Sunday, May 27, 2007

Stanley Cup Preview

I'm sure that this isn't your first choice to come and find information, so I'll leave the basic statistics out. You won't find team records, away/home goal differential or +/- comparisons in this post. So I'll just get right to it.

How they got here:

Anaheim ran through the Western Conference in 16 games, something unprecedented by a Western team in the past few years. They started off their quest by beating several people's "dark horse," the Minnesota Wild. They then went on to beat a very popular Vancouver Canuck team in an Overtime filled second round. Many questioned whether or not they would have enough left to take on the favored Detroit Red Wings, but their Giguere proved to be rock solid in net as they took six games to beat the Wings.

In three chances to finish a team at home in these Playoffs, the Ducks are 3-0, which shows that they have the killer instict needed to go all the way.

Ottawa got through the Playoffs in 15 games, allowing no team to take more than one game from them. The Senators' list of victims is very impressive. They started by beating the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team whom many people thought could make a lot of noise. Then, they went up against New Jersey and this was a series that Martin Brodeur was set to dominate. But Ray Emery outplayed Brodeur the whole series and the Senators' offense was very impressive. In the Conference Finals, the Senators, like the Ducks, faced the favorite and disposed of the Buffalo Sabres easily.

The Senators started this year very slowly, and compared to the past few years, the Senators were not picked by many to make a huge Playoffs run. The loss of Zdeno Chara was a blow in free agency, but key players have stepped up.

Keys to the series:

Goaltending. At this time of the year, goaltending is what wins games. Giguere and Emery are both hot right now and coming off series wins against two big offensive clubs. Gigure has had a tendency this postseason to lose his confidence if scored on early while Emery has responded better to that situation. However, if Gigure has a solid first period, he continues to have a great game. And remember, JS Gigure is a Conn Smythe winner. He knows that he can get it done.

ADVANTAGE: Anaheim

Experience. The Ducks are returning to the Finals after losing to the Devils in seven games in 2003. So Teemu Selanne, JS Gigure, along with guys like Scott Neidemayer and Chris Pronger have been there before. Those four players may be the most important for the Ducks in this series, and all of them have been there before. Neidemayer is a proven winner from his days with New Jersey, while Gigure is a Conn Smythe winner and Pronger just played in the Finals last season.

Ottawa, on the contrary, is making its first ever trip to the Cup. Emery is in his first year starting and didn't even begin the year as the starter. Their big line, made up of Heatley, Spezza, and Alfredsson, are all new to this, as is their most important d-man, Wade Redden.

ADVANTAGE: Anaheim

REST. The NHL Playoffs are the most grueling time in all of sports. At this point, every single body has bumps and bruises that won't heal until next season (or until they're hoisting that silver thing.) Both teams went through their conferences quickly, but the Senators finished their series before the Ducks and have had more time to sleep in a few extra days.

ADVANTAGE: Ottawa

My prediction:

It makes me sick to think Barry Melrose correctly predicted the Ducks to get all the way to the Finals. They have shown remarkable resilience by getting down in the series to Detroit and managing to battle back after their big defenseman served a one game suspension. Andy McDonald, Chris Kunitz, Corey Perry, and Samuel Pahlsson will all need to contribute. Pahlsson will be huge in this series because he'll have the task of going up against the Jason Spezza line.

Both teams have high powered offenses with a very solid defensive core. Goaltending will come through in the end, and Ray Emery will only be better after this series. But come the end of it, the Ducks will once again be mighty.

Anaheim in 6

So whose complaining about those new jerseys now?

Series Schedule:

Game 1 - May 28th @ Anaheim
Game 2 - May 30th @ Anaheim
Game 3 - June 2nd @ Ottawa
Game 4 - June 4th @ Ottawa
Game 5 (If Neccesary) - June 6th @ Anaheim
Game 6 (If Neccesary) - June 9th @ Ottawa
Game 7 (If Neccesary) - June 11th @ Anaheim

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