Carbonneau's line has a Devil of a chance
by Mac Engel, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 6/8/00


The Stars have a number of problems to deal with. How to win Game 5? Yeah, that's kind of a biggie.

Where are goals going to come from? That would help.

Which line, Mike Modano's or Guy Carbonneau's, will check the Devils' top line of Petr Sykora, Jason Arnott and Patrik Elias? They don't know because it's not their call.

"I don't think I am going to have a choice there," Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said. "That's going to be up to [Devils coach] Larry Robinson."

With home ice comes the last line change, meaning the Devils can decide who is going to go against whom for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

If it's Modano's line, the Stars have to figure where the scoring is going to come from. If it's Carbonneau's line, it has to prove it is up to the task of stopping the NHL's most productive postseason line. If Carbonneau wants the Stars' postseason to continue, and maybe prevent the end of his career, his line must do the job.

"[Carbonneau] needs to have a focus of a checking role," Hitchcock said. "But that will start with Larry's decision and I will have to read off that."

Does this mean that Hitchcock prefers Modano's line against the Arnott line? "I don't have a problem with that," Hitchcock said. "Now, we're waiting on somebody else to get the job done offensively. And we're kind of running out of time, aren't we? Last I looked it wasn't a best-out-of-nine."

Yes, but the way Carbonneau is playing, he doesn't appear to be running out of time. In Game 4, his line was matched against Arnott's line the entire game, limiting it to no points as a unit.

The biggest problem, though, is that Carbonneau's effectiveness has been limited through the first four games because the Stars haven't had something they normally have: a lead late in the game.

It's when the Stars have a lead to protect that Carbonneau's ability to cross up opposing forwards becomes crucial.

"He's real effective in that particular role," Stars winger Blake Sloan said. "When you call that upon yourself, you are taking a big responsibility and you want to play well with it. He seems to thrive and absorb that. It defines him."

It has his whole career. Even as other lines have trotted out against the Arnott line, few have had the defensive success of Carbonneau's. Whether it was Wayne Gretzky or Peter Forsberg, it always has been that way.

"He's fairly fast, not even putting his age into consideration," Stars defenseman Sylvain Cote said of Carbonneau. "Anybody that plays 20 years, especially in hockey, is an unbelievable athlete. Football players don't play 20 years, and they don't play 16 games a year. He's played 200-some games in the playoffs. A lot of football players don't do that in a career."

No, they don't, which makes the reality that Carbonneau might be finally reaching the end of his career a little difficult to accept or believe. He said before and during the season that this will be his last. Of course, he's quick to mention that he seems to say that every year.

"I think anyone on the team that wants to win, wants him to come back," Stars winger Brenden Morrow said.

Preferably next season and definitely two more games this season after tonight.