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S13 - Keying into Whalers Success (®)


The Hartford Whalers have been enjoying a very successful postseason so far, winning six of their first seven games.  The success to date can be attributed to multiple factors, mainly the club's defensive play and the production from a few trade deadline acquisitions.

Defensively, the club is enjoying what might be it's best stretch of defensive hockey all year, giving up eleven goals in the seven games.  By only giving up eleven goals, the Whalers rank first in goals allowed in the postseason; this number includes all playoff teams eliminated or alive.  While the glory of low goals against generally falls on a club's goaltender, and Belfour has been fantastic to say the least. The Whalers solid play comes from a total team effort and attention to the details.  

"We know we have a job to do out there, and as a group we've really been able to execute our game plans," explained James Black.  "All season the coaches have been on us to make sure we are in the right position and have our sticks in the right spot."

To date, the Whalers have only given up more than three goals just once, a feat Ed Belfour isn't ready to take the credit for.

"I know my numbers are good, but really the guys have made my life easy for me.  When I can see the shots, and know they have my back to clear the front of the net, I can just focus on making the saves needed."

While the defense has been great, the contributions from a few deadline acquisitions has been a welcome suprise.  Glen Wesley, Cory Stillman and Danton Cole have all played large roles so far. Wesley is second in team scoring with eight points (three goals, five assists) in seven games.  His offensive game is something he's known for and he has been cashing in on that promise so far.

"This isn't Glens first time with our club, so we knew exactly what we were getting with him when we got him from New York.  He's so good at moving the puck up the ice then picking his spots afterwards to join the attack. His point totals don't really shock us any."

Danton Cole was picked up in what was considered a minor deal at the time from Milwaukee.  During the regular season, Cole's production was pretty much non-existent, scoring a mere three times in thirty-three games.  This postseason, Cole has found a new gear scoring five times and is leading the club in goals scored.

"Danton is putting up goals right now, and doing it without seeing any power play time so far.  It seems almost everything he touches is going in, he just has that touch going on right now."

Finally, the last on the list is Cory Stillman, a player that kind of felt like a throw-in in the Lindros deal.  Like Cole, Stillman couldn't get any traction with his new club after the deal, scoring eight points in twenty-three games.  Yet this playoff season, Stillman is the club's leading scorer, putting up nine points including four goals in seven games.

"We like Cory, have for a while.  It's a shame he's bounced around a bit because we like his game.  It took him some time here, but he's now playing at the level we knew existed when we got him from Saskatoon.”

If the Whalers want to continue their success so far, they will need all of this (and then some) to continue.  Should we be able to write a similar article in a weeks time, we will all know that life in Hartford is going great.