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Inside The NHL

April 29, 2002
April 29, 2002

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April 29, 2002

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Inside The NHL

Stumbling Start
Top-seeded Detroit took an early pratfall against young and
potent Vancouver

This is an article from the April 29, 2002 issue Original Layout

The real Dominik Hasek finally stood up--and on his head--in the
Red Wings' first-round series against the Canucks, pulling
top-seeded Detroit from the brink of disaster in Game 3 on Sunday
night in Vancouver. After two opening losses in which he gave up
a total of eight goals and was clearly off his game, Hasek, a
six-time Vezina Trophy winner, stopped 22 of 23 shots, including
a penalty shot, to give the Red Wings a 3-1 victory and justify
their belief that he's the superstar who can carry them to the
Cup.

"Before the series is over, you're going to say he played
fantastic," Detroit captain Steve Yzerman said after a 5-2 home
loss in Game 2. "I'm not concerned about our goaltending. He's
fantastic and will prove it."

Hasek, who finished the regular season with a six-game winless
streak, was brilliant in protecting the Red Wings' lead in the
third period on Sunday. In the final 10 minutes he stoned Markus
Naslund on a one-timer from the slot, kicked out Ed Jovanovski's
rebound shot while sprawling to his left and denied Todd Bertuzzi
on a penalty shot.

Detroit's other concerns in the first two games of the series--a
lackluster power play and bad luck--also turned in its favor in
Game 3. With the score 1-1, Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom
blasted a slap shot from the red line that trickled past goalie
Dan Cloutier. That good fortune was a marked change from the
earlier games, in which the Wings hit the post three times and
allowed three Vancouver shots to carom off their bodies past
Hasek, including Henrik Sedin's overtime goal in Game 1. "We
[finally] got breaks, but Dom had to come up with big saves,"
Detroit defenseman Chris Chelios said after Game 3.

To win a series in which they were heavily favored, the Red Wings
still had to take three of four from the go-go Canucks, who
seemed far more relaxed than their opponents. Heading into the
postseason Vancouver was the NHL's hottest team--after Christmas
it had the league's best record (28-9-3-3) and averaged the most
goals per game (3.70). During Sunday's optional skate a dozen
Canucks kicked a soccer ball outside their dressing room, an
exercise they picked up midway through the season as a tension
breaker, and afterward blasted the Notorious B.I.G. in their
dressing area.

"They're loose because they're young," Detroit wing Darren
McCarty said before Game 3. "It's never been that way for us.
There's always been pressure." McCarty was wearing a sweat-soaked
T-shirt given out by Wings trainer John Wharton with the slogan
nothing less under a red 16--the number of victories needed to win
the Cup. On the back of the shirt was room to write the names of
Detroit's victims in each of the playoffs' four rounds.

It was a show of hubris befitting a club with nine future Hall of
Famers, including Hasek, who was acquired in a trade with the
Sabres last July. Even so, Game 3 was Detroit's first victory in
10 games. One down, and 15 to go.

Yashin-Corson Matchup
Scorer Versus Checker

Fighting through constant checks exacts a heavy toll, and the job
of Maple Leafs forward Shayne Corson in the first round was to
make sure Islanders center Alexei Yashin paid that toll fully.
Corson, 35, is a premier checker who learned positional play from
his former Canadiens teammates Bob Gainey and Guy Carbonneau, the
best defensive forwards of the past 25 years. Corson hounded
Yashin in the first round last season, when Yashin was with the
Senators; he had only one assist as Toronto swept Ottawa.

Yashin, 28, has averaged 37 goals over the last five seasons, but
he has folded in the playoffs. Two years ago he had no points as
the Senators were swept by the Sabres. His struggles continued
last Thursday in the Maple Leafs' 3-1 victory at home in Game 1,
as Corson matched him on 15 of 17 even-strength shifts and
limited him to one shot. Yashin's best move came after the game,
when he slipped a 20 to a panhandler outside Air Canada Centre.

After practice the next day Islanders coach Peter Laviolette
said, "It's time for Alexei Yashin to shake the check." But in
Game 2 last Saturday, Corson neutralized Yashin again, dogging
him for 21 of 22 even-strength shifts in Toronto's 2-0 home win.
Still, Laviolette wasn't sure if he would keep Yashin from Corson
when the series moved to Long Island and New York had the last
line change. "I don't know if [Corson's shadowing is] that much
of a deterrent," Laviolette said. The numbers--Yashin's zero
points and four even-strength shots in the series' first two
games--suggest otherwise. --Michael Farber

Koivu, Forsberg Comebacks
Healthy and in Midseason Form

After practice last Friday the questions for Canadiens captain
Saku Koivu happily turned from his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma to the
goal he had finally been credited with scoring against the Bruins
the previous night. In Montreal's 5-2 series-opening win at
Boston, Koivu's linemate Donald Audette was initially given a
goal that belonged to Koivu. Koivu passed the puck, which bounced
off a Bruins defenseman and into the net. Twelve hours later the
official scorer changed his ruling, crediting the inspirational
Koivu, who returned to the Montreal lineup on April 9 after
starting chemotherapy in September.

Another stirring comeback was being played out by Avalanche
forward Peter Forsberg, whose ruptured spleen and surgery to
repair tendon damage in his left foot had forced him into an
11-month sabbatical. Returning to the ice against the Kings, he
had five points in the first two games--both of which were won by
the Avs. In those matches Forsberg threw his body around and
exhibited not a trace of rink rust. Said L.A. coach Andy Murray,
"He does things very few people can do." --M.F.

COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO Vancouver's Matt Cooke sped past a tangled Chelios in the Canucks' 5-2 Game 2 victory.COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHOCOLOR PHOTO: BILL WIPPERT

Whom Would You rather have?

Mattias Ohlund
CANUCKS D
In his fifth season the scrappy 25-year-old had career highs in
goals (10) and points (36) while leading his club in ice time
(25:16 per game). The 6'2" 220-pounder finished tied for 16th
among NHL defensemen in goals.

Bryan McCabe
MAPLE LEAFS D
In his seventh season the feisty 26-year-old had career highs in
goals (17) and points (43) while finishing second on his club in
ice time (24:34). The 6'2" 213-pounder finished tied for second
among NHL defensemen in goals.

THE VERDICT: McCabe is the more robust hitter, has a rocket shot
and has a better nose for the net. He's our pick. --D.G.H.