2002 Stanley Cup Finals Capsule
No. 1 Detroit (51-17-10-4) vs. No. 3 Carolina (35-26-16-5)Posted: Monday June 03, 2002 8:53 PM
Season meetings: Detroit won 5-2 at Carolina on Oct. 30 and 4-3 at home Nov. 13.
How they got here: Detroit defeated No. 8 Vancouver in six games, No. 4 St. Louis in five games and No. 2 Colorado in seven games; Carolina defeated No. 6 New Jersey in six games, No. 8 Montreal in six games and No. 4 Toronto in six games.
Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings can become the second consecutive Presidents' Trophy winner, as the NHL's top regular-season team (116 points), to win the Stanley Cup, matching Colorado of a year ago. The Red Wings, with a cast of eight potential Hall of Famers and an eight-time Stanley Cup winning coach in Scotty Bowman, overcame a 3-2 deficit to outscore the Avalanche 9-0 in the final two games of the Western Conference finals and reach the cup finals for the fourth time in eight seasons.
They may be the best team money can buy, costing $64.4 million in salaries after adding goalie Dominik Hasek and scorers Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille, but they also might be one of the best teams in NHL history - if they can take out the underdog Hurricanes.
Just as Ray Bourque did a year ago for Colorado, Hasek can add the last missing piece to his Hall of Fame career by winning the cup. He came close in 1999 with Buffalo, only to lose on Hull's still-debated 'no goal' third-overtime score in Game 6 against Dallas. Hasek upstaged Patrick Roy, long considered the sport's best big-game goalie, in the conference finals and already has a playoff-record five shutouts.
The Red Wings can roll out four productive lines (Robitaille and Hull, both among the Top 10 goal scorers in NHL history, spent time on the fourth line) and three solid defensive pairings that include former Norris Trophy winners Chris Chelios, enjoying a comeback season at age 40, and Nicklas Lidstrom, who is averaging a Bourque-like 30 minutes of playing time.
Steve Yzerman, the Red Wings' captain since the late 1980s, is their leading playoff scorer with six goals and 19 points despite playing on a badly injured knee and with a sore shoulder. Two more holdovers from the Red Wings' cup champions of 1997 and 1998, Brendan Shanahan (five goals, 16 points) and Sergei Fedorov (four goals, 14 points) have produced like the stars they are.
The Hurricanes emerged from the supposedly weak Southeast Division to advance to the finals for the first time in the history of the Carolina-Hartford franchise. They lack the portfolio of stars and the payroll (about half that of Detroit) of the Red Wings, and might be the biggest Stanley Cup finals underdog since New Jersey in 1995.
That's where the Hurricanes can find their inspiration; the Devils, widely predicted to be swept by Detroit, swept the Red Wings, who recovered to pull off sweeps in 1997 (Philadelphia) and 1998 (Washington).
Carolina captain Ron Francis, who first became a star when the team played in Hartford, would fit in with Detroit's cast of AARP-eligible stars, with five goals and 13 points after being Carolina's leading scorer during the season with 77 points. He's trying to add to the two cups he won with Pittsburgh in 1991 and 1992.
With 91 points, the Hurricanes wouldn't have qualified for the Western Conference playoffs. Their best chance of pulling off what would be one of the great upsets in league history is to keep playing the disciplined, trapping defense that got them through the first three rounds (Sound like New Jersey in 1995?). They've allowed 29 goals in 18 games, or half what Detroit has scored.
Another problem: the Hurricanes are 0-11-1 in Detroit since winning there on Nov. 11, 1989, back when Yzerman was still young and long before anyone in the Red Wings' organization dared to refer to Detroit as Hockeytown.
And while Hasek is the cup-chasing star of this series, as was Bourque a year ago, the goalie who will determine how long Carolina stays in the series is Arturs Irbe. Benched during the New Jersey series for Kevin Weekes, he has rebounded to allow only 1.41 goals per game, better even than Hasek's 2.07 goals-against average. But he can he stand up to Detroit's stable of scorers for a long (or short) series?
Outlook: Each of the last three Red Wings' Stanley Cup finals has ended in a sweep. The Hurricanes can avoid that fate, but beating the on-a-roll Red Wings four times is too much to ask of a team that won only 35 of its 82 regular-season games.
Prediction: Detroit in five.