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Friday, December 13, 2002
What Carolina must do
By John Davidson
Special to ABC Sports Online
It's obvious and appropriate for most people to assume that Detroit will beat Carolina in the Stanley Cup finals. In playoff experience alone, there's a huge advantage for the Wings.
But you shouldn't quickly overlook the Hurricanes. Their records are almost identical since the Olympics, which shows that Carolina played its best hockey down the stretch.
Carolina needs to establish its own game right away, and establish the belief that it really belongs. When you start reading and hearing about how great Detroit is, you start wondering why you are even there.
Since the Olympics, the Hurricanes have been good. They know that they are a pretty good hockey club, and if Arturs Irbe continues to play well, they are going to be a tough team to deal with. The key will be to get the younger players to get them to play their best.
What's going for Carolina is the leadership of Ron Francis. Rod Brind'Amour, Aaron Ward, Martin Gelinas and Francis have all been here before, but for a lot of players on the Carolina roster, this is their first time on the big stage. This is much different than the conference finals. It's like going from off-Broadway to Broadway. This is the big show.
Some guys may love it, some guys may seize up. When it's new, it's up to the guys with leadership to guide them. For the younger players, they have to enjoy the ride. When you have 30 teams, it's hard to get the finals. Since losing last year in the first round, this has been Detroit's only goal. Any player would tell you it's hard to get here. Just ask Gary Roberts. He won a Cup in '89, and hasn't been back since.
So enjoy the ride. Enjoy the pressure of what this is about, but don't let it eat you up.
To make it an enjoyable ride, there are a few areas that will need to work out for the Hurricanes.
|Rod Brind'Amour and the Hurricanes are big underdogs heading into Game 1.|
Their defense is very underrated. They are big and hard to get to the net on. But they are going to see a very different speed factor than they faced in the Eastern Conference finals. Toronto worked very hard, but the Maple Leafs are not quick compared to Detroit.
Most teams have only one good power play unit, which means that after you kill the first minute, you can often relax somewhat during the second. Not against Detroit. This is two minutes of pure power play. Carolina is going to have to really concentrate on being disciplined and stay out of the box, which they have done in the playoffs.
We can talk about Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov and the big boys, but Detroit's secondary players are awesome. That means that Carolina's secondary players are going to have to have a strong series. Detroit plays four lines, so Carolina is going to have to play its four lines. And rely on them. The Kirk Maltby-Kris Draper-Darren McCarty line can turn a game around.
Jeff O'Neill and Sami Kapanen are starting to score. That's a big bonus. While Carolina can be strong defensively, it is also a team with a lot of speed. The 'Canes are going to need both of those weapons.
Finally, if Carolina is going to make it a series, or win it, Irbe is going to have to be the Conn Smythe winner.
The Red Wings have waited 12 months for this and can taste it, but Carolina would love to burn their meal.