Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 04/12/09 at 03:27 PM ET
It wouldn’t be playoff hockey in Carolina if it didn’t involve the Devils, and this post-season will be no different. This is Carolina’s eleventh season in the league since relocating from Hartford. It will be their fifth time qualifying for the playoffs and their fourth playoff series against the Devils.
The when part of the equation isn’t known yet, but the who and where has. The series will begin in Newark either Wednesday or Thursday.
As if it was all predestined, the Hurricanes played the Devils in three of their final eleven games of the season, winning at home and splitting the two on the road.
For a team that hasn’t been around that long, the Hurricanes have a ton of playoff history with the Devils, and some of it hasn’t been pretty.
In 2001, the Devils eliminated the Hurricanes four games to two in the first round. The series will be remembered because of the ferocious hitting from Devils captain Scott Stevens.
In game two, Stevens destroyed Shane Willis with an open ice hit in the waning seconds of a 2-0 win. video clip Say what you want about the cleanliness of the hit, and say what you will about skating with your head down, and say what you will about playoff hockey, but there’s no need for that kind of hit with 17 seconds left in a 2-0 game. But that’s the way Stevens played. Unfortunately, the promising rookie was knocked out for the remainder of the season. He was never the same after that devastating hit. He played one more season in the NHL, but not at the same skill level. He was in Hurricanes training camp this last summer, but wasn’t able to land a spot on the squad.
In game three, Stevens delivered one of his most famous hits upon the head of Canes captain (and current assistant coach) Ron Francis. video clip Like Willis, Francis was knocked out for the series. Fortunately, Francis was able to bounce back to form the next season. Ultimately, the two would be inducted in the same Hall of Fame class.
In game four, Stevens crushed Sami Kapinen video clip. Amazingly, Kapanen got up immediately and showed no short- or long-term effects from the hit.
Carolina lost the series, but it wasn’t forgotten.
The following season, Carolina returned to the playoffs and once again faced the Devils in the opening round. This time, the story of the series was Carolina netminder Kevin Weekes. Weekes had been called upon to replace Arturs “The Little Latvian” Irbe, who lost confidence. The Canes had a 2-0 series lead after winning both home games, but Irbe was lit up in games three and four, getting pulled in both. With the seried tied at two, Paul Maurice made a bold and retrospectively brilliant decision to start Kevin Weekes in game five. Shady Eighty played well, stopping 40 of 42 shots in the game five win. Included in those 40 saves was what was then the biggest save in Whaler/Canes history. The only clip I can find is a crappy one with crappy music set behind it, so I won’t bother to share. Anyway, in overtime, (and if I recall correctly, the Devils had a power play) Stephane Richer was in front of Weekes with a point blank shot. Weekes made a great save, but the rebound went to John Madden, who was all alone with a lot of empty net in front of him. Weekes made a desperation stab at it, flashing across the crease. Not only did he make the save, but he froze the puck, settling things down. Eventually, Josef Vasicek won the game for the Canes. Ron Francis won game six for the Canes with the only goal of the game. Weekes, who started again, earned his first playoff shutout.
Clearly, the play of the entire series was Weekes’ save on Madden. For four more years, it was probably the most important play in franchise history.
In 2006, the Canes and Devils met for a third postseason matchup. The Devils had won eleven in a row to finish the regular season, then swept the Rangers in the first round. Carolina had won four in a row after losing the first two to Montréal. The Devils were white hot, and they were looking for retribution from 2002.
There were a lot of stories in the 2006 series. Cam Ward, Nic Wallin, Eric Staal, the Canes’ power play… In game one, Carolina proved that it wasn’t intimidated or impressed by the Devils’ 15 game winning streak. They came out flying with a 6-0 win, fueled by five power play goals.
Game two was probably the defining game of the series. It was Mothers’ Day, and Eric Staal sure made Linda Staal proud. It looked like the Devils would take the game when Scott Gomez scored at 19:39. Some fans started to file their way out of the arena, but the boys rallied, and Eric Staal poked one home with just three seconds on the clock, forcing overtime.
At 3:09 of the extra frame, Nic “The Secret Weapon” Wallin coasted in on Brodeur and lost control of the puck. Somehow, it ended up in the net. After review, the goal stood and the Canes had a 2-0 series lead. Here’s a video I made from my seat:
It was only 2-0, but it was a death blow for the Devils. They would eventually win game four of the series, but the Canes went on to take the series in five games.
This season, the Canes won three of the four games by a combined score of 11-8. However, only one of the four games featured a Cam Ward v Martin Brodeur showdown. This promises to be a great series.
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About Red and Black Hockey
David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science. He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows. Sometimes, all in the same day.