- Mark Stepneski, ESPNDallas.com
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The Texas Stars open the 2011 Cup Playoffs Thursday night, playing at Milwaukee in the first game of the West Division Semifinals.
The Stars, who finished fourth in the West Division, won five of six games against the first place Admirals during the regular season, including all three in Milwaukee.
“I know we had great success against them in the regular season, but this is the playoffs and all that goes out the window,” said Texas coach Glen Gulutzan. “I think the only thing that gives us is the mental ability to know that we can win in that building.”
Five of the six games were decided by one goal and two of them went beyond regulation. Neither team scored more than three goals in a game.
“We match up pretty well against them. We have pretty good games against them,” said Texas defenseman Maxime Fortunus. They’re a team that focuses a lot on defense and so are we. It’s going to be a big battle.”
Last year, in their first year of existence, the Stars went to the Calder Conference Finals, where they lost in six games to the Hershey Bears.
“Last year’s team had a great run and we talked about what we need to have success in the playoffs. Those ingredients don’t change from last year to this year,” said Gulutzan. “We spoke about those things and this team is excited. We’ve got guys from last year, but the new guys have heard about it all year. They’re amped up to play in the playoffs. They want to carve out their own little niche in Texas with this team. We’re hoping to have a successful run. If you work and get some bounces, I think you can.”
Texas goalie Richard Bachman was around for last year’s run, but didn’t play. He’s the man in net this season along with Tyler Beskorowany. Both are highly touted goaltending prospects of the Dallas Stars and both are AHL rookies. Bachman was among the league leaders in just about every statistical category this season.
"If I say we have a rookie goalie, I can also say we have the fourth best goals against average goalie and the third best save percentage goalie,” said Gulutzan. “We feel we have the goaltending from both of our guys to compete. You look at the history of hockey there’s always been that rookie goalie that’s taken teams on Cinderella rides and maybe it will happen and maybe it won’t, but we like the ability of our two goalies.”
Veteran Brent Krahn was expected to be the No. 1 goalie for Texas this season, but his season was derailed by injury. Bachman took over and didn’t disappoint.
“He’s a competitor. He’s a quiet competitor. He’s not a vocal guy, but he’s a competitor,” said Gulutzan. “I knew he’d compete for us all year, but he surprised me with how competitive he is. That’s his greatest asset.”
Bachman played 55 games this season, the most he's ever played in a season. But he said he’s recharged and ready to go for the playoffs.
“I feel good. We had a real busy stretch at the end there. The body felt good and responded well to that,” Bachman said. “You’re rejuvenated now. It’s playoff time. It gives you an extra boost, a little more adrenaline going. Feel good, ready to go.”
Reinforcements from Dallas
With Dallas not making the postseason, Texas got a couple of players back in time for their first round series opener.
“Vincour gives that ability – he’s a goal scorer from junior – to add to his totals,” said Texas coach Glen Gulutzan. “He only had five [goals] during the regular season, but he’s got some great experience in the NHL and hopefully he can have a good run for us.
“Luko, the reason he was in Dallas is he gives you that experience and calmness. He’s a guy that has won Cups and been there. You can never have too much experience in playoffs.”
Gulutzan on Glennie
Texas also got some reinforcements from the junior ranks late in the season, including forward Scott Glennie, Dallas’ first round pick (8th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
Glennie played four games for Texas at the end of the regular season, registering no points.
"He’s getting his feet wet right now, but there’s another guy that has some skill,” Texas coach Glen Gulutzan said. “He’s obviously one of the top junior players in Canada. He had a great year and playoff for himself. He’s a guy that could emerge here. He’s going to get some time here to see what he can do. Certainly, he adds some skill to our lineup.”
First round schedule
Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 14 – Texas at Milwaukee, 7:00
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 16 – Texas at Milwaukee, 7:00
Game 3 – Tue., Apr. 19 – Milwaukee at Texas, 7:30
Game 4 – Wed., Apr. 20 – Milwaukee at Texas, 7:30
Game 5 – Fri., Apr. 22 – Milwaukee at Texas, 7:30*
Game 6 – Mon., Apr. 25 – Texas at Milwaukee, 7:00*
Game 7 – Tue., Apr. 26 – Texas at Milwaukee, 7:00*