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Stanley Cup Finals 2002
30 teams compete in the NHL regular season. They play 82 games then hopefully for them, they compete in the playoffs.
The teams are split into two Conferences (East and West) and each Conference is split into three Divisions of five teams. Once the initial 82 games have been played, were each teams plays their division rivals a pile of times, their conference rivals a few times and the rest only a couple of times, the real fun begins.
The 16 teams are paired were 1st in the Conference plays 8th, 2nd plays 7th etc. The first round has eight teams per conference, then four then two. The winner of this last round is the Conference winner and they get a trophy. The two Conference winners progress to the Stanley Cup Final, again a best of seven series.
The cup is now famous all over the world and was bought in London by Lord Stanley. It has the name of every team, player, and staff-member to win it printed on the base. This means every few years, a new base is added. It currently has five bases, although one is stored in the Hockey Hall of Fame to stop it getting any larger.
A disappointing season for several clubs saw quite a few teams in the playoffs that didn’t expect it. In the Eastern Conference, Washington Capitals, Buffalo Sabres and the mighty New York Rangers all failed to qualify. Amazingly, Pittsburgh Penguins (missing Lemieux for most of the season) finished with equal points to Tampa Bay Lightning (my team.) Both Florida and Atlanta finished below the Bolts with the Thrashers taking the wooden spoon. Boston topped the Conference with Montreal Canadiens scraping in. Ironically, Carolina were quite lucky to qualify as they were in the weakest division so got an easy ride (but not next season!)
Out in the Western Conference. Detroit walked the regular season with 116 points, the highest of anyone, thus giving them a massive advantage for the play-offs. The highest seeds get home advantage for the first two and most importantly, seventh game. At the other end, Columbus Blue Jackets propped up the league with a meagre 57 points. Also disappointing were Anaheim (not so) Might Ducks and Nashville Predators. Overall though, the Western Conference is the stronger one. Among other top teams were the Avs, San Jose, and a surprising Vancouver Canucks who forced out the Edmonton Oilers. Dallas Stars also narrowly missed out with 90 points, this would get them in if they played in the East.
The Eastern Conference
Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils was a sure bet for the Devils but the Canes beat Brodeur and managed to go through to play the winners of Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens. The series score for each was 4-2. Montreal was the team to progress to round 2. In the bottom section of the draw, the Ottawa Senators killed Philadelphia Flyers by four games to one. Philly were many people's favourites to get to the final, not mine though, I thought Toronto would go on with CuJo; and the Maple Leafs had the juiciest tie of the round against New York Islanders. It went to the seventh game were Leafs won and knocked out NYI. Toronto again went on to beat Ottawa and a fantastic Lalime (goalie.) Again, Toronto needed seven games. Meanwhile, Montreal pressed Carolina but lost the series in the sixth game conceding four goals in the first period. This was especially unusual as their netminder is none other than Jose Theodore. This set up a Conference final between Carolina Hurricanes and Toronto Maple Leafs.
It was Carolina who won, the Leafs did well to get this far considering the number of rookies they had called up form St. John's although they managed to keep the Canes at bay for six games. My 'Player of the Round' was Alexander Mogilny (Toronto) who at times seemed like he was King of the Ice. Other notable names were goalies, Curtis Joseph, and Arturs Irbe.
The Western Conference
Detroit and Dominick Hasek looked dead and out when Vancouver Canucks went two games to zero up. The Red Wings however, came back and won four games in a row to go on to play St. Louis Blues. The Blues beat the Chicago Blackhawks four games to one in a comprehensive victory. The other side of the draw had Colorado Avalanche, defending champions play LA Kings, the Kings took the Avs to seven but couldn't keep it up. The last match-up was San Jose against Phoenix. This was another lopsided series with Phoenix Coyotes only managing one win. The Sharks won 4-1 to play Colorado. They lost but did take it to seven games. This is the point Colorado and Toronto are oddly similar. They both had their first two rounds last seven games against teams who won 4-1 but neither reached the final. Meanwhile, Detroit demolished St. Louis Blues without breaking a sweat (metaphorically.) Ironically, the only match I saw form this series was the 5-2 victory for St. Louis.
The Conference final between Colorado and Detroit went to seven games. (Colorado was involved!) Hasek kept the Red Wings in the series by keeping several shutouts to force a game seven where Detroit scored seven at the Joe Louis Arena. One odd goal was in game six were Avs netminder, Patrick Roy (pronounced Waugh) stopped the puck dead and lifted it above his head to celebrate and show everyone how great he is; at the point he dropped it and turned to see it roll into his own net. Apart from this and the 7-0 thing, he is still good.
The Stanley Cup Final
It all started when a Cane fan changed his name to Stanley Cupp. Everybody under the sun thought it was the only cup the Carolina Hurricanes would get until they won the first game at Detroit.
The key to this final as with the other matches leading up to it is goaltending. We have the great Dominick Hasek who has won everything a netminder can win before moving to Detroit at the beginning of the season to go for the Stanley Cup. He is the slightly eccentric Czech and will not let stupid mistakes (and he does make a few) put him down or stop him doing risky things. Backing him up is the more than capable Manny Legace (although unless of injury or a very bad match, he will not be used.) In the Carolina corner, the equally great, Arturs Irbe will be stopping the shots. His backup is former Bolt, Kevin Weekes.
Other important players are Sergei Fedorov for Detroit. He represents the Wing's big guns. If they shoot and score, Detroit should breeze through the series. If not, they will have to rely on their lower (yet still good) lines. Finally for Detroit is Brett Hull, who is a favourite player of mine, and potential star as are all the players.
Carolina play a very defensive game but cannot expect Irbe to stop 40+ shots a game so their defencemen, particularly Aaron Ward (ex-Wing) and Sean Hill. They will also need to take their chances so they need Sami Kapanen to be on fire along with Rod Brind'Amour. Finally, a good seven games (hopefully) by Ron Francis will help lift the team.
As I said, the Canes won this one 3-2 in overtime. Sergei Fedorov opened the scoring on the powerplay after 15 minutes of the first period while Wesley was off for an interference call. The second period was the big period were Sean Hill equalised on the power play with the influential Ron Francis getting an assist. Seven minutes later, Kirk Maltby restored Detroit's lead. Again, with only 50 seconds left, Carolina equalised through Jeff O'Neill. Then 58 seconds into overtime, Ron Francis, #10, got the winner.
Game Two was a big game for the Red Wings, it was their second home match, and they desperately needed the win with a two-game away period after this. The first period saw two short-handed goals from Detroit first through Kirk Maltby then the Canes equaliser when Rod Brind'Amour scored on a 1 on 0. This was a result of slack passing from a face-off then Hasek going down way too early. The second period saw some great hockey but no goals but Detroit always looked in control. Eventually 14:52 into the third period, Nik Lidstrom scored the GWG. Only seconds later, Kris Draper sealed the victory for the Wings. The third period was full of penalties, ten in total including FIVE roughing penalties on 19:33. Final score was Detroit 3 - 1 Carolina.
Two days later, the Stanley Cup moved to a very excited Raleigh, Carolina. However, the crowd was to be disappointed with the result, but not the great hockey. It started so well when Josef Vasicek scored an amazing goal past Hasek 14:49 into the first period. The Canes held on until early in the second period when Igor Larionov converted a Brett Hull pass. Again, there was no more scoring in the period but the hockey being played was worthy of the Stanley Cup final. Jeff O'Neill put the home side ahead again and the crowd felt as if they were going to go ahead two games to one. Detroit had other ideas and were pressing hard late into the third period. Apparently, the noise was equal to the noise of a jet aircraft (presumably with its engine on.) It did not work as off a face-off, Hull got the puck and forced overtime. We then saw the third longest NHL game ever. It was golden-goal time and it took almost three periods to solve the match. Finally, 3-2 Detroit and at 0104 local time, Igor Larionov tapped the puck in to send the capacity crowd wild with yawns. This was a big set-back for Carolina on home ice and after so long.
Hello and welcome to the first game in which I decided to take notes and not try to remember it all. We are in Carolina again, however, it was not a good start for the Canes as Detroit got an early powerplay, it was killed easily, but this was expected, as the powerplay percentages are pathetic. Eric Cole then had a fantastic chance to score with only Hasek to beat but the eccentric goalie delighted crowd by taking a massive risk to poke check the puck away at the point. In the second period with around six and a half minutes gone, Hasek annulled an icing call and then some slick passing via Larionov to Brett Hull who duly knocked it past Irbe on one knee. Irbe was not at fault. Luc Robiatallie then was slashed, it was not called so got his own punishment off the next face-off where he got a 2-minute minor for hi-sticking. This was a bad call that saw Detroit in real trouble, especially when living legend, Ron Francis had an open net and tapped it in only to see Hasek pull off a great save on the line. He really should have whacked it as he could not miss. The rest of the shots came from a dominant Detroit short-handed display, particularly, Sergei Fedorov. The Canes then had an excellent chance for a rebound goal but Steve Duchesne held back the Carolina player and suffered the penalty box shame. It was now 1 for 22 in powerplay chances for Carolina as the Wings killed it. In the third period, some precise Jiri Fischer passing gave 41-year-old Larionov an open net and so at 3:43, it was 2-0 and over. Seconds later, Irbe gave the Canes hope as he made an impossible save on the floor.
Detroit easily absorbed further Canes pressure then the up-to-now, great, Fischer whacked Westlund in the mouth as the whole stadium waited to see it the puck had crossed the line. Nobody saw it but the NHL did on TV replays and subsequently banned him for the next match plus a fine. Dominick Hasek smothered the puck.
Less than a minute later, Hill hit Shanahan and was penalised. The Wings powerplay was as bad as the Canes and didn't do much with it. Carolina were now running out of ideas to get past Detroit and as they piled forward, Detroit broke and Brendan Shanahan scores. It all started when Steve Yzerman made a long pass while falling to Chris Chelios then to Sergei Fedorov, the Russian slotted it to Shanny who made it a 3-0 game; and that was the end.
Dear Ciao readers, it is 2300 and I am watching Celebrity Deathmatch, it is tough action but I get a feeling the hockey action alter will be much better. This is potentially the last match and one of my very few live ones (due to exams.) The key to the game in my opinion is Detroit's mentality. The fourth win in a seven game series is always the hardest and home pressure will be immense. All this plus the Canes will be thinking, they have lost it so let's try to go out with a bang. They are also hot favourites, but the side is mature and vastly experienced so should be able to cope.
The Canes need to stick to their defensive game as if they don't they will get slaughtered. An early goal would get Detroit nervous and settle the crowd, also, they need to avoid stupid penalties. Helping Irbe by keeping shots to a minimum would also be a great help.
The Canes had a bright start then the Wings got a good chance but couldn't convert. It was penalty-free for the first twelve minutes and was excellent hockey. The Canes has good pressure but no real chances then made a mess of a change on-the-fly with seven players having a go. They killed the resulting penalty to make it 20 for 22 in the series penalty kill success. Fedorov capitalised on some poor defensive passing but couldn't control a bouncing puck. They then woke up and piled the pressure on Carolina lifting the home crowd. Overall, the first period was amazing hockey for such a tense occasion.
Holmstrom scored early for the Wings against the weak Canes fourth line. Then they conceded a penalty but a 20 for 21 kill rate; they didn’t have any worries. Several milliseconds after Slegr returned to the ice, Hasek pulled off a great save. A sloppy penalty from the Canes allowed a dominant Detroit to score through a Fedorov pass to let Shanahan score. Eric Cole soon left for a 2-minute roughing penalty but not for it was soon 4 on 4 as goalscorer, Shanahan was caught tripping. Later, Fedorov hit the crossbar and on the counter-attack, Jeff O'Niell hit the near post then the back of the net before the puck bounced out via the far post. The video goal judge was called and got it right making the score 2-1. The game is still on!
Period three started with five minutes of open play the Fedorov went for cross-checking, Carolina spent the whole time trying to set up an opportunity but hardly ever saw the Detroit goal. Irbe made two fantastic saves to keep the game alive. Time was running out when Irbe left the net, Shanahan flicked it in from way out and was mobbed by the whole squad. With 44.5s to go, Detroit had won and the arena was very loud. Final score was 3-1.
After the game, Wing's coach, Scotty Bowman announced his retirement and everyone lifted the ridiculously large trophy (with every winning player's name on it ever) - it is 37 lbs. of silver. Included in this was former winner with Detroit, wheelchair-bound, Vladimir Konstantinov (who was paralysed in a car accident) and Playoff MVP, Nik Lidstrom.
Since the finals have ended, the summer moves have begun with the yearly draft (which was unusually dull) and the retirement of Hasek.