So it all comes down to this - two former WHA teams meeting in the finals for the first time. Remarkable when you
think about it. Edmonton played in five out of ten Stanley Cup final
series in the 1980s and didn't once meet Hartford. Of course as it turned
out, the Whalers never made it to the finals until they were relocated to North
Carolina and not until they re-acquired the man they never should have traded
away in the first place (Ron Francis). The last season NHL hockey was
played these two teams didn't even qualify for the post season. Are you
liking the New NHL yet? I know I am.
STANLEY CUP FINAL
Carolina Hurricanes vs Edmonton Oilers
Season Series: Did not play (further
proof of why the NHL scheduling has to change)
When a team makes it to this point of the
season, it starts to show. Lucky for Edmonton, they were able to survive a
flu bug and get some much needed rest. It didn't help a lot of teams this
year to have an extended break, but this is also the Stanley Cup finals.
If they haven't already done so, both teams are going to fight like mad and
sacrifice the body for at least four more games - all for the right to hoist the
hardest trophy to win in all of sports.
Carolina will come into this final series
having played one more game than Edmonton and having won more games on the road
than at home. As you get into the later rounds, however, home ice truly is
an advantage. The prime example of this was in the Eastern Conference
final during the last 3 games, especially in Game 7. It was almost as if
the crowd in Raleigh was responsible for the winning goal.
Home ice has been particularly kind to
Edmonton, especially in the second round against San Jose. The Oilers have
only lost 2 games at home throughout the entire playoffs, and have continued
their excellent play on the road, especially in the Western Conference final
against Anaheim, where they won all three games played at the Arrowhead Pond.
The finals this year are, as always, a
testament to veteran leadership. There are several players on both sides
who have been this far before only to skate away empty handed. Rod Brind'Amour, Glen Wesley, Michael Peca, Dwayne Roloson are but a few. Doug
Weight and Chris Pronger have been close but are playing in their first ever
Of course, you don't get to this point of
the season without a few surprises. Cam Ward is undoubtedly the biggest
surprise on Carolina's end, while Fernando Pisani and Shawn Horcoff have been
the big stars on Edmonton's end.
I very much like how this series will
feature the speed and finesse this game is meant to showcase, I like how for the
most part the referees have not put the whistles away, and I like the fact we
are not seeing the same old teams fight it out for hockey supremacy. I
particularly liked how the supposed "big four" teams either didn't make it in
this year, or were eliminated early. If you like parity I hope you've been
paying attention to this year's playoffs.
This series will come down to special teams,
plain and simple. If the Oilers are to win, they have to keep up their
stellar penalty killing, and most importantly stay disciplined. The
Hurricanes may not have the best power play of the entire playoffs, but they
have the ability to make teams pay for an infraction of the rules at the most
inopportune time (or opportune depending on who's side you're on). Chris
Pronger has been as disciplined as I've ever seen, and has really set the tone
on the ice. What the Oilers need to do is stifle the offense the same way
they have so far. In round one it was Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg,
Nicklas Lidstrom and Steve Yzerman. In round two it was Joe Thornton and
Jonathan Cheechoo. Round three - Teemu Selanne and Joffrey Lupul. In
the finals they will have to keep check with Brind'Amour, Weight, Eric Staal and
The biggest key will be in goal. While
Carolina has rotated between Martin Gerber and Cam Ward, I'm not sure if either
one of them can match Dwayne Roloson. Without him Edmonton would have been
done in the first round, guaranteed. He has faced at least 35-45 shots per
game and is usually one save better than the other goalie - the very thing Kevin
Lowe was looking for on trade deadline day.
The Hurricanes have been to the finals once
before, and lost in five games to the once mighty Detroit Red Wings. As
for the Oilers, forget about it - there's a tradition to uphold here. They
don't call Edmonton the "City of Champions" for nothing. The way this
season has unfolded, it's 1990 all over again.
In as little as eight days or as long as two
weeks from now, the first champion of the new NHL will be crowned. If
history has any say in it, it will be yet another storybook ending for the
Edmonton Oilers and a sixth Stanley Cup.
Prediction: Oilers in 5