2002 Stanley Cup Final
D'Arcy McGrath
June 4th, 2002





Detroit (1st NHL) vs. Carolina (16th NHL)
Red Wings (51-17-10-4, 116 pts); Hurricanes (35-26-16-5, 91 pts)
Season Series: 2-0-0 Red Wings.

The "Little Engine That Could" likely can't go much further against the powerful, star-studded Detroit Red Wings. But for Carolina, nothing has changed, how many poolsters or pundits would have predicted them to make it the Stanley Cup finals? The team sits one series away from one of the most improbable Cup Championships since Patrick Roy won 10 straight over time games to give the Montreal Canadiens the cup in 1993.

Keys for Detroit:For any team as talented as Detroit, the key is not beat yourself, let the talent discrepancy in your favour settle the series. In hockey terms the operational key will focus on the getting the puck out of their zone as quickly as possible. Carolina has a large, young grinding forward group that would like nothing better than to get the puck deep and batter the Wings aging blueline.

Keys for Carolina: Forecheck and hit everything in sight. The Hurricanes will have to grind their way to victory if they stand any chance in this series. They have youth and size on their side, and that has to be used to punish the elderly defence group of the Wings, and inflict further damage on a team already battered from a long playoff haul. If they can drive to the net and get Dominic Hasek off his game, they stand a chance.

Prediction: This series will be a lot closer than many are predicting, the Hurricanes have been a very consistent team - they won't roll over. That said, the Wings are just too powerful to beaten in a seven game series. Detroit in 6.


Detroit (1) vs. Colorado (2)
Red Wings (51-17-10-4, 116 pts); Blues 45-28-8-1, 99 pts)
Season Series: 3-1-0 Red Wings.

As much as hockey fans love that underdog, there is something poetic about a conference's top two seeds facing off to see who goes on to the Stanley Cup final. The feel is even more special when the top seeds have a history as storied as the Avalanche and the Red Wings.

Keys for Detroit:Rest. The Wings have won eight of their last nine hockey games, turning disaster against the Canucks into a quick order exit of the St. Louis Blues. With the Wings age and injuries, a four-day rest could prove the difference between petering out and moving on to the final. Dominic Hasek was acquired to equal Patrick Roy in the playoffs, now he'll get his chance.

Keys for Colorado: Momentum and game one. The Avalanche have had to go the distance in both of their series, taking down to California teams in a total of 14 games. That said they'll have momentum on their side having played their best hockey in the final two games of the Shark series. The rested Wings may come out flat on Saturday afternoon, the Avalanche will have to take advantage and jump on them early. Peter Forsberg was slashed by Teemu Selanne in game seven, Colorado had better hope this injury isn't serious.

Prediction: When two juggernaughts like Colorado and Detroit collide quite often it's each team's best players that make the difference. The Wings rest will prove the difference. Red Wings in six

Carolina (3) vs. Toronto (4)
Hurricanes(35-26-16-5, 91 pts); Maple Leafs (43-25-10-14, 100 pts)
Season Series: Tied 2-2-0

If the other final is poetic justice and a time honoured match-up the Eastern Conference is a shock and a series steeped in no tradition whatsoever. The injured and battered Maple Leafs against the Hartford Whalers?

Keys for Carolina: Keep doing whatever it is they are doing. The Hurricanes have evolved into a different team in the playoffs. They found a new identity in the Devils series and carried it on in mowing down the Canadiens in the second round. Good goaltending and a balanced scoring attack have been their bread and butter and that will have to continue against Toronto.

Keys for Toronto: The Globe and Mail is predicting Mats Sundin return for game six, a date much later than suggested earlier this week. That could be an advantage for Toronto. No team in these playoffs have found more mileage in bad luck and injury than the Maple Leafs, they may not want to tempt fate with good fortune and health. Gary Roberts carried the Leafs on his back from midway through the first round against the Islanders. Can he keep it up? Curtis Joseph will have to be at his best against a potent and much more persistent Cane offence.

Prediction: Well ... I've cast my vote against Toronto in each of the first two rounds and was proven wrong in seven games both times. On more time. Hurricanes in five.


Detroit (1) vs. St. Louis (4)
Red Wings (51-17-10-4, 116 pts); Blues (43-27-8-4, 98 pts)
Season Series: 3-2-0 Red Wings.

Another classic Norris division match up, much like the Blues-Hawks series in the first round. In an era with unfamiliar foes, a series that looks back to the old Adams, Norris, Smythe or Patrick Division battles can be refreshing. Hopefully the play on the ice matches the nostalgia of the preview, unlike the Blues summary dismissal of Chicago in the first round.

Keys for Detroit:Just keep on doing whatever it is they are doing. Dom Hasek ... keep stopping the puck. Steve Yzerman and Brett Hull ... keep putting it in the net with strong regularity. Scotty Bowman .... keep shoving reporters. They did something right to overcome a 2-0 deficit in round one, sweeping aside the Canucks in six.

Keys for St. Louis: One series is one series, it doesn't erase an Achilles Heal, so I will continue to point out the Blues goaltending woes until I 'm blue in the face. Brent Johnson has quieted some critics, and he's on the path to silence the remainder with a strong series against Detroit. Past that the Blues need to get Doug Weight untracked if they have any chance.

Prediction: Detroit took their wake up call early this year, they won't fall into a similar malaise again. Detroit in 6.

Colorado (2) vs. San Jose (3)
Avalanche(45-28-8-1, 99 pts);Sharks (44-27-8-3, 99 pts)
Season Series: Tied 2-2-0

While the other series may feature old rivalries, and renewed hostilities, the Colorado - San Jose series will feature a longer feeling out period. The two teams met a few years ago in the midst of the Colorado Columbine high school tragedy with the Avalanche slipping by to the next round.

Keys for Colorado: Their stars have to be their stars ... a oft used cliche that is still dead on the mark. Patrick Roy has to out-duel Evgeni Nabokov, and the likes of Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg et al have to continue to lead the way against a very determined San Jose Club.

Keys for San Jose: Patience. The Sharks displayed a new wrinkle to their playoff game in their first round series with the Phoenix Coyotes, patience. They didn't necessarily carry the play in every game, but they didn't run around, and let their emotions lead to mistakes, something that will be even more key in a match up with the seasoned Avalanche.

Prediction: The Avalanche sputtered in the first round against Los Angeles, a similar hiccup in this round will cost them their playoff lives. Sharks in 6.

Carolina (3) vs. Montreal (8)
Hurricanes (35-26-16-5, 91 pts); Canadiens (36-31-12-3, 87 pts)
Season Series: Tied 1-1-2.

How can one pick the underdog in a series that features two teams that were given a snowball's chance in hell to advance to the second round? Carolina's upset of the New Jersey Devils was a surprise to most, but still paled in comparison to the shocking six game victory of the Canadiens over the Boston Bruins. Which Cinderella advances to the third round of line dancing?

Keys for Carolina: Pick a starter. Paul Maurice, the NHL's longest serving coach created somewhat of a goalie controversy in the first round when he pulled perennial starter Arturs Irbe for Kevin Weekes in game five. It worked. But who starts now? Both men carried his team for two games apiece in the first round. No matter who's in goal the key for the Canes will be said stopper's ability to match NHL phenom Jose Theadore in a goaltending duel. If they can the superior offence of the Hurricanes should see them through.

Keys for Montreal: Protective wrap for that glass slipper. The Canadians have won a cup on the back of a goaltender before, it looks like they found that dusty old script in the rubble that once was the Forum. Jose Theadore must continue to be the first star in at least four games each round for the team to advance. How about Doug Gilmour's legs? The wily veteran was huge in the first round, and he'll need to keep it up in order to get Montreal past the Hartford ... er ... Carolina Hurricanes.

Prediction: The Canadiens made many a defensive blunder in games five and six against Boston in the first round, they'll have to tighten up and support Theadore better to repeat their success in the second round. The Hurricanes aren't used to being in the second round, they haven't won a series since 1986. The unfamiliarity will show. Montreal in 5.

Toronto (4) vs. Ottawa (7)
Leafs (43-25-10-4, 100 pts); Senators (39-27-9-7, 94 pts)
Season Series: 3-2-0 Ottawa

Not again! For the third straight season ... the battle of Ontario, here's hoping this year's edition turns out a more interesting series. Last year the Senators were swept aside in a very non-eventful four game series that catapulted the Senators to off-season change.

Keys for Toronto:Earlier this season the Leafs managed to avoid falling into the tank without goaltender Curtis Joseph. To do so they tightened up defensively and protected back up Cory Schwab. They'll have to revert back to that game plan with their offence crippled in the absence of Mats Sundin. Can the Leafs score enough goals on the red hot Patrick Lalime and the Ottawa defence?

Keys for Senators:This is a whole new Ottawa Senator team to handicap. They no longer have that nubile look to them having dispatched the #2 seed Philadelphia Flyers in five games. Now can they get by their provincial nemesis, the Leafs? The key for Ottawa will be to take the same success factors from the Flyer series forward - great goaltending, and timely scoring. They didn't blow the Flyers out but managed to score first in three of their wins, and they played solid hockey.

Prediction:It will be interesting to see if Toronto can work up the same bad blood against Ottawa that they managed in their series with the Islanders. Will Patrick Lalime continue his hot hand? The Senators managed to push Bill Barber out of a job, a second round series victory likely won't do the same to Pat Quinn. (though we can hope) Ottawa in 6.


Detroit (1) vs. Vancouver (8)
Red Wings (51-17-10-4, 116 pts); Canucks (42-30-7-3, 94 pts)
Season Series: 3-1-0 Red Wings.

The Vancouver Canucks managed to make the playoffs for the second straight season, leaving behind four years of misery. This time they made it at the expense of their Western Canadian rivals, the Edmonoton Oilers. The Detroit Red Wings will simply not go away ... written off in recent seasons for their age, the Wings have retooled with the likes of Dominic Hasek, Luc Robitaille and Brett Hull, streaking to the league's best overall record.

Keys for Detroit: The key to the #1 seed in any conference is to let skill determine the series, getting away from bad bounces, or work ethic. The Canucks have skill of their own, but the Wings can roll four lines, and boast the league's most enigmatic and dominant goaltender in Hasek. They are playing a team on a roll in Vancouver, the key is to get on them early.

Keys for Vancouver: Ride that emotion. The Canucks have been one of the hottest teams in hockey since the Olympic break, and they'll need to find another gear to eliminate the potent Wings. Winning game one is crucial as Wing coach Scotty Bowman has been resting players, and there will never be a better chance to catch his squad flat footed than tonight. Goaltender Dan Cloutier has to prove he's ready to handle the playoff pressure, against one of the best.

Prediction: The Canucks will use their hot hand to make each and every game in this series much closer than the Wings would like, but in the end talent and experience will rise to the top.
Detroit in 5.

Colorado (2) vs. Los Angeles (7)
Avalanche (45-28-8-1, 99 pts); Kings (40-27-11-4, 95 pts)
Season Series: Tied 2-2-0

Colorado first, then Detroit this year? The upstart Kings surprised the hockey world last year by upsetting the Detroit Red Wings in the first round, then forcing the eventual cup champion Avalanche to seven games, before bowing out. Can they pull the trick in reverse?

Keys for Colorado: Offence. The Avalanche have the money goaltender, and the bruising defensive defencemen, but do they have the pop to win in the playoffs this spring? Joe Sakic has had an off year by his standards, Peter Forsberg is suiting up for his first game of the season, and Milan Hejduk is out with an injury. The powerplay may prove a key element to get Colorado through.

Keys for Los Angeles: The Kings salvaged a brutal first third of their season by coming on hard and finishing seventh in the conference. This time around they won't have the element of surprise on their side as both the Wings and Avalanche are well aware of their playoff exploits. They'll need a great performance from Felix Potvin, and a dominant series by Jason Allison.

Prediction: Last year's prince will be this spring's pumpkin as Felix Potvin will come up short under pressure in a surprisingly quick series.
Colorado in 5.

San Jose (3) vs. Phoenix (6)
Sharks (44-27-8-3, 99 pts); Coyotes (40-27-9-6, 95 pts)
Season Series: 3-2-0 Sharks.

The Shark/Coyote match up features a third and sixth seed only three points apart in the standings. The Coyotes have long been playoff door mats with high end players like Jeremy Roenick and Keith Tkachuk, now they're an intriguing playoff opponent with a scaled down budget and a very balanced attack. Should be interesting.

Keys for San Jose: The key for the Sharks is to neutralize what appears to be a serious mismatch in the nets. Evgeni Nabokov has again put up strong regular season numbers, but must prove to be the equal of MVP candidate Sean Burke. The Sharks explosive fire power needs to be the difference, the closer the games, the better the opportunity for Phoenix to pull an upset.

Keys for Phoenix: On paper Phoenix shouldn't have a chance, but as a team they may be equal to the task. The Coyotes have a perceived advantage in the nets, and possibly in team cohesion and accountability. If they can continue their scoring by committee approach they may be able to get by the Sharks.

Prediction: Sean Burke and the Coyotes have enjoyed a Cinderella season, and the glass slipper will still fit into May.
Coyotes in 6.

St. Louis (4) vs. Chicago (5)
Blues (43-27-8-4, 98 pts); Blackhawks (41-27-13-1, 96 pts)
Season Series: 3-1-1 Blackhawks

Another traditional match up between rivals from the 1980's, this series pits two alumnists from the old Norris division in a first round match up. The series features two distinctly different moods as play commences this evening. The Hawks have exercized four years of nonplayoff demons and are happy about their season. The Blues on the other hand had a very turbulent, disappointing season and will need to win the series to save their campaign.

Keys for Chicago: Brian Sutter has managed to coax the best out of a very enigmatic group through 82 games, but can it continue into the playoffs? How motivated will Alexei Zhamnov be in traffic? Is Tony Amonte already thinking of his next local? They will need their goaltender, likely Jocelyn Thibeault to out play Brent Johnson in order to win this series.

Keys for St. Louis: If only the Blues had that goat, Roman Turek, to rain insults down upon again this spring ... they'd be a lock to advance to the next round. But ... with a very unsettled Brent Johnson in net the Blues will have to outplay and outscore the Hawks to a man to get through to the next series.

Prediction: A playoff virgin in net, a wonky center coming off a knee injury? Quenville gets fired as the Hawks advance.
Hawks in 6.

Boston (1) vs. Montreal (8)
Bruins (43-24-6-9, 101 pts); Canadiens (36-31-12-3, 87 pts)
Season Series: 3-2-0 Bruins.

A Boston - Montreal first round match up is a classic encounter at any point in history, but three times more interesting given the sub plots in this series. The Canadiens return to the post season for the first time in four seasons, a story in itself, but also have the feel good stories of Saku Koivu and Jose Theadore to add drama. The Bruins moved from ninth to first in one season, and boast one of the deepest attack lineups in hockey.

Keys for Boston: Getting to Theadore. If the Habs have any type of edge in this series, it's between the pipes, a factor that can win a series on it's own if said goaltender gets on a roll. The Bruins will need traffic and an effective powerplay to limit the "Jose" factor in this series. ... The Bruins may have to combat some early series jitters to prevail. They have a very young lineup to be thrust into the top seed pressure of the first round. Many of their guns like Sergei Samsanov and Joe Thornton have only played a handful of playoff games.

Keys for Montreal: Fate and Emotion. The Canadiens have taken full advantage of an emotional wave, propelling themselves into the playoffs despite limited talent. To win this series, quite simply, they'll have to play above their potential and have Jose Theadore steal the show. Saku Koivu is the offensive leader of this squad, but can't be leaned on too much as he's missed the lion's share of the season.

Prediction: The Habs will put up a yeoman fight in each and every game of the series, but end up on the short side when the dust settles. Bruins in 5.

Philadelphia (2) vs. Ottawa (7)
Flyers (42-27-10-3, 101 pts); Senators (39-27-9-7, 94 pts)
Season Series: 2-1-1 Senators

Anyone but Toronto? It's hard to imagine a team wanting to play the budget rich Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the playoffs, but if you're the Ottawa Senators avoiding their provincial rivals has to be a boon. The Flyers are the second seeded team, but have struggled mightily down the stretch and could be exposed by an efficient opposition.

Keys for Philadelphia: Ensure the series is decided on talent. As is the case with many a team with lofty expectations and loaded rosters, it's key to avoid beating oneself and to ensure that "effort" isn't the deciding factor in the series. The Flyers, on paper, should walk by the Senators, but the game is played on the ice, hence the lack of cup parades in Philly the past seven years. Normally I'd suggest that goaltending is the key for the Flyers, as they lack that money stopper to carry them. In this case however, their opposition is pretty much in the same boat, evening the factor.

Keys for Ottawa: Beat up those demons. The plucky Ottawa Senators have had very successful regular season teams in each of the last four or five seasons. It's the playoffs that give them grief. They need some playoff success to shake the tag lines that seem to follow the Senators around, specifically that they don't have the "jam" to compete with the chips down. They won't have the size and strength to compete with the Flyers in the trenches, but could have an edge in defensive style and finesse to turn the series to a transitional, skating affair. If they don't they're sunk.

Prediction: In a battle featuring two teams that have struggled down the stretch one could imagine a very long series. The team that survives could be dangerous in later rounds. Ottawa coaching and defensive play will rule this one in the end. Senators in 6.

Carolina (3) vs. New Jersey (6)
Hurricanes (35-26-16-5, 91 pts); Devils (41-28-9-4, 95 pts)
Season Series: 2-1-1 Devils.

On nights when the Eastern conference is the only conference playing, CTV Sportsnet will have not choice but to show this series to Canadians. What a shame. This series lacks on all fronts ... from a lack of rivalry, to a lack of tradition, to two teams that just don't have a truly identifiable persona. This won't stop the Devils from rolling on to the next round, however.

Keys for Carolina: Whaler ghosts. The team may have moved to Carolina from Hartford, but they moved with them boxes of fact books outlining past playoff failures, and embarrassments. If class mattered in the playoffs the Hurricanes would run away with it on the strength of Ron Francis and Rod Brind'amour, but as it stands both players will have to prove they still have enough life in their legs to get it done.

Keys for New Jersey: Simply put ... just carry on. No other team in the NHL took more out of the NHL trade deadline than the New Jersey Devils. Invigorated with the addition of Joe Niewendyk and Jamie Langenbrunner the Devils marched up the standings, claiming the sixth spot from missing the playoff altogether.

Prediction: The Devils are a little older this time around, but also a lot more accountable, they will not beat themselves. Devils in 5.

Toronto (4) vs. NY Islanders (5)
Leafs (43-25-10-4, 99 pts); Islanders (42-28-8-4, 96 pts)
Season Series: 3-1 Islanders

Another throw back series to the classic match up in the late 70's that featured a timeless Lanny McDonald goal. This series will be interesting since the New York Islanders are back in the fold for the first time in eight long seasons.

Keys for Toronto: The Leafs made many an off season move that strengthened their club for the regular season, taking away that gut check race for the playoffs, but putting their post season success in peril. Will mercenaries like Robert Reichel, Travis Green, Michael Renberg and Alex Mogilny have the willingness to pay the price for the blue and white in a physical playoff series? ... The other huge Toronto factor is Curtis Joseph. The top goaltender is coming off a broken catching hand, and some battered pride from the Winter Olympics. He'll need to be on the top of his game to get his squad through.

Keys for New York: The Islanders have a mercenary of their own to motivate, in Alexei Yashin. Yashin was bashed for failing to show up in the playoffs for the Senators last year, but this time around he'll have a built in check to keep him in line - captain Michael Peca. It isn't a stretch to the imagination to picture a heated dressing room scene with Peca threatening Yashin's life should he fail to put forth the necessary effort.

Prediction: The Peca lead Islanders will play a committed style against the Leafs, and Yashin will be out to prove his nay Sayers wrong, disposing of Toronto in six games. Islanders in 6.