Fish breaks down the Stanley Cup playoffs!

Hondo S. Carpenter

By Eric Fish


           It’s looking to be one whale of a Stanley Cup Finals when the best-of-seven game series between the Edmonton Oilers and Carolina Hurricanes begin on Monday night.

           At first glance, one can expect a very gritty, physical series. Let’s take a further look at who will skate with the Stanley Cup in seven games or less:


           Defense:

           It’s no secret that Chris Pronger has been the MVP of the Oilers in this postseason run. The veteran blueliner combines grit, toughness, and on top of that he can score. Veteran defender Jason Smith also brings leadership qualities and a stay-at-home mentality to the team.

           Mike Commodore will have his work cut out for him this series as the physical force of the Hurricanes’ defense. Look for big Commodore to be matched against Ryan Smyth’s line from Edmonton and watch out for that ongoing battle in front of the net all series long. Aaron Ward adds grit to Carolina’s blueliners as well, and Bret Hedican and Frantisek Kaberle are more of the finesse players.

           Advantage: Edmonton - Both teams match up fairly equally defensively, but the Oilers have gotten scoring production out of their blueliners. In a series like this, that could be the deciding factor.


           Forwards:

           The Oilers are a team that has really shared the wealth as far as goal scoring and offensive production. Ryan Smyth is the big pest who camps out so well in front of the net and works as the agitator to the opposition while Shawn Horcoff, Michael Peca, Sergei Samsonov, Fernando Pisani, and Ales Hemsky all add quickness and unique individual talents to the team.

           This Carolina Hurricane’s forward bunch is going to be fun to watch. They’ve got experienced veterans like Doug Weight, Mark Recchi, Ray Whitney, and Rod Brind’Amour and youngsters like Eric Staal and Justin Williams. I look for Staal and Brind’Amour to have a big series for Carolina if the Canes’ are to do anything. Both are big, physical players who have the potential to turn around a game.

           Advantage: Carolina – If Staal and Brind’Amour are going good, they’re going to be tough to shut down.


           Goaltending:

           Dwayne Roloson has been another reason why teams have a hard time playing the Edmonton Oilers this postseason. The Edmonton defense does a great job minimizing offensive chances and it seems that Roloson always is there to stop the puck when there are chances. He’s fit in extremely well with Edmonton and the style of hockey they play.

           Carolina has been in a bit of a goaltender carousel lately. Will it be rookie Cam Ward starting game one? Or will Martin Gerber get the call? Or will they be rotated each game? Who knows.

           Advantage: Edmonton – Solely for the purpose that they have an established No. 1 goaltender.


           The winner: The last two Stanley Cup Finals have gone to seven games. Expect this one to last the majority as well, but in the end look for Carolina to win it all and turn the already hockey-crazed city of Raleigh into hockey heaven. It’s going to be a long, physical series, but I don’t think the Edmonton defense can hold Staal and Brind’Amour silent all series long. They say that defense wins championships, but I think that Carolina’s forwards will do enough wear and tear on Edmonton’s defense to get the job done.

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