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STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS | THE NHL / HELENE ELLIOTT

Red Wings Don't Mind the Grind

May 13, 1997|HELENE ELLIOTT

Final thoughts on the Detroit Red Wings' Western Conference semifinal victory over the Mighty Ducks, which should be considered the first six-game sweep in NHL history because they played nearly two games' worth of overtime:

Based on their gritty effort against the Ducks--and the flurry of injuries that hit the Colorado Avalanche--the Red Wings have their best shot yet at their first Stanley Cup since 1955.

The Avalanche got by the first round without winger Keith Jones and defenseman Uwe Krupp, who had knee and back injuries, respectively, and withstood the loss of centers Stephen Yelle because of a knee injury and Peter Forsberg because of a concussion in defeating the Edmonton Oilers in five games in the other West semifinal.

But as the grind continues, Colorado's depth will be tested. The Red Wings survived the first two rounds unscathed and will have had a week's rest when they play Colorado in a rematch of last year's conference final, best remembered for Claude Lemieux's horrible check on Detroit's Kris Draper.

"Obviously, we're not as talented as the last couple of years," said Detroit winger Martin Lapointe. "But guys like Brendan Shanahan, Tomas Sandstrom and myself, we can grind it out. That's what you need in the playoffs. In the regular season, maybe finesse will win it. In the playoffs, it's not always the cute play that's going to win it."

Shanahan, who scored the series winner against the Ducks, agreed that the Red Wings have a new mental toughness.

"We showed we have the experience and savvy to play well in these situations," he said. "We had to come from behind so many times. . . . We improved our grit, and it feels like everybody's giving a full effort. We showed a lot of character."

According to Detroit Coach Scotty Bowman, so did the Ducks.

"I think they've got a big up side," Bowman said. "They've got good goaltending and two stars. Of course, they have to keep their components together. . . . They could improve with a free agent or two. Players want to play here [at the Pond of Anaheim]. It's a nice rink, a nice area."

Said Shanahan: "As a team, they'll continue to improve. They've got some great young players. Look at Paul Kariya. There's not many players in the league I have more respect for. He's probably going to play in this league another 20 years. He's got a bright future."

The immediate future, however, belongs to the Red Wings, Avalanche, Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers.

SABRES' DANCE IS DONE

We haven't heard the last of Dominik Hasek's problems in Buffalo. With the Sabres having been eliminated by the Flyers on Sunday, the fallout is about to begin.

First, there's the fate of Hasek, who sprained his knee during the first round and was then suspended for three games for attacking a Buffalo reporter who questioned his ability to constantly carry the franchise on his frail shoulders.

Hasek was eligible to play in Game 4 against Philadelphia and was medically cleared, but he pulled out a few minutes into the warmups, saying he'd felt a twinge in the knee.

But the Sabres' team doctor said Hasek had no swelling or other symptoms. Hasek said he would make an announcement after that game but backed off. Now that the season is over, he may speak about his mental and physical state and may even request a trade.

Hasek is believed to be backing General Manager John Muckler in his feud with Coach Ted Nolan. But if Hasek is now perceived as less than reliable, will Muckler want to side with him? The Sabres' owners loved Muckler's cost-cutting moves, but they also loved Nolan's ability to get a ragtag team to the second round of the playoffs, far enough to make the season profitable.

Nolan and Muckler won't work together again next season. Nolan's contract is up and he may be let go, although he has become popular enough in Buffalo for fans to revolt if that happens.

ENOUGH REPLAYS

Upon further review, we find the NHL's use of video review on goals when a player might have been in the crease an ineffective way to administer justice.

The idea was to protect goalies from being run. Fine. But most wear shoulder pads and enough gear to make Patrick Roy resemble the Michelin man. And it's unnecessary to safeguard them from opponents who stand to one side for a tip-in or rebound but have a toe in the crease.

Provide an ice-level monitor for the referee and let him decide if the crease-crasher impeded the goalie enough for the goal to be waved off. Too much power now rests in the hands of video replay officials, who, unlike other off-ice officials, are not recruited from neutral sites for the playoffs. Consider the spirit of the law, not only the letter of the law.

After all the goals that have been disallowed and the thousands of feet of tape reviewed, wasn't it funny that no one could find evidence of the slash by New Jersey's John MacLean that broke the arm of New York Ranger forward Niklas Sundstrom in Game 4 of that series?

SAY HAY

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