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Stanley Cup final should be a thrill ride

by Archives May 30, 2001
The long road that is the National Hockey League’s season is coming to an end. No more pretenders trying to win Lord Stanley’s mug, it is now down to the best team from the East against the best team from the West, the first time in twelve years that the two best teams in each conference will play for the NHL title.
The Colorado Avalanche and the New Jersey Devils will go head to head in what promises to be one of the most exciting NHL finals is some time. Both teams are at the top of their games as they enter the final after winning their respective conference championships four games to one.
Both teams did, however, have rough starts to their playoff run, having a hard time getting past their preliminary round opponents. However, both teams bounced back well in their conference finals, living up to their standing as the best teams in their conferences.
What this series will inevitably come down to is goaltending. Who will crack first? Will Martin Brodeur suffer another breakdown or will St. Patrick regain his old form and return Colorado to the summit of the NHL. Both netminders have proven their worth during the playoffs, keeping their teams in it when times were tight and giving them a chance to make it this far.
What could happen is that one of them will take his team all the way to the top, while the other will let his team down. Of course, both goalies could play a great series and keep the other teams at bay, but either way you slice it, the series still boils down to the two men between the pipes.
That is not to take away from the rest of the players on either team. These are not the two best teams solely because of their goaltending.
The Devils are one of the most balanced teams in the league. They can roll out four lines and each of them can get the job done. With Larry Robinson as head coach, the Devils went back to playing the trap this season and it is no coincidence that they are back in the finals to defend their title. With the likes of Scott Stevens, Jason Arnott, Patrik Elias, Peter Sykora and Alexander Mogilny just to name a few, the Devils are no pushover. They have proven that they can play with the best, now they will have to do that as they take on the team with the best regular season record.
The Colorado Avalanche did not win the President’s trophy by fluke this season. They to are a balanced team. The one fault with the Avalanche is that head coach Bob Hartley does not use his four lines as effectively as Robinson, preferring to rely on his top guns.
Mind you, those are some pretty big guns. Joe Sakic is the undisputed leader of this team and with a supporting cast that includes Milan Hejduk, Alex Tanguay and Peter Forsberg [Forsberg is not playing in the finals after having his spleen removed several weeks ago].
Not to mention the Avalanche’s blue line that includes Adam Foote, Rob Blake and Raymond Bourque. Put that all together, and Colorado has some serious firepower and a solid defensive team that presents a serious threat to New Jersey’s attempt to repeat as league champions.
The Devils are coming off a great team effort where they managed to hold the Pittsburgh Penguins, an offensive force, to just seven goals in the five game series. If they can limit Colorado’s offence like they did the Penguins, the Devils will have a good chance to defend their status as NHL league champions.
If they can’t scuttle the juggernaut that is the Colorado offence, the Devils will be hard pressed to keep up with the Avalanche that will quickly bury them.
Either way, it will be an exciting series. So hockey fans, get a bag of chips and a few cold ones and strap yourselves in for one heck of a finale to the NHL season.

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