There are so many things that stand out from the Finals run in 2006. Individual players in individual moments.
Fernando Pisani, of course, came out of nowhere to become a cult hero, and the biggest goal of his fourteen was that overtime, shorthanded game winner. I still remember that feeling in the pit of my stomach when Staios took the interference penalty- Carolina was 3 for 6 and were dominant on the powerplay, and in my heart I knew it was over. My breath caught when Pisani walked in alone, and that wonderful sense of possibility emerged unlooked for, and was rewarded.
Game six against Detroit was a hard game to watch, and Pisani was big there too, with the first two goals. Ales Hemsky had been quiet up until that point, and I remember thinking that this was the kind of game where the players that matter find a way to make an impact- and Hemsky amazed me that night, with one beautiful goal (with a little help from Samsonov), and one pure determination goal crashing the net that clinched it. I was so pleased I even felt a twinge of sympathy for Manny Legace as he slumped to the ice, knowing his career in Detroit was over in that moment.
Dwayne Roloson played the best hockey of his career, and what must have been the biggest save of his career robbing Jonathan Cheechoo in the 2nd or 3rd overtime. The Oilers won that game, and Roloson was the reason why. The other memory that's difficult to forget was the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when Bergeron threw Ladd onto the goalie and he didn't get up. The camera panned to Ty Conklin (still one of my favourite players, btw), and I desperately hoped that he could come in and close the door. It was not to be.
Raffi Torres was a force in a complementary role, destroying Milan Michalek and Doug Weight and being everything that he could be. That player hasn't been seen since the run, but if he turned up he would be a huge asset.
The mercenaries, Pronger, Peca, and Spacek all had playoffs to remember. Pronger was masterful on the blueline, a dominant, game-changing MVP playing more than half of each game and exhibiting the kind of precise, controlled play that should have won him the Conn Smythe. His trade request tarnishes but in no way diminishes one of the finest performances I've ever seen in sports. Peca seemed moody and a shadow of what he once was until the playoffs, when he provided clutch scoring and able defense and redeemed himself after a poor regular season. MacTavish was not shy about praising Spacek, who, although far from a perfect player, provided mobility, passing, and a great shot and he excelled in a suporting role.
The veteran core of the team, Smyth, Smith, Horcoff and Staios all had great runs. Horcoff worked harder than anyone, blocking shots and hustling and scoring until the final round. He had so many chances and Cam Ward just had his number. I'll never, as long as I live, forget a shift where Steve Staios blocked the puck with his face and then remained on the ice, trapped and unable to go down. Between him and Smyth&Smith, it was hard not to love the effort, the energy, and the indifference to agony that was a hallmark of the team.
Other moments stand out; Laraque exploding against the glass after his goal, Brad Winchester scoring against Detroit playing with linemates that stood head and shoulders above him, many others. It was a special time.
The CBC video above brings all these things back; it brings back the hope, the belief, that amazing feeling that for one night anything, anything at all was possible. Moments like that are the best thing about watching hockey.