Avalanche need Foote to win hockey series

The Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche are two teams that have relied heavily on defense during this year's playoffs. However, if the Avs are going to win the series and give Ray Bourque the Stanley Cup he so richly deserves, they may have to win with their offense, which once dominated the league.

In Game 1 on Saturday, the Avs were dominant. They physically manhandled the Stars to earn the victory. An even brighter spot for the Avs was that they were able to win without the services of Bourque, who continues to nurse his injured left knee. Bourque sat out Game 2 as well, but he should return for Game 3 in Denver.

The Avs beat the Stars to every loose puck, finished their checks and played tenacious defense to assure themselves of a split of the two games in Dallas.

Patrick Roy did his part, as he recorded his 14th career playoff shutout, tying him for second on the all-time list with Jacques Plante.

Game 2, however, was a different story.

The Avalanche lost their best defenseman, Adam Foote, less than three minutes into the first period. It showed, as rookie Martin Skoula committed a mind-blowing turnover that led to the game-winner by Brett Hull - a 20-foot laser that Roy had no chance on.

The bottom line is that if Foote is in there, that doesn't happen and the Avs may be ahead 2-0. Nonetheless, the Stars took advantage of Foote's absence, as the Stars' Mike Modano had two goals in Foote's absence.

Foote's primary responsibility is staying with Modan,o as was evident in Game 1, when Foote was on the ice for every one of Modano's shifts except one, logging more than 30 minutes of ice time.

But as Foote was taken to the hospital (he took a stick to the eye) the Colorado coaching staff had to be wondering if they were geniuses or fools for keeping Bourque out of Game 2. If Bourque would have played, he would have wound up skating over 30 minutes on a recovering knee and may have run the risk of aggravating his injury.

On the flipside, the Avs were short on defensemen with Foote out and Bourque being scratched, so they had to play Skoula on every other shift. Skoula has played well so far in the absence of Bourque, but the Avs' defense is not the same without either Foote or Bourque - or more importantly, both.

Colorado has no chance of beating Dallas without the services of Adam Foote. They can without Bourque because of the potency of their power play and their ability to control the physical aspects of the game, plus they have home-ice advantage.

The Avs cannot win without both of them.

The next two games are in Denver, and the series should take a huge turn at the Pepsi Center, but the biggest question is what kind of defense the Avs will put on the ice.

Because of a Tina Turner concert, Game 3 will not be until Friday. The Avs will need to play the role of Ike this time around.

In the Eastern Conference, the New Jersey Devils blew a huge opportunity to go up 2-0, blowing a 3-1 lead against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Rick Tocchet scored two goals, and the Flyers made Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur look human again. The Devils, who host games 3 and 4, had Game 2 all but won before Flyers captain Eric Desjardins scored with less than a minute to go in the second period.

The Flyers used that as a springboard, scoring twice in the first two minutes of the third period to earn a split of the first two games.

This series is much more interesting off the ice than the Western Conference, but it still lacks the talent and skill that the Avs and Stars bring to the table. We all know about Eric Lindros and his concussions, and the question of whether he will play in the series or not.

Let's be honest. Lindros has played his last game in Philadelphia and should leave town faster than Ted Kennedy at a car wreck. His possible return provides good fodder with little substance and should be taken for what it's worth - a media event.

The Devils, on the other hand, are doing their best to knock the choker label that has been part of their arsenal ever since they won the Stanley Cup in 1995 and then missed the playoffs in 1996. The defense from Scott Niedermayer and Scott Stevens has been nothing short of brilliant. If the Devils are to win these two are the players to lead them to the Stanley Cup finals.

When sizing up what has happened in this series thus far, the Devils have to feel like they let one get away. The Flyers must feel fortunate to be tied.

The Flyers need better defense in front of rookie goaltender Brian Boucher so they don't have to score four goals a game to win. New Jersey has played both offensive and defensive hockey so far, and strangely enough won the game that they shunned playing defense.

This series has been exciting and should provide a formidable opponent for the highly talented Western Conference champion.

Trevor Smith is the Nevada Appeal hockey columnist.


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