NHL Playoff Notebook
The NHL playoff notebook …
DETROIT ó It’s back.
The Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche will rekindle one of the NHL’s best rivalries tonight in Game 1 of a Western Conference semifinal.
Detroit and Colorado met in five postseasons between 1996-2002 ó with the Avs advancing three times ó and the franchises combined to win five Stanley Cups during that seven-year stretch.
“We pushed each other to be the best,” Red Wings forward Darren McCarty said Wednesday before facing Colorado for a sixth time in the playoffs. “It was a slugfest back and forth ó figuratively.”
Blood, brawls ó involving even goaltenders ó and broken bones made the matchups that much more interesting.
“You hated a few of those guys on that team,” McCarty said. “But you had the utmost respect for them.”
McCarty said he hated Claude Lemieux, who broke Kris Draper’s nose and jaw with a blind-sided check into the boards, and acknowledged he’s still loathed in Denver.
Draper and McCarty are two of the eight players who helped the Red Wings beat Colorado in the 2002 conference finals and win their third title in six years.
The Avs have just four players ó Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Adam Foote and Milan Hejduk ó still around from the previous matchup in the playoffs.
“If you’re part of that, you remember that. You know the buzz in both cities,” Sakic said. “The newer guys that weren’t around for those series are going to get a taste of it right away.”
Joel Quenneville agreed.
He experienced the rivalry behind the bench as an assistant on Colorado’s Stanley Cup-winning team in 1996.
“The guys that haven’t felt it or seen it will immediately capture the feeling, the excitement, the meaning of a shift,” Quenneville said. “The building will be loud and crazy.
“There are a lot of good things going into it, but whether you’ve been a part of it or not, you’ll be able to feel it.”
Both teams needed six games to advance to the second round and each scored 17 goals and gave up 12.
MONTREAL ó The Montreal Canadiens will face another team they swept during the regular season when they take on the Philadelphia Flyers in their Eastern Conference semifinal.
Montreal, the top seed in the East, won each of its four games against Philadelphia this season. The Canadiens were pushed to the limit in winning their first-round series against Boston in seven games after going 8-0 against the Bruins during the regular season.
“The regular season doesn’t mean anything now,” Montreal captain Saku Koivu said after Wednesday’s late afternoon practice. “Teams are very different in the playoffs, the intensity level is higher. We saw that in the Washington-Philadelphia series.”