Stanley Cup Finals Preview - Anaheim vs. Ottawa

Stanley Cup Finals Preview - Anaheim vs. Ottawa

Stanley Cup Finals Preview - Anaheim vs. Ottawa

ANAHEIM DUCKS (2nd seed, West)

REGULAR SEASON RECORD: 48-20-14

PLAYOFF STATISTICAL LEADERS: Points, Chris Pronger (14); goals, Teemu Selanne, Ryan Getzlaf and Andy McDonald (5); assists, Pronger (11); plus- minus, Pronger and Samuel Pahlsson (+6).

KEY PLAYOFF STATS: Goals-for, 42; goals-against, 34; power-play %, 15.3; penalty-kill %, 87.5.

REVIEW: The Anaheim Ducks may no longer have the word "Mighty" attached to their name, but officially dropping that adjective has done little to halt the club's metamorphosis into one of the NHL's elite teams.

The Ducks put together the best regular season in franchise history this year and have maintained that momentum into the playoffs. Anaheim won its first- ever division title by taking the Pacific with 110 points, and the second seed in the West is the club's highest ranking in a postseason.

This marks the Ducks' second trip to the Stanley Cup finals after their amazing run to the final stage in 2003, when they were ultimately eliminated in seven games by New Jersey. Anaheim also made it to the Western Conference finals for the second straight year this spring, and for the third time in the last four postseasons.

One of the biggest changes for the Ducks this year came to the club in the offseason, as they traded for superstar defenseman Chris Pronger. Anaheim general manager Brian Burke pried Pronger away from Edmonton in exchange for Joffrey Lupul, Ladislav Smid, and three draft picks (two first-round, one second round).

Burke made the deal just weeks after he watched the Pronger-led Oilers defeat his Ducks in five games during last year's conference finals.

Pronger has not disappointed in his first postseason for Anaheim, as he has a team-high 14 points on three goals and 11 assists. The 2000 Hart and Norris Trophy winner as league MVP and best defenseman, respectively, was also involved in some controversy in the conference finals when he delivered a blow to the head of Detroit forward Tomas Holmstrom. Pronger was suspended one game for the incident.

In addition to Pronger, the Ducks also boast captain Scott Niedermayer on the blue line. In fact, Pronger and Niedermayer were named as two of three finalists for the Norris Trophy this season.

Niedermayer has three goals and six helpers in this postseason and has been a big factor on both ends of the ice. All three of his goals came at huge points of the game, as one tally tied the pivotal Game 5 against Detroit in the closing seconds of regulation and the other two goals were overtime game- winners.

The skill and leadership that Pronger and Niedermayer bring to Anaheim's defensive corps is not wasted on goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who is having another brilliant postseason.

Giguere, the Conn Smythe winner as postseason MVP in 2003 for Anaheim, is 9-3 so far in these playoffs with a 1.87 goals against average and .931 save percentage.

The 30-year-old Montreal native is 12-1 lifetime in playoff overtime games after winning four of five contests that lasted past regulation in this postseason. The 12-1 mark is the best in NHL history for a goaltender with 10 or more overtime games in the playoffs. The one OT setback came in Game 2 of this year's conference quarterfinals against Vancouver, when the Ducks lost 2-1 despite the fact that Giguere stopped 47-of-49 shots.

The Ducks' most productive forward in terms of points this postseason has been 22-year-old Ryan Getzlaf, who has five goals and assists to rank him second only to Pronger with 13 total points.

Veteran sniper Teemu Selanne has pitched in his share of points to help him reach the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in his storied career. The 36- year-old winger has five goals and seven assists in the postseason, and posted the overtime winner in Game 5 against the Red Wings. Selanne's 540 career goals in the regular season place him second all-time among Finnish players in the NHL to Hall-of-Famer Jari Kurri (601).

The play of centerman Samuel Pahlsson also cannot be overlooked. The Swede is an excellent defensive forward, is the team's best faceoff man and has also added two goals and eight assists in the playoffs.

OTTAWA SENATORS (4th seed, East)

REGULAR SEASON RECORD: 48-25-9

PLAYOFF STATISTICAL LEADERS: Points, Dany Heatley (21); goals, Daniel Alfredsson (10); assists, Heatley (15); plus-minus, Wade Redden (+9).

KEY PLAYOFF STATS: Goals-for, 48; goals-against, 31; power-play %, 20.0; penalty-kill %, 88.6.

REVIEW: After years of carrying the label of playoff underachievers, the Ottawa Senators have made it to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in team history, and they managed to reach the stage in impressive fashion.

The Senators, who were an expansion team in the 1992-93 campaign, earned a playoff berth for the 10th straight year this season and have had far and away the best postseason in club history.

Ottawa made quick work of its opponents in each of the three rounds of this year's playoffs, as it needed just five games to dispose of Pittsburgh, New Jersey and Buffalo. That has given the Senators a 12-3 record in this postseason and should ensure that they are well-rested for the final round.

This transition from also-rans to this year's dominant postseason performers has come as a surprise to hockey fans, but that doesn't mean that the Senators were exactly underdogs coming into the playoffs. After all, Ottawa was seeded fourth in the East after gaining 105 points, and was second only to Buffalo in the NHL with 286 goals during the regular season.

Ottawa's superb run to the Cup finals has become a compelling national story in Canada, where it seems everybody has become a Senators fan. Canadians everywhere, whether they are from Toronto, Edmonton or Regina, recognize that the Senators have an excellent chance to bring the Cup back to the Great White North for the first time since the Montreal Canadiens won it all in 1993.

The most obvious reason Ottawa has turned the corner in terms of playoff success this year has been the play of its top-line, which is possibly the most potent unit in the NHL.

Team captain Daniel Alfredsson is one-third of the dynamic combination that has struck fear into the opposition. The Swedish winger has set a team record with 10 goals in this postseason, but his 17 total points places him third amongst his linemates in scoring.

Dany Heatley, Alfredsson's fellow winger, is leading the Senators with 21 points (6 goals, 15 assists) and centerman Jason Spezza is second with 20 points on seven tallies and 13 assists. The Senators record for points in a single postseason before this year was 16, a mark set by Marian Hossa in 2003.

While the top line has been the most obvious reason for Ottawa's success this year, the Senators have also benefited greatly from a cohesive team effort on defense. Alfredsson and his linemates have also helped out in that regard, but the lion's share of the credit should go to the team's outstanding defensive corps.

The leader on the blue line for Ottawa is Wade Redden, who like Alfredsson has played his entire NHL career with the Senators. In fact, both Redden and Alfredsson were around in 1997, when Ottawa reached the postseason for the first time.

Redden's veteran leadership helps stabilize a back line that includes excellent offensive defensemen in Joe Corvo and Tom Preissing and a strong physical presence in Anton Volchenkov.

The team's defensive prowess helped limit the Sabres, who led the NHL with 298 goals during the regular season, to just 10 tallies in five games during the East finals.

The play of goaltender Ray Emery has also been a huge bonus for Ottawa, as the 24-year-old backstop has impressed with a 1.95 goals against average, .919 save percentage and three shutouts.

Emery has proven he has the skill to take a team deep into the playoffs after struggling in his first postseason last year.

MATCHUP

This Stanley Cup final matchup features a pair of clubs that have never hoisted Lord Stanley's Cup, and that usually makes for an inspired competition. Expect that to be the case in this battle between Anaheim and Ottawa.

The Senators have been the most dominant team in this year's playoffs, but that doesn't mean that the they are going to simply ease past the Ducks the way they did through the Eastern Conference playoffs.

In fact, neither Anaheim nor Ottawa has faced any opponent quite like each other in this postseason. The Ducks have yet to encounter a team that can score like the Sens, and Ottawa hasn't been pitted against a club that dominates from the blue line the way Anaheim does.

These differences should make this a highly-entertaining Cup finals, and one that will be claimed by the team that is able to play to its strengths on a more consistent basis.

Ottawa's top-line is the most-feared in the league, and it's unlikely that even a defensive powerhouse like Anaheim is capable of completely shutting down the unit. However, if the Ducks are able to make things difficult early in the series for the trio of Alfredsson, Heatley and Spezza, then it is possible that frustration could set in for the Senators.

Having a pair of defenseman like Pronger and Niedermayer on the same team is as valuable an asset as possessing a top-line like that of the Senators. The duo are normally paired together on only power-play and penalty-killing situations, but whenever either of them is on the ice, it changes the game for Anaheim.

Giguere's experience gives the Ducks an edge in goal, but Emery has gotten stronger in net as the postseason has worn on, and it's unlikely that he will fall flat in the Cup finals.

The Senators' quick run through the East should keep them well-rested, but Anaheim will also have five full days of rest between the conference finals and the start of the Stanley Cup.

This will be a very tightly-contested series, but the Senators' formula for success should hold true in the final round. Ottawa has taken the early lead with its formidable offensive attack, and has then smothered the opposition with a total defensive effort.

This team defense approach will certainly be challenged by the puck-moving ability of the Ducks, but Ottawa's balanced approach will be the difference in the series.

Sports Network predicted outcome: Senators in 7.

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Finals breakdown: Senators vs. Ducks
May 23, 2007

Canadian Press

A capsule look at the Stanley Cup final:

Ottawa Senators (48-25-9) vs. Anaheim Ducks (48-20-14)

2006-07 series record: Did not play.

How they got here: Ottawa defeated Pittsburgh 4-1, New Jersey 4-1 and Buffalo 4-1. Anaheim defeated Minnesota 4-1, Vancouver 4-1 and Detroit 4-2.

Playoff history: Never met.

Ottawa: First trip to Stanley Cup final in modern history. ... The top line of Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson has been all-but unstoppable, scoring at least one goal in every game except one so far in the playoffs. Heatley and Spezza are 1-2 in playoff scoring with 21 and 20 points, respectively, while Alfredsson leads with 10 goals. ... Ray Emery leads playoff goalies with 12 wins, to go with 1.95 goals-against average and .919 save percentage. ... Power play is clicking on a healthy 20.0 percent of its chances overall, and 31.2 percent on the road. Penalty killing is also strong at 88.6 percent. ... Ottawa is 7-1 on the road in the postseason. ... Coach Bryan Murray is Anaheim's former GM.

Anaheim: Second trip to finals; lost in 2003 to New Jersey. ... Jean-Sebastien Giguere, the hero of 2003, is back in the No. 1 job and has a 9-3 mark with a 1.87 average and .931 save percentage. ... The Big Three on defense average more than 30 minutes each per game -- Chris Pronger at 31:16, Francois Beauchemin at 30:49 and Scott Niedermayer 30:26. ...

Ducks are middle-of the pack on the power play at 15.3 percent. ... Pronger leads Ducks with 14 points, one more than center Ryan Getzlaf. The top goal-scorers are Getzlaf, Teemu Selanne and Andy McDonald, each with five. ... Ducks have seven players with 20 or more penalty minutes in the playoffs, led by Rob Neidermayer with 39. Ottawa has one (Chris Phillips, with 20).

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Senators preparing for unfamiliar Ducks
May 23, 2007

OTTAWA (AP) -Daniel Alfredsson and the Ottawa Senators have some cramming to do before facing the Anaheim Ducks in the Stanley Cup final.
   
The teams, set to open the finals Monday night in Anaheim, didn't face each other this season and haven't met in Anaheim since Oct. 17, 2003, when Senators goalie Patrick Lalime made 30 saves in a 3-0 victory.

In fact, they have played only once since then, with Anaheim's Chris Kunitz beating Dominik Hasek for the shootout winner in Ottawa on Jan. 19, 2006.

``I haven't seen them much, a period here and there during the playoffs,'' said Alfredsson, the Senators' captain. ``I think it will be the most physical series so far. They're a bigger team and they have some skilled guys as well.''

Ottawa center Mike Fisher has confidence that the current level of the Senators' game will ensure a competitive series even if they have much less experience to draw on in facing Anaheim compared to their familiarity with Pittsburgh, New Jersey and Buffalo - the Eastern Conference champions' opponents on their way to the Canadian capital's first Stanley Cup final since 1927.

``We'll obviously get a look at video to see their tendencies, but we've got to keep doing the same things we're doing,'' Fisher said. ``We feel good where our game is at. We're in tough but we think it's a good series.''

Senators coach Bryan Murray is well-acquainted with a number of the Ducks' players, notably goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, the 2003 Conn Smythe winner when Anaheim lost in seven games to New Jersey.

``You have to be on with a shot because you don't get very many soft goals on him,'' said Murray, who was the Ducks' GM at the time.

Martin Gerber, Ottawa's backup goalie, held the same role behind Giguere with Anaheim in 2003.

``He doesn't play fancy or flashy,'' Gerber said. ``He's probably the hardest-working guy in the league, the way he works in practices.''

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Selanne, Ducks get a crack at Stanley Cup
May 23, 2007

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -The Ducks' Teemu Selanne was quite frightened in the closing moments against Detroit, and quite emotional afterward.

Anaheim withstood a late surge by the Red Wings, so Selanne - who turns 37 in July - will play in the Stanley Cup finals for the first time.

Shortly after Anaheim's 4-3 win in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals, Selanne stood amid the hubbub in the locker room, his freshly minted T-shirt and hat proclaiming that the Ducks were playing for the Stanley Cup.

``This is a special moment for me,'' he said, smiling but a bit choked up. ``I've been watching the finals on TV for so many times, it's great to finally be able to play in them.

``Wow, what a thrill.''

The Ducks, who wrapped up their series against Detroit on Tuesday night, will begin the league championship round against the Ottawa Senators on Monday night in Anaheim. Game 2 is on the Ducks' ice Wednesday night before the series shifts to Ottawa for two games.

His career rejuvenated after he underwent knee surgery in 2004 and the Ducks brought him back to Anaheim in August 2005, Selanne was the team's leading scorer with 48 goals and 46 assists during the regular season. It was his most productive season since he had 107 points in 1998-99, during his first stint in Anaheim.

The Ducks won three straight over the Red Wings after losing two of the first three, and Selanne was a major contributor in those games. The ``Finnish Flash'' had four assists and two goals, including the winner in a 2-1 overtime victory in Game 5 that turned the series in the Ducks' favor.

After Anaheim built a 3-0 lead in the first two periods of Game 6, the Ducks seemed well on the way to their second appearance in the Stanley Cup finals, where they lost Game 7 to New Jersey in 2003.

But the Red Wings didn't go quietly, outshooting Anaheim 16-3 in the third period and scoring three times against goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

After Pavel Datsyuk scored his second power-play goal with 3:04 remaining to draw the Red Wings to 4-3, those final frantic 3 minutes made Selanne afraid he was watching it all - the series, the trip to the finals - slipping away.

``I have never been so nervous and so shaky in a hockey game in my life - and I was on the bench,'' he said. ``We did not want to go back to Detroit. It wasn't pretty, but now, who cares?''

And when the clock ran out?

``I took several deep breaths,'' Selanne said, inhaling and exhaling to demonstrate. He and his teammates figure things will only get tougher when they face the upstart Senators, who ousted the favored Sabres in five games in the Eastern Conference finals that ended last Saturday.

``It's not going to be easy,'' Selanne said. ``They're sound all-around. I think it's going to be very exciting.''

Defenseman Chris Pronger said, ``We have the biggest step to go yet. Ottawa's sitting at home and, I'm sure, really eager to get started.''

Said fellow blue-liner Sean O'Donnell: ``We don't have a sense of anything being complete. Although winning the Western Conference is a feather in our cap, that's not the goal we set in training camp.''

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Pronger gives Ducks their edge
May 25, 2007

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -There's an edge to Chris Pronger, which may be part of the reason he's one of hockey's best players and the Ducks are in the Stanley Cup finals.

``To be as great as he is, to be as effective as he is, he has to play that kind of style,'' Anaheim teammate Teemu Selanne said. ``He has to be right there in the other player's face.

``If he doesn't do that, he's not so effective.''

Selanne, a forward, has tangled with the big defenseman many times in his career, including last year when Pronger and the Edmonton Oilers beat Selanne and the Ducks in the Western Conference finals.

``I have had some of my really toughest battles with him,'' Selanne said Friday after a Ducks workout. ``You can't always be a nice guy out there. That's how it goes. It's never personal.

``Adding all the talents and all the tools that he has, his toughness and his grittiness and his little dirtiness here and there, that's what makes him so effective.''

Shortly after Edmonton lost to Carolina in the Stanley Cup finals last year, Pronger asked to be traded, and Anaheim snapped him up.

He'll take another shot at winning the Cup when the Ducks' open the NHL championship series Monday in Anaheim against the Ottawa Senators.

``We haven't really accomplished anything yet,'' Pronger said. ``There's still one big step we need to take.''

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Pronger is known for his wide arm span and his physical play - he served a one-game suspension during the conference finals for a blow to the head of Detroit's Tomas Holmstrom.

But there's more.

``Prongs is a complete player. He's a Norris Trophy candidate for a reason,'' Anaheim forward Ryan Getzlaf said. ``He's a great defensive guy, but he's leading our team in scoring right now (three goals, 11 assists in 15 postseason games).

``He's smart. He's been in the league for a long time and he knows where guys are and where guys aren't. He'll make that first good pass and he'll take that big shot from the point.''

Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said he doesn't know much about Pronger because they've played in different conferences, but, ``Obviously (he's) a big guy. Makes good plays with the puck as well.''

Pronger has proven a fine complement both on and off the ice to fellow blue-liner Scott Niedermayer, the Ducks' captain who also is a finalist for his second Norris Trophy, given to the league's top defenseman.

Goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere said the pair provide a beneficial but quite different type of leadership.

``Sometimes Prongs is the guy who's going to speak up. Scotty leads by example on the ice and speaks up when he needs to,'' Giguere said. ``Prongs, sometimes in the dressing room, he'll be vocal, encourage everybody and speak his mind.

``Sometimes you need that kind of leadership in your room, as well.''

Ducks defenseman Sean O'Donnell agreed that Pronger is a presence.

``He brings an attitude. He doesn't suffer from a lack of confidence and that rubs off,'' O'Donnell said. ``When he's not in the locker room, it's quieter, a little less abrasive.''

Pronger also serves as sort of lightning rod for attention, which Giguere believes benefits his teammates.

``When there's heat going against you, guys like Prongs will take the heat for the rest of the guys,'' Giguere said. ``The energy of the crowd (in road games) is directed toward Prongs instead of the rest of us.

``It's something that doesn't seem to bother him, and it might give some other guys a chance to feel a little bit more comfortable.''

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Senators are Canada's team
May 26th, 2007

(Sports Network) - When the Ottawa Senators begin play in the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup finals Monday night in Anaheim, they will not only have the hopes of a city behind them, but also the dreams of a nation.

The Senators have captured the collective imagination of the Canadian people, who are longing for Lord Stanley's Cup to be returned to the nation that invented the game.

It's been a long time since the Cup was won by a team based on Canadian soil and, not surprisingly, the Montreal Canadiens were the last club to achieve that feat when they won it all in 1993. The Canadiens, of course, have by far the most Stanley Cup titles in NHL history with 24.

One thing this year's Senators and the Canadiens of 1993 have in common is that their opponent in the final stage will be a team from California, a U.S. state that conjures up decidedly different images than Canada. Ottawa and the Canadian people certainly hope the Anaheim Ducks will suffer the same fate the Los Angeles Kings did in '93 against the Habs.

"I hope we're Canada's team and I think at least for now we are," said Senators head coach Bryan Murray.

The Senators have echoed the sentiment of the country by creating a new theme for the final round entitled "Bring Home Stanley". This slogan is not only meant to cultivate a feeling of national pride, but is also a reference to the origins of the Stanley Cup itself, which is tied to the history of Ottawa.

The idea for hockey's ultimate trophy was first conceived on March 18, 1892, at a dinner of the Ottawa Amateur Athletic Association. Since 1893, the Stanley Cup has been awarded to hockey's greatest teams, but the trophy's namesake, Lord Stanley, the Earl of Preston and Governor General of Canada, never saw a Stanley Cup game nor was he ever able to present the trophy to a winning team.

The Senators have decided to hang a pair of banners from the rafters at Scotiabank Place during the finals with the "Bring Home Stanley" logo on it. Ottawa and Canadian fans everywhere hope that the Senators will soon be able to hoist a different kind of banner for winning the franchise's first championship.

"I think there's such an interest and a fascination and emotional attachment to hockey in Canada that when you are representing the country, I think that it's remiss not to think that everybody gets or most everybody gets caught up into it," added Murray.

Interestingly enough, a club known as the Ottawa Senators won the Cup 10 times in the formative years of professional hockey, but those championships are not a part of the current incarnation of the Senators.

It's not exactly shocking that the Senators were able to reach this stage of the postseason, but the way they were able to roll through the Eastern Conference playoffs definitely turned a few heads.

The Senators, who were an expansion team in the 1992-93 campaign, earned a playoff berth for the 10th straight year this season and have had far and away the best postseason in club history.

Ottawa made quick work of its opponents in each of the three rounds of this year's playoffs, as it needed just five games to dispose of Pittsburgh, New Jersey and Buffalo. That has given the Senators a 12-3 record in this postseason and should ensure that they are well-rested for the final round.

This direct path to the finals has resulted in tons of good will for the Senators, who up until this season were labeled as an excellent club during the regular season, but underachievers once the playoffs began.

A pair of Senators players who want this title possibly more than anyone are Daniel Alfredsson and Wade Redden. Both players have been with the franchises their entire careers and were members of the club in 1997, when Ottawa made its first postseason.

Alfredsson especially has something to prove as the captain of the team since the 2000-01 campaign. The Swedish winger has played in all 94 of the franchise's postseason contests and, as a result, has personally shouldered a great deal of the blame for the Sens playoff failures in the past.

"It's been an evolution here and we had a couple of disappointments. Some really good teams," said Alfredsson. "Changes were made and Murray came in. I think he's been able to take us to another level."

This year, Alfredsson has been fantastic in the playoffs, notching a franchise-record 10 goals and adding seven assists. He also leads all players in this year's postseason with four game-winning goals.

Now, all the Senators have a chance to erase the negative labels placed on them in the past and truly give their fans and the country they represent something to cheer about.

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Strangers in the night: Ducks, Senators play for Stanley Cup
May 26, 2007

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson isn't familiar with the play of Anaheim star Chris Pronger. Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf doesn't really know anyone on the Senators.

The two teams have faced each other just once since 2003. They get to reacquaint themselves Monday night, slamming into each other in the opener of the Stanley Cup finals.

``It's a little bit weird to meet a team in the finals that you haven't seen all season. It's going to be a different experience come Monday,'' said Getzlaf, who turned 22 this month and is a member of the Ducks' productive ``Kid Line.''

``They're a strong skating team, they score a lot and they're at the top of their game, same as we are. It should be fun. Anyone can make their predictions, but until you see the two teams clash, it's really hard to say what's going to happen.''

The Senators are making their debut in the NHL championship. The Ducks lost Game 7 to New Jersey in 2003 in their only other appearance.

``I haven't seen them much, a period here and there (on TV) during the playoffs,'' Alfredsson said.

Anaheim's Chris Kunitz scored the winner in a shootout when the Ducks beat the Senators on Jan. 19, 2006 in Ottawa. Kunitz recently underwent surgery for a broken right hand and isn't expected to play in the finals.

That was the lone meeting between the teams since Oct. 17, 2003, when Patrick Lalime had 30 saves in a 3-0 victory in Anaheim.

Asked if the unfamiliarity adds intrigue to the series, Alfredsson said: ``Both yes and no. I think sometimes it's good to have a little bit of a history with the team, maybe. I don't know too much about them, to be honest.

``I'm sure everybody is going to be excited to see what kind of game it's going to be when we start Monday.''

Anaheim goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere is studying tape and scouting reports to check out the Senators' tendencies.

``It should be interesting. But we're going to learn about each other pretty quickly,'' he said. ``We can't spend two or three games trying to figure them out. After the first 10 minutes, you have to be playing your game, not be worrying about what they're going to do.''

Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer, who played against the Senators during his time in the Eastern Conference with New Jersey, said this matchup creates a new dynamic.

``The first little bit will be far different than playing any team you've played eight, 10 times in a year, counting exhibitions,'' he said. ``That happens when you get to this stage and you're playing the team from the other conference. We're both in the same boat.''

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Sens, Ducks well-rested for Cup finals
May 27th, 2007

(Sports Network) - Fatigue is not likely to be an issue Monday evening, when the Stanley Cup finals finally get underway as the Ottawa Senators visit the Anaheim Ducks for Game 1 at the Honda Center.

The Senators, who have only played 15 total playoff games en route to the franchise's first-ever finals appearance, have been off since wrapping up the Eastern Conference title with a Game 5 victory over Buffalo on May 19.

The Ducks were the late-comers in the equation, and they haven't played since ousting Detroit in the sixth game of the Western Conference finals last Tuesday.

All that rest has given the clubs plenty of time to recharge their batteries as they prepare for what should be a competitive and highly-entertaining series.

Another thing that these teams have in common is that neither franchise has won a Stanley Cup title. A club known as the Ottawa Senators won the Cup 10 times in the formative years of professional hockey, but those championships are not a part of the current incarnation of the Senators.

The Ducks put together the best regular season in franchise history this year and have been able to maintain that momentum into the playoffs. Anaheim won its first-ever division title by taking the Pacific with 110 points, and the second seed in the West is the club's highest ranking in a postseason.

The Ducks have made it to the Stanley Cup finals for the second time in team history, making them the first California team to reach the final stage twice. They last made it in 2003, when they were ultimately eliminated in seven games by New Jersey.

Anaheim earned its trip to the final stage this year by defeating Minnesota in five games, Vancouver in five, and finally ousting the Detroit Red Wings in six games to earn the Western Conference championship.

Ottawa, meanwhile, made even quicker work of its opponents in each of the three rounds of this year's playoffs, as it needed just five games to dispose of Pittsburgh, New Jersey and Buffalo. That has given the Senators an impressive 12-3 record in this postseason.

The strength of the Ducks club lies in the play of their two superstar defensemen, Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer, and the puck-stopping ability of goaltender Jean Sebastien Giguere, who already has a Conn Smythe Trophy to his credit having won MVP of the 2003 playoffs.

Pronger has a team-high 14 points on three goals and 11 assists in his first postseason for Anaheim, while Niedermayer has three goals and six helpers in this postseason. All three of Niedermayer's goals came at huge points of the game, as one tally tied the pivotal Game 5 against Detroit in the closing seconds of regulation and the other two goals were overtime game-winners.

Giguere is 9-3 so far in these playoffs with a 1.87 goals against average and .931 save percentage.

The Senators have what has become the most-feared top-line in the league at their disposal in the trio of Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley. Alfredsson, the right wing and captain of the team, has set a team record with 10 goals in this postseason, but his 17 total points place him third amongst his linemates in scoring.

Heatley is leading the Senators with 21 points (6 goals, 15 assists) and centerman Jason Spezza is second with 20 points on seven tallies and 13 assists. The Senators record for points in a single postseason before this year was 16, a mark set by Marian Hossa in 2003.

The Senators have been the most dominant team in this year's playoffs, but that doesn't mean that the they are going to simply ease past the Ducks the way they did through the Eastern Conference playoffs.

In fact, neither Anaheim nor Ottawa has faced any opponent quite like each other in this postseason. The Ducks have yet to encounter a team that can score like the Sens, and Ottawa hasn't been pitted against a club that dominates from the blue line the way Anaheim does.

These differences should make this a highly-entertaining Cup finals, and one that will be claimed by the team that is able to play to its strengths on a more consistent basis.

Ottawa's top-line is extremely potent, and it's unlikely that even a defensive powerhouse like Anaheim is capable of completely shutting down the unit. However, if the Ducks are able to make things difficult early in the series for the trio of Alfredsson, Heatley and Spezza, then it is possible that frustration could set in for the Senators.

Having a pair of defensemen like Pronger and Niedermayer on the same team is as valuable an asset as possessing a top-line like that of the Senators. The duo are normally paired together on only power-play and penalty-killing situations, but whenever either of them is on the ice, it changes the game for Anaheim.

Giguere's experience gives the Ducks an edge in goal, but Sens netminder Ray Emery has gotten stronger in net as the postseason has worn on, and it's unlikely that he will fall flat in the Cup finals.

This will be a very tightly-contested series, but the Senators' formula for success should hold true in the final round. Ottawa has taken the early lead with its formidable offensive attack, and has then smothered the opposition with a total defensive effort.

This team defense approach will certainly be challenged by the puck-moving ability of the Ducks, but Ottawa's balanced approach will be the difference in the series.

Sports Network predicted outcome: Senators in 7.

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