I’m on another flight across the country to cover the 2007 Stanley Cup Final between the Ottawa Senators and the Anaheim Ducks. I’ll be working the NHL International telecast that goes out to more than 175 countries around the world. This will be the 10th time the NHL has produced a separate world feed and I’ve had the privilege of being there for all of them. My partner in the booth will be Joe Micheletti who just completed his first season as the analyst on NY Rangers’ telecasts after several seasons as the analyst on the NY Islanders’ telecasts. I’ve worked the last six Cup Finals with Joe and we both agree this will be an interesting matchup.
Here are some of the storylines to watch for:
* Didn’t meet in the regular season With all the games on TV and the minute video breakdown that all coaching staffs go through, it’s hard to believe this will be much of an issue. But you never really know an opponent until you match up against them. I think back to the 1995 Final between New Jersey and Detroit following the lockout shortened regular season when each team played only 48 games all within their conference. The Red Wings just seemed to be everyone’s prohibitive favorite. Detroit would be too quick and talented for the defensive minded Devils…NOT! The Devils won that series in four straight. I remember talking to several of the Devils and they were apprehensive heading into Detroit for game one based on what they had seen on tape and based on all the media hype surrounding the Wings. But, about midway through the first period of game one, the Devils’ players realized they could skate with the Wings and Detroit couldn’t match their grit or power.
I have a feeling that Anaheim will be a team that is a whole lot harder to play against than what video can show. The line of Penner-Getzlaf-Perry is going to be a load for any matchup the Senators put out against them.
* Goaltending The Ducks have J.S. Giguere who is not only on top of his game, but he already has a Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP) to his credit. Giggy was the main reason that the 2003 “Mighty” Ducks went to the Final before losing to New Jersey in seven games. Consider these career playoff stats: 27-12 record, 1.92 GAA and .932 save percentage….and he’s even better in overtime! In 13 overtime decisions, Giguere is 12-1 and has stopped 101 0f 102 shots in just under 251 minutes of overtime play!!
Ray Emery has been quite a story as well for the Senators this season. He started the year as the backup goalie to Martin Gerber who was signed as a big money free agent from Carolina. Gerber struggled early, Emery got his chance and now Ray has a chance to do what Cam Ward did last year in Carolina: take the starting job from Gerber and win the Cup. And let’s not forget that Emery has posted a shutout in each series: Pittsburgh, New Jersey and Buffalo.
* Matchups The Ducks checking line of Pahlsson-Moen-R. Niedermayer will face their greatest challenge against the dynamic trio of Spezza-Heatley-Alfredsson. It will be nearly impossible to keep the Sens’ big line off the board…the key will be to minimize their effectiveness. The fact that Ducks’ coach Randy Carlyle can put Chris Pronger or Scott Niedermayer or Francois Beauchemin on the ice behind that checking line is a huge advantage.
Senators’ coach Bryan Murray has a decision to make with regards to his shutdown defense pair of Phillips-Volchenkov as well as the checking unit of Neil-Vermette-Kelly…does he put them against Getzlaf’s line or McDonald’s line (with Teemu Selanne)? The first period of game one may tell us a lot about how this will unfold.
* Depth Randy Carlyle isn’t going to let the stat sheet fool him into thinking that the Senators are a one line team. Spezza-Heatley-Alfredsson have been so prolific that other potential offensive threats could easily be overlooked. Players like Fisher (22 goals), Comrie (20 goals) and Vermette (19 goals) are capable of scoring. The Senators also can get production from their fourth line of McAmmod-Eaves-Schubert….something the Ducks haven’t gotten (and haven’t needed to this point) from their little used fourth unit.
On the back end, with all the talk of Anaheim’s big three, Ottawa has the tremendous top two pairings of Redden-Meszaros and Phillips-Volchenkov. The emergence of Joe Corvo has also been a big boost on the blueline for the Sens’ power play.
Prediction Two of the referees for the Final are on my flight (Paul Devorski and Dan O’Halloran). I really think that the way this series is called will be a factor. If the Ducks can be as physical as they were against the Red Wings, Ottawa will have a tough time establishing their forecheck. The games in the West have looked a lot harder in terms of finding space than the games in the East. If the Senators do a better job of drawing penalties and get on the power play, it could be a different story.
I look for the Ducks to win in six games.
* Miscellaneous A couple of other nuggets to leave you with: 1) If the Senators win, Daniel Alfredsson would be the first European captain of a Stanley Cup champion. Derian Hatcher (Dallas- 1999, U.S. born) is the only non-Canadian captain of a Stanley Cup winner. In fact, Alfredsson is the first European captain to reach the Final. 2) Ottawa is the birthplace of the Stanley Cup and the last time a team from that city competed for the Cup was 1927! 3) Anaheim is attempting to become the first champion from the west coast since NHL clubs began exclusively competing for the Stanley Cup, also in 1927. 4) Rob and Scott Niedermayer are trying to become the first brothers to get their names on the Cup in the same year since Brett and Duane Sutter with the 1983 Islanders. My partner Denis Potvin also shared that great honor with his brother Jean twice during the Islander dynasty.
I hope you enjoy the series and remember games one and two are on Versus…games three through seven will be on NBC…NHL Radio (XM 204) has all the games. If you’re going to be traveling in Europe, Asia, South America (just about anywhere in the world) ask where to find our telecast. If you see any of the games, send an email to the Panthers and let them know. I’ve heard from people in the past that saw our show in Japan, South Africa….even Singapore!