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12:41 AM ET, 6/13/06
Carolina's rental came up big
Posted by Michael Farber
Not that it has been a while since Mark Recchi won a Stanley Cup, but last time he was skating with the hardware, one of the NHL rinks was The Garden.
The Garden of Eden.
Actually Recchi won the Cup when there was a Bush in the White House, the first Bush. This was back in the paleozoic, and pre-American Idol era of 1991 as Recchi was a key part of the Pittsburgh Penguins' powerhouse that won the first of their two Cups. A compact right winger, Recchi was called the Wrecking Ball on Penguins broadcasts while he put together a 40-goal, 113-point season.
He no longer wrecks. Recchi now succeeds by eroding, by letting his heart and his brain carry him rather than his legs.
Recchi scored the goal that put the Carolina Hurricanes one game away from their first Cup, a 2-1 win in Game 4 that would have seemed quaint -- the old NHL -- if not for the rash of penalties. Recchi drew a big one on Oilers stalwart defenseman Chris Pronger in the final minute of the second period, giving the Hurricanes a four-on-three advantage. If it looked more like a Recchi dive than a Pronger crosscheck, remember that the 38-year-old Recchi has been around this particular block. If he can take off the Oilers' best player in a critical situation -- it negated what would have become an Edmonton power play -- he will go deeper than Lloyd Bridges in Sea Hunt. (If you don't get the reference, ask your parents.)
Recchi is a Carolina rental, a Triangle time-share. He could have played out the string in Pittsburgh this season, a team that will go nowhere for a few years -- other, of course, to another city if the new arena isn't built in the city of three rivers. But at the trading deadline, he decided to waive his no-trade clause, leaving his wife and three children in her hometown, for a chance at the brass ring/silver Cup.
"All I know is how hard it is to get here," said Recchi, who had four goals and three assists in 20 regular-season games, his getting-to-know-you time in Raleigh. "This was what I was hoping for when I agreed to waive the no-trade. [The Penguins] had played them four times before so I had a pretty good idea of what they were like. They came at you in waves. They could skate. The way the game is played now, I thought they played a style that would succeed. They were also getting quality goaltending. At the time it was [Martin] Gerber, but the goaltending was solid. This was one of the Eastern [Conference] teams that I would have considered.
"It's never easy to make a decision like that. It meant moving away from my family for three months. Maybe more. But this could be my last opportunity to take a shot. And it's worked well so far."
The winning goal came when Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette, who dressed six centermen among his 12 forwards, threw out one of his mix-and-matches as he juggled on this Monday night like one of the circus acts on the Ed Sullivan Show. (Again, ask your parents.) In an effort to get Eric Staal going, Laviolette double shifted the phenom, often using him on a line with Cory Stillman, one of his regular wingers for most of the season. Stillman created the series-turning play with about four minutes left in the second period by pressuring Pronger, getting a stick on a clearing attempt from the corner. The puck popped in the air, landed at Staal's feet, and the 21-year-old centerman moved it to Recchi, who was camped to the right of Oilers goalie Jussi Markkanen. "All I had to do," Recchi said, "was put it in the open net." The goal travelled three feet, but you don't ask how far or even how many. (It was his seventh of the playoffs.) You ask when.
Staal's revival was a predictable validation of his 100-point regular season and solid playoffs. (He also assisted on Carolina's first-period goal that came 29 seconds after the Oilers scored, a goal that didn't quite make Rexall Place a library but certainly tamped down the rabid crowd). Stillman, who scored the first goal, has been a perfect fit no matter where Laviolette used him and Justin Williams, who hits and scores and kills penalties and does everything but fill the water bottles, continued to have the best under-the-radar playoffs than anyone in recent memory.
On March 9, he made an educated guess that the right place would be Carolina.
"All I had to do was put it in the open net?" A little modest. Marrkannen made two huge saves by quickly sliding post to post before the Recchi goal. Check the replay, he brilliantly waited a split second before shooting and let Marrkannen committ. Great goal by a wise and wiley player.
This would be Carolina's second cup, not their first, which they won just a couple of years ago. I laugh when Americans try to write about hockey. CNN keeps telling us to not miss "all the fighting"; of course there's hardly any fighting in the playoffs, but they wouldn't know that because none of them actually watches hockey.
I get a kick out of everyone who thinks they have these teams all figured out. Everything is taken apart at team and player level and then reassembled in print so that sports writers or bloggers have something to do with their time. And the fans take it seriously too. Maybe it gives them something else to complain about other than crummy weather or crummy traffic or crummy petrol prices. I think the playoffs are good, this is good hockey. Almost reminds me of good AHL hockey but without the goon squads. I like Carolina- they are like good sports dogs. They do their job well, very professional, eh? But almost like play for them. Not so much the oilers. They take themselves too seriously, maybe too much stuck in the past thinking they have to win the cup. What is the cup anyway? Leave it in a pool, lose it somewhere, let your dog drink out of it, put your baby in it and take cute pictures to put on christmas cards. Hockey is too much fun to be so serious. Play hard, get beat up, take lucky shots when you get them, take advantage wherever just so you can say "look, someone was nice enough to spell my name right on this big silver punch bowl".
This would be Carolina's firstcup - they didn't win one just a couple of years ago - they lost to Detroit in the finals. I love when Canadians act like they are the only ones who can know, enjoy and understand hockey.
Carolina made it to the finals a couple years ago but didnt win it. They got beat by the Red Wings in 5. Maybe you should get your facts straight Rick before you have any more laughs about Americans writing about hockey.
Somebody needs to check his history. This would be the Hurricane's first Stanley Cup... and yes I'll bet the farm on it. The only time the Cane's have been in the cup finals is when they lost to Detroit in 2002. Do they teach history where you come from?
Rick- How do you figure that this is their second (Stanley) Cup? The Whalers did win an AVCO Cup back in '73, but that's far more than a "couple years ago."
The last time the Hurricanes were in the Cup Finals (2002, again more than a couple years), they lost to the Detroit Red Wings 4-1. Two years ago, the Tampa Bay Lightning (very different team) won the Cup.
Before ragging on anyone about poor hockey coverage, you would be well advised to get your most basic facts straight.
Rick... the Cane's won the cup a couple of years ago??? Don't think so pal. I sure am glad we have American sports writers to bring us the coverage after seeing that. Oh.. amd I'm glad we don't watch much hockey if this is what watching a lot of it does to you!
Let me explain Rick's comment. I don't know him, but I know his kind. He is likely a Maple Leaf fan... In the season he's thinking of, the Canes beat the Leafs in the Conferance finals. So, in his mind, any team who beat the Leafs must have gone on to win the Cup!
"I laugh when Americans try to write about hockey." Oh yeah? Well, I laugh when idiot Canadians flap their yaps like they OWN the game of Hockey. I won't even point out your "not Carolina's first Cup" gaffe, but check your facts, moron, Farber lives in Montreal! Pull your pants up and quit your belly aching! Leave the nationalistic propaganda to Don Cherry because not only is he much funnier than you, he actually knows what he's talking about.
Speaking of rentals, where did Edmonton get that goalminder who carried them into the finals? And so Josh, you saw that obvious dive that the Oiler took when Williams brushed his leg as the two skated together?