5 Reasons Why Anaheim Will Skate the Cup
Having watched the Ducks throughout the postseason – and during the regular season, when VERSUS would remember that the NHL has a few franchises located west of Denver – I'm convinced they're going to defeat the Ottawa Senators. It may take seven games, but this Stanley Cup Finals series will be the greatest moment in franchise history since Gordon Bombay coached it to the District 5 peewee championship against the Hawks in 1992. Here are five reasons why Teemu Selanne will be this year's Dave Andreychuk:
The Giggy Factor: I'll never consider myself a Jean-Sebastien Giguere fan; before they changed the specifications for goalie equipment, I thought the kid looked like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man between the pipes. But it's hard to deny a goalie who's third in the postseason with a 1.87 GAA and who has overcome what he's overcome during it. Reason for concern: Detroit hung three goals on him four times in the conference finals, after Giggy hadn't given up more than two in a 2007 postseason game before that. Reasons for optimism: Giguere is still playing for a contract, and somewhere in the back of his mind might lurk the fact that the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals were actually the worst round of his Conn Smythe-winning playoff. Time for redemption...
Act Like You've Been There: The Ottawa Senators have two players with Stanley Cup Finals experience on their roster: winger Oleg Saprykin and goalie Martin Gerber, who never actually appeared for Anaheim or Carolina. Granted, many of their players have been to multiple conference finals, but there's something to be said for having competed on the league's biggest stage – something Anaheim's Scott Niedermayer has done four times, Chris Pronger did last season, Rob Niedermayer has done twice and J.S. Giguere and Sean O'Donnell have done at least once in their careers.
The Clothes Make the Man Theory: The last time the Ducks made the Stanley Cup Finals, they were sporting those icky eggplant-and-green jerseys. They also had that goofy duck-billed hockey mask logo, which made them look like they should have been taking pictures with toddlers at the Magic Kingdom instead of playing in the NHL.
Now they wear those wicked looking black, orange and gold sweaters. How many times have we seen a team change its fashion sense and then win a championship? The New Jersey Devils did it. The Denver Broncos did it. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers did it. The Detroit Pistons actually changed their uniforms back to their Isiah Thomas-era colors after a few years of a teal nightmare; soon after, they won their first NBA title in 14 years. The Ducks dress like winners now.
It's "Great Puppy" Time: If there was one concern about the Ducks entering the postseason, it was the lack of a veteran offensive centerman. Turns out they didn't need one: 22-year-old Ryan "Great Puppy" Getzlaf (Selanne inadvertently coined the nickname, and I'm running with it) is the team's leading scoring forward. He's also hot at the right time, scoring six points and two power-play goals in the conference finals against the Red Wings. Pronger might have the Conn Smythe in his grasp; a star-making performance from "Great Puppy" Getzlaf could change the race.
Finally, the Senators Face a Team Playing Well: The Penguins weren't ready for primetime. The New Jersey Devils were fortunate to get out of the first round and were over-matched by the Senators. In hindsight, Buffalo never found a way to transfer its successful high-octane game to the postseason. Give the Senators credit for their commitment to team defense, but let's be honest: The Ducks had the tougher road to the Finals, and could be the first team Ottawa faces that's hitting its stride at the right time. It'll also be the first team that has a defenseman (Scott Niedermayer or Pronger) with the talent (and the stones) to successfully shadow the Jason Spezza Line.
Prediction: Ducks in seven, assuming Ray Emery and the Senators defense hold up their end of the bargain and push this series deep. My confidence, however, is not inspired by the fact that E.J. Hradek of ESPN has also picked against Ottawa – just like he did in the previous three rounds. Uh-oh...