Posted 12:50 AM ET | Comments 2
This is how I think they stack up.
Goaltending - No doubt, Giguere is the more accomplished of the two, already with a Conn Smythe under his belt. He is as positionally sound as any goalie in the NHL. He is again proving to be his team's MVP on a team that boasts two Norris candidates. He is more than capable of stealing a game. An area of concern is that Giggy is not as mobile as a lot of other goalies...when you get him moving he's beatable. People also call attention to his glove, which they say is below average, but I don't see it that way so much.
Emery is underrated, in my opinion, but I guess that happens when you start the year as a backup. He's just gotten better and better as the year has worn on. Emery is playing like he has something to prove, and he's been fantastic in these playoffs. Many say that Emery is a product of his D, and maybe he is, but not to the extent that some people think. If need be, he can also steal a game, but the 07 Sens only really need him to not be their downfall.
Defense - Anaheim, like I said, has two Norris candidates this year, and they play a lot. Their third guy, Beauchemin, would be a #2 on a lot of other teams, and plays half the game like the first two. Unfortunately, this is where the good news ends. While this ensures a star defenseman is always out on the ice, it also tires them out, and leaves the other guys cold when they do get a shift. This could be a problem as the series goes on, particularly if there are overtime games...although Giguere usually seems to win those.
Ottawa relies on a more balanced approach. They're so deep here that they play a seventh defenseman up front (Schubert, who is more than capable should he need to go back to defense). Every other team in the league wishes they could have a top six of Redden, Meszaros, Phillips, Volchenkov, Corvo, and Preissing. Any one of those would be at least top four on any other team. In particular, Phillips and Volchenkov have been awesome this year, emerging as the shutdown pair. Volchenkov blocks more shots than anyone in the NHL who doesn't wear goalie pads. As Ottawa usually splits the ice time fairly evenly here, this will keep their defense fresher than that of the Ducks.
Forwards - The Ducks have two more than capable scoring lines, and the second one will hit you hard. The line of Perry, Penner, and Getzlaf will be absolutely crucial to the Ducks' chances in this series. If they score and play with energy like in Game 6 against Detroit, Ottawa will have their hands full, and it will create room for Selanne and McDonald. If they're quiet, so will the streets of Anaheim be when the series is over. The checking line, anchored by probable Selke winner Samual Pahlsson, is as good as any in the league...problem is, they're facing the hottest line in hockey. A problem here is that the fourth line rarely sees the ice, and a long series could wear out the Ducks' forwards.
Ottawa, like I said, has the hottest line in hockey, with 3 of the top 4 playoff scorers (#3, Lidstrom, is out of the playofs, and one point ahead of Alfredsson.). At this point, Alfredsson has to be the Conn Smythe favorite, with a league high 10 goals, 4 GWG, and his work defensively and physical play are something most of us never knew he was capable of. Spezza and Heatley have been fighting it out for the scoring lead all playoffs. Comrie and Fisher have stepped it up (I'm impressed with Comrie's D as well), and...well, the Sens are deep enough up front that they trust all 12 of their guys to play 10 minutes a game. The guy they sit, Saprykin, is also capable of taking a regular shift. Not only do the Senators have the superior first line, they also hae the superior depth. I just hope Neil doesn't lose his temper.
Special Teams - Anaheim's penalty killing was awesome until they hit Detroit, so I tend to think it was a product of the woeful offense of the Canucks and Wild. The real concern here is that Anaheim is not a very disciplined team, and Detroit's scorers took advantage on the PP. Ottawa has even more guns than the Wings do, so if the Ducks take a lot of penalties, they won't win. It's that simple. Their PP hasn't been anything special either.
Ottawa's PK has been great, particularly against the Sabres. And if you think Alfie, Heatley, and Spezza aren't going to capitalize given a lot of opportunities with an extra man, you haven't been watching. The Sens' PP has been amazing.
Players to Watch:
Anaheim - Corey Perry. This guy has to be a sparkplug for his team. He's young and has a lot of energy and skill. But if he's not going, that means Penner and Getzlaf probably aren't either, and then the Ducks simply won't have the offense to keep up.
Ottawa - Jason Spezza. Spezza is the artist, the creator on this line. He needs to continue his fantastic two-way play. Against Giguere, he'll need to be creative and get him moving.
Conclusion - This will be a physical series, and the Senators have to be ready for it. It has to be a physical series, because the Ducks cannot match Ottawa skill for skill. The Ducks will have to be disciplined, because Ottawa's PP is very dangerous. Ottawa will have to get Giguere moving, because otherwise he'll stop everything thrown his way. (Maybe try throwing it in his feet from behind the net.) One thing Detroit had success with was intentionally missing the net and having the shot hit the boards and come out the other side. The Ducks will try to make Emery mad, because like Hasek, he has a temper. But ultimately, the special teams battle is going to decide this series, and it will be Anaheim's downfall. Ottawa in six close, hard-fought games. And Daniel Alfredsson is the Conn Smythe winner.