Five years ago, the Stanley Cup was raised above the head of then-captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Dave Andreychuk. Two years later, Rod Brind’amour, the captain of the Carolina Hurricanes, had the same once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Now, it’s November 2009, and both of those teams have reputations of being some of the worst teams in the National Hockey League.
People talk about the downfalls of the Ottawa Senators, and the New York Rangers, but to me, the woes of the ’Canes and the Bolts are never heard. To see what I am talking about, let’s take a look back in time.
During the 2003-2004 season, the Lightning seemed unbeatable. Coming off of a heart-breaking second round loss to the New Jersey Devils in the 02-03 playoffs, the Lightning were the League’s finest. In the regular season, they posted an impressive record of 46-21-8-6.
After easily motoring through the Islanders and Habs in the first and second rounds 4-1 and 4-0, the Lightning would get a real challenge in the Philadelphia Flyers during the third round. Handily winning the first game of the series 3-1, the Lightning were dominated by the Flyers in game 2, losing 6-2. Heading to Philly, the Lightning knew that they were in trouble, and needed a win. That win would come for them, and at the best possible time, as the Lighting pound Philly, and disappoint the Orange Crush, by winning 4-1.
TBL showed that they were fighters, and they would go on to beat the Flyers, in an unbelievable game 7, and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. Their SCF opponents were severely mismatched and they were, the Cinderella Calgary Flames. Compared to the Lightning’s 104 points, the Flames only hauled in 94 points, for 6th place in the west.
However, the Flames proved that the playoffs were a whole new season. They made it all the way to the Cup, and were inches away from grasping the Cup from the grip of the Tampa Bay Lightning, only to fall in game 7. All they could do was watch, while Tampa triumphed.
The Lightning would come out of the lockout as Cup Champs, but nowhere near the team they were two seasons ago. With Nikolai Khabibulin in Chicago, Dave Andreychuk at age 42, and a starting goalie by the name of John Grahame, they were middle of the pack at best.
That middle of the pack team turned out to live up to their hype, as the Lightning finished 8th in the east, and were thrown around by the Ottawa Senators 4-1 in the first round. Here in November, the Lightning are coming off a shocking(no pun intended) 24-40-18 season, and were the second worst team in the league on paper. After the transition to this, from winning the Stanley Cup just 4 years ago, it’s hard to argue that the Lightning completely fell apart. Many can say that the 2005-2006 season was the beginning of their downfall.
Funnily enough, the 05-06 season was also the year that the Carolina Hurricanes ruled the NHL. They weren’t quite as dominant as the Lightning were a year ago, but they had their fair share of wins, posting a 52-22-8 record. That impressive regular season performance, was good enough for second place in the Eastern Conference, and 4th in the NHL.
However, despite a good regular season display, their first round opponents, the Montreal Canadiens, proved once again that the Playoffs are a whole new season. They won the first two games of the series, in Carolina, and many people thought that the ’Canes were done for. However, Rod’s Red bounced back, not allowing another win from the Habs, and winning the series 4-2.
After that scare, the Hurricanes moved to their second round opponents, the New Jersey Devils. Not wanting a repeat of the first round, the ‘Canes crushed the Devils in game 1 at the RBS Centre, 6-0. That set up the series, as the Hurricanes would win, 4-2. However, the Devils did give the Hurricanes a scare in game 2, forcing them to tie the game with 3 seconds remaining.
The Buffalo Sabres would be the third round opponents for the Hurricanes, and once again, it wasn’t going to be easy to fend off the Sabres, who were hungry for a Cup Final. The last time that they made it to the finals, it was 2000, when the Stanley Cup was won by the infamous Brett Hull goal.
Another nail-biting, Cup Crazy series and another game 7, but the Hurricanes came out on top after 4 one goal games, and they were off to their first ever Stanley Cup Final. In the Cup Final, the ‘Canes would play another heavily mismatched team, the 8th place Edmonton Oilers. For the Oilers, it came down to the last game of the regular season to see if they would even qualify for the SCP’s.
However, the Oilers never gave up. After losing games 1 and 2, going home they needed to get something going fast. They did, and ended up pushing the Hurricanes to the limit. This series needed seven. In the seventh game, the Hurricanes would clinch their first ever Stanley Cup, in their second ever Final.
After that unbelievable season, the Hurricanes would fail to even qualify for the playoffs in 06-07, and finish 11th in the Eastern Conference. After another disappointing season in 07-08, the ‘Canes would finish sixth in the east, and even defy the odds, and go all the way to the Conference Final, where they would lose to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
However this season, things aren’t going too well for the Carolina Hurricanes. They are just 2-11-3, and only have 7 points. It’s hard to think that just 3 years ago, this team was a League powerhouse, and now they are behind the Leafs. The 09-10 Lightning are 6-4-5, and are currently 7th in the east. It seems like a good rebound for them, and could quite possibly make the playoffs. Now, the daunting question is, with Cam Ward out for at least 6 weeks, and a freshly signed, Manny Legace, what will the Hurricanes do this season?
Thanks for reading, and have a nice day.