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EBAY FAN COLUMN: Stanley Cup preview

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Stanley Cup playoff preview

Anaheim preview: It is fitting this Stanley Cup series kicks off after graduation weekend. The Anaheim have graduated from their lone first-round victory against Phoenix in 1997 to do a little post-graduate study in the Stanley Cup finals. After sweeping the defending champs in Detroit, and battling the top-seeded to a 4-2 series win, the hockey world jumped on the Mighty bandwagon. Anaheim's 4-0 sweep of the Minnesota was just as impressive. gave up a grand total of one goal in four games. I was one goal behind the goal-scoring leader for the in that series. The now face a goaltender every bit as dominant as their own, and a defensive system every bit as good as the hype. The success of the Ducks is due to outstanding play by Giguere, defensemen and forwards blocking an inordinate amount of shots, and a balanced offense that can now score without depending solely on Kariya. Former Devil (2G, 6A), (4G, 6A), (2G, 8A), and (3G, 3A) give coach Mike Babcock the balanced attack necessary to play against New Jersey. Four wins will bestow elite status, summa cum laude.
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Jon Swenson is a graphic designer in San Jose and editor of Sharkspage.com.
Anaheim notes:
  • Kariya struggled in the first two rounds (3G, 3A), but seemed to catch his stride in Round 3 (2G, 0A).
  • The Ducks were off for 10 days after a semifinals sweep of Minnesota.
  • Anaheim defeated the Phoenix 4-3 in the first round of the 1997 playoffs.
  • Anaheim has never before advanced past the second round.
  • New Jersey preview: The ' 108-point regular season was surpassed only by the Ottawa in the East. New Jersey benefited by shutting down the and the each in five games. The are strong from the goal out. Future Hall of Fame goaltender gets help in front of the net from future Hall of Fame defenseman . (0G, 3A), (2G, 11A), and (2G,6A) provide an effective blend of offense and physical play from the blue line. After sprinting to a 3-1 lead against Ottawa, the encountered their first major hurdle when the tied the series at three games each. New Jersey had trouble putting pucks past Lalime, and Daneyko and Tverdovsky struggled with the quick Ottawa forwards. left Game 6 with a "lower body" injury only to return for a few shifts in Game 7. The checking line of (6G, 9A), (9G, 6A), and (4G, 5A) provided the bulk of the offense and shut down the top forwards for Ottawa. But unlikely hero and former Mighty Duck had the series of his career with three game-winning goals in the semifinals. New Jersey notes:
  • Center is questionable for Game 1 against Anaheim with a lower body injury.
  • had an amazing series against Ottawa, netting game-winning goals in Games 2, 4 and 7.
  • The won a cup in 1995 and 2000, and lost in the finals in 2001.
  • Matchups

    Goal: Hall of Fame goalie vs. goaltending performance of the decade. JSG (1.22 GAA, .960 sv. %, 4 SO), MB (1.62 GAA, .937 sv %, 4 SO).
    Edge: slightly to Anaheim Defense: The Ducks play a solid defensive system as a whole, but New Jersey has the star power.
    Edge: New Jersey Offense: Gomez, Elias have struggled, and Nieuwendyk is injured. Kariya was struggling but seems to have turned it on.
    Edge: even Special teams: Ducks PK 87.4% PP 16.1%, PK 87.7%, PP 11.9%.
    Edge: slightly to Anaheim Coaching: Pat Burns has experience in the finals with Montreal in 1989, and can motivate and make adjustments with the best, but rookie coach Mike Babcock has stood out this postseason. Detroit and Dallas struggled as much with the trapping defense in front of Giguere as they did with Giguere himself, and Jacques Lemaire's club managed only one goal in four games.
    Edge: even Prediction: New Jersey has had little time to heal from the grueling series with Ottawa. Anaheim will look to take advantage of this fatigue early. If New Jersey weathers the storm and builds momentum, the will be hard to stop. After picking all underdogs in the second round, and picking against the in every round, I am still 6-6 for the playoffs. I predict several low-scoring games, multiple overtimes, and the Ducks bringing the Cup to Anaheim after 7.

    Top 10 reasons to watch the Stanley Cup Finals,
    and one reason not to:

    1. vs. . Watch the players battle in front of the crease with mounting desperation as these two goalies will stop almost everything thrown at them. Single-goal victories will be the norm. 2. (ANA) vs. (NJ). In this brother vs. brother matchup, the mother has to root for the younger Niedermayer. It is the law. 3. . At 39, is more Lawrence Taylor on skates than he is hockey's elder statesman. Stevens is still capable of launching players at the blue line with devastating body checks. 4. New Jersey renaissance. First the Sopranos, now the New Jersey Nets and the New Jersey are close to bringing home championships for the Garden State. According to the Sporting News, no city has had NBA and NHL championships in the same year. 5. Madden/Langenbrunner/Pandolfo. This checking/scoring line for the will try to succeed where some of the best offensive talent in the NHL has failed ... trying to get a puck past Giguere. 6. Goal cam. I do not know about you, but this is my favorite camera angle from the ice. In the playoffs, players will use any excuse possible to run the goalie and try to distract them. You never really appreciate how hard they are skating until you see it from the goal cam. In NJ, the cam can be reversed, pointed towards the stands, and renamed the mullet cam. 7. Emilio Estevez. Charlie Sheen may get all the buzz, but Emilio planted the seed for an entire sports franchise. I write this in part in jest, in part as serious as a George Bush misunderestimation. How can he not make an appearance at a game in Anaheim? 8. More nicknames. Announcers and sportswriters are flexing their vocabulary coming up with new nicknames for JSG: Jiggy, Seabass, Just Saves Giguere, Vitamin G ... 9. Low scoring = more people being beat on in front of the crease. Most columnists equate a 1-0 game as another boring NHL affair, not so. As goals become harder to come by, play becomes more intense and increasingly violent. Sometimes watching an OT playoff game is like watching a car crash. You can not turn away. 10. Rally monkey. Two pseudo So-Cal mascots in one list? Damn right. With the Stanley Cup and the World Series both making a visit to Anaheim, locals have the rally monkey on retainer. Look for him/her/it late in the game midway through the series. Don't underestimate the power of the rally monkey, right San Francisco Giants?

    One reason not to watch the Stanley Cup Finals:

    1. The entertainment product on television does not come close to matching the entertainment product on the ice. Whether it is the distance between the camera and the play, the speed of the play, the large ice surface, or the protective netting, I do not know. Unless you are a hockey player, an avid fan, or live in New Jersey or Anaheim, chances are you will tune out for the finals. That being said, sportswriters should resist the temptation to jump on low NHL ratings. An article a few weeks back bashed the NHL for having lower local ratings than Armadillo Racing. A quick internet search brought up several betting lines for thoroughbred Armadillos. I had no idea this sport even existed, but I would watch it. Tip for ABC, and ESPN, have armadillo racing televised on the ice during intermission. It would work better than a glowing puck.
    Tagged: Bruins, Stars, Devils, Senators, Lightning, Coyotes, Ducks, Wild, Rob Niedermayer, Sandis Ozolinsh, Jamie Langenbrunner, Joe Nieuwendyk, Martin Brodeur, Petr Sykora, Jay Pandolfo, John Madden, Brian Rafalski, Jeff Friesen, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Colin White

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