The young and the restless
The 2006 Edmonton Oilers are looking to repeat the success of the 1993 Canadiens, who overcame a long layoff prior to the Finals to claim hockey's top prize.
MONTREAL - Any playoff contender offered a chance to get some extra rest leading up to the Stanley Cup Final would gladly accept a well-deserved breather. That being said, recent playoff history suggests that may not be such a good omen for a team looking to raise the Cup.
After wasting little time in shooting down the Anaheim Ducks in only five games, the Oilers were faced with the seemingly welcome prospect of nursing their bumps and bruises while the Hurricanes and Sabres slugged it out for seven games. The result was an eight-day gap between games for the Oilers versus only four for Carolina.
Having that kind of extra downtime has spelled disaster more often than not of late with the past three Cup finalists to enjoy an extended having seen the Stanley Cup slip through their fingers. Anaheim, Buffalo and Vancouver all fell short of their ultimate goal, including the Mighty Ducks who bowed out to the Devils in seven games in 2003 despite their NHL-record 11-day layoff. The league's next-longest break belonged to the Sabres, whose nine-day hiatus before facing Dallas was not enough to solve the Stars in 1999.
The last well-rested squad to go on to win the Stanley Cup was the Canadiens in the spring of 1993, who sat through an eight-day stretch before taking on the L.A. Kings. Once they handled the Islanders in five games, Jacques Demers' charges awaited the Kings, who needed a full seven games to eliminate Toronto their conference final. Fatigue and a healthy dose of Patrick Roy and John LeClair did in the Kings, who could only look on as the Canadiens raised the Cup after Game 5 at the Montreal Forum.
The Canadiens are a perfect 2-0 in Stanley Cup final series after having benefitted from a lengthy break, with Montreal having swept the St. Louis Blues in 1968, after five days off.
The Oilers are no strangers to patiently awaiting their eventual opponent in the Stanley Cup final. This year's break marks the fourth time Edmonton has had to twiddle their thumbs. After being swept by the Islanders following a seven-day break in 1983, the young Oilers learned their lesson, by going on to make quick work of those same Isles in 1984 and then the Bruins in 1988 on the heels of nine and seven-day layoffs respectively.
Edmonton is only the 14th team to head into a Stanley Cup Final with a break of five or more days, dating back to 1967-68. Over that span, the rested team has surprisingly not had the upper hand to the tune of a 6-7 record in those series.
Should Chris Pronger and the Oilers be unable to translate their added rest into a Stanley Cup ring, they may be in for a few sleepless nights this summer.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com