Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Lorraine, My Density Has Popped Me To You

One of my favorite sayings is "luck is the due reward of the skillful" (which, if indeed true, validates the theory that something other than luck had a hand in the devoid-of-skill Pittsburgh Penguins winning last year's draft lottery). Point being, you can have all the luck in the world but if you haven't put yourself in the position to take advantage of it when it shows up, you may never know you were lucky in the first place. Last night's Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals has been analyzed backwards and forwards as yesterday's team of destiny (by the way, it's called "destiny" when it's your team that's lucky) dropped a nail-biter to today's team of destiny, but a couple of key points exemplify this rumination on luck perfectly:
  • Yes, the Hurricanes were "lucky" that a boneheaded Oiler blueliner in essence railroaded his own goaltender out of the playoffs. But the 'Canes were down three goals with three minutes left in the second period and fought back to the point were that injury could make a difference in the game...
  • ... And what a difference it made. Ty Conklin's colossal cough-up (though Jason Smith is not without blame) handed Carolina Game 1 on a silver platter. But had Cam Ward not stoned Shawn Horcoff and the rest of the Oil throughout the third (with the exception of the Ales Hemsky powerplay tally), perhaps that goal would have tied the game or been utterly meaningless.
I know, I know - lots of ifs. But good teams capitalize on breaks. And boy have the 'Canes caught some breaks so far this offseason, even early on. Consider, for example, that Carolina entered the playoffs having allowed the most goals of any of the 16 teams that made the postseason (actually, they were tied with Tampa - must be all those games the two teams played this year against Alex Ovechkin dragging them down). To most, that would indicate suspect defense and/or goaltending. No worries for the 'Canes, however, as they drew Montreal and New Jersey - the two lowest scoring teams of the Eastern Conference playoff squads and two of the three lowest scoring teams in the entire playoffs - in the first two rounds. Montreal and New Jersey each scored five total goals in their four respective losses. Perhaps more notably, the Hurricanes won six games in the two series in which they scored three goals or fewer. Did Carolina's defense and goaltending suddenly get great enough to let the offense take it a little easy? Maybe. But playing teams that put up soccer-like goal totals didn't hurt and the 'Canes did what they had to do.

We all know what has followed: the Buffalo blueline injuries and now the Roloson injury for Edmonton. Perhaps in the days ahead Chris Pronger will come down with Bird Flu or Mike Peca will get the clap. On the other hand, maybe Jussty Conklanen will channel Patrick Roy for two weeks. Who knows? The Finals are, of course, far from over. At the end of the day you still need to win at least one more game than your opponent to win a series. But you shouldn't be surprised if Carolina puts itself in a great position to take advantage of a break or two that helps them do just that. They are, after all, the Team of Destiny du Jour whether or not luck has anything to do with it.

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