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The Ones that Got Away

by chewy 11. September 2009 12:59
 

Few things are more frustrating for a hockey fan than to see your team draft a great prospect, watch him come up through the ranks to become a star, only to then see him leave as a free agent or trade.  It's the reality of the NHL, but imagine if it wasn't so.  Imagine a world where your team could keep every player it ever drafted.  How different would the NHL landscape be today?  Would the Penguins and Redwings still be the powerhouse teams?  Would the Lightning, Avalanche and Islanders be swimming in the basement?  To get to the bottom of this, I took a look at the key drafted players who have since departed.   First, we'll look at who has lost the most by position, and then we'll go team by team on the key losses.

 

Goalies

 

San Jose - The Sharks have given up the most talent in net recently, trading away both Vesa Toskala and Mikka Kiprusoff, mostly because they had Nabokov in the fold.

 

Montreal - While most Canadiens won't mourn the loss of Jose Theodore, it sure would be nice to have Tomas Vokoun hanging around, in the event that Carey Price can't recover and live up to expectations.

 

Anaheim - The Ducks have been stacked in net, as witnessed by their current tandem of Giguere and Hiller.  Because of this, they were able to let Ilya Bryzgalov and Martin Gerber go over the years.

 

NY Islanders - Sure, having DiPietro sit for 15 years sounds great, but I'm thinking holding on to Roberto Luongo might have been a better idea.

 

 

Defense

 

Montreal - It's ridiculous to consider the talent that has come and gone through the Canadiens system, leaving them with Hal Gill?  Here's a sampling: Mark Streit, Mike Komisarek, Ron Hainsey, Francois Beauchemin, Aaron Asham, Stephane Robidas, Craig Rivet, Patrice Brisebois

 

LA Kings - It's equally offensive to Kings fans to think about what might have been on the LA blueline had they not let some of these guys go:  Denis Grebeshkov, Andreas Lilja, Lubomir Visnovsky, Joe Corvo, Kimmo Timonen, Rob Blake, Darryl Sydor

 

NY Islanders - Once again, what were the Islanders smoking when they let some of these guys go? - Chris Campoli, Eric Brewer, Zdeno Chara, Wade Redden, Brad Lukowich, Bryan McCabe

 

 

Offense

 

Colorado - The Avalanche experienced a decade of success, but over that time, they were forced to allow some pretty good talent leave town up front.  Consider: Alex Tanguay, Sami Pahlsson, Chris Drury, Owen Nolan, Mats Sundin

 

Edmonton - The Oilers might have had a little more success had they held on to some of these guys: Jarret Stoll, Matt Lombardi, Mike Comrie, Ryan Smyth, Jason Arnott, Miro Satan, Kirk Maltby

 

Ottawa - The story in Ottawa would be dramatically different had they kept these guys in the fold.  If nothing else, they wouldn't have the Heatley crisis on their hands.  Patrick Eaves, Brooks Laich, Antoine Vermette, Martin Havlat, Marian Hossa, Pavol Demitra

 

 

Team by Team

 

Here is the most prominent names by team, with the one that hurts the most highlighted.

 


Anaheim

Goalies:  Ilya Bryzgalov, Martin Gerber

Defense:  Jordan Leopold, Shane O'Brien

Offense:  Paul Kariya, Matt Cullen

 

Atlanta

Goalies:  None

Defense: Braydon Coburn

Offense: Dany Heatley

 

Buffalo

Goalies:  Martin Biron

Defense: Keith Ballard, Dennis Wideman, Brian Campbell, Cory Sarich

Offense: None

 

Boston

Goalies: Andrew Raycroft

Defense: Milan Jurcina, Hal Gill

Offense: Kris Versteeg, Joe Thornton, Sergei Samsonov

 

Calgary

Goalies: None

Defense: Kurtis Foster

Offense: Matt Lombardi, Chuck Kobasew, Travis Moen, Cory Stillman

 

Chicago

Goalies: Craig Anderson

Defense: Anton Babchuk, James Wisniewski

Offense: Tuomo Ruutu, Tyler Arnason, Daniel Cleary

 

Carolina

Goalies: J.S. Giguere

Defense:  Jack Johnson, Chris Pronger

Offense: Andrew Ladd, Bobby Holik

 

Columbus

Goalies:  Pascal Leclaire

Defense: None

Offense: Nik Zherdev

 

Colorado

Goalies: Tim Thomas

Defense: Tom Gilbert, Kurt Sauer, Martin Skoula

Offense: Alex Tanguay, Sami Pahlsson, Chris Drury, Owen Nolan, Mats Sundin

 

Dallas

Goalies: Dan Ellis

Defense: None

Offense: Jussi Jokinen, Jarome Iginla, Jamie Langenbrunner

 

Detroit

Goalies: None

Defense: Kyle Quincey, Mathieu Dandenault

Offense: Tomas Fleischmann, Mike Knuble, Slava Kozlov

 

Edmonton

Goalies: None

Defense: Matt Greene, Tom Poti

Offense: Jarret Stoll, Matt Lombardi, Mike Comrie, Ryan Smyth, Jason Arnott, Miro Satan, Kirk Maltby

 

Florida

Goalies: Alex Auld

Defense: Jay Bouwmeester, Jaroslav Spacek, Filip Kuba, Ed Jovanavski

Offense: Niklas Hagman, Kristian Huselius

 

Los Angeles

Goalies:  Cristobal Huet

Defense: Denis Grebeshkov, Andreas Lilja, Lubomir Visnovsky, Joe Corvo, Kimmo Timonen, Rob Blake, Darryl Sydor

Offense: Mike Cammalleri, Olli Jokinen

 

Minnesota

Goalies: None

Defense: None

Offense: Patrick O'Sullivan, Marian Gaborik

 

Montreal

Goalies: Jose Theodore, Tomas Vokoun

Defense: Mark Streit, Mike Komisarek, Ron Hainsey, Francois Beauchemin, Aaron Asham, Stephane Robidas, Craig Rivet, Patrice Brisebois

Offense: Christopher Higgins, Mike Ribeiro, Michael Ryder, Saku Koivu, Darcy Tucker, Craig Conroy

 

Nashville

Goalies: None

Defense: Karlis Skrastins

Offense: Scottie Upshall, Scott Hartnell

 

New Jersey

Goalies: Scott Clemmensen

Defense: Mike Commodore, Willie Mitchell, Sheldon Souray, Scott Niedermeyer

Offense: Michael Rupp, Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta, Petr Sykora, Steve Sullivan, Brendan Morrison, Bill Guerin

 

NY Isles

Goalies: Roberto Luongo

Defense: Chris Campoli, Eric Brewer, Zdeno Chara, Wade Redden, Brad Lukowich, Bryan McCabe

Offense: Robert Nilsson, Raffi Torres, Tim Connolly, Michael Rupp, J.P. Dumont, Todd Bertuzzi, Derek Armstrong

 

NY Rangers

Goalies: None

Defense: Fedor Tyutin, Marek Zidlicky

Offense: Nigel Dawes, Petr Prucha, Dominic Moore, Manny Malhotra, Marc Savard, Alexei Kovalev, Doug Weight

 

Ottawa

Goalies: None

Defense: Andrej Meszaros, Tim Gleason, Sami Salo

Offense: Patrick Eaves, Brooks Laich, Antoine Vermette, Martin Havlat, Marian Hossa, Pavol Demitra

 

Philadelphia

Goalies: Antero Niittymaki, Johan Hedberg

Defense: Joni Pitkanen, Dennis Seidenberg

Offense: Steve Downie, Patrick Sharp, Justin Williams, Vinny Prospal

 

Phoenix

Goalies: Nikolai Khabibulin

Defense: Aaron Ward

Offense: Blake Wheeler, Fredrik Sjostrom, Daniel Briere, Keith Tkachuk, Kris Draper, Teemu Selanne

 

Pittsburgh

Goalies: Patrick Lalime

Defense: Ryan Whitney, Rob Scuderi, Andrew Ference, Michal Roszival

Offense: Daniel Carcillo, Erik Christensen, Colby Armstrong, Ryan Malone, Richard Park, Mark Recchi

 

San Jose

Goalies: Vesa Toskala, Miikka Kiprusoff

Defense: Matt Carle, Christian Ehrhoff, Brad Stuart

Offense: Mikael Samuelsson, Marco Sturm, Ray Whitney

 

St. Louis

Goalies: None

Defense: None

Offense: Lee Stempniak, Michal Handzus, Rod Brind'Amour

 

Tampa Bay

Goalies: None

Defense: Paul Mara, Pavel Kubina, Roman Hamrlik

Offense: Brad Richards, Daymond Langkow

 

Toronto

Goalies: Tuukka Rask

Defense: None

Offense: Kyle Wellwood, Brad Boyes, Nik Antropov, Fredrik Modin

 

Vancouver

Goalies: None

Defense: Mattias Ohlund, Adrian Aucoin

Offense: RJ Umberger, Jarkko Ruutu, Matt Cooke, Scott Walker

 

Washington

Goalies: None

Defense: Steve Eminger, Nathan Paetsch, Johnny Oduya, Sergei Gonchar

Offense: Andrew Brunette

Never-Drafted All-star team

by chewy 9. September 2009 06:04
 

Who says the draft is so important?  Sure, the overwhelming majority of players enter the NHL through traditional means.  But, there is a lot of talent in the NHL right now that never heard their name called at the draft table.  You could assemble quite a team from these overlooked gems.  Maybe Jim Balsillie can start his own squad by sifting through the junior ranks and European circuit.

 

I've assembled what I think to be a pretty decent roster of undrafted players.  I'm sure I missed a few.  Interestingly enough, the Cup winning Pens have four undrafted names, while the runner up Redwings boasted three of their own.  Here it is:

 

Goalie:

Niklas Backstrom

Dwayne Roloson

Ty Conklin

 

Defense

Dan Boyle - Marc-Andre Bergeron

Mark Eaton - Tom Preissing

Brian Rafalski - Brett Lebda

 

Offense

Martin St. Louis - Andy McDonald - Jason Blake

Sean Avery - John Madden - Chris Kunitz

Alex Burrows - Dustin Penner - Ruslan Fedotenko

Todd White - Pascal Dupuis - Chad Larose

 

Amazing to think that all those scouts missed out on the chance to add names like Backstrom, Boyle, Rafalski, and St. Louis to their rosters.

The Coaching Plank

by chewy 7. August 2009 12:45
 the plank

If the last 10 years are any indication, we should expect a few coaching changes over the upcoming season.  There were 11 coaching changes so far since the calendar turned to 2009.  That means over 1/3 of the teams have a new guy behind the bench.  So, is there anyone left to fire?  Also consider, there are only 2 coaches left in the league who have been in place for more than 4 years (and we're predicting both of those streaks will come to an end).  Here are the top 7 coaches most likely to be out of work by the end of the season:

 

#7 - Barry Trotz, Nashville Predators

It's been an amazing run for the second longest tenured coach in the league.  Conventional wisdom would have had him gone several times already, but the Nashville brass was wise and patient enough to stick with their guy.  The problem is in going forward, things are changing, and they're not for the good in Music Town.  First off, the Central Division is quickly transforming from the worst in the league, to perhaps the best.   Everyone is getting better, while Nashville is standing still.  Possibly even retreating.   Off the ice, things still aren't stable with the organization.  The Phoenix situation has made most fans forget that Nashville is still dealing with ownership problems, too.  When that happens, and a team slides out of the playoff picture, the coach sometimes suffers.  Even a fixture like Trotz is not immune.

 

#6 - Jacques Martin, Montreal Canadiens

Martin may go down in history as the shortest lived coach in franchise history.  He has yet to step behind the bench, but you have to believe he's already at risk.  Consider the recent history in Montreal.   The team is in a freefall, and Gainey has shown in the past 6 months, he'll do anything to hang on to his own skin, including hanging an effective coach out to dry.  Couple that with the fact that there's a new owner in town.  Gainey himself may be on his way out soon, and when a new GM comes in, his first order of business is usually to name his own coach.  Particularly if the team's not performing well.  Doesn't seem far-fetched to see Martin back on the market come spring.

 

#5 - Lindy Ruff, Buffalo Sabres

The other long-tenured veteran out there may be nearing the end of the line in 2009.  The Sabres have underperformed over the past few years, resulting in some time off from the postseason.  Sabres fans have had next to nothing to be excited about lately, and sooner or later, that's going to result in fans staying home from hockey and watching T.O. catch balls on Sunday.  This is a make-or-break season for Ruff.  If the Sabres aren't in the playoff picture in January, look for the ax to fall.


 

#4 - Peter Deboer, Florida Panthers

It's not that Deboer is necessarily doing anything wrong.  He got the Panthers within a sniff of the playoffs last season.  It's another case of a new GM in a town that needs change and needs to reach the playoffs to stay viable.  If the Panthers struggle out of the gate, Deboer may be the fall guy.

 

#3 - Alain Vigneault, Vancouver Canucks

Same story once again.  Vigneault is a carry over from the previous administration.  These situations very seldomly work out in favor of the coach.  That is, unless the team is meeting expectations, which the Canucks have not.  Vancouver has had some decent teams over the past 5 years, but it hasn't translated into any kind of post-season success.  Despite the big investments in players like Luongo and Sundin, Vancouver has been an easy first round matchup in the playoffs.  The team didn't keep pace with the division this summer in terms of improving the roster, but Canucks fans will hold this team accountable if they don't start to succeed.  Once again, fans and management will start the blame game with the man who has been behind the bench for the past 3 years.  If the Canucks aren't leading the division by the Olympic break, there will be a new coach in town.

 

#2 - Rick Tocchett, Tampa Bay Lightning

Sure, it's not necessarily Tocchett's fault that this franchise is in shambles, and it doesn't necessarily make sense to fire a guy who hasn't been around for a full year.  But when's the last time anything made sense in Tampa Bay?  The Lightning will most likely continue their freefall this season and miss the playoffs yet again.  At some point, the squabbling owner/mgmt squad will take it out on the coach.  And it will probably happen in the midst of a winning streak.  Look for the Lightning to hire Paul Newman after Oren Koules catches a rerun of Slapshot on TBS.

 

#1 - Wayne Gretzky, Phoenix Coyotes

It seem sac religious to some to think that Wayne Gretzky could be fired, but when you look objectively at the situation, #99 is first in line to get canned this fall.  First off, consider his record.  Four seasons in the desert, and the team has yet to drink from the post-season fountain.  Any other coach in any other town would have been fired already.  As passionate and knowledgeable as the man is, it is conceivable that he's just not coaching material.  Playing and coaching are two different skills altogether, and there's nothing in the books that shows the Gretzky has what it takes to get this team where they need to be.  Consider also that the Coyotes were in 5th place late last season, only to collapse down the stretch.  Add to the mix the chaos outside of the rinks.  When a new owner arrives, don't be surprised to see him cleaning house altogether.  Gretzky may remain in some capacity, but there will be a new man behind the bench before Christmas.

Team of the Decade - Part 2

by chewy 6. August 2009 10:12
 

In the last post, we covered round 1 of the Champions from the past decade.  Here were the results:

 

2001 Colorado Avalanche defeated the  2009 Pittsburgh Penguins

2002 Detroit Redwings defeated the 2008 Detroit Redwings

2007 Anaheim Ducks defeated the 2003 NJ Devils

2006 Carolina Hurricanes defeated the 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning

 

Round 2:

 

2001 Colorado Avalanche -vs- 2007 Anaheim Ducks

No doubt, this series would have gotten ugly from the puck drop.  The Ducks were built tough and the Avalanche weren't the type to back down.  Recall the many blood baths between Colorado and Detroit at the turn of the century.  With a high level of physical play, special teams were bound to play a major role in the outcome of this series.  The 2001 Avalanche was a force on the power play.  With Ray Bourque and Rob Blake manning the points, there were plenty of opportunities for the Colorado forwards to pound rebound and deflections past Giguere.  Even with the Ducks' storied shutdown line of Pahlsson, Moen, and Niedermeyer, the Colorado offense would have scored goals in bunches.

 

On the other side, the top 2 lines in Anaheim were close to unstoppable in 2007.  Selanne and Kunitz lit it up on line 1, while the young tandem of Getzlaf and Perry, joined by Penner, were coming into their own that spring.  However, Adam Foote and company would have had just enough to minimize their impact.  And whatever did get through would have been swallowed up by Roy.

Avalanche in 6


 

 

2002 Detroit Redwings -vs- 2006 Carolina Hurricanes

Consider this the grudge match from the 2002 series, where a very different Hurricanes team put up a good fight, but fell short by 1 goal in several games.  The 02' Hurricanes were lead by Francis, but were missing many of the key players in the 06 version.  So, it's tough to draw any conclusions based off that series.  Nonetheless, the results may very well have been the same.  The truth is that as solid as the 2006 Canes were, they didn't face a team that spring that compared to the 2002 Wings.  Although the Oilers took them to 7 games, the toughest challenge that spring came from the Sabres.  Buffalo demonstrated in that series that a quick, puck moving defense could neutralize the speedy forecheck that the Canes relied on.  The 2002 Redwings were built like those Sabres on the backend, and would have had similar success in shutting down the Hurricane offense.

 

On the other side, the array of offensive weapons that the Wings brought to the table that spring would have picked apart the mediocre Canes defense.  The only thing that might have changed the landscape would have been the Conn Smythe play of Cam Ward.  Even so, it wouldn't have been enough to win 4 games against this Detroit squad.

Detroit in 7

 

 

Round 3:

 

2001 Colorado Avalanche -vs- 2002 Detroit Redwings

Based on Rounds 1 & 2, it's evident that the glory days of the past decade were in the first couple of seasons.  That era was dominated by the Avalanche and Redwings, with the Stars occasionally interrupting the story.  So, it's no surprise that these two teams have found themselves pitted head to head for the title of Team of the Decade.

 

 To be fair, if this series were played 10 times, it could wind up 5-5.  When these teams met during that time period, it was always a toss up as to who would win, so we're really splitting hairs in trying to pick a winner. In fact, the 02 Avalanche took Detroit to a game 7 before collapsing in the Western Conference Finals.

 

Colorado's top lines:

Sakic - Drury - Hinote

Forsberg - Tanguay - Hejduk

Reinprecht - Parker - Messier

 

Bourque - Foote

Blake - de Vries

Klemm - Skoula

 

Roy

 

Detroit's top lines:

Yzerman - Shanahan - Hull

Fedorov - Robitaille - Holmstrom

Datsyuk - Maltby - Draper

 

Lidstrom - Duchesne

Fischer - Olausson

Chelios - Slegr

 

Hasek

 

 

As good as the Avalanche was in 2001, you just can't match the 2002 Redwings in terms of depth and balance.  This team could roll four lines like none other in the past decade or more.  (Hall of Famer Larionov centered the fourth line.)  Colorado relied more heavily on their top 6 forwards, which would have worn down over a 7 game series with the Wings.

 

Defensively, these teams were fairly evenly matched.  Both had a good mix of speed and shut down abilities, and were plenty deep enough.  Goaltending was also a toss up, with the two of the all-time best in Roy and Hasek.

 

In the end, the Wings would have had just enough to get past the Avalanche to be named the Team of the Decade.

 

 

Team of the Decade (/Century/Millennium)

by chewy 3. August 2009 07:44
 

We've reached the end of a decade, so it's time to consider who was the best championship team over the last ten years.  But since it's also the start of the 21st century, we can go one step further.  So, over the next few posts, we will be working our way towards naming the Team of the Millennium.  We've had 9 Stanley Cup champions, thanks to the 2005 lockout, but only room for 8 in a nice clean bracket.  So, we'll start with a play-in game between the 2000 Devils and 2001 Avalanche.  After that, we'll pair off matchups, pitting oldest against most recent.  After 3 rounds, we will have identified the best team of the decade, and of 21st century (so far).

 

Play-In Game:

 

 2000 NJ Devils -vs- 2001 Colorado Avalanche

It's stifling defense against a powerhouse offense, in a classic clash of styles.  Seeing how the Avalanche actually beat essentially the same Devils team in 2001, it would be hard to justify anything but a Colorado victory in round.  So let's move on to the big Show.

Avalanche in 7.

 

 

Round 1:

 

2001 Colorado Avalanche -vs- 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins

This would have been a wildly entertaining series to witness.   On one hand, you have a 1-2 punch at center featuring Sakic and Forsberg, complimented by the scoring of Hejduk and Tanguay up front, with Bourque and Blake running the show from the blueline.  On the other side is the 1-2 punch of Crosby and Malkin, with a mixture of scoring from the likes of Guerin, Staal and Talbot, backed up by Gonchar on the D.  The difference here may have come down to goaltending.  And that's where Colorado gains the advantage.  Fleury has proven himself to be a worthy netminder, but he hasn't approach Patrick Roy territory (unless you're talking about character and class, in which case, he blows him away).  The bottom line is that the Penguins were a surprise to make to the playoffs, a surprise to get past Washington, and a shock to come back against the Redwings.  The Avalanche were favored to win the Cup in 2001, and they delivered.  Advantage Colorado.

Avalanche in 6.


 

 

 

2002 Detroit Redwings -vs- 2008 Detroit Redwings

When you win the cup as often as Detroit does, you're inevitably going to have to face yourself sooner or later.  And who better to upset the Redwings in Round 1, but the Redwings.  But which one?  Let's start in net:  Both teams started their Cup runs with Dominic Hasek in net.  The difference is in 2008, Hasek was old, fragile, and on the decline.  He was quickly replaced by Osgood, who was spectacular.  As good as he was, however, he wasn't up to Hasek in his prime.  The goaltending edge goes to the 2002 squad.

 

On defense, the 2009 squad was more well-rounded, featuring Brian Rafalski, Brad Stuart, and Niklas Kronwall opposite the 2002 lineup with Fredrik Olausson, Steve Duchesne, and Jiri Fischer.  Lidstrom was equally effective as a 32 year old as he was at age 38, so that's a wash.  Advantage here goes to the 2008 Redwings.

 

So it comes down to offense, and possibly, coaching.  Here is where the 2002 Redwings shine.  Yzerman, Larionov, Shanahan, Hull, Fedorov, Robitaille and a young Datsyuk comprised one of the greatest offenses ever.  The only key additions the 2008 lineup had over this one were Zetterberg and Franzen.  While those are key pieces, they are nothing compared to the 2002 Wings.  Add in Scotty Bowman, and it's apparent that 2002 was the better team.

2002 Wings in 5.

 

2003 NJ Devils -vs- 2007 Anaheim Ducks

This is the toughest of the four series to call.  Yes, the 2003 Devils proved they could beat Anaheim in the finals already, but the 2003 Mighty Ducks and the 2007 version are completely different animals.  Even the team name changed.  So put that aside and consider the facts.

 

The 07 Ducks had one of the greatest top 2 defensive stars ever, with Niedermeyer and Pronger on the same roster.  However, the Devils weren't too shabby either, considering they also featured Niedermeyer, this time with Stevens and Rafalski for support.  We'll call that even and move on.

 

Although on the surface, it's safe to say that Brodeur would be favored over Giguere, remember: Giguere actually captured the Conn Smythe in 2003, besting Brodeur head to head.  The 2007 run for Giggy was equally impressive, once again leaving us with a deadlock at this position.

 

Both teams featured dominating shut-down 3rd lines.  So, this series also comes down to the stars on offense.  At which point, the Ducks show a slight edge.  You have to believe that Getzlaf, Perry, MacDonald,  Kunitz, and Selanne would have found a way to score.  And it seems reasonable to think that the Ducks could have effectively contained the likes of Elias, Nieuwendyk, Langenbrunner, and Gomez.

Ducks in 7.

 

2004 Tampa Bay Lightning -vs- 2006 Carolina Hurricanes

These two teams were geared towards offense, but approached it in different ways.  The Lightning were a classic 2 line team, relying almost entirely on Lecavalier, Richarads, and St. Louis to do the scoring (which they obviously did well).  Beyond that, there was the occasional contribution from Fedotenko, Stillman, and Boyle.  On the other side, the Hurricanes were one of the most well-balanced teams of the decade.  It's hard to nail down which was the top line, when they had Stall, Cole, Whitney, Stillman, Weight, Recchi, Williams, and BrindAmour pitching in equally throughout the run.

 

Neither team produced much of note from the backend.  It was done more from committee.  Goaltending wise, both teams relied on hot runs from a goalie who entered the playoffs with question marks.  Khabibulin and Ward both got hot at the right time, and followed up their playoff glory with subpar seasons. 

 

All told, it seemed in 2006 that nothing could stop the Hurricanes.  In 2004, it seemed that most of the better teams got eliminated early, and the Lightning defaulted into the Championship.

Hurricanes in 5.

 

 

Coming up next… Round 2 featuring:

 

2001 Colorado Avalanche -vs- 2007 Anaheim Ducks

2002 Detroit Redwings -vs- 2006 Carolina Hurricanes

 

 

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