By Eric Redner
The Phanatic Magazine
Hello compadres, sorry I skipped the Conference Finals preview, but your's truly was busy looking for a new apartment and it sort of skipped my mind. In case you're wondering I would have picked Anaheim and Buffalo, honest injun.
Well we are now down to the Final Two in the chase for Lord Stanley's Cup and the one thing we are guaranteed is that there will be a new team etched on the Cup sometime in June.
So without further adieu, lets take a look.
Anaheim Ducks (48-20-14)
After putting together the best regular season in franchise history and winning their first division title, the Ducks ripped through the playoffs, disposing of Minnesota in five games, Vancouver in five games, and the favored
Red Wings in six games.
The big reason for their regular season and postseason success has been the off-season acquisition of defenseman Chris Pronger from Edmonton. He is currently leading the team in the postseason with 14 points (three goals and 11 assists) and is also a plus-six. He has also gotten into some rough housing as he had to sit out Game 4 after getting suspended for a hit to the head of Detroit forward Tomas Holmstrom.
Complementing Pronger on the blueline is captain Scott Niedermayer, who has tallied three goals and six assists in the postseason. All the goals, though, have been important as he tied Game 5 against Detroit in the waning moments of regulation and his other two tallies were overtime winners.
Both Pronger and Niedermayer, who have each won a Norris trophy, have been nominated for the award this season.
The big beneficiary of the Anaheim defensive corps has been goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere. The 2003 Conn Smythe winner is looking to potentially win the award again as he has posted a 9-3 record with a 1.87 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage. Also, he has won four of the five overtime games he has been in this postseason and is 12-1 all-time in his playoff postseason career.
In addition to the three mentioned above, Ryan Getzlaf, Teemu Selanne and Samuel Pahlsson all are in double-digits in points to help the team to the Cup finals. Selanne is playing in the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in his 14-year career.
This is the second time Anaheim has reached the Stanley Cup finals in franchise history. The other appearance was in 2003, when the team was downed by the New Jersey Devils in 2003.
Lastly, thank God the team took the word "Mighty" out of its name before the start of the season cause I think it would have been a travesty to have the name "Mighty Ducks" on that hallowed chalice.
Ottawa Senators (48-25-9)
For several seasons this team would have fantastic regular seasons only to get embarrassed early in the playoffs. This club carried the stigma of underachievers due to their poor playoff performance, but all that is in the
past now as the team has reached the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in franchise history.
Appearing in the playoffs for the 10th straight season, the Senators needed just five games to knock out Pittsburgh, New Jersey and Buffalo to reach the finals. Having played just 15 games, Ottawa should be very fresh for its upcoming shot at the Cup.
The main reason Ottawa is in the Stanley Cup is the play of its top-line, which had dominated in the offensive zone all season and has not let up in the playoffs, scoring 23 of the team's 48 goals.
Team captain and right wing Daniel Alfredsson is one-third of the juggernaut that has opponents quaking. The Swedish winger has a team record 10 goals in the postseason and a total of 17 total points.
Playing the other wing is Dany Heatley, who is leading the Senators with 21 points (six goals, 15 assists) and center man Jason Spezza is second with 20 points on seven tallies and 13 assists.
The Senators record for points in a single playoff run before this year was 16, a mark set by Marian Hossa in 2003.
The top line overshadows what has been just as important to the Senators success in the playoffs, its top notch defensive unit, which is anchored by Wade Redden. The veteran leads a blueline unit that includes scoring
defensemen Joe Corvo and Tom Pressing. Anton Volchenkov provides a physical presence on the ice and helps keep the front of the net clear.
Benefiting from the excellent defensive play is goaltender Ray Emery, who has a 1.95 goals against average, .919 save percentage and three shutouts. While Emery is not a dominant goaltender, he makes the saves when he needs to and doesn't make any stupid plays that could lead to easy goals for the opposition.
Outlook for the Finals
The one thing we are guaranteed from this Stanley Cup is a new name on it, and along with that we are guaranteed an exciting finish to the end of the season.
At first glance, Ottawa seems to be the better team in this matchup, but the Ducks have been playing just as good as the Senators and don't expect a four-game series this year, not that we've had many of them lately.
The Senators top unit cannot be shut down completely by the Anaheim defense, despite how strong the Ducks blueline is, and Alfredsson, Heatley and Spezza will light the lamp. However, what will help the Ducks is keeping out of the box and not letting the top three from having extended power play time. The Ducks, though, have taken a lot of penalties in the postseason and the Senators power play is working at a 20 percent clip.
Pronger and Niedermayer help out Giguere immensely, and much of the fate of this series will lie on his shoulders as he will be called upon to make some key stops to keep the next several games from becoming shootouts. His
experience will give the Ducks the edge in goal, as the previous Conn Smythe winner has been in this situation before.
Both teams are well rested so energy shouldn't be much of a problem. Look for these teams to come out the gates with the bit chomping between the teeth and look for some possible early sparks to set up a grudge match down the stretch.
Ottawa tends to jump out to an early lead and then never let the skate off the throat of the opposition. If Anaheim can keep from falling behind early, hold off the top-line attack, and play good on special teams, the Ducks' chances improve vastly.
However, the top line of the Senators is something special and will probably be too much for the Ducks to handle.
The Cup is going back to Canada for the first time since 1993 ladies and gentlemen.
Ottawa in six.