DG's Quick Hits- April 28, 2002

A weekly look at some of the stories rocking the hockey world and my take on each of them.

This week:

The demons are gone: Hurricanes advance

Booing at the rink: have we gone too far?

Canucks gone: Brian, have your phone readyTHE DEMONS ARE GONE: HURRICANES ADVANCE

A goal by Ron Francis is all the Carolina Hurricanes needed to eliminate the New Jersey Devils from the Eastern Conference play-offs, as the Hurricanes exacted revenge on the team that defeated them in six games in last year’s play-offs by doing the same to them this year.

“We’ve been trying to tell people all year long that we’re a good team,” said Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice to the team’s Web Site. The Hurricanes, counted out against New Jersey despite being the three seed, eliminated the Devils on the heels of sparkling goaltender Kevin Weekes, filling in for an ineffective Arturs Irbe. The ‘Canes’ series win is the franchise’s first since 1986, when the team was the Hartford Whalers, and the first in a best-of-seven tilt (the Whalers defeated the Quebec Nordiques the year before the first round changed from best-of-five to best-of-seven like today), and could throw the Eastern Conference play-off picture into an intriguing setup. With the Ottawa Senators having already taken out the Philadelphia Flyers, and the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs one win away from winning their series, it is possible that the team could go from their first play-off series win to their first Stanley Cup Final appearance, as the Conference is now wide open. It is a stretch, but is still a possibility, considering how unpredictable the National Hockey League season can get.

BOOING AT THE RINK: HAVE WE GONE TOO FAR?

Earlier this week, fans at play-off games in Detroit, Vancouver, Toronto and Uniondale all booed their opponent’s national anthems in what has become one of the most disgraceful shows of sportsmanship this side of the Atlantic has ever known. We all know as fans that jeering the opposite team is all right, but countries have to be respected and it was unfortunate what occurred last week. Fortunately, though, all four cities told their fans to be respectful, and, thankfully all of them have responded.

CANUCKS GONE: BRIAN, HAVE YOUR PHONE READY

The Vancouver Canucks’ gutsy play-off series against the Detroit Red Wings ended with a heartbreaking 6-4 loss that left everyone in shock. Vancouver, which won the first two games in Detroit, couldn’t be much of a factor in any of the other games, as the Wings shut the team down after their morale was lost following the Canucks’ 5-2 Game 2 win. Domonik Hasek, who looked shaky early on, provided the All-Star goaltending Detroit expected of him when they acquired him from the Buffalo Sabres last July.

To me, none of that is important. Forget Steve Yzerman, forget Hasek, forget Chris Chelios, forget Scotty Bowman: the Canucks clearly lost this series after Dan Cloutier let in that soft goal in Game 3. The Canucks were capable of beating the Wings as long as they believed in themselves, but, all along, Detroit knew that if they could demoralize the Canucks just a little, the series was theirs. Thankfully for them, they got a huge break when Niklas Lidstrom’s 90-footer sailed into the net, as after that the Canucks couldn’t figure out where their confidence was.

So here come the questions: Where was the captain Markus Naslund to steer the Canucks in the right direction? He wasn’t effective as he could be, providing all of two points in the series. What happened to Dan Cloutier: why did he let the goal get to him? Also, for General Manager Brian Burke: how long is this rebuilding scheme going to take? Sooner or later, the Canucks will be too old to take baby steps if this is the way Burke wants his team to progress.

Perhaps I’m a little harsh, but I definitely want answers. There’s no reason why Vancouver couldn’t win the series after playing the way they did in Games 1 and 2, so next year there’s no excuses: Vancouver had better win or some heads may roll.

Feel free to comment on these or any other stories.

-DG

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