Sunday, April 10, 2011

Carolina Hurricanes and Dallas Stars Crack Under Pressure

Win one game.  That's all the Carolina Hurricanes and the Dallas Stars had to do to make the NHL playoffs.

Thanks to a New York Rangers loss earlier in the week all Carolina had to do was win at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday and they were in.  As for the Stars they were given a ray of hope when the Chicago Blackhawks lost Sunday afternoon to the Detroit Red Wings. 

But the pressure was too much as both teams ended up losing and will now have to watch the playoffs on television like the rest of us.

For the past 3 weeks the Hurricanes had been chasing the New York Rangers and the Buffalo Sabres for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.  It seemed that no matter how well they played, and they did play really well down the stretch, they just couldn't make up any ground.  Then miraculously the Atlanta Thrashers beat the Rangers 3-0 on Thursday opening the door for the Hurricanes to sneak their way into the playoffs with a win over Tampa Bay on Saturday night.

It seemed like a dream scenario for the Canes as they were playing a team that had nothing to gain by winning and were playing them at home in the RBC Center where they were 22-13-5 on the year.  Unfortunately for the Canes, and their fans, it quickly turned into a nightmare as the Lightning scored 3 unanswered goals in the 1st period to suck the energy right out of the building.  The Hurricanes wouldn't recover and ended up losing 6-2 thus ending their season.

"I think there's a chance it was shock at 3-0," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said in an interview with after the disappointing loss. "It happened so fast that you're shell-shocked a little bit, and then the enormity of how much you put into it and where it's at, I think that made it difficult for us."

Captain Eric Staal echoed his coaches sentiments, "We worked our butts off all year to have this opportunity at home and we didn't get the job done."

I thought for sure the Hurricanes would make it into the playoffs.  I figured there was no way they lose with Cam Ward in net and Eric Staal knowing what was on the line but clearly they choked.  They didn't play a strong game defensively and didn't set the tone early instead playing a style of hockey more suited to Tampa Bay's strengths.

Luckily for the Hurricanes they aren't the only choke artists in the league as the Dallas Stars also blew their glorious chance to make it into the playoffs when they lost 5-3 to the Minnesota Wild on Sunday night.

The Stars were all but out of the playoff race going into the weekend but on Sunday afternoon they were given a second chance at playoff life.  The second chance came thanks to a 4-3 Blackhawks loss at home to the Detroit Red Wings.  The defending Stanley Cup champions knew they controlled their playoff fate and would be guaranteed the 7th or 8th seed with a win, but they blew it.

"I can't even believe we're here right now," said Hawks captain Jonathan Toews during his post-game press conference to the media. "It's so frustrating that it has to come down to this. I'm pretty much speechless."

If the Stars had beaten the Wild, the Blackhawks would have become the 5th team in NHL history to win a Stanley Cup one year and fail to make the playoffs the following season.  The 1967-68 Maple Leafs, 1969-70 Canadiens, 1995-96 Devils and 2006-07 Hurricanes are the only teams to fail to make the playoffs the season after winning the Cup.

But the Hawks don't have to worry about adding their names to that list thanks to the choke job by the Dallas Stars and believe me it was a choke job.  The Wild played backup goalie Jose Theodore instead of Niklas Backstrom and most of the Wild's best players (John Madden, Martin Havlat and Nick Shultz) weren't even in the lineup.  No the Dallas Stars got shut down by a Wild team that was filled with minor league call ups and backstopped by a goalie that only started 28 games this year, winning just 14 of them.

Its crazy to think that two teams could play 81 games working so hard to try and get into the playoffs and then lose the most important game of their season to teams that had nothing to play for.  In the case of the Stars they couldn't even beat a team that, based on the roster they put on the ice, looked like they were trying to lose.

Both teams will now have a full off-season to reflect on just how exactly they blew their respective chances to potentially win a Stanley Cup.  You can't ask for much more than to control your own playoff destiny and for the Canes and Stars it was too much pressure to handle.  Then again by losing both teams proved that they didn't deserve to make the playoffs and the teams that got in are the correct teams.

I am more pissed than shocked that the Wild won as I was banking on a Stars win so that my Vancouver Canucks wouldn't have to play the Blackhawks in the opening round.  Now I have to sit and watch as Roberto Luongo gets ravaged by Patrick Kane backhands.  Thanks a lot Dallas.

Random YouTube Video (Fail compilation seems appropriate)

1 comment:

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