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HALL OF FAME ALIGNED WITH STARS

Posted By Travis Currie On Jun 28 2011 @ 10:20 pm In Dallas Stars | 1 Comment

Two integral parts of the Dallas Stars 1999 Stanley Cup Championship were enshrined into hockey’s land of immortals today as they were two of four players inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

JOE NIEUWENDYK

Bob Gainey had a vision for the Dallas Stars back in the mid 1990′s. He felt if some of the scoring pressure could be taken off of Mike Modano, the team would greatly benefit and so would Modano himself. So he sacrificed highly touted prospect Jarome Iginla, as well as forward Corey Millen in exchange for Calgary Flames center Joe Nieuwendyk in December of 1995. The Stars were currently out of a playoff position and ended up on the outside looking in that year. With a few more moves made in the summer, the following season would see an amazing 38 point improvement and a second overall finish.

The Stars would find some playoff success in the spring of 1998 where they would lose out in 6 games to the eventual Cup Champ Detroit Red Wings in the conference final. Unfortunately for Nieuwendyk, he would sit out most of the playoffs due to a knee injury suffered in the first round vs San Jose.  Had he been available, 1998 could have very likely been the Stars first ever Stanley Cup. The next season would be a magical one for Nieuwendyk and the Stars. Their second straight President’s Trophy and of course, defeating Buffalo for the franchise’s first ever Stanley Cup. Although Mike Modano led the way in offense, Nieuwendyk would score six of the Stars game winners and be awarded the Conn Smythe trophy for playoff MVP.

The Stars would make one more long playoff run with Nieuwendyk in 2000 but fell just short to the Scott Stevens led New Jersey Devils, losing in six games in their second straight trip to the Stanley Cup Final. Nieuwendyk would be traded to those New Jersey Devils at the trade deadline two years later in 2002, along with sidekick Jamie Langenbrunner. He would win his third Stanley Cup the following season and would retire in 2007.

Bob Gainey was right. Nieuwendyk brought experience, guts, clutch play, a will to win, and a potent one-two punch at center with Mike Modano. A leader on and off the ice, a true competitor, and an all-round class act.

EDDIE BELFOUR

The Eagle would take the league by storm with the Blackhawks in 1990. He captured the Calder, the Vezina, and was named to the NHL’s 1st All-Star Team. His Hawks were ousted by the Minnesota North Stars in round one that year, but Eddie would take his Hawks all the way to the Cup Final the following year. They lost four straight to Mario Lemieux and the Penguins in a series that saw every game except one won by just one goal. Regular season success was no problem for Belfour, but playoff success seemed to be hard to come by and naturally questions began to arise. Could he win the big one ?

Belfour fell out of favor with the Hawks, as they did with him too during the 1996-97 season, and he would be traded to the San Jose Sharks. His play seemed to be on a down slide and he would become a UFA in the summer. Meanwhile, the Dallas Stars seemed to be just one or two pieces away from greatness. Andy Moog had been the Stars goaltender since the move to Dallas and it seemed an improvement at the position was a dire need. Bob Gainey would take a chance on Ed Belfour and he would not be disappointed. Belfour took the Stars from good to great, helping them capture their first ever President’s Trophy in 1998. With a 1.88 GAA and a .916 SV%, his numbers were incredible and the improvement in goal was obvious. His popularity in Dallas was through the roof and Reunion Arena was filled with chants of ” Eddie ! Eddie ! Eddie ! ” several times per game.

Belfour was huge for the Stars on the run to their first Stanley Cup as he bettered Grant Fuhr, Patrick Roy, and Dominek Hasek on the way. He posted a 1.67 GAA and a .935 SV% in the playoffs that year and stopped 53 of 54 shots in nearly six periods of play to outlast Hasek in that final game. If that doesn’t prove he could win the big one, I don’t know what does. Though Nieuwendyk won the Conn Smythe, that could have just as easily have been The Eagle receiving the honor.

He would come up big for the Stars in the 2000 playoffs as well, of course falling just short. Just like Nieuwendyk, his final season with the Stars would be 2001-02. Belfour would continue to play another four seasons and into his 40′s where he would remain among the league’s best.

Your goaltender is your final line of defense, and Belfour brought a nearly impenetrable  one to the Stars. His will to win, his fiery competitiveness, and his focus made him one of the best goalies ever to play the game.

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