May 9, 2003
Postcard: Stanley Cup Third Round Preview

These playoffs have forced us to lose sleep (too many overtimes), gain weight (can’t exercise; tv) and lose patience (why wasn’t game four of Minnesota-Vancouver televised nationally?).

And now, they’ve cost us work. Inside College Hockey had to throw out our Dallas-Colorado Conference Final preview jokes and start from scratch. We overcame that adversity, however, and like round one and round two, we’re back with a light-hearted look at the race for the Cup.

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INCH Pro-File: Paul Kariya
Previews: Round One | Round Two

If the abundance of ex-college stars isn’t enough for you, we’ve got some added college content as well: along with the preview, we tell you what recent college team most closely resembles the semifinalists.

Ottawa vs. New Jersey

With a pair of convincing five-game series victories thus far, New Jersey has been the most impressive thing in the playoffs this side of Coors Light’s “Wingman” commercial. Unlike the ad, however, watching the Devils gets old. Their fifth game against Tampa Bay was so dull, ESPN commentators were practically apologetic, and viewers in Toronto took to the streets – without surgical masks.

Meanwhile, the Senators head into the New Jersey series much like immigrants arriving at Ellis Island, a few slapshots from the Meadowlands – penniless, hungry and carrying the hopes of a nation. Ottawa – with a playoff history as unimpressive as its balance sheet – has dodged those demons thus far. Another series win and they become the first Canadian team since 1994 to reach the Cup finals.

College comparisons: The Devils are Cornell, playing great defense but shying away from the dreaded “trap” label. They even wear red. Small-market Ottawa, with an unheralded superstar in Marian Hossa, could pass for Ferris State and Chris Kunitz – with a little nicer rink than Ewigleben.

INCH Prediction: Ottawa in six

Minnesota vs. Anaheim

YOut West, Anaheim and Minnesota will meet with a Stanley Cup Finals berth on the line, a scenario that one month ago seemed as likely as Ken Hitchcock being named to People’s 50 Most Beautiful list. The Mighty Ducks have disposed of the top two seeds in the West, thanks to the heroics of Jean-Sebastien Giguere. An anonymous Republican strategist dismissed Giguere’s performance, however, saying that his name “sounds French.”

The last few days have felt like any other spring in Anaheim – no hockey games. But Minnesota, one day removed from its second seven-game series, has been busier than a strip club at the SEC football coaches convention. The Wild played games six and seven on back-to-back days in both of their first two series, becoming the first team ever to erase two 3-1 deficits in one season. Goaltender Dwayne Roloson credits the fact that everyone on the team has been counted out at one point or another – and he might have a point. How else do you explain the resurgence of those ugly mesh hats they were giving out at the NFL Draft?

College comparisons: The Wild are like Nebraska-Omaha from 2000 – rabid fans, unexpected success and a passionate style of play that makes up for a lack of big names. Anaheim, with a couple of Black Bears on its roster, seems a lot like this year’s Maine club – great young goaltending, and veteran talent up front. They haven’t suffered Maine’s fate down the stretch, however.

INCH Prediction: Minnesota in seven

– Nate Ewell

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