Well, actually the Carolina Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup, but it's the same franchise. Don't you want to know how the hockey fans of Hartford feel about that? During the Cup presentation ceremony there was someone on the ice wearing a Whalers sweater. NHL.com/
Is there anything better in professional sports than a game 7 in the Stanley Cup Finals? I personally don't think so. And with the rule changes implemented at the beginning of the season, this was a hockey product very much worth watching. It had all the intensity of any Stanley Cup Final, but it had the open ice skating and scoring opportunities sorely missing from the NHL in the last 10-15 years; but it retained its fierceness. You could feel the hits through your television.
In the end the Hurricanes outlasted the Edmonton Oilers 3 to 1. Coming in to game 7, after having watched game 6, you would have thought the way the two teams played in game 6 that this was going to be all Edmonton; but the goaltending of Conn Smythe winner Cam Ward and the fresh legs and speed of Eric Cole allowed Carolina to seize the momentum early and control the game throughout. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the X factor of the leadership of guys like Captain Rod Brind 'Amour and Glen Wesley, to name just a couple.
Other keys to the game: The early goal for Carolina by Defenseman Aaron Ward was another factor in allowing the Hurricanes to dictate the style of play. Cam Ward made two crucial saves on breakaways early in the second period as Edmonton was starting to seize control, even though they were a man down. A deflected goal by Frantisek Kaberle with 4:10 remaining of the 2nd period, giving Carolina a more comfortable two-goal lead. The play of Carolina's defense and Ward's goaltending during an Edmonton two-man advantage near the end of the second period, cut short by a hooking penalty by Ryan Smyth on Wesley. Fernando Pisani's goal early in the 3rd for Edmonton (his 14th of the playoffs) ensured this would be a nailbiter to the end, and Cam Ward stoned Pisani on a rebound attempt with four minutes left. The Hurricanes survived a 3rd period power play, Edmonton pulling the goalie with 1:30 remaining and salted it away on Justin Williams' empty-netter at 1:01.
There was a controversial no-goal and no penalty shot at the end of the first period, which seemed to be a goal in the end and perhaps should have been a penalty shot if not a goal. Thankfully in the end that controversy didn't taint the outcome.
Here's to the best tradition in professional sports, the handshake at the end of every playoff series, and congratulations to the Hurricanes players and fans. That was indeed time well spent watching.
NHL Stanley Cup Carolina Hurricanes Edmonton Oilers Ward Kaberle Pisani Whalers