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2003 Stanley Cup Notebook

Trends, turning points and anomalies in the 2003 Stanley Cup race.


April 21/03 -

Pity the Dot-Com Millionaire

America Online whiz and Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis was understandably in a snit after his team blew a two-game lead and succumbed to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"It's incredibly disappointing to have 14,000 people in the building for the final playoff game," Leonsis told the Washington Post after Sunday afternoon's final loss. "So I think the market has spoken and I have some real re-evaluating to do on the kind of investments we're going to make in the team, because the city didn't respond. You cannot have a playoff game with 14,000 people with the kind of marketing and consumer focus that we've had."

"I'm not very happy about the treatment we got from the building," he continued. "I don't like playing back-to-back games and playing on Passover and Easter, and I'm going to make sure that doesn't happen again.”

"They made a cheap call on too many men on the ice that I don't understand. The third game really hurt us. The penalty on Olie was the wrong call. Every game at home or every pivotal game was in the hands of the refs."

After venting on his customers, the building and the referees, Leonsis demurred when asked about the overpaid, under-achievers on his payroll: “We had a couple of guys who, for whatever reason, weren't able to get over the hump.”

Buy a team, hand out fat contracts to big names, plan the Stanley Cup parade, lavish in the glory... Turns out pro hockey isn’t quite so simple after all. Who would have thought?

Ready When You Are

While players from Tampa to Vancouver busy themselves with great Stanley Cup hockey – pounding each other into hamburger, mustering unlikely comebacks, dragging games into the wee hours of double and triple-overtime – three teams sit at home, happily watching it all unfold.

You know the Ottawa Senators, New Jersey Devils and Anaheim Mighty Ducks would love nothing better than to see every remaining series go seven games.

Those teams are relaxing after quick, efficient first-round victories. A short series might not always be dramatic (though it certainly was in Anaheim’s case) but history shows it is vital to a Stanley Cup run. Almost every recent Stanley Cup champion has made quick work of at least one opponent, earning a valuable break in a long and busy spring. By contrast, last year’s Colorado Avalanche did themselves no favours by dragging every series to the full seven-game limit. By the time they got to game seven against Detroit, the Avalanche looked worn and weary.

This year’s early winners still have work to do - the Devils and Senators need more goals from their top players, while Anaheim must avoid a post-Red Wings letdown. But each team earned its break with timely scoring, sound defense and excellent goaltending. They can only benefit from spending a week at home, confident, rested and healing, watching everyone else scratch and claw to stay alive.

More Stanley Cup Notes:
Blues, Leafs and Avs Pack Up Their Gear
The Slimmest Margin of Error
2003 Red Wings: A Trivia Question in the Making
The All-Muttonhead Team

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