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Penguins Stanley Cup Report: 4/29/03

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

By Dave Molinari, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Canucks vs. Wild, 8 p.m. today, Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minn. TV: ESPN. This Western Conference semifinal is tied, 1-1. Tempers flared after the buzzer of Game 2 Sunday and several fights broke out near the benches. Five players were given misconducts.

NOTEBOOK

Anaheim was looking to take a 3-0 lead in its series with Dallas when the teams met at the Arrowhead Pond last night, and to earn at least one footnote in playoff history: The Mighty Ducks were trying to become the first team since the 1994 New York Rangers to win seven consecutive playoff games; Detroit and Dallas each won six in a row in 1999. What's more, Anaheim has a chance to become the first team to knock off the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds in the same year since the NHL adopted current format in 1994. The Stars are the top seed in the Western Conference while Detroit, which Anaheim eliminated in four games, was No. 2. Still, despite opening the playoffs with a half-dozen one-goal victories against high-caliber opponents, the Mighty Ducks are viewed in some quarters as a fluke, a team thriving because of the confluence of great goaltending, suspect officiating and superior luck. "Maybe we haven't gotten the respect that the whole team deserves," G Jean-Sebastien Giguere told the Los Angeles Times. "Maybe that's because we haven't won anything yet. After the last few years, I guess it is going to take a lot of wins for people to see that the Ducks are a good team now."

Tampa Bay John Tortorella was curt, and occasionally profane, during his news conference after the Lightning's 3-2 overtime loss to New Jersey in Game 2 of that series. And while he didn't apologize for his behavior, Tortorella did try to explain it a day later. "You want the honest truth?" he told reporters. "I don't like losing. I don't get over it in 15 minutes. I don't want to disrespect anybody, but I hate losing. I can't sit in the locker room for 15 minutes and cool down. I'm a bad loser, and I want my players to be bad losers. You know how your old high school coach used to tell you to be a good loser? Well, if you're a good loser, you're a loser. And I mean that. I don't want to disrespect anybody, but I believe that."

Willie Mitchell has established himself as Minnesota's go-to defenseman in these playoffs, even though he is playing with a full facemask to protect a cheekbone injury he got in Round 1. Mitchell wore similar protection during two years of college hockey at Clarkson, but told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that it still causes him a lot of trouble. "It's hot, it fogs up, you always have to clean it," he said. "I think I might have to go out and get a haircut here. You get pushed around and the hair falls down and gets in your face and stuff like that."

Trying to earn a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup would seem to be plenty of incentive for almost any player, but Philadelphia C Jeremy Roenick apparently needed a little more before his team's victory Sunday. A line in an Ottawa Citizen story said that if the Senators, who had won the series opener, took Game 2, their fans could book tickets for the Eastern Conference final. While that seemed harmless enough, Roenick was sufficiently outraged to call it to the attention of his teammates. "It was a smack in the face, and the guys didn't like that very much," Roenick told Philadelphia reporters. "It wasn't their team saying it, it was the media saying it. I think we're a team that deserves some respect because of the way we've played this year, and they didn't show us any by some of the stuff they said. I had it and I showed it to every guy on the team [before Game 2]. It fired up a bunch of guys. Ottawa can thank their media for being a bunch of idiots."

Even though Dave Tippett of Dallas is in his first season as a head coach in the NHL, he has been around the game long enough to understand the pressures of the job. To say nothing of the second-guessing by the media and public that goes with it. And he has come up with a novel way of dealing with it. "The TV in my office," Tippett told the Dallas Morning News, "doesn't have any speakers."

The temperature in Tampa, Fla., yesterday was expected to crest in the upper 80s, and the humidity didn't figure to be much lower. Factor in an anticipated crowd of about 21,000, and the ice at the St. Pete Times Forum was guaranteed to be less than ideal for Game 3 between the Lightning and Devils. Not that anyone seemed terribly surprised, or even upset, about it. "It isn't going to be much worse than we have [at Continental Airlines Arena]," Devils LW Patrik Elias told the Newark Star-Ledger. "We don't have good ice. However the ice is, it will be the same for both teams." The Lightning, it should be noted, spared no expense in trying to make the ice as good as possible. The club reportedly is renting eight extra dehumidifiers for $30,000 per month, outfitted Zambonis with a $20,000 system that delivers water in a finer mist and invested $100,000 in a high-tech ice covering.

The first round proved just how tenacious Minnesota can be, as the Wild overcame a 3-1 deficit to upset heavily favored Colorado, and its reinforced that point with a 3-2 victory in Vancouver Sunday night. And while Canucks captain Markus Naslund told the Vancouver Sun that his team is causing its own problems -- "We invited them back into the series," Naslund said. "We could have got a 2-0 lead if we just played the right way" -- teammate Trent Klatt credited the Wild with executing its strategy to near-perfection. "They are just really clogging up the ice," Klatt said. "They are forcing everything to the outside. We have to realize we should skate through that. We can't pass through it. We're getting shots, but I don't think we had presence in front of the net. We've got to be hungry and pay a price to stand in front of the net."

Flyers G Roman Cechmanek attributes at least some of his success in Game 2, when he stopped all 33 Ottawa shots, to remembering his roots. Specifically, the east-west game that predominates in Europe, but is relatively rare in North America. Because the Senators have 11 Europeans on their roster, including most of their top forwards, they are more inclined to use the width of the rink to create scoring chances than the typical NHL club. "They play European hockey, and they wait for the [quality] chance," Cechmanek told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "I have to be ready for it. Maybe I was playing more of a [North] American style, and I now have to remember how I played in the Czech Republic."

Minnesota Coach Jacques Lemaire likes a lot that he has seen from young D Filip Kuba. The list, however, the blond dye job Kuba got on his hair before the second round. "It's awful," Lemaire told reporters. "I hope he likes it. And I hope it was cheap."

Playoffs aren't exactly a rite of spring in Tampa -- the Lightning qualified only once in the previous 10 years, in 1996 -- but Lightning players seem to have an appreciation of postseason traditions. While playoff beards aren't as popular as they were a decade or two ago, they've become increasingly common in the Tampa Bay locker room lately. "You know, as you grow up, you watch hockey and the playoffs and you see all the guys grow beards," RW Martin St. Louis told the St. Petersburg Times. "It's kind of neat. I want to live the playoff life to the fullest. I hope to have a big beard by the time it's done."

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