Volume 96, Issue 3

Thursday, June 6, 2002
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Hockey's version of the "good ol' boys" going down in six

Lest we forget "slamma jamma"

Hide your children

Hockey's version of the "good ol' boys" going down in six

By Benjamin Mills
Gazette Staff

The 2002 National Hockey League play-offs have been full of surprises – even before the Carolina "rock you like a" Hurricanes used overtime magic once again to knock off the Detroit Red Wings in game one of the Stanley Cup final.

Clearly the Hurricanes breezing into the big dance is the story of the spring, but despite taking the first game of the series, Carolina will continue to play the role of underdogs against the Hall of Fame-laden Detroit Red Wings.

Few differences separate these teams – unless you count Detroit's eight soon-to-be Hall of Famers, four 500-goal scorers, three 600-goal scorers and Dominik Hasek, who is the only goalie to have twice claimed the status of league MVP.

With those minor (nudge, nudge) differences aside, one can see some similarities between the two franchises. Both wear red jerseys, they're both based in the US and Gordie Howe played for both of them (don't forget "Mr. Hockey" played in Hartford once upon a time).

To be honest though, comparing these two teams is like comparing Ernest Hemingway to Danielle Steele – one is obviously better than the other, unless you're a middle-aged housewife looking for love with a long-haired macho-man with a ripped shirt and giant pecs.

Detroit has too much depth and playoff experience to be denied. Any team in the universe would drool over the chance to have even one of Detroit's potent line combinations.

The key for the Wings is the play of Steve Yzerman, or failing that Brendan Shanahan, and if that doesn't work out there is always Brett Hull, or Sergei Fedorov, or Luc Robitaille, or Nicklas LidstromÉ you see what I'm getting at.

Carolina does top the Wings in speed and youth, with forwards like Jeff O'Neil, Eric Cole, Bates Battaglia and Sami Kapanen. Perhaps more significantly, the Hurricanes have showed time and time again that they have the ability to pull out the one goal games that usually punctuate play-off hockey.

Arturs Irbe has also been a goaltending phenomenon for Carolina. The Latvian sensation has a whopping 1.41 goals against average and he was the goalie of the San Jose Sharks team that shocked the Wings back in the 1994 playoffs – but this is the "walking Hall of Fame" Wings we're talking about.

Carolina has had its day in the sun – the cook-out is over. Maybe if it were called the Stanley Cup 500 Carolina would have a chance, but in reality the Motor City boys will claim the checkered flag in six games.

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