a hell of a series. One that ESPN.com predicts the Red Wings will win in seven games but The Hockey News envisions the Stars winning in seven.
Me? I was at American Airlines Center in February when the Stars smothered the Red Wings, 1-0. How could I not pick Dallas in six? Actually, I can’t.
A series primer for fans ranging from life-long puck-heads, to “hey, is that frozen water?”-types and the rest of us in between:
*To get you properly lubricated for Game 1, Fox Sports Net Southwest will replay last Sunday’s exhilarating Game 6 against the San Jose Sharks this morning at 11. The 2-1 Stars’ victory ended at 1:23 a.m. Monday. This version – in which captain Brenden Morrow again scores the game-winner in the fourth overtime – will play out in only two hours. Given that emotionally draining climax, don’t be shocked if the Stars get off to a slow start tonight.
*Dallas’ history against the Red Wings – especially in Detroit – is worse than Terrell Owens’ battle against humility. When Dallas won in February, it improved to 4-11 over four seasons. More daunting, goalie Marty Turco is – ouch – 0-7-2 in Detroit. Says Stars coach Dave Tippett, “I expect him to use that as a motivating factor rather than a mental hurdle. It’s a great time to shed that label.”
*The Red Wings’ goalies are Chris Osgood and Dominik Hasek, both who have won Stanley Cups. Turco’s playing better, but he’s never been this far in the post-season.
*Detroit’s hottest player is Swede Johan Franzen, who has 11 goals in the playoffs and answers to “The Mule.” Dallas’ hottest player is Morrow, who is by far the best two-way athlete in the Metroplex and answers to no one. Check that, he still defers to Mike Modano.
*When you see the “MM” on the back of the Stars’ helmets, no, it’s not for Mikey Mo. The initials belong to Matt McKee, the popular director of ticket operations who passed away due after a heart attack at age 32 on Jan. 16. McKee, an inspiration while battling cancer, had worked for the Stars and Rangers organizations for 10 years. He and his wife, Tracy, had one child, who turned 2 a few days after his passing.
*The Stars’ chances will greatly improve with the return of injured veterans Philippe Boucher (hip strain) and Stu Barnes (concussion). Both traveled to Detroit, but are doubtful for tonight’s Game 1.
*If all else fails and you can’t find Versus with your rabbit-ear antennae, the Stars are holding game-watching parties in the AT&T Plaza outside the AAC. Bring a blanket or lawn chair. Can’t beat the giant TV, or the price: Free. -- Richie Whitt