Archive for Thursday, June 13, 2002

Red Wings one victory from raising Cup

June 13, 2002

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— The Detroit Red Wings were built for this moment, this day, this game.

As polished, well-designed and meticulously planned as the pricey luxury cars that roll off Detroit's assembly lines, they were constructed by general manager Ken Holland and coach Scotty Bowman for one reason: to win the Stanley Cup.

It's why Bowman is still coaching at age 68, why Igor Larionov is still playing at age 41, why Chris Chelios doesn't chase golf balls the year around, why Brett Hull took a huge pay cut, why Dominik Hasek asked the Buffalo Sabres to trade him, why Jiri Slegr waited two months to play one game.

The NHL's best team during the regular season, its best team so far in the playoffs and, perhaps, one of its best teams of all time, the Red Wings can solidify their place in history tonight by beating the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals.

Only raising the Stanley Cup will certify their greatness, and only then will they relax.

"We are anticipating a big moment for us out there, and we have to mobilize and go and get it," forward Sergei Fedorov said. "It is a wonderful opportunity."

It is also a wonderful team, but three victories don't make a Stanley Cup champion.

The first three were difficult enough, given what seemed to be a huge disparity in talent between the two teams. But Carolina has gone into the third period with a chance to win every game, even if it has done so only once.

Only one team, Toronto in 1942 against Detroit, came back from a 3-1 deficit to win the final three games and the Cup.

"I know it's going to take a great effort, and I expect Carolina to match that," Fedorov said. "We've got quite a few emotions flying around out there."

Especially from their two most prominent players who have never won the Cup in Hasek, a six-time Vezina Trophy-winning goalie, and Luc Robitaille, a 600-goal scorer.

They have never been this close to lifting the Cup, and they don't want to squander what could be their last opportunity. With more than half of the Red Wings' core players age 35 or older, this assemblage of All-Stars may not stay together long enough to take even one more run at the Cup.

Holland was nearly ready after a first-round loss to Los Angeles a year ago to dismantle what some were calling an antique of a team and go younger. But owner Mike Ilitch signed off on taking another shot at a title, and Holland added four more veterans in Hasek, Hull, Robitaille and defenseman Fredrik Olausson, who may be the players who put Detroit over the top.

T he Red Wings will be without defenseman Jiri Fischer, who was suspended for Game 5 for cross-checking Carolina's Tommy Westlund on Monday. Slegr is likely to get the call.

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