Work in Sports
CNNSI.com's Morning Skate
Posted: Saturday June 03, 2000 08:01 PM
By David Vecsey, CNNSI.com
DALLAS -- Let's call it even.
That's what the Dallas Stars were saying Saturday morning, hours before their best-of-five Stanley Cup finals against the New Jersey Devils was to begin. After tagging each other for one win apiece in New Jersey, that's what the Cup has become.
The Devils said, "Gotcha!" with a 7-3 rout in Game 1. The Stars said "Gotcha back!" with a 2-1 lockdown in Game 2. So who's the worse for wear? Nobody, apparently.
"I don't care how you lose," said Dallas veteran Sylvain Cote. "You lose, you lose ... it all hurts the same. It all depends on what you do in the next game."
The Stars skated at their practice facility Saturday morning, while the Devils opted to take a spin on the infamous Reunion Arena ice. Neither seemed emotionally scarred from their early setbacks.
"Both teams are real professionals at this time of year," said defenseman Darryl Sydor. "They knew it wasn't our best game in Game 1 and they knew things would be different in Game 2. We wanted to forget what happened in Game 1 and we did. I'm sure they'll put Game 2 behind them quickly.
"Who knows what will happen tonight?"
Perhaps after seeing four straight sweeps in the finals before last year's six-game set, fans and media are quick to hop on the bandwagon of whichever team has the momentum. But both teams seem to be bunkering in for what could be a long, back-and-forth series.
So much is made of home-ice advantage -- and maybe so much should be with the Stars taking a 9-1 home mark into tonight's game -- but Stars captain Derian Hatcher isn't going to lean on Reunion Arena too much in Games 3, 4 and, if need be, 6.
"I don't feel like we have an advantage," he said. "In order for it to be an advantage, we have to win all three. I'll say I feel confident that we can win, but I don't see it as an advantage. I don't think we can afford to be in that mode."
Reminded that 25 of the last 28 teams to win Game 2 have gone on to win the series, Hatcher retorted that 70-some percent of the teams that win Game 1 go on to win the series. "And how many teams that win Game 2 at home on Fridays have gone on to win the series," he laughed. "What's the difference? We're not playing the percentages."
Through the first three rounds of the playoffs, you couldn't go a night without Derian Hatcher or Scott Stevens laying some hapless opponent out. A punishing style of play is one of the many attributes the two team captains share.
But through two games of the Stanley Cup finals, things have been relatively quiet. No poster-izing hip checks at the blue line, no concussions and no body's lying limp on the ice.
Don't expect things to change too much over the rest of the series, says Hatcher. Nobody wants to overcommit on a check and get burned for a crucial goal.
"It's such a chess match out there," he said. "Neither team is in a position to make the big hits. When you play a team like San Jose, that's all you do because they go so far out of their way to make big hits. But this is just the way these two teams play, two disciplined teams.
Hit statitistics vary throughout the league, with official scorers using different parameters for what they consider a "hit." According the official NHL stats, however, it should come to no surprise that Dallas (682) and New Jersey (672) are 1-2 in the hits charts. Yes, they've played more games than most teams, of course, but they also are 1-2 in the average hits per game standings (see chart).
But against each other, they have laid back a little. New Jersey was credited for 31 and 30 hits in Games 1 and 2, repectively, the 12th and 13th highest totals of the Devils' 19-game postseason thus far. The Stars has given 31 and 27 hits, the 11th and 15th highest total of their 19-game postseason.
"We want to play physically," Hatcher said, "but at the same time we're not a team that wants to get caught out position to make hits."
While so much was made of New Jersey rookie Scott Gomez becoming the first Hispanic player in NHL history, many people have wondered, "What about that Fernandez dude in Dallas?"
But Manny Fernandez is Spanish, as in Spain, which makes him just another of the hundreds of Europeans who have played in the NHL. His father's parents were from Spain, but moved to Canada when his father was a young boy.
Fernandez's father married a French-Canadian, who is the sister of former Devils coach Jacques Lemaire. Fernandez grew up speaking French, not Spanish.
"We used to go visit my grandparents' house in Spain when I was little," he said. "They lived in Canada, but they also had a place there. When I was little, I understood Spanish but I wouldn't say I was fluent. Now, I wish I spoke more."
Gomez is of Mexican descent, even though he, too, grew up in North America and came to the NHL from Anchorage, Alaska. Fernandez isn't about to split hairs about the distinction.
"I wouldn't necessarily want to be known as the first Spanish player," he said. "I'd rather just be known as a good NHL goalie."