Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Adam Breaks Down Cup Final

Adam Forsyth has been our top writer for over the past year, and he writes amazingly. Here is his breakdown of the cup final. Expect a blog from me tomorrow taking a look at the Preds ownership situation as well as my cup final prediction.


How they match-up

Goaltending - J.S. Giguere has the experience of going to a game 7 final and the understanding of the nerves that will contribute to the performance of such a game, while this is all relatively new for Ray Emery. Giguere has been playing extremely well, and has a Conn Smythe Trophy with his name on it for his performance in a losing effort in the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs, in getting the boot by the Scott Stevens & Niedermayer led New Jersey Devils. Ray Emery has the confidence of his teammates and has been a cool and collected performer throughout the season. Even as the Sens struggled out of the gate of the 2006-07 season, flailing away to a sub-par and close to .500 start, it was in no way the fault of Emery. He was one of the lone bright spots, after having big off-season free agent signing Martin Gerber flop. Midway into the season though, something changed, and seemed to simplify the Sens defensive scheme to playing and they were led by the play of their last line of defense. While Emery deserves a great deal of credit, it is usually experience in the playoffs that tends to be the difference.

Advantage: J.S. Giguere, Ducks

Forwards - The Ducks have a plethora of young stars that can put the puck in the net. They tend to play three lines worth of scoring touch, and are nicely complimented with grit and enough mucking to slow down an offensive juggernaut. With Selanne, McDonald, Getzlaf, Penner, and Perry on board, they can definitely put the puck in the net. While it has been a glaring display that as goes Selanne, so do the Ducks, droughts from their big line will be magnified in a series against the all-around Senators. The Perry-Penner-Getzlaf line (affectionately called, the PPG line) proved they can potentially step up in a dire need, by playing huge in the deciding game 6 versus the Red Wings, they will surely need more performances such as that to make this series a winnable one for them. A healthy Todd Marchant will also help in their shut-down approach in containing the big line that the Sens have. Pahlsson will continue to be a thorn in the sides of the top offensive offerings, and back-checking won't be an issue. The Ducks have shown signs of scrambling at times, which will be a no-no against the Ottawa bunch, as they will make you pay. The Sens will continue to roll four lines comfortably, and get excellent contributions from them all. It has been an incredible performance thus far of Heatley, Spezza and Alfredsson, as they have taken charge and decidedly turned their game up a notch (or two) and led this team to the promise land. The trio has been scoring at will regardless of what match-ups opposing coaches throw their way, and will need to continue that way in order to have success in this years final series. The only question that many have, is should they stumble along the way, is there anyone that can step up and take the initiative to score the big goal? They definitely have the firepower down the line, as the addition of Mike Comrie could become huge, as well as dependable net-fillers Fisher, Kelly, Schaefer and Vermette are more than capable in assisting the top line should any issues arise. Truth be told, the Sens will need a more balanced attack in taking on Jiggy and the Ducks. I expect some big goals to be scored by some lesser known heroes and not only by the likes of Alfie, Spez and Heatley.

Advantage: Ottawa Senators

Defense: - Man, what a group of overall defensemen we have here. On one side of the ice, we have what is arguably the best two-man tandem ever to be formed on a team in a long time with Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer leading the Ducks defense corps. On the other side of the ice, we have one what has to be the most talented top 6 defensive line-up in recent memory. With apologies to the rest of the Ducks d-men minus Francois Beauchemin; who has really blossomed into an excellent 3rd option for the Ducks contributing on both sides of the rink, but O'Donnell, Huskins, DiPenta and whomever Randy Carlyle decides to throw out for limited minutes between Ric Jackman and Aaron Rome the Ducks are definitely depending on big minutes and contributions by their big three of the blue line.As for the Sens on their blueline, each of their top 6 defenders contributes in a way that is and has been critical to their success along their journey to the Stanley Cup Final. Wade Redden has been the power play specialist that they expect him to be, moving the puck and allowing the creation of many offensive opportunities. Joe Corvo has been everything that they would have hoped for in acquiring him in the off-season. Tom Pressing has been steady and played in every situation possible, while contributing offensively as well. All the while, the trio of Anton Volchenkov, Chris Phillips and Andrej Meszaros have played over 20 minutes a night, while shutting the door to the offensive superstars they have faced. Throw in the spot duty of the talented Christoph Schubert and the Sens can throw seven extremely capable options the Ducks way. When they are rolling on all cylinders, which they seem to have been doing since the new year started, the Sens are tough to beat.

Advantage: Ottawa Senators

Power Play: This is a classic case between one teams incredible quarterback tandem of Pronger & Niedermayer (along with a strong 3rd option of Beauchemin) and comparing them to the offensively gifted forward trio of Heatley, Spezza and Alfredsson. Ottawa has 14 PPG's heading into the final in 70 chances for a success rate of 20%. While the Ducks have scored 13 PPG's in their 85 opportunities for a success rate of 15.3%. The Sens will definitely continue to get a bunch of opportunities as the Ducks aggressive in your face style of play will surely open up the ice with numerous man advantages, allowing the Sens to potentially change the game with odd man goals. I expect the Sens to continue to get the big goals when they need it, led by their superstars.

Advantage: Ottawa Senators

Penalty Kill: Only due to the fact that the Ducks will be more seasoned in PK situations, along with the fact that they have two great penalty killing forwards in Marchangt and Pahlsson do I feel that this is a definite advantage to them. I understand that the Sens have been firing on all cylinders, and have even gotten stellar backchecking efforts from their stars, but for the most part, they won't see the ice as frequently when down a man. How can you deny a PK with the overpowering D that the Ducks have?

Advantage: Anaheim Ducks

Intangibles: The Ottawa Senators have a lot on their side. They have the momentum of quickly disposing each team thrown their way. They took care of the young upstart Penguins in 5, a tough Devils squad in 5 and then easily handled the regular season champion Sabres in 5 as well. The Sens only had home ice advantage in their opening series, so they have proven that they can win on the road. They played their last game on Saturday (May 19th) and with the opening game to this series taking place on Monday, May 28th, will that week and a half off help, or hinder? Of course their bumps and bruises will heal, but talk to anyone in the know, and that much time off, without a true shoulder rub, hard-hitting affair (which the Ducks will definitely supply) it usually has a negative effect. Depending on what type of series this is, the Sens will play their own brand of hockey and will have the upper hand on the skill level. If grit is necessary, players like Neil, Volchenkov and McCammond's services will continue to be critical.The Ducks will also get a bit of time to heal, with a 5 day break in between games. That should help some of the aches and nagging pains that tend to persist this time of year. Home ice is and always will be huge, especially if the series goes the distance. So, the Ducks get the edge there, for sure. The Ducks ability to muck it up and win ugly can also help them along the way. As stated many of times, the Wings were the better team in the Western Conference final, but the Ducks found a way to win. Sometimes, there isn't an explanation for it, but the final score is ultimately what it is all about. In saying that, the experience factor could be critical should the Sens feel shell-shocked in what is all but one of their players first appearance in a Stanley Cup final (minor role player Oleg Saprykin played with the Flames in the '04 Final vs. Tampa Bay) in comparison to the abundance of not only appearances in the Finals, but leadership in the greatest of shows. Scott Niedermayer has won a trio of cups, while Pronger, Giguere, O'Donnell and the other Niedermayer have at least been there in recent history. So, they know what it is like to be on that grand of a spectacle.

Advantage: Anaheim Ducks

Overall Advantage: Ottawa Senators will win the Stanley Cup in 6 games, becoming the first Canadian based NHL franchise to win the cup since the 1993 Montreal Canadiens upset the Wayne Gretzky led Los Angeles Kings.

Conn Smythe Trophy Winner: Ottawa Senators Jason Spezza