May 28, 2008

1995: New Jersey's Stranglehold On Stanley Cup

The year is 1995. This is the year the so called "dead-puck era" began.

Coming off of a thrilling 1994 Cup final and with best years of Wayne Gretzky and for the most part Mario Lemieux in the past, the NHL is shutdown in a labour dispute that results in a 48 game shortened schedule. When hockey finally started up again, the offense seemed to disappear, as the New Jersey Devils, stereotyped as masters of the dreaded neutral-zone trap, define the coming era.

Defense wins championships is the old saying. It certainly did in 1995.

The high flying Detroit Red Wings were no match for the stifling Devils. The Devils won easily in 4, keeping Detroit to, on average, just 19 shots a game.

The Devils were of course captained by Scott Stevens and led by fellow defenseman Scott Niedermayer and goaltender Martin Brodeur. Conn Smythe Trophy winner Claude Lemieux scored big goals and set the tone of play on many nights, while big Bobby Holik shut down opposition centers.

A couple of legendary American players were finally able to get their names on the Stanley Cup. Neal Broten, the great American player, led the Devils in scoring in the finals with 6 points and scored the Stanley Cup winning goal. Bobby Carpenter reinvented himself as a defensive specialist in New Jersey, and as such he made nice contributions in giving the Devils' their due.

1 comment:

vdkhanna said...

1995, in the eyes of many people, seemed to mark the conclusion of Canadian centrality in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Devils were mostly American (12 of 'em), and the Red Wings were mostly European. It would take nearly a decade before a Canadian club returned to the Finals.

In spite of this, the NHL never lost its deep Canadian heritage. Doc Emrick put it best minutes before the Devils won the Stanley Cup:

"This year [1994-95], we've heard so much about lockouts and collective bargaining and hyperbaric chambers and left-wing locks and neutral zone traps and boiled flying octopus. There was a great deal of uncertainty about this season, but then it came strong. From mid-January on, [there were] wonderful attendances in a number of towns, and I think the reason for that is the character of these guys. The heritage of this sport is rural Canada. The locker room, despite the adding of Europeans and Americans, is still rural Canada. It's look-ya-in-the-eye, answer-the-question-if-you-can, down-to-earth guys that people love."