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Day at a glance
East Rutherford lacks a hockey feel
Posted: Tuesday May 30, 2000 04:20 PM
By Jamie MacDonald, CNNSI.com
East Rutherford, N.J., is not what you would call a "hockey town." In fact, it doesn't even feel like much of a town at all.
With apologies to the Chamber of Commerce, East Rutherford's lasting impression
may be an exit -- No. 16W off the New Jersey Turnpike.
The outlet is famous solely for where it takes sports fans: the expansive Meadowlands
In the coming days it will be the most meaningful destination in
a long and winding NHL season. At the end of the 16W off-ramp, surrounded by
acres and acres of swamp reeds, the modest East Rutherford skyline beckons.
Consisting of little more than Giants Stadium and Continental Airlines Arena,
the skyline is simple and straightforward in its setting just beyond the shadows
of Manhattan. Just like a desert oasis. Only this is New Jersey. The desert is
swamp and the oasis is frozen inside the arena, awaiting Games 1 and 2
of the Stanley Cup
Tuesday night the defending champion Stars and the Devils -- who each have played 17 playoff games thus far -- will engage in the final series of the season. The first team to four victories will see its hard work rewarded.
When we last saw them, the Devils were merely storming back -- historically, no less -- from a 3-1 series deficit to make their first trip to the finals since sweeping the Red Wings in 1995. The Stars, on the other hand, seemed to have the Western Conference finals wrapped up early Saturday night. But they had to weather a frantic Colorado comeback in Game 7 to do so.
For the first time since 1964, both Stanley Cup finalists enter the
best-of-seven series off seven-game showdowns. So which team has the
momentum? Both. Each is riding the emotional wave of winning a grueling
matchup, and neither was idle very long.
The playoffs to this point have been an exciting ride -- tales of courageous
triumph under pressure are many -- but the most important piece of the itinerary
is what lies at the end of Exit 16W. East Rutherford may not be a booming
metropolis, but for the hockey fan this week, it is the most prominent place in
Right now Dallas's Ed Belfour is the Conn Smythe trophy front-runner.
He's been even-keeled and rock-solid this spring, and it's hard to imagine him
faltering now. At the other end of the ice, Martin Brodeur is in the
midst of rebuilding the image he tarnished with some shaky performances
early in the Eastern Conference
Experience, experience, experience |
For all the talk of a youth movement in Dallas -- youngster Brenden Morrow takes
a regular shift with Brett Hull and Mike Modano -- the Stars are still a very
experienced club. Heck, even checkers Guy Carbonneau, Mike Keane
and Kirk Muller share eight Stanley Cup rings. The Devils, though
headlined by a young-but-primed top line and playing young'uns Scott
Gomez, Brian Rafalski, John Madden and Colin Whiten regularly, are also threaded with veterans Scott Stevens, Randy McKay
-- and the ultimate study in playoff experience and experiences, Claude
Home sweet home |
For the first time since 1995, Dallas is opening a playoff series on the road
(the Stars didn't qualify for the playoffs in '96). Under coach Ken Hitchcock the team has always traveled well, so it will be interesting to see how it
responds in the first two games of this series. Who knows? Maybe Dallas has
found a way to win a Game
Strange bedfellows |
Looking for an interesting connection between these teams? Well, Hitchcock
coached defensemen Darryl Sydor for a couple of seasons in junior hockey.
But Devils defenseman Scott Niedermayer was also on those teams in the
early `90s. Niedermayer and Sydor played three-and-a-half seasons together for
the Kamloops Blazers before making their NHL debuts in 1991-92. Looking for
another connection? Stars GM Bob Gainey (1973-89) and Devils coach
Larry Robinson (1972-89) spent the lion's share of their lengthy NHL
careers together in Montreal. Gainey spent his 16-year NHL career with
the Canadiens (1973-89), while Robinson played all but three of his NHL seasons
for the Habs
| Devils' in-state identity || ||New Jersey Online's sports menu lists (in
this order) the Mets, Phillies, Yankees, Eagles, Jets, Giants, Knicks, Nets and
Sixers before the Devils in a dropdown menu.|
| Patrik Elias || ||Chance to shine on the NHL's biggest stage.|
| Jamie Langenbrunner || ||Questionable for Game 1.|
| Mike Modano || ||The look on his face after scoring a fluky goal in Game 7 says it all: he's having trouble getting good shots.|
| Richard Matvichuk || ||Makes Derian Hatcher's blue-line presence even
| Ken Hitchcock and Larry Robinson || ||Two of the most genial men in hockey, and darn
good coaches, too.|
| The Brett Hull Show || ||Hockey fans are lucky most of his comments will be
Getting to the Stanley Cup finals takes the delicate mix of
components you hear all the time -- desire, execution, skills, experience, dumb
luck, etc. But because the teams still standing this time of year have proven
they possess that combination, who actually wins the
Stanley Cup will come down to a question of talent. That's why (as of today and subject to
change) we like the Stars in
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