Thursday, February 21, 2013
Thursday Morning Cupcheck - Ranking the Top Five Dallas Stars Rivalries
If you're thinking the Kings or Coyotes merit inclusion in this list, you are sadly mistaken.
Good morning, hockey fans! Last week we got Stars fans into the mood for a little hominahomina. This week, after watching every highly entertaining second of NBC's "Wednesday Night Rivalry," it got us to thinking: If Buzz Lightyear thinks he's a "real" space ranger, then why does he freeze up around that kid? Also, who are the Dallas Stars' most hated rivals?
It's not an easy question anymore, thanks to four years of missing the playoffs. Postseason villains are absolutely mandatory when you're talking about building a rivalry: as much as the Islanders and Blue Jackets may loathe each other, no one is going to take that poo seriously until they meet in the Cup Finals, which should happen sometime after the Kansas City Royals win their third Superbowl. But Dallas used to own the playoffs like a boss, which only makes this list even sadder. Here are the Stars' Top Five Rivals, whether they're aware of it or not.
#5: Chicago Blackhawks - It may seem odd to want to stab a guy in a Jeremy Roenick jersey now, but there was a time when Stars and Hawks fans and players had to be separated by 40-foot high barbed wire-topped electrified fences just to keep the bloodslicks to a minimum. This was, of course, back when both were in the Norris Division, and when both were not very good at winning Cups but exceptionally gifted at punching and being punched. Meeting up six times in ten years in the playoffs will do that. While neither team seems all that much interested in full-scale riots in pre-game warm-ups these days, there's still the off chance that one of the Blackhawks' superskilled softies like Kane or Hossa will just haul off and deliver a cheap shot to the back of Stephane Robidas' neck. I mean, if they weren't such pants-wetting cowards.
#4: Anaheim Ducks - They say familiarity breeds contempt, and since both of these teams have been slightly better than mediocre in the same division for a decade now, it stands to reason that there's plenty of recent enmity. Heck, Steve Ott was once jumped by three Ducks after the final whistle in one game, and not only did the refs look on with admiration and a proud tear in their eye, but the league decided to suspend Ott as a result. That's the kind of ridiculous boolshizz rivalries are made of! Unfortunately, not one of Ott's teammates came to his defense (let that be a warning to you about James Neal, Penguins fans), so... it just sort of fizzled into nothingness. Also, it was a meaningless regular season game. These teams have met just twice in the postseason --in 2003, when the top-ranked Stars were upset by Giguere and his stay-puft marshmellow pads, and in 2008, when they got some measure of revenge by ousting the Cup Champions in the first round. Both times were plenty contentious, and with cheapshot diving punkbiznatches like Corey Perry driving play, another first-round matchup could be quite entertaining. Well, as entertaining as a four-game sweep could get, anyhow.
#3: Boston Bruins - While the Stars clearly got the better of the Bruins in their last meeting, the two meetings prior to that were quite possibly two of the worst games in Stars franchise history. In fall of 2008, the team put on one of its most embarassing public displays ever, a loss so devastating that it led to the ouster of Ambassador of Fun Brett Hull from his comfy GM position. The next time these teams met in Boston, it was an unexpected 80s-style opening faceoff bloodbath. For reasons only known to the lockerooms of both teams, they opted to start a ho-hum regular season game with three fights in the first four seconds, an NHL record until the Stars and Canucks beat it by a second last week. While Steve Ott "won" his fight with league darling Gregory Campbell, Brian Sutherby and Krys Barch both clearly got their a**es kicked, and Adam Burish lost his fight four minutes later so badly that he was out of commission pretty much for the rest of the season. If the Stars were trying to "send a message" that they weren't going to be pushed around, it totally worked: Boston was up 2-0 before the game was 90 seconds old and 4-0 at the end of the first period. We outsiders have no idea what transpired between these two groups of alleged professionals before the game, but obviously, when these two teams meet in the 2013 Cup Finals, expect the ice to be painted red with blood. Or sparkly pink with glittery swirls, if you're talking about the Bruins' blood.
#2: Colorado Avalanche - Nothing amps up a rivalry than battling when the stakes are highest, and these two playoff behemoths clashed tooth-and-nail two straight years in the Western Conference Finals in 1999 and 2000. Forsberg/Sakic/Foote/Borque/Blake/Hejduk/Dreary/Ozolinzh versus Modano/Nieuwendyk/Hatcher/Zubov/Matvichuk/Lehtinen. Matvichuk's series-ending hit on Forsberg in 1999. Ray Borque trying to win his first Cup, and failing utterly, in 2000. Both series going to seven games, with the Stars going down 3-2 in both only to win both sets of Game 6 and Game 7 in highly-entertaining fashion. While dates with the Sabres and Devils were waiting for the Stars in the Cup finals, these conference final battles just seemed more important. Two of the league's biggest heavyweights slugging it out in a phonebooth (or a tipped-over port-o-potty if we're talking about the Pepsi Center). Unfortunately, time has not been kind to either team since. While they did meet up in the first round in the 2004 and 2006 playoffs, Dave Tippet postseason hockey proved to be no match for five guys skating down the ice actually trying to score, and both series ended in five-game whimpers. Still, with the amount of talented young players on each of these teams, it should only be a matter of time before the next decade-long round of postseason free-for-alls.
#1: San Jose Sharks - Naturally, our biggest rival should be a divisional foe, and one we've gone to war against in the postseason more than once or twice. Fortunately, while the Sharks have never really even remotely come close to beating the Stars in their three postseason matchups, all three were remarkable in their own special way. In 1998, the Stars defeated the upstart Sharks in six games, but not before cheapshot fetishist Bryan Marchment drove Joe Nieuwendyk's knee/the Stars' Cup hopes into the boards. Two years later, the Stars decimated Owen Nolan and the Sharks in five, but who can forget 18,000 Sharks fans pelting the ice with garbage as their team was winning, with Eddie Belfour hiding in his own net from the projectiled detritus until they stopped? The two teams met one last time, in 2008, when the highly-favored Sharks went down 3-0 in the series before nearly coming back. The four-overtime Game Six was truly a Gilgamesh-like playoff epic in which both teams got what they wanted: for the Sharks, they got one highlight-reel save from Nabokov to postpone the inevitable, while for the Stars, they got a series victory and a chance to embarass the Sharks in the playoffs once again. A win-win for everybody involved.
That's it for this week's blood-raising Cupcheck. Tune in next week when we try to stop laughing when Oilers fans desperately claim that their team had some sort of "rivalry" with the Stars after meeting up seven straight years in the postseason. Our disparaging snorts may surprise you.