Work in Sports
Stars won't stand for any cheap shots
Posted: Tuesday May 30, 2000 05:13 PM
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Ken Hitchcock, whose Dallas Stars have had their share of injuries, won't sit back and watch Scott Stevens take his players out without paying a price.
"He takes one of ours, we've got to take two of his, it is that simple," Hitchcock said Tuesday after the team's morning skate prior to Game 1 of the finals against the Devils. "There is no point in sitting back and absorbing against this team."
Stevens has become a candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy, which goes to the playoffs' best player, throughout the playoffs with his fierce hitting and overall defensive play.
In the second round of the playoffs, Toronto became intimidated by New Jersey's physical play, and by the time Game 6 arrived, they were shying away from the physical punishment Stevens and the Devils were dishing out.
It didn't take long for Stevens to curtail the comeback of Philadelphia star Eric Lindros, who had missed over two months with a series of concussions. Lindros returned for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals without any problems. In Game 7, Stevens landed an open-ice hit that gave Lindros his fourth concussion this year.
"We saw what they did to Philly in the last three games," Hitchcock said of the Devils' comeback from 3-1 down in the series. "Philadelphia absorbed and just kept absorbing. At the end of the day, they couldn't get anything going offensively, defensively, anywhere. They never had the puck."
The Stars and Devils have such strong ties to the Montreal Canadiens that key members of the organizations were trying to make arrangements to attend Wednesday's funeral of hockey great Maurice "Rocket" Richard.
New Jersey coach Larry Robinson won six championships with the Canadiens and hopes to be in Montreal to pay his respects to Richard, who died Saturday.
Guy Carbonneau, Dallas' 40-year-old center, played with the Canadiens for 13 seasons and won the Stanley Cup in Montreal in 1986 and 1993. He will not be going north.
"We'd have to be there by eight tomorrow morning," Carbonneau said Tuesday prior to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals. "As much as I want to go, it's almost impossible. I'm sure the Rocket would rather us play hockey than go to the funeral."
Carbonneau did not know if Stars general manager Bob Gainey would go to Montreal because of the schedule constraints. Gainey was a teammate of Robinson's for five of the Stanley Cup championships.
No lead is safe
Maybe the Devils' comeback from 3-1 in the Eastern Conference finals against Philadelphia should have been expected.
Even though no team had ever rallied from that deficit in the conference finals, another trend has become quite common. The top seed from the Eastern Conference has not reached the Stanley Cup finals since 1994 when the New York Rangers had the league's best record and captured the championship.
New Jersey has had the most points in the conference three times during the stretch, but was knocked out early in the playoffs. The Devils, this year's No. 4 seed, won the Stanley Cup in 1995 as the fifth seed.
That's why they play 'em
The Stars and Devils were quick to dispel the notion that the Western Conference finals was the series that determined this year's Stanley Cup champion. Dallas, the Pacific Division champion with 102 points knocked out Colorado, the top team in the Northwest Division, in a tough seven-game series.
"I think we should be the favorites because we are the defending champions," Hitchcock said. "That is what makes us the favorites, but that all goes out the way in the first period when two teams compete against each other."
New Jersey is riding a positive wave after its comeback in the conference finals, winning the last three games from Philadelphia.
"I think it is going to be a hard-fought series," Devils center Jason Arnott said. "I think both teams have a lot to offer. Dallas has been there before. A few of our players have been there. It is going to be exciting. I am looking forward to it.
"I think we grew as a team in the last series. I think we just got to keep going from there."
Away from home
The Dallas Stars find themselves in a very strange place. On the road for the start of a playoff series.
The defending Stanley Cup champions have not been away from home for Game 1 since the 1995 conference quarterfinals against Detroit. The Stars, who lost to the Red Wings in five games, held home-ice advantage for their next 11 series -- a stretch that has now been snapped.
"This is a new experience for us," Hitchcock said. "We haven't had this for three years now and we can't afford to wait into anything. We have to start the fight and end the fight because we are on the road."
The Devils are still enjoying their comeback victory over Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference finals. So much so, that Continental Airlines Arena is not ready to let the Flyers go. During Tuesday's morning skate prior to Game 1 of the finals against Dallas, the side scoreboards read Devils 0, Flyers 0.