by Brian Duff
-- Leafs TV
If you've watched any of our extended playoff coverage on Leafs TV since Toronto was eliminated, you know by now that I have been a huge proponent of this year's playoff action. Along with co-host Scott Burnside, it has become almost a nightly ritual for us to shoot down some of the non-truths being reported about NHL games in this spring of 2003.
You know the ones ... boring, not enough scoring, lack of compelling match-ups, and poor television ratings directly because of the poor quality of play.
All of it is utter nonsense.
With that being said, I feel even more strongly in my opinions after witnessing Game 7 of the Senators/Devils in person, as a non-working spectator, from the 300 Level at the Corel Centre Friday night.
From my vantage point and from that of every fan I ran into during and afterwards, it was a thrilling game, tarnished only for the locals by the score at the end.
And yet a word like "tedious" to describe the game, and a blanket statement such as "with the entertainment value of the game having slipped so much" were still thrown out there for all casual fans to, in all likelihood, accept as fact in Toronto papers over the weekend.
| Will Duffer go with the Devils' experience? |
These playoffs have featured 20 overtime games, including many magnificent marathons. Correct me if I'm wrong, but why do people tune in to March Madness during the first few days?
To witness the upsets of course.
But apparently upset is a dirty word now in the NHL, at least in the minds of many media types who would rather see Detroit, Colorado, or Dallas, represent the Western Conference from now until the end of time. (And let's be honest, if the Leafs were annually in the Finals, they'd probably find little, if any fault with the NHL then.)
One-goal games, perhaps a changing of the guard among goaltenders, new faces atop the playoff scoring race, and a soon-to-be first-time Cup winner behind the bench. All reasons to have enjoyed the post-season so far, and definitely reasons why you should, and I will, enjoy every moment of the 2003 Stanley Cup Final.
As for a prediction ...
This has been another area of intrigue, and clearly is an inexact science.
I'm still riding high thanks a 7-1 opening round record, but my current mark of 10 and 4 is diminished by my reluctance to pick the Ducks ever since I suggested they would defeat the Wings in the opening round.
And while I truly believe there is no favourite heading into the Final, I still find it difficult to pick the West's best again.
Do the Devils have an edge in goal?
Do the Devils have a better group of defencemen?
Perhaps, but just slightly.
Which team has the better forwards?
Too close to call.
Can't find fault with either Burns or Babcock.
So what will it come down to?
Well, given the way New Jersey responded to adversity against Ottawa, it may just come down to a pair of over-used but often accurate clichés - experience, and toughness.
The Devils have far more of both as a group. But, when you look at Anaheim individually, there are plenty of hungry veterans, and that will definitely aid their cause.
Forget fatigue at this time of year, players will tell you they can sleep in the summer. Casual hockey fans should heed that advice too, and jump back on the puck-bandwagon.