West meets the East Ė and the puck stops here!
then there were two. Here it is
folks, the cream of the crop, the Stanley Cup Final series. This is the end all
be all best of seven winner takes all series. This is why we played eighty-two
regular season games and four playoff rounds. The best of the best will be
showcased here. Based on what weíve seen so far this playoff year, can the final
possibly live up to the hype? Of course it can!
DETROIT vs CAROLINA
Was that an emphatic game seven blowout or what? After game
seven of the Colorado/Detroit series, there was an Internet poll that came out
on TSN that begged the question which was worse: Patrick Roy giving up nine
goals to Detroit in his final game as a member of the Montreal Canadiens or Roy
giving up seven goals in to Detroit in game seven of the Conference final? The
majority went for the latter. The turning point for Detroit was capitalizing on
Roy hot-dogging the puck in game six. He just never seemed to recover after
that, and the red-hot Wings simply buffaloed the Avalanche and never looked
Somehow everybody knew that Detroit would be here. From the
big free agent signings of last off-season of Hasek, Hull and Robitaille, to the
runaway fifty one win one hundred sixteen point regular season, to coming back
from a two games to none deficit against Vancouver, to a five game almost
perfect series against St. Louis, all capped off with another classic series
against Colorado, this one going the distance needing seven games to decide.
Yes, Detroit was expected all season long to be in this position in June, and
they definitely didnít disappoint!
A lot has been made about the fact there are so many
prolific players on this team. A lot of people argue Detroit has spared no
expense to essentially try to buy the Stanley Cup. Sure, theyíve spared no
expense, but hold on just a second here. There were times in this playoff season
when they faced plenty of adversity and could easily have been on the sidelines
instead of heading to the final. What if Vancouver had managed to complete the
upset in round one? The proverbial eighth vs first upset happened in the East,
why not in the West? What if the 6-1 blowout in favor of St. Louis had become a
rallying point for the Blues? What if Patrick Roy had not let in that bad goal
during Game Six of the conference final series? As has been said many times
before, sure itís one thing to have and be able to afford the high profile
players, but as many teams will tell you, New York Rangers, Dallas Stars,
Philadelphia Flyers excluded, nothing is guaranteed until you execute. Of
course, a little luck now and again canít hurt either!
So, what can we expect in the crŤme de la crŤme of hockey? I
think this next series is going to be a lot closer than everybody thinks. Only
thing I would concern myself with if I were the Detroit Red Wings would be get
it done, get it over with early. Otherwise, look out!
The Carolina Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers are in the finals
for the first time ever, and it is no fluke that they are here. They beat three
very good and capable teams to make it here. Nobody gave them a chance. The East
Rutherford alligators were writing R.I.P. Carolina in the mud that surrounds the
Continental Airlines Arena. Everybody in Montreal was writing Cinderella part
twenty five and the Forum Ghosts played their part to perfection, they just
ended up getting cancelled at dress rehearsal. They practically had the Stanley
Cup parade all but planned in Maple Leaf land, but there turned out to be a riot
instead (actually Iím kidding about the riot, but it wouldnít have surprised
I personally never ever would have guessed Toronto would
lose every home game in the Carolina series. Well, they almost didnít. Donít
forget, two of those Carolina road wins were in overtime. I had mentioned at the
outset of the playoffs Carolina could end up having their most interesting
season in their franchise history if they could ignore the critics of the
playoff seeding system and play patient hockey. Well how does a trip to the
Stanley Cup Finals suit them?
If you would have told me at the beginning of the season I
could bet on the Hurricanes being here, I could be a very rich man today. Vegas
odds were 40 to 1 for Carolina to win the Stanley Cup at the beginning of the
season. The first thing I wouldíve told you is youíre crazy, no way, itíll never
happen. Well I wouldíve been eating a lot of crow now, but then again Iím no
yearís spring classic features some very intriguing
matchups. You have veteran leadership with Steve Yzerman against Ron Francis,
two fellows who have been here before and have both won. Then you have the fine
veterans that have either been here before but were on the losing end like Luc
Robitaille, Martin Gelinas, Chris Chelios and Rod BrindíAmour. You have some
folks getting their first exciting taste of what itís like to play for the cup
in Eric Cole, Josef Vasicek, Jeff OíNeill and Pavel Datsyuk. Defense is rock
solid, with more veteran leadership like Chelios, Steve Duchesne, Nicklas
Lidstrom, Aaron Ward, Glen Wesley, Sean Hill. Finally, we have the Goalie Duel:
Hasek vs Irbe. The edge here goes to Hasek. Heís been here before, and this time
he has Hull on his side rather than in his crease. Not only that, he did what
Patrick Lalime couldnít, he now holds sole possession of the playoff record for
shutouts with five.
key in this series for Detroit will be simple, get to
Irbe early and often. Get in the face of the gritty Carolina forwards and
defense. Theyíll have to break through the clutch and grab neutral zone trapping
style that has become the norm in the Eastern Conference. Above all else, settle
the score in regulation time. The Hurricanesí overtime record has been unreal
throughout the playoffs.
For the Hurricanes to capture their first ever Stanley Cup,
they will have to continue to do everything that has propelled them this far,
only much better. Irbe will have to stand on his head. Carolinaís best players
will have to be their best players and score early and score often. But letís be
realistic here, they may have stormed their way through the East but they are
going to have to come up with a lot more offense than they came up with in the
Toronto series. What happened to Cole? For some reason they seem to have left
all of their offense in game six of the Montreal series.
This just in from Michiganís weather authority: while this
storm is imminent in Octopus Land, they are looking to downgrade it to mere
tropical depression status before long.
Prediction: Red Wings in five, to win their third Stanley
Cup since 1997
SO WHAT NOW?
the Stanley Cup has been awarded,
The Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe trophy will be awarded
the same night, with Lord Stanleyís mug of course going to the winning team of
the best of seven final series and the Conn Smythe going to the MVP of the
playoffs. This is voted on strictly by the hockey writers and broadcasters of
the world. If I had a vote, Iíd go with Steve Yzerman, no ifs, ands or buts.
Iíve been impressed with Steve before, but this year Iíve been most impressed
with not only his play, but his perseverance. This man was born to play hockey,
no question about it. Prior to the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, Yzerman
underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee. This happened not even three weeks
prior to the Mensí Hockey tournament, but did this stop him from representing
his country? No way! There he was, racking up the points for Canada, truly an
inspiration for hockey fans worldwide, and instrumental in helping Canada win
the Gold Medal. But the heroics didnít end there. Sure, Yzerman took a bit of a
rest down the stretch to gear up for the playoffs, but once they were in full
gear, so was he. Thereís no question heís been hurting in the playoffs. That
knee of his is nowhere near 100% and will require surgery again in the offseason.
But again, there he is, out there on the ice, taking hits, delivering hits,
scoring the timely goal when his team needs it, being the captain that any team
would love to have (too bad he has a no trade clause in his contract, putting
any rumors of him signing with his hometown Ottawa Senators to rest). When the
Stanley Cup final is finished, we will once again see Yzerman lifting the cup
yet again, but this one will probably be more special because of the year that
was, an Olympic Gold Medal and a Stanley Cup in the same year. Few have ever
accomplished that feat.
After the post series celebrations and parades have left
their mark in the hockey world, we have just a couple of days to gear up for the
NHL Awards. Shortly after that weíll have the NHL Entry Draft and the yearly
free agent frenzy will be open season. Iíll have a lot more to come on this next
time around. Before we know it training camp will be opening again. Hockey
TICKET PRICES OUT OF CONTROL or HOW THE NHL CASHES IN ON
Hockey had long been thought of as the
"blue collar sport". It was one of the few remaining sports the family could
still go to see without having to put a second mortgage on the house or sell
their children into slavery. Unfortunately that is no longer the case.
Iíve always known the experience of the live NHL game was
far superior to a TV broadcast. This isnít taking anything away from the many
broadcasters out there, itís just you can get into the game a lot more when you
are there and feeling the tension of the rest of the fans. Itís also a great
night out with a significant other, whether they like sports or not.
Regular season games are fun, especially down the stretch
when positioning becomes so important, but it doesnít compare to the intensity
and breathtaking action of a playoff game. I was fortunate enough to see two
this year. I saw Game 4 of the Ottawa-Philadelphia first round series and Game 3
of the Ottawa-Toronto second round series. My first playoff live experience was
last year, again it was Ottawa-Toronto.
Now I know and expect prices for playoff tickets will be
slightly more than a regular season game, but it is getting a little ridiculous.
I paid $180 for two tickets in the first round and sat in the upper bowl of the
Corel Center. Thinking I could save a little money, in the second round, I paid
the same price for two tickets and ended up sitting as far back as you could
sit. If you wanted better seats, forget about it, be prepared to pay $360 for
seats behind the players bench. It was no wonder that Ottawa couldnít sell out
during the first round. For me, it wasnít a matter of could I afford it, rather
did I want to? No way. Now you might say that this is cheap when you consider
that high profile sporting events like the Super Bowl or the World Series or
even a Boxing fight could cost a lot more.
Checking on ticket prices for the Stanley Cup Final in
Raleigh, prices ranged from $50 to $275. So if I wanted to go to Raleigh and
catch one of the games Iíd have to come up with at least $100 for nosebleed
section seats, tickets that Iím sure go for half that during the regular season
(at least in Ottawa they do). Those that could afford tickets didnít seem to
mind though, the tickets for three potential games sold out in less than one
Now these prices are not even that bad if you compare them
to a bigger market like Toronto or Detroit. Apparently there are still folks in
Raleigh that want to attend the Stanley Cup final but canít because there are no
In Toronto, tickets closest to the action were $500 each in
the first two rounds, and $750 in the conference final! The cheapest ticket at
the Air Canada Center was $100 each, and that was to watch the Leafs lose!! I
wonder how much they would have been had the Leafs advanced to the final? Never
mind, I donít want to know!
What Iím concerned about here is not everybody can afford to
go see the big games. No longer can "the little guy" even think of taking their
family to one of these games. Iím lucky in the sense that I donít have any
children to worry about, but even for me to go is expensive. Itís a good thing
that the games are on TV.
the league to blame for this? Gary Bettman says he is
pleased because hockey attendance league-wide is at 90%. Give me a break. If the
tickets were more affordable, that could be 98-100%. We shouldnít be looking at
the playoffs as the only time an arena will sellout. I hope the league takes a
long look at this so that ticket prices donít become as outrageous as football
or basketball (if they arenít already), especially in the bigger markets like
Toronto, Detroit or New York.
In any event, thatís it for me. Enjoy the Stanley Cup final.
There will be lots more to talk about this summer. As always my door is open for