May 25, 2004
They say you're only as good as your last outing and in this business of writing, my last outing was awful -- zero for two in the semifinals. Now there is no chance of salvaging a .500 playoffs with a current record of 6-8 -- it's time to write for pride.
Stanley Cup Final
Calgary vs Tampa Bay
It's a battle of 2nd versus 12th in this year's championship, but since the regular season ended, the gap between the Lightning and Flames has closed dramatically.
The Bolts are still a dynamic offensive team and have the edge when one looks at all four lines but let's face it, the two sides are equal in game winning goals and that's really all that matters.
Most are suggesting the Flames have the edge on the blueline but if they do, it's by the slightest of margins. The return of Jassen Cullimore meant a lot for the Lightning and I believe that Pavel Kubina still has a lot more to give offensively.
The special team's edge is lopsided in favour of Tampa Bay.
Just ask the Philadelphia Flyers.
Miikka Kiprusoff has probably stolen more games for the Flames than Nikolai Khabibulin has had to for the Lightning, but the numbers suggest there's not much to choose from here. Both are excellent, and both have shown tremendous "bounce-back" ability.
Players to Watch
He may not be scoring as much but if he continues to pile up the points Martin St. Louis will finish these playoffs as the top point-getter. If you're in need of a recap that would mean St. Louis could walk away from this season with the Art Ross, the Hart, the Lester B. Pearson Award, the playoff scoring title, a Conn Smythe, and a Stanley Cup. Not to mention selection to the World Cup, and we presume, an all-star nomination as well.
Dave Andreychuk had a slow start to the regular season but finished strong. Don't be surprised if his offensive numbers spike in the Finals as well, after recording just one goal to date.
Cory Stillman, playing hurt to be sure (but who isn't), Tampa could win this series in a hurry if Stillman has an effort against his former club like Fedotenko had against the Flyers (6 goals in the last 6 games).
Stating the obvious, of course we're watching Jarome Iginla. Leading the post-season tournament in goals, Iginla, Conroy and Gelinas have been a treat to watch.
Marcus Nilson, the former Panther and veteran of many Sunshine State battles, should feel right at home. Lining up with Nieminen and Donovan, Nilson is making his case as one of the year's best trade deadline acquisitions.
Stephane Yelle, if there were separate awards for offensive and defensive performances in the playoffs, Yelle would have the latter to himself already. With perhaps the best nickname in the game, "Sandbox", Yelle also has one game winner this spring and may have another in him.
This match-up has it all and we should be treated to some dynamite games, regardless of how long this series goes.
Having not picked the Flames yet, which is really all you need to know about my post-season, I can't hop on the bandwagon now.
Lightning in 6.