The Fight Continues
RALEIGH—It was a day that began with the remnants of a hurricane and ended with tears in the stands.
Wednesday, it's fair to say, was a strange one hereabouts. The morning included torrential rains courtesy of Hurricane Alberto, blackouts, mall closings, submerged cars and tornado warnings.
There was no word of locusts.
By the evening, there were only tears in the RBC Centre. Literally, children were seen crying at their parents' sides after the Carolina Hurricanes lost in OT to Edmonton and failed to wrap up the Stanley Cup.
The sun rose on a hot, muggy morning Thursday, but the series that many figured would end the night before continues.
Some quick thoughts on the series so far and the battle ahead:
--You have to believe the NHL is going to revisit the idea of going 2-3-2 for the Cup final. In this series, the Canes would have played two at home, gone to Edmonton for three games and then returned to North Carolina for Games 6 and 7.
Quite simply, the travel is brutal in this series, just as it was for Tampa-Calgary in 2004, New Jersey-Anaheim in '03 and Jersey-Colorado in '01. In the NBA, the cities of Dallas and Miami are using the 2-3-2 format, long a staple of that league.
Ever since the Leafs split the first two at home in the Western Conference final in '94 against Vancouver then lost all three on the west coast the 2-3-2 format hasn't been embraced in the NHL.
It's time it should be.
--Doug Weight's potential injury absence for Game 6 may not be as big a blow to the Hurricanes as first thought.
For starters, Weight hasn't had much of an impact on the series so far, other than being the target of joyful booing from the Edmonton fans that once cheered him as their captain.
Only Jason Arnott and Mike Comrie, among former Oilers get this kind of treatment, and Weight's a little mystified why he, out of all the Oiler stars who left for bigger money elsewhere, has been singled out.
If Weight can't play in Game 6, however, the Canes may benefit from the decision by head coach Peter Laviolette to insert Josef Vasicek in place of Chad Larose for Game 4.
Knee problems limited Vasicek to only 23 regular season games and he has dressed for only seven post-season matches. Subbing for Larose, he moved into a left wing spot, but is a natural centre who was a big part of Carolina's 2002 run to the Cup final.
He may be ready now to make an impact on this series.
--The Carolina defence is taking a significant beating.
At various times during this series, virtually every member of the Carolina blueline corps has limped off the ice, including Bret Hedican, Glen Wesley and Aaron Ward. Only Mike Commodore and Frantisek Kaberle looked particularly fresh in Game 5.
Ward missed a big chunk of the game, and if he can't play in Game 6, Oleg Tverdovsky would likely get the nod.
It would be the reverse juice for Tverdovsky, who played the first six games of the 2003 Devils-Ducks final for New Jersey before being replaced by Ken Daneyko for Game 7, which the Devils won.
Ward may have suffered a shoulder injury, or he may have encountered concussion problems, something he dealt with during the series against the Devils this spring.
--Can you imagine the uproar if Carolina had scored the Stanley Cup winning goal Wednesday night with Oiler defenceman Steve Staios in the penalty box?
As it was, Fernando Pisani's shorthanded winner solved that problem, and to some degree put a lie to the notion that the over-the-glass call on Buffalo's Brian Campbell "cost" the Sabres the Eastern Conference crown in Game 7 against the Hurricanes.
If anything, it was Buffalo's penalty killing that failed to come through, a big part of the game in any playoff year.