4 Wins Away…

Now that we’ve all had a day to recover our voices after this…time for a little catching up:

-Wednesday night, it all begins. The final quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup begins in Newark as the Devils take on the Kings. The full schedule can be found here. A few fun facts to pass along:

If the Devils prove victorious, they will become the second team in the last 17 years to win the Cup after being out of the playoffs altogether the previous year. The last team to do it? The 2006 Carolina Hurricanes (just before the River Rats began their 4 year run as their AHL affiliate…talk about good timing).

So far this postseason the Kings are 12-2. Two of the Devils Cup opponents also had a 12-2 mark before the final round: the ’95 Red Wings (4-0 sweep) and the ’03 Ducks (4-3).

New Jersey has a 6-2 home record in the postseason, while the Kings have a perfect 8-0 road record.

To me, there is one good story from the Kings Cup run, and I wasn’t even aware of this till I saw the article: this is the first Cup Finals appearance for ex-River Rat Willie Mitchell. Hard to believe he’s been around this long, he started out in Albany at the end of the 98-99 season and became one of my favorite players during his 2+ year tenure. Now that I officially feel old, let’s move on…

-Friday night, another Cup final gets underway, this one of the Calder variety. It’s down to two of Albany’s opponents during the regular season, Norfolk and Toronto. Full schedule (along with earlier results) can be found here. Not one for predictions, but I am kind of leaning towards the Admirals to take this series.

-And finally, congratulations to the first team to clinch a Cup title this postseason, the Florida Everblades. They clinched their first Kelly Cup title on Wednesday night at home with an overtime victory, winning the series over Las Vegas 4 games to 1. I followed the team quite closely during the Carolina Rat days since players went back and forth between both teams (they still are Carolina’s ECHL affiliate, now instead of Albany players go up to Charlotte), and one thing I remembered about them was they were a great regular season team, but couldn’t duplicate that success in the playoffs, going out in either the first or second rounds.

Everyone enjoy the rest of your Memorial Day weekend! I’ll be keeping up with my annual holiday traditions: falling asleep during the Coca Cola 600 tonight (it never fails), then attending the Albany Memorial Day parade tomorrow (keeping up the family tradition, even though it’s just me and my cousin now). And counting down the hours to Game 1 on Wednesday night, of course!


A Little Saturday Morning Reading…

Finally, time to update this thing!

Before the Devils and Rangers face off for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals in just over an hour (keeping me indoors on a beautiful 80 degree day in the Capital Region…at least I have a good excuse!), time for a few notes, and a collection of links for those that may have missed it or just want to read it again:

-A few seasons ago, during the River Rat days, one of their tag lines (I think it was for the 2000-01 season after the second NJ Cup win) was “We Breed Champions.” This season it’s bound to happen again, as there is at least one former River Rat or A-Devil on all but 2 teams across the three professional leagues (NHL, AHL, ECHL) with a chance to hoist a Cup (Stanley, Calder, or Kelly) in the coming weeks. Starting with the NHL: it’s pretty obvious in New Jersey. But two other NHL teams still alive in the Stanley Cup playoffs have Albany alumni: the upstart Kings, just one win away from a berth in the Cup finals as an 8 seed, have defenseman Willie Mitchell (River Rats 99-01) and forward Brad Richardson (River Rats 06-07), while across the ice in New Jersey this afternoon the Devils will face former Stanley Cup hero Mike Rupp (River Rats 00-03).

The conference finals are underway in the AHL, with Norfolk leading St. John’s 1-0 (Game 2 this evening in Virginia) in the East, and it’s 1-1 in the Western Conference between Oklahoma City and Toronto (Game 3 Monday in Canada). 3 out of the 4 remaining teams also have at least one Albany alumnus on their roster: in Norfolk, captain Mike Angelidis (River Rats 06-10); in Oklahoma City, Bryan Rodney (River Rats 07-10) and Bryan Helmer (River Rats 93-98; one of only 4 active players left from the lone Calder Cup Champions of 94-95. The other three? Steve Sullivan, Brian Rolston and Sheldon Souray); and in Toronto, Mark Fraser (remember him? That trade with Anaheim seems like years ago now doesn’t it?).

Finally in the ECHL, it’s down to Florida (who dispatched Kalamazoo in 5 games) and Las Vegas in the Kelly Cup finals, with the Everblades holding a 2-1 series lead after an overtime win last night at home. No matter which team wins the Kelly Cup, at least one former River Rat will be hoisting the hardware: Ryan McGinnis (River Rats 09-10) and Cedric McNicoll (River Rats 09-10) for Florida, and Ryan Weston (River Rats 07-09) for Las Vegas.

-And now for some pregame reading:

The New York Times had two very good stories on Stephen Gionta and Adam Henrique.

Speaking of Little Gio…nice video interview with him and older brother Brian.

The Globe and Mail on why you should be a Devil fan.

Um, really Rangers? That’s what I thought NJ Transit was for. Or in my case, a Yankee Trails bus. (For more laughs, click the YouTube video with the bad jeans commercial. You’ll never see that in New Jersey.)

And finally, I’ll leave you with a little Seinfeld reference, a familiar scene here and in the Garden State…