It's the best time of year!
Posted by Ryan Porth Labels: Postseason Rewind
The Champion: Carolina Hurricanes
Road to the Cup:
Round 1 – 4-2 over 7) Montreal
Round 2 – 4-1 over 3) New Jersey
Round 3 – 4-3 over 4) Buffalo
Round 4 – 4-3 over 8) Edmonton
In their own words: Bob Wage, Canes Country
“What is it like as a fan to see your team win the Stanley Cup? For me, it was one of the highlights of my life. It's something I'll never forget.
Everyone has special, euphoric moments to be cherished and remembered throughout a lifetime. The birth of your child, your wedding day, graduations, of course these types of personal milestones are at the very top of what's most important, but watching your team lift the Stanley Cup comes close to those.
Caniacs were blessed in that we got to watch our team win it on home ice in a Game 7. I doubt that it gets any better than that.
As the final horn went off, I looked around and saw grown men crying. Then I realized that I needed to wipe away a tear or two myself. At that moment I did not want to ever leave the arena, I wanted to soak it all in, every minute of it. The players probably felt the same way because even after the Cup had been skated around the ice by every player, as well as by most of the support staff, players and their families were still lingering on the ice. Fourth-liner Kevyn Adams held his young daughter up high and skated all around the edge of the rink, waving to fans who were still standing, watching, and cheering. It looked like there were tears in his eyes as well.
Finally when we left, a band was blaring away outside the RBC and everyone was in full party mode. After a while, people went downtown to a popular spot where there are several nightclubs and police blocked off the streets as fans left the bars and took the partying to the streets. No one wanted that night to end. In the ensuing days there were two parades, one around the arena and one downtown, and a couple more celebrations. Throughout the playoffs, the city of Raleigh had signs up all over downtown so there was always good support, but after winning, it was certainly a time of pride for the entire community. There were jerseys put on statues, flags on almost every corner, and signs of support shown in almost every retail outlet.
But what was most special about all of it to me?
The best feeling that I had was not because of winning that particular game, or even surviving those four brutal playoff series. What made me feel the happiest about winning the Cup is that the experience finally validated that the great sport of hockey could succeed in North Carolina. It made the sting go away from all the losses over the years. The last place finishes, the feelings of futility, the disrespect from fans and sportswriters all around the league, none of that mattered anymore. The Carolina Hurricanes were World Champions.
A fan from another team once told me during the 2002 playoffs, "You guys don't deserve a championship, you haven't suffered enough yet." At the time, I didn't get it. But after that Game 7 victory when I saw people crying in the stands and players crying on the ice, I understood what he meant. Winning the Stanley Cup makes all the suffering go away. The longer the suffering, the sweeter the win is.”
Conn Smythe winner: Cam Ward
No one really knew what rookie Cam Ward was capable of. After boasting a 3.68 GAA in the regular season, Ward carrying his team to a Cup was highly unexpected. But when Martin Gerber faltered in Round 1, the 22-year-old rose to the occasion. So much so that he backstopped the Hurricanes all the way to a Stanley Cup. Ward recorded a 2.14 GAA during the Cup run, and came up clutch in the big moments.
The Runner-Up: Edmonton Oilers
The eighth-seeded Oilers were one of the most unlikely conference champions in league history. Craig MacTavish’s club had a lot of magic in the 2006 playoffs – whether it was upsetting Detroit, barnstorming through San Jose and Anaheim, or taking Carolina to a Game 7, it was a special group. There was a different hero every night – whether it was Dwayne Roloson, Michael Peca, Ales Hemsky, or Fernando Pisani.
Roloson was a catalyst for the Oilers all spring long, and some believe his injury in the finals was the difference between them winning the Cup and not. Nonetheless, the Cinderella bunch from Edmonton went from clinching a playoff spot in the last week to coming within one win of the Cup. The excitement generated from this playoff run will be hard to match.
The Upset: WCQF – 8) Edmonton over 1) Detroit
Edmonton’s upset of Detroit was easily one of the biggest in playoff history. In the first four games of the series, the two teams traded double overtime and 4-2 victories. After the Oilers grabbed a Game 5 win in Detroit, they had a chance to lock up the series at home.
In Game 6, the Wings took a 2-0 lead into the third period. Pisani scored a pair of goals to tie the game, but Detroit re-took the lead. Late in the third, though, Hemsky beat Manny Legace twice, including with 1:09 remaining in regulation to put the Oilers up 4-3. The Oilers were able to hang on and finish off the historic upset.
Other notable upsets: WCQF: 7) Colorado over 2) Dallas; WCSF: 8) Edmonton over 5) San Jose
Best series: ECF – 2) Carolina over 4) Buffalo
The ‘Canes and Sabres went back and forth all series long – in the conference final, no less. It was a unique matchup between two small-market teams, and they became rivals in this fierce series. It featured five one-goal games and a pair of overtime contests. Danny Briere kept the Sabres alive in Game 6, but the ‘Canes responded in Game 7 with a come-from-behind 4-2 win. This was Carolina’s final step before their Cup title.
WCQF: Anaheim 3, Calgary 0
ECF: Hurricanes 4, Sabres 2
SCF: Hurricanes 3, Oilers 1
Photo credit: Getty Images
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