Nothing like waiting until the last minute. Tonight is the big night, and I am ready for the Stanley Cup to be lifted by the most deserving team. I think there is little doubt that the two teams that are in the Finals belong. From the never say die Oilers, to veteran experience coxing through the tough games for the ‘Canes, both teams have squarely laid their claims on the Cup.
So it’s fearless prediction time.
Stanley Cup Finals
Edmonton Oilers (12-5) at Carolina Hurricanes (12-6)
Craig MacTavish was getting nervous. After dealing with Anaheim in convincing fashion, the Edmonton coach had a few days to ponder who he would play. The Oilers’ practices were attracting too much attention and local media was hounding players at home. MacTavish knew something had to be done before waiting would become complacency.
MacTavish made a few calls and the next thing the Oilers knew they were on a plane for New York, away from the fanatics, the persistant media, and the overshadowing legend and lore that was Edmonton hockey. They would simply not wait idly by, like the team that had no problem disposing of Colorado, they just wouldn’t let history repeat itself after witnessing it just weeks before. "By the time they got their game back they were down a game or two," MacTavish said. "We want to make sure that doesn't happen."
Carolina or Buffalo, it just didn’t matter. MacTavish needed to get this team battle ready, not just waiting. "We have to be diligent in our preparation so we are really game-ready for Game 1," the Edmonton skipper said.
In the end we will soon see if that was the smartest move to make, but it seems to be a satisfactory response from Oiler fans. They see what MacTavish is doing, so they are complacent themselves to see their Oilers from afar, if it means a Cup.
Teams that stay active, can easily get that grit back when starting the next series. With just a weekend off, the ‘Canes realize what is in front of them. For some on the veteran squad, they can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
As the latest acquisitions of the Hurricanes look forward to the NHL’s greatest prize, one may look at this series as ironic. He was to be the backbone of the Edmonton Oilers and the promise of their rise to greatness once again. Nine seasons with the Edmonton squad there seemed a bad taste in the mouths from Oiler faithful, and when Doug Weight was traded to St. Louis, it seemed the perfect chance to rebuild the team.
Weight struggled with the Blues floundering in the Central Division that he soon was looking for somewhere to get his chance. He didn’t have too many more years in him. The trade was worth mentioning to Carolina, but no one thought it was a ground breaking. Yet what seemed as a desperate chance at going far in the playoffs, now became a real threat at Weight getting to lift some hardware.
He wasn’t asked to take the team on his shoulders, or to take personal responsibility over rookies to get them NHL-ready. Weight’s ice time was merely 10 minutes a game. But he made good use of his time. Weight’s penalty late in game 6 was a heavy burden for the all star center, but he lifted that burden with an important goal in game 7. Who would have thought that those 10 minutes could mean so much?
Now there is light at the end of the tunnel, and Weight’s resolve is clear. He is not the only one on this Carolina squad. "It's about the whole group of guys in here," Veteran Glen Wesley said. "It's about Ray Whitney, Doug Weight, Rod Brind'Amour, Bret Hedican, myself. It's about every single guy in here." That may be a big enough mountain in itself to overcome.
Two stories of Stanley Cup contenders. Many will write about the 1’s and 0’s of each teams strengths and weaknesses. But unlike NHL ’06 by EA Sports for Playstation 2, it’s hard for me to go by numbers alone. In the NHL, it’s about the story, the journey that teams take to make it just to play in this best of 7 series. They may have not been the favorites, but they are here. Both are ready.
My fearless prediction is simply based on feel, if not some knowledge of both teams:
Carolina Hurricanes defeat Edmonton Oilers in 7 games. Series MVP: Rod Brind’Amour
Not only should this series be physical, but also surgical in a way. Look for the Oilers to be tentative in the first game, which maybe their downfall. I like the way Carolina has been playing and if they can stick with a hot goaltender long enough will win Carolina’s first ever Cup.