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First Look Detroit Vs. Carolina

June 01, 2002|Lonnie White

OFFENSE

Carolina--Patience is the key for the Hurricanes when they have the puck because they love to cycle until a scoring chance arises. Coach Paul Maurice relies on a line made up of veteran Martin Gelinas with physical young forwards Josef Vasicek and Jaroslav Svoboda to slow down the opposing team's top line. Once the line gets the puck, it is difficult to take it away. Captain Ron Francis centers the Hurricanes' top line with Jeff O'Neill and Sami Kapanen on the wings. After struggling for most of the series against Toronto, Kapanen got going in the last two games. Maybe the most important line for Carolina is the 'BBC Line,' which is made up of Bates Battaglia, Rod Brind'Amour and rookie Erik Cole.

Detroit--Coach Scotty Bowman loves to juggle his lines, and he has the luxury of working with such proven scorers as captain Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Brendan Shanahan, Luc Robitaille and Brett Hull. But the forwards who sparked the Red Wings in their seven-game victory over Colorado in the Western Conference finals were grinders Darren McCarty and Tomas Holmstrom. Detroit did not get great production from Robitaille, Shanahan and Hull against the Avalanche. Although Detroit is known for veteran players headed for the Hall of Fame, the Red Wings have received strong efforts from youngsters Pavel Datsyuk and Boyd Devereaux in the playoffs.

DEFENSE

Carolina--Maurice has the Hurricanes playing a defense-first style, featuring a neutral-zone trap to smother offense-minded players. Against Toronto, the Hurricanes' blue liners dominated. Veterans Aaron Ward, Glen Wesley, Sean Hill and Bret Hedican were solid slowing down Gary Roberts and the rest of the Maple Leaf forwards. Carolina defensemen do not commit ill-advised penalties and they rarely make mistakes. The Hurricanes also are not afraid to sacrifice their bodies; they blocked several shots in the Eastern Conference finals. Another positive for Carolina has been the offensive play of defenseman Niklas Wallin, who has two overtime goals in the playoffs.

Detroit--Veteran defenseman Chris Chelios and last season's Norris Trophy winner, Nicklas Lidstrom, have played great in the playoffs. Chelios is still as nasty as ever and Lidstrom's all-around skills are difficult to miss at this time of the season. One surprise for the Red Wings has been the play of Steve Duchesne, Jiri Fischer and Fredrik Olausson, who have provided scoring and physical play around the net.

GOALTENDING

Carolina--The Hurricanes would not have a six-game road winning streak if not for the play of goalie Arturs Irbe. After starting the Eastern Conference finals on the bench because Maurice replaced him late in the second round with backup Kevin Weekes, Irbe outplayed Toronto's Curtis Joseph.

Detroit--Dominik Hasek proved that he can play under pressure against the Avalanche, and now he has to show that he can win a Stanley Cup.

COACHING

Carolina--Maurice reportedly was close to getting fired early in the season when the Hurricanes were floundering. Since then, Maurice's defensive system has caught on with his players and Carolina has turned into one of the toughest teams in the league to score on.

Detroit--Bowman is the master of getting his team ready to play when it counts, and the Red Wings proved that again with their Game 7 victory over Colorado on Friday.

FINAL ANALYSIS

Before the season began, the odds of Carolina winning the Stanley Cup were 40-1. Nobody gave the Hurricanes a chance to win the Eastern Conference title but they did it, defeating outstanding goaltenders in three consecutive rounds (New Jersey's Martin Brodeur, Montreal's Jose Theodore and Toronto's Joseph). Carolina's steady group of defensemen and Irbe give the Hurricanes a chance against the Red Wings, but they will need Kapanen and O'Neill to score. Detroit, which won the Presidents' Trophy during the regular season, seems to be a team on a mission. Most of the Red Wings have played on a Stanley Cup championship team but Hasek and Robitaille have not. Detroit in six.

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