Round 3: Games 11-17"People with personalities like Carbo’s—they don’t play backup roles. You may talk to them, and they may say they’re willing to accept those roles. But somehow they always find their way to the front of the bus."
—Bob Gainey

Speaking of déjà vu, welcome to the Western Conference Finals. The inevitable rematch of Dallas and Colorado was upon us, and it would be even tougher this year. "Just the fact that they lost last year, they’ve got that vengeance in their eyes," Carbonneau said of the Avalanche. "We know they’re going to come hard. But this team likes to play in those games."

CheckThere was a lot at stake in this Western Conference deathmatch between the Cup Champions and the Cup favorites, particularly for a certain veteran…named Raymond Bourque. Also drafted the same year as Carbonneau, Ray had been Guy’s rival all the way back to their days in juniors in the QMJHL, possibly the oldest individual rivalry in the NHL. This would be the 11th time Carbonneau and Bourque—penalty killer and power play man—faced each other in the Stanley Cup playoffs. But Ray, also on the brink of retirement, had no Stanley Cup ring to rival Guy’s three, mostly a reflection of a career in Boston vs. one in Montreal.

Déjà vu for these two players, and in fact for both teams. The series was going to be the same tension-fest it was in 1999. The Stars struggled to find offense but the penalty kill remained strong. After a discouraging 2-0 loss in Game 3, in Coach Hitchcock had only one positive thing to say: "Our penalty killers were wearing out their power play. How’d you like to be up 2-0 in a big playoff game and getting booed at home because your power play isn’t working?" In Game 4, it was the kill of a two-man advantage that sparked the Stars to a 4-1 win. The Avs’ power play, which previously in the playoffs was scoring 20% of the time, was 2-for-28 in the series.

But especially in Games 5 and 6, it was Ed Belfour’s astonishing play in goal which gave the Stars a chance against Colorado’s firepower. Game 5 was a thrilling overtime win by the Stars, while Game 6 was a disheartening 2-1 loss.

Which set up the most serious déjà vu of all: Game 7.

Shot"It’s been one game up and one game down," said Guy. "When you’re evenly matched like we are, everybody expected seven games. There’s tired bodies and people that are hurt and bruises. But your mind can do a lot of stuff. If you’ve been through it, you know how to react to it better. I think that’s always been one of the strengths of this team. We’ve grown together and we have a lot of confidence in each other. We’ve had good seasons because we react the right way to tough situations, and this is a tough situation."

Naturally, on the day of Game 7, hockey players and fans and the press around the league had that other veteran, Ray Bourque, deservedly foremost on their minds. Nevertheless he was not foremost in the minds of everyone, for there were also those painfully aware of something else at stake that night.

Would it be Guy Carbonneau’s last game?

The Stars’ first elimination game of the 2000 playoffs was the first time I really had to face the possibility of the end. My trepidation was eased by a wonderful e-mail I received from Guy’s brother Denis the morning of Game 7. Denis described his vision of what the evening would hold: "Remember the day…May 27th at the beginning of the 21st Century…My body was trembling and shaking with anticipation as this old man was running down the ice, showing a big smile on his already exhausted face. All that happiness in one face and yet the job is only beginning, like the new millennium. Half the road is done, the toughest part is coming and he will have to face it. Whatever is the result of tonight’s game, this will be Guy’s path for the next steps in his life…and for a hockey player, getting to know what’s next is the toughest challenge of all."

But for now the challenge for Denis’s brother was a very familiar one—one playoff game—one game seven—and he had done this nine times before. And what did the wise veteran have to say going into this game? "If you’re not ready for Game 7 and a chance to go to the Stanley Cup Finals, just don’t get dressed." Was he feeling the effects of all the battering, including a kick to the head by Peter Forsberg in the previous game? "Things happen in the playoffs. The best revenge is you shake their hands at the end with a little smile."

SmilingAs the game got underway, it seemed like the good kind of déjà vu: The Stars came out just as blazing as they had in 1999’s Game 7, when they won 4-1. The PK shut down the Avs’ power play—they couldn’t set up, and did not get a shot on their first two chances. On one power play Colorado spent only 31 seconds in Dallas’ end. They hadn’t scored in their last 17 attempts.

But the style of the 2000 Dallas Stars was to do everything the hard way, and late in the game they almost lost their early 3-0 lead. The contest came down to the final minute, when Roy was pulled and Guy was among those on the ice charged with preserving the win. In the final seconds the veteran Ray Bourque rang a shot off the post, his last valiant effort to preserve his dream of a Cup. The horn sounded, the score was still 3-2, Dallas advanced to the Finals.

During this amazing game I believe I saw that smile Denis Carbonneau had seen in his vision. It was a smile of a survivor, of a man with a right to be weary but who feels no fatigue because he knows he has done his job well.

17 games. And, miraculously, still playing.

See also:

Carbonneau vs. Bourque (courtesy of The Dallas Morning News)
The X-Factor (courtesy of The Sporting News)
Former Canadiens captains steady Stars (courtesy of The Dallas Morning News)
A Denver columnist confirms it (courtesy of The Rocky Mountain News)

Next ChapterDiane's Playoff Diary
5/13/00 "It's Not on Paper"

5/19/00 "Enough About Old Already, He Looks Damn Good!"

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'00 #1:
Games 1-5

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Games 6-10

'00 #3:
Games 11-17

'00 #4:
Games 18-23

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