Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Time Has Come

It took a couple of days of waiting before I could bring myself to actually write about the Cup Finals. With the long wait inbetween, it was pretty pointless to do something about it then just sit and wait....and wait....and wait. For a more in-depth breakdown, I should have something on on Monday. That should have all the breakdown of each sides of things and then there you go.

However, we get to the nuts and bolts here. You have your basic David and Goliath scenario, one of the top ranked teams in the East against an out of nowhere compeititor in the West. Of course, we shouldn't be so surprises, because for the past three seasons (this one included) the West has had lower rank seeds represent them in Western portion of the Cup. The East, it has always been the higher seed in the same time span. So far, the two top seeds have won out in a seven game thriller of a series. Will that trend continue?? I for one think not.

Both teams seem to have all the nuts and bolts in place. The Oilers have had great goaltending, great defensive play, and unlikely scoring heroes. The play of the team has gotten the city into an uproar, though it has gone completely overboard at time. Aside from that whole other rant, the Oilers are proving that a team that almost moved in 1997, until 35 owners came to be the knights in shining armor, can compete in this new NHL. Without the difference in payroll anymore, the Oilers were allow to get plenty of big names without worrying about breaking the bank. There is no doubt that the acquisitions of Mike Peca and Chris Pronger in the off-season, with Sergei Samsonov and Dwayne Roloson at the deadline have helped the team, though all four had mediorce regular season.

The Oilers will have to fight the demons of the long-layoff and the curse of "Dora the Explorer" which could alter Game Six, if it gets to that point. Craig MacTavish has been under the gun all season, but it's safe to assume that he'll be back behind the bench once again for the Oilers next season. The big pressure will be on guys like Shawn Horcoff and Jarret Stoll. Horcoff has been one of the hot hands, and he'll have to keep that up in order to have some depth to scoring; all the while, Stoll was shutout in the last series with a -5 rating. Stoll's face-off prowess can only take him so far.

The Hurricanes have had the surprising goaltending of rookie Cam Ward, while finally getting their veteran players into the mix, as well as getting plenty of depth in their scoring. Imagine if Erik Cole was able to play, how much of a difference that would have made to the depth of the team upfront. Yet, the guys like Doug Weight, Cory Stillman, and Rod "the Bod" Brind'Amour have been holding it down. Eric Staal has to be huge in this series. He'll be pitted against Pronger, but that doesn't need to be a concern. For as much noise as Staal has put up, he has been pretty quiet in the last three games in the Conference Finals. He's a young kid and probably knows that something like this may not come around again, but he just needs to play his game and then he'll know he'll be able to succeed.

The defense for the Canes are a no-name type of defenseman, however they have plenty of experience. Glen Wesley, Niclas Wallin, and Frantisek Kaberle have been through this before in the 2002 run that the Canes had. Oleg Tverdovsky has been through a Cup Final with the Devils in 2003, where they Devils won the Cup over the Mighty Ducks. Bret Hedican went to the Cup Finals way back in 1994 with the Vancouver Canucks, where they lost the thrilling seven-game series to the Rangers; while even more recently Mike Commodore was on the big run that the Calgary Flames made in the last NHL season, which gave him his notoriety for one of the best playoffs beards and hairdos in the history of the NHL. Though they may not be the everyday name people would be accustom to, they have the experience on these high pressure situations. That should come in handy when it comes to protecting young Cam Ward.

It should be a great series, with each game being closely contested. Yet, like I said earlier, I don't see this going a full seven games. Something about this season, with the excitement back, then the excitement for the playoffs, there has to be a let down somewhere in the armor of the NHL's plan. Sure, the complaints about the small market series are rolling in, but to me, that makes the series all the more desirable because it will not only expose the teams to the nation, but proves Gary Bettman's theory that the small market teams will be able to compete with the new infrastructure in the NHL. If there's a short series, then that could be the only bad thing to come out of it.

Regardless of how it goes, it's much better than last year where there was no Stanley Cup presented and thoses had to find other ways to cope with that. Just enjoy the games and whomever you're rooting for, do it safely and do it smart.

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