Courtesy of Daniel Fung
THE PROVINCE REPORTS
If the Canucks need anymore reminders of just how important tonight's Game 5 is, they only need to look back to 2003 writes Ben Kuzma. Up 3-1 in the Western Conference Semi-Final against the Minnesota Wild and holding home-ice advantage, the Canucks stumbled in their final three games being outscored 16-5. Taking a lesson from 2003, the Canucks know they need to get the job done tonight.
Painful memories will fuel killer instinct
"I think we learned a lot from that," Canucks captain Markus Naslund said Wednesday. "You need that killer instinct and we have a good chance of finishing it off [tonight]. It's a good feeling but we can't get ahead of ourselves."
Still not ready to Cooke
Don't count on Matt Cooke completing the hat-trick of surprise returns in this series for the Canucks, reports the Province. Cooke has yet to skate since suffering a groin injury in Game 1.
"He's taking treatments twice a day and, with a groin injury, you never know," said [Canucks coach Alain] Vigneault. "It's a tough area to come back from and we've had quite a few this year [Sami Salo, Willie Mitchell, Cooke] and we know it's not as simple as day-to-day."
Flying around in circles
Travel arrangements can play a key role in how prepared mentally and physically a sports team is, particularly when it involves east-to-west journeys and long flights. That's why the travel plans of the Dallas Stars in this series have been seemingly detrimental and, ultimately, could prove to be their undoing.
"After Game 2, which began one hour earlier than normal last Friday night at 6 p.m., the Stars opted to change their travel plans and head back to Dallas immediately following the game, taking the risky and perhaps fateful west-to-east post-game trip that had them arrive back home about 6 a.m. Texas time Saturday morning," writes Tony Gallagher. "Now again after Game 4, the Canucks followed their normal practice of flying east to west right after the game so as to get home quickly and capitalize on the time advantage. But the Stars opted to pass on this opportunity of using time zones in their favour, instead choosing to stay in Dallas on Tuesday night and fly Wednesday, arguably another unorthodox decision."
Growth of Olympic proportions
Canadian hockey fans may not have been too happy when Team Canada was ousted at the Winter Olympics in Italy and Sweden went on to capture the Gold Medal, but Canucks fans are reaping the benefits now. Given the opportunity to deliver on the game's biggest stage is the reason why Daniel and Henrik Sedin have been contributing the way they are now for the Canucks, writes Ed Willes.
"They played a big part [at the Olympics] and I think it helped with pressure situations and being counted on," said Canucks GM Dave Nonis. "At this level that was a major step for them."
And while they haven't found the scoreboard since Game 1, the twins' contributions shouldn't be measured by just goals and assists.
"True, they could be more productive on the power play and they're also coming off a quiet outing in Game 4," writes Willes. "But given the strange disappearing act of the Stars' best players, the twins' performance has given the Canucks a decided edge in a crucial area of the game.
"In another time they might not have been ready to be difference-makers in the playoffs. This year, they're ready and the final stage of that preparation took place in Italy."
You don't want these tickets
Tickets are being handed out...but they're not the ones that will get you into General Motors Place for a future Canucks home playoff game. Instead, fans are being advised by police to tone down their celebratory rituals or risk being ticketed reports Stuart Hunter.
"Our guys are really tolerant, and we are all Canucks fans and we want people to celebrate," Const. Tim Fanning said yesterday. "We just don't want them to carry on to the point where it's just disturbing the neighbourhood. Celebrate like champions."
Tickets have been handed out for excessive horn-honking and driving with a passenger hanging out of a vehicle's window, among other offences.
THE SUN REPORTS
Be confident, not cocky
Willie Mitchell remembers the trash-talking well from 2003. As a member of the Minnesota Wild, down 3-1 to the Canucks in a best-of-seven Western Conference semi-final series, Mitchell's Wild were on the receiving end of a number of comments which served only to fuel the Wild comeback. Realizing how close this series is, Mitchell knows it's important not to give the Stars any added motivation, writes Brad Zeimer.
"There was a lot of trash talk... [a]nd there was some talk about golf clubs," Mitchell said. "We're not going to make that mistake here. That's a good team over there. The games have all been tight and it can easily switch the other way if we're not committed and not focused on the task at hand."
Trevor Linden, who was part of the 2003 Canucks collapse to the Wild, echoed similar statements.
"Personnel-wise, [the team] has changed tremendously and I think our attitude and how we win games has changed a lot," Linden said. "This team is focused on [Thursday] night and we'll have the right mindset heading in."
Modano a disappointment
Mike Modano managed to disappear from the media on Wednesday in much the same way he has been invisible this entire series, writes Iain Macintyre.
"Invisible' isn't strong enough to describe him in Tuesday's 2-1 loss to Vancouver, when he didn't score, didn't create chances, almost didn't get on the ice for a 115-second 5-on-3 power play, and didn't win key faceoffs at the end," writes MacIntyre. "It looked like Modano has lost his nerve for this kind of hockey when every square foot of space is contested."
Stars captain Brendan Morrow stopped just short of naming names when he suggested that it was their grinders that were the ones willing to pay the price and get into the dirty areas while their skills guys weren't. MacIntyre however, was not holding back on his thoughts on Modano.
"For those of us bewildered by the Stars' decision before this season to tear the C' off Modano's jersey and sew it on Morrow," writes MacIntyre. "[T]he last four games have clarified things."
Almost Just-in Time
With an early 3:35 p.m. start time in the baseball game between the Seattle Mariners and the Minnesota Twins, New Westminster-native and Canuck fanatic Justin Morneau, who happens to be the reigning AL MVP, might have been able to make the mad dash to Vancouver to catch the last two periods of tonight's Game 5 tilt between the Canucks and the Stars, reports the Sun. But alas, with the Twins leaving for Kansas City following their game, Morneau will just have to cheer from afar as he's done throughout the Canuck playoff run.
"Some of my buddies are going [to the Canucks game]," says the Twins' slugging first baseman. "I wish I could go...and watch them clinch [the series]."
When asked if there was any possible way he could sweet-talk his manager into letting him catch a later flight to re-join his team, Morneau replied: "I wish....If it was the [Cup] final, I'd probably find a way."
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS REPORTS
Same old story again
Great goaltenders rise to the occasion and the Dallas Stars have seen this movie before, writes Tom Cowlishaw. First it was Cujo. Then it was Jiggy. Now it's Bobby Lu. In 1997, the division champion Stars were ousted by the upstart Edmonton Oilers in Round 1. In 2003, after dispatching the Oilers in Round 1, the Stars ran into Giguere in Round 2 and the rest was history. Now, it's Roberto Luongo.
"Inevitably, when a goaltender is on a great run, he's on a run of good fortune, too," writes Cowlishaw. "Like Cujo a decade ago, a Canadian-born goalie performing in his own country is standing on his head against the Stars.
"Players mumble in clichÃ©s about what they can do about it in Game 5 to reverse the tide. Make every shift count. Play desperate hockey. Realize that there's no tomorrow. But one man has risen above all the rest in this series. And when a goalie finds a way to do that, it's the end of the story."
Lack of effort is troubling
Stars captain Brendan Morrow knows his team can be better, but for whatever reason, the effort just isn't there, writes Mike Heika. And while he believes this team is different from the Stars team that were knocked out in the first round in the two previous playoffs, none of that will matter if the Stars continue their run of post-season failure.
"We're probably more frustrated than the fans are," Morrow said. "We're the ones that go through it day in and day out ... 82 games, the hard work, the injuries, all the adversities. It's been a long road to get here. Our effort has been OK. It hasn't been good enough. It's been frustrating."
Stars could get some Big help tonight
Jussi Jokinen will definitely be out. Krys Barch, who practiced on a line with Steve Ott and Antti Miettinen, could be in the lineup for Game 5. But the Stars could potentially get a huge boost from the return of Eric Lindros, reports Chuck Carlton.
Lindros, who did not accompany the team to Vancouver for Games 1 and 2, is with the team in Vancouver for Game 5 and there is a potential he could make his Stars playoff debut tonight. Lindros has two points (1-1-2) and a plus-1 rating in two regular season games against the Canucks, but has not scored a goal since November 20, 2006 against Colorado.
THE FORT-WORTH STAR TELEGRAM REPORTS
Game 4 result leaving much to ponder
With the Stars just one game away from elimination now, the Stars might have a long off-season of thinking if they don't find a way to pull off a miracle comeback, writes Jennifer Floyd Engle.
"If Dallas loses this series, and statistical evidence suggests teams down 3-1 do almost 90 percent of the time, Stars players will spend their summer muttering What If?'," writes Engle. "What if they had been able to score on a 5-on-3, in Game 1 or Game 3? What if Lehtinen had been able to get his stick on that puck? What if Ribeiro's shot had a little more mustard?"
For some Stars, the retrospection has seemingly already begun.
"This feels a lot like last year, a lot of just-abouts, a lot of overtime goals, not being able to score in the playoffs," Stars center Mike Modano admitted.
All but official
You can trot out all the clichÃ©s you want, but at the end of the day, the Stars are history writes a staff reporter from the Star-Telegram.
While the Stars are keeping the faith that they can still find a way to advance past this series by staging a comeback against the Canucks, few in Dallas are buying it.
"Marty [Turco] will have to forgive the rest of us for being a bit skeptical," the article states responding to a comment from the Dallas netminder. "We've seen this act too often before to have much faith in a comeback at this point.
"[Y]ou know you're in trouble when your best fallback line is that at least there's plenty of room for improvement. Sorry, but the Stars are dead in this series. The only thing left is a long flight and a funeral."
Ribeiro could show the way
Since moving to Dallas, the Stars have never come back after being down 3-1. They have never even forced a Game 7 when finding themselves in this precarious position. However, at least one member of the Dallas Stars has done it before and he might be able to help the Stars keep the hope alive, writes Tracey Myers.
"It was just one game at a time," [former Montreal Canadien Mike] Ribeiro said. "You get a game with momentum. You go there and win one, momentum changes and then you come back there. You just try to get to Game 7. And then you never know what can happen. We need to focus on the next game, and only the next game."
Ribeiro's 2004 Montreal Canadiens were, in fact, the last team to stage a comeback from down 3-1. They rebounded to defeat the Boston Bruins in the first round.
"If you win one game, there's a switch in momentum," Ribeiro said. "You come back home and it's a different series."