Thursday, June 4, 2009
It was on this date in 2002 that the Carolina Hurricanes opened the Stanley Cup finals with a 3-2 overtime victory versus the Detroit Red Wings on a goal by Ron Francis. The series would feature the first matchup between two European born goaltenders, the Red Wings veteran Czech Dominik Hasek and Carolina's Latvian Arturs Irbe.
Carolina was not expected to be much of a threat to even be in the finals. Despite winning the "South-least" Division with 91 points, they had the second lowest point total of any team in the playoffs that season!
Being that they were a division winner, such as it was, they were seeded third in the Eastern Conference, which allowed them to avoid a first round matchup with the #2 seed, the Philadelphia Flyers. Instead, they faced the #6 seeded New Jersey Devils, who they eliminated 4 games to 2. They would advance to the finals by beating the #8 seed, the Montreal Canadiens and the #4 seed, the Toronto Maple Leafs, also by 4-2 margins.
Carolina would fall behind in Game 1 in Detroit on a goal by Sergei Fedorov in the 1st period, but would equalize in the 2nd on a goal by Sean Hill. The teams would trade goals later on in the second half of the period and follow that with a scoreless 3rd.
Francis' winning goal came just 58 seconds into overtime, giving Irbe, who had made 23 saves on 25 shots, his one and only Stanley Cup finals victory, as Detroit would go onto win the next four games to capture the cup.
Today's jersey is a CCM 2001-02 Carolina Hurricanes Arturs Irbe jersey, featuring the 2002 Stanley Cup Finals patch. We are really a fans of the italicized font that the Hurricanes use for their jersey numbers. It really adds a touch of excitement and speed to the overall visual package and we're surprised more teams do not go that route. Currently only Carolina, Calgary and Nashville used italicized numbers.
Irbe is one of our all-time favorite players. He's got a great personal story and we are looking forward to sharing it with you over time, as we have a number of Irbe jerseys in the Third String Goalie collection. "Archie" was a very popular player in San Jose and Carolina and we were very excited for him to have a chance to play in the finals and only wish that he could have won the cup at some point in his career.
Dasherboard: Tonight is the critical Game 4 of the Stanley Cup playoffs, with Detroit at Pittsburgh. Detroit can take a commanding 3-1 with the next game on home ice, or Pittsburgh can even the series at 2-2, reducing the series to a best of 3.
Even if Pavel Datsyuk can return to the lineup after missing six games, you have to wonder a little about how effective he will be. Still, 80% of one of the best players in the league would be a welcome addition to any lineup.
Pittsburgh must hope that Evgeni Malkin's excellent play continues and that Sidney Crosby can find the net, not having scored a goal yet in the finals and with just one assist to date. He's been playing well overall, but the Penguins cannot hope to win the cup without an increase in scoring from him.
The Pittsburgh fans will once more be having a "Whiteout" as they all wear white shirts and jerseys of some kind, a tradition started by fans in Winnipeg back in 1987.
But this being a jersey blog, how would you feel if you just plunked down $380 for a brand new, BLACK Penguins Sidney Crosby jersey?
We understand all about supporting the team and unity, but for that price, we're wearing the black jersey that we spent a fortune on and not some free t-shirt! We carefully choose our jerseys to wear to games in order to stand out from the crowd, not disappear into it.
In other news, it appears that the public has finally found the Versus Network, as Game 3 drew record viewership, with 2.96 million fans tuning in, the most watched show of any kind on Versus, and a 37% increase over last year's finals - with the same two teams, so it's not like were are comparing apples to oranges with last year being a Tampa Bay/Calgary matchup that critics can point out as being responsible for the difference.
The game also made Versus the most-viewed cable channel in the country. Yes, Versus is now capable of outdrawing ESPN, so perhaps the "stick-and-ball" reporters and talk radio hosts who only follow the NFL, the NBA and Tiger Woods, can now finally shut up about "not being able to find Versus" after four full years. Heck, on my cable system Versus is channel 68. Two whole digits. No more complicated that ESPN2's #26, where you know they would have parked the NHL once again if the games were being shown on the ESPN Family of Networks. We have even heard radio hosts say that they "can't find Versus" and then go on and on about the Barrett-Jackson automobile auction on Speed Channel - located conveniently on channel #732 on our cable system - and requiring you to subscribe to a sports package with an additional monthly charge. But that they can find no problem. Sheesh.
Congratulations to Versus for a putting together a quality product and finally being rewarded with record ratings.