News from the Front: What Sportswriters in Ottawa & Southern California are Reporting
From Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun:
Senators coach Bryan Murray admitted yesterday the long break is starting to bother the players. By the time the puck drops Monday, the Senators will have had a full eight days to prepare for the final. The down time has allowed Murray a chance to reflect on how his team advanced to the Stanley Cup finals.
"I was just standing on the ice thinking that this is how teams get really good: You get late in the year, you're in the playoffs and the guys have bought in totally. There is no individual stuff anymore. It's all about the team now.”
Goaltender Ray Emery has tried to use the time off to his advantage. He has been on the ice daily working on specific areas of his game with Calgary-based goaltending consultant Eli Wilson. Emery is one of the few players who doesn't mind the idle time.
"A break like this is great for a goaltender. It doesn't matter what time of year it is," he said. "This gives me a chance to work on some things and stay sharp.”
From Dan Di Sciullo for The Orange County Register:
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. Ducks general manager Brian Burke made the deal just weeks after he watched the Pronger-led Edmonton Oilers defeat his Ducks in five games during last year's conference finals.
The reason that the deal for Pronger was so huge was because the Ducks already possessed one of the game's best defenseman in captain Scott Niedermayer. In fact, Pronger and Niedermayer were named as two of three finalists for the Norris Trophy this season.
The skill and leadership that Pronger and Niedermayer bring to Anaheim's defensive corps combined with Giguere between the pipes has been a scary combination for the Ducks.
The rest of the league is also lucky that the lottery for the 2005 NHL Entry draft went the way that it did because Pittsburgh and Anaheim were the last two teams in the running for the No. 1 pick, which everybody knew would be used to select phenom Sidney Crosby. Imagine this already stellar Ducks club with Crosby, a player who has notched a pair of 100-point campaigns in the NHL before his 20th birthday.
From David Wharton of the Los Angeles Times:
To say that Southern California has Cup fever might be an overstatement. Call it the Stanley sniffles. Mild aches and pains with a chance of becoming something stronger.
So far, the Ducks are heading into the NHL's Stanley Cup finals against the Ottawa Senators on Monday with far less buzz than would accompany a team from a traditional hockey town or, for that matter, a championship run by the Angels, Dodgers or Lakers.
No preponderance of flags waving from cars or wall-to-wall jabber on sports talk radio. No fans naming their first-born Teemu in a desperate attempt to win tickets.
On a recent evening at various sports bars around the Honda Center in Anaheim, patrons wore baseball caps and basketball jerseys. There wasn't a Ducks hat or shirt in sight.
"The Angels are much more popular ... even now," said David Robertson, sitting at the bar.
His friend, Mark Bushik, a self-proclaimed hockey aficionado, mused: "The general population doesn't care."
It is a curious predicament for a team that has reached the Stanley Cup finals in two of the last four seasons — not counting a lockout-obliterated year — and has sold out 31 consecutive games.
Teams such as the Lakers and Dodgers have spent decades building social cachet. When those teams go on a championship run, the casual or "situational" fan is more likely to jump on the bandwagon and fly the colors.
To some degree it's a matter of timing, the team arriving in Anaheim as an expansion franchise only 13 years ago. When the Kings reached the Stanley Cup finals and captured Los Angeles' attention in 1993, they had been around more than a quarter-century and benefited from a crossover star in Wayne Gretzky.
More from Dan Di Sciullo for The Orange County Register:
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.
From Lonnie White of the Los Angeles Times:
Edmonton failed to do it last year and Calgary fell short in 2004. Now the pressure is on the Ottawa Senators to end Canada's 14-year drought in the Stanley Cup finals.
"There's been a lot made of that and that's natural for those things to evolve when you have a Canadian franchise that's playing," said Ducks coach Randy Carlyle, whose team will play Ottawa for the Cup in the series starting Monday at Honda Center. "That's a rally cry for the country. That's fine.
"But it's well documented," Carlyle added, "that we have more Canadians in our lineup than they do."
"It's pretty special to play a Canadian team in the finals," said Ducks forward Travis Moen, who grew up in Canada on his family's 3,500-acre cattle and grain farm in Stewart Valley, Saskatchewan.
Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf agreed, adding that, "It's been great" dealing with the hype surrounding this year's finals.
"A lot of support coming from everywhere," he said. "It's great to see that from family and friends back home. There's that much interest in the game."
From Wayne Scanlan of CanWest News Service:
Can anybody stop the Senators' trio of centre Jason Spezza and wingers Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson?
The Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres would likely say no. Over to you, Anaheim Ducks.
After three rounds and 15 games played, Heatley enters the Cup final as the NHL's leading scorer with 21 points.
Alfredsson is the game's top goal getter with 10 -- and as any man or woman off the street could tell you, is the pre-final favourite to win the Conn Smythe Trophy. The captain has 17 points.
Spezza is just behind Heatley with 20 points, which means the line occupies the first, second and fourth spots in the playoff scoring list.
More from Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun:
There is a sense the Ducks will try to run the Senators out of the rink. Top defencemen Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer and Francois Beauchemin will attempt to slow down Senators offensive cogs Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson. It also is quite likely forwards Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Dustin Penner will try to bang the Ottawa defencemen around a bit.
With 96 minor penalties, the Ducks have more than any other club in the National Hockey League playoffs. But they probably can't afford to keep that up in the final. Anaheim is sixth-ranked by killing off 87.5% of those situations, but the Senators have the second-ranked power play in the post-season and they're a high-powered offensive machine.
"They've got lots of skill (on the power play)," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. "They've got a lot of weapons and they move it around very, very effectively."
More from Wayne Scanlan of CanWest News Service:
Nine of the (top) line's 23 playoff goals have come on the power play.
Despite praising Anaheim's checking line Friday, Senators head coach Bryan Murray doesn't exactly sound like a man trembling with concern that Sammy Pahlsson (a Frank Selke candidate), Rob Niedermayer and Travis Moen are going to throw a blanket on Alfredsson and friends.
"I really feel good about them," Murray says, of his top guns. "And I'm sure they -- if you watched the early part of practice (Friday), the way they moved the puck -- definitely feel good about themselves. They're confident, they're moving, they're skating real hard.”
From Don Campbell of CanWest News Service, who recently interviewed former NHLer Murray Wilson. The retired forward, a contributor to a Montreal Canadiens dynasty in the mid-1970s, knows the Stanley Cup finals is capable of providing memorable surprises that become part of Stanley Cup lore:
Wilson said his favorite was playing against the rough and tumble Philadelphia Flyers in the 1975-76 Cup final, particularly Game Four in Philadelphia.
"We go into Philadelphia and they have Kate Smith to sing 'God Bless America' and Kate Smith is going to be their saviour," said Wilson. "So we decide we're going to give her a dozen roses.
"The Spectrum went dark as she sang and sure as hell, as soon as she was done, and the lights went up, there was (Montreal captain) Serge (Savard) there to present her with the roses. And she had to take them. She couldn't say no."
The Canadiens won Game Four to sweep the Flyers, claiming their first of four consecutive Stanley Cup championships.