Lost the Stanley Cup
may have the hardware, but Carolina didn't win the Stanley
Cup. TFP Columnist Greg Wyshynski details how Edmonton totally
(WASHINGTON, DC) -- The final tally of the 2006 Stanley
Cup Finals was 4-3 in favor of the Carolina Hurricanes,
the newly-crowned kings of the National Hockey League.
The final tally of Game 7, however, was 2-1 in favor of
Edmonton; that the Oilers won't have their names on the
chalice this year is, plain and simply, their own damn
Carolina started the game as it has started many games
in this stellar playoff run: with Hurricane force in the
first period. The checking was flawless. The pressure
was immense. Whatever momentum the Oilers had entering
the contest was quickly shifted to the home team, as the
Caniacs stood — as they did for the entire game, like
the good ACC basketball fans they are — and rabidly
rooted on their swarming horde of red and black. The
result was Aaron Ward's second goal of the postseason at
one minute, 26 seconds, for the 1-0 lead.
"It was big," said Oilers coach Craig MacTavish. "I thought if
we got through the first period down one goal, we'd be poised
and in good position. And then Cam Ward shut the door."
Spare me the dramatics, Mac. Ward played well, but wasn't
tested nearly enough. The Oilers had every opportunity to win
this game in the second and third periods, and failed to
capitalize on any of them.
Give Carolina credit for coming out in the first period,
dominating play, and forcing the Oilers to rethink their
entire approach to the contest. But Edmonton righted the ship
over the next two frames, and could still be celebrating with
the Cup in some bar with NASCAR posters on the hardwood walls
if it hadn't played to lose.
Game 7 was one of the first instances in the 2006 postseason
where the Oilers looked like a No. 8 seed: over their heads in
a game in which they didn't belong. They looked in awe of a
Carolina defense that blocked shots like Manute Bol but skated
a hell of a lot better than he did.
It was reported during the game that Edmonton purposely was
shooting the puck wide in the hopes of getting a lucky bounce
off the boards, and to avoid the diving Canes defenders — just
the opposite of the kind of aggressive play that characterized
this entire postseason run for Edmonton.
Remember when the Oilers' Fernando Pisani — a player who went
from two game-winning goals in 80 regular season games to five
in 23 playoff games — scored to cut the Carolina Hurricanes'
lead to 2-1?
That goal was the product of a wave of Oilers flooding Ward's
crease. That goal was the product of gritty hard work, of a
team barreling through the Canes' defense rather than meekly
playing the puck around it. The sort of thing Edmonton did
well for six games, and then failed to execute in the final
In Game 7, the Oilers were over-thinking half of their
offensive chances. Sergei Samsonov sent a pass behind him on a
3-on-2 break. Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky didn't go to the
net with their usual reckless abandon. And what can you say
about Ethan Moreau and Radek Dvorak, who ended more Oilers
chances than Cam Ward did?
(Is there an anti-Conn Smythe we can give to Dvorak, who
didn't have a playoff point until Game 4 of the Finals?)
Enough about who didn't win — let's take a moment to honor the
I'm willing to admit when I'm wrong, and I couldn't have been
more off the mark about Carolina's special teams. We're
talking Roman Hamrlik-point-shot-on-the-powerplay off the
The Hurricanes' powerplay was the best in hockey on home ice
during this postseason. The loss of Doug Weight hurt the unit
in the final two games, but it scored nine goals with the man
advantage in the Finals, including the game-winner by
Frantisek Kaberle at 4:18 of the second.
Say what you will about the number of powerplay opportunities
they had — and the fact that Carolina should feel very
fortunate the NHL's crackdown on diving didn't carry over to
the postseason — but the bottom line is that the Hurricanes
converted when they needed to: Ray Whitney’s tally to tie Game
1 after Edmonton was spotted a lead; Weight and Mark Recchi
scoring back-to-back power-play goals to open the third in
Game 2; and Cory Stillman tying Game 4 just 29 seconds after
Samsonov gave the Oilers the lead.
Notice something about those names? Like the fact that,
between them, they have in played 3,732 career regular season
games. And the fact that they came through on the man
advantage in a way the Oilers simply could not when they
needed to in Game 7 — including that back-breaking 5-on-3, a
blown opportunity that may have cost them the Cup.
Congratulations to the Hurricanes: that team with the kid in
goal, the kid leading scorer, and a collection of geezers who
wanted it more than any other players in the hockey world this
RANDOM CUP THOUGHTS
...NBC's coverage ended at 11:11 EST, without hardly
any postgame interviews of value or words from the losing
team. That's the bad news. The good news is that the Cup
Finals weren't on ESPN, where Steve "CENTERING FEED" Levy
spent more time talking about the Hartford Whalers than he did
analyzing Game 7. I'm pretty sure at one point he said that
"if the Triangle had four points, the fourth point would be
Hartford." Yeah, and then it'd be the Square, dummy.
...My take on that baffling series of events to end the
first period? You can have possession of the puck without
freezing it. That's all you need for a whistle on a delayed
call, and that's all Steve Staios had to do. So taking away
the penalty shot was the right call.
That said, the league has to be red-faced over what happened
right before Staios had possession, which was the puck sliding
over the line for what should have been a Carolina goal. NBC's
techies in the truck outside the arena used super-slow motion
to see the puck, using technology too time consuming to be
used during a replay review. Why bother having replay at all
if the technology isn't yet good enough to definitively
discover the real truth? If replay is a check on on-ice
officials, what's the check on replay?
...No truth to the rumor that the confetti falling down
from the rafters were unused Charlotte Bobcats tickets.
...Is this the first Cup Final in the last decade in which
Gary Bettman wasn't greeted with thunderous boos when
presenting the Stanley Cup? What a difference a cap makes.
...Speaking of caps, those Carolina championship hats
were pretty bitchin'. There's nothing more depressing than
having your team win the Cup and discovering its commemorative
hat is hideous. As a Devils' fan, I'm always going to look at
the 2003 Cup win differently because that hat is such a
fashion disaster. Well, that and the fact that Giguere won the
...And speaking of the Conn Smythe, Ward's win is
important for two reasons: that a rookie goalie was able to
make this run should give teams seeking help between the pipes
pause before committing top dollars to an "old NHL" free agent
keeper; and that even in the "new NHL," it still all comes
down to goaltending in the end.
...Fan Quote of the Night, from Randy Bryant of Holly
Springs to the Associated Press: "We already own NASCAR and
now we own hockey."
...And finally, I'm not sure what was the most wonderful
moment of the postgame celebration on the ice: Whitney
dropping an F-bomb on NBC, or Rod Brind'Amour snatching the
Cup before Bettman — who had just thanked everyone from
Carolina's owners to its stickboys — could hand it over to the
captain. You waited long enough, Rod. Congrats!
Wyshynski, also the Sports Editor of The Connect Newspaper, is
a columnist for TheFourthPeriod.com and the Washington
Correspondent for The Fourth Period Magazine.
His book, "Glow Pucks and 10-Cent Beer: The 101 Worst Ideas in Sports
is now on sale.