Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Long Journey's End in Sight -- The Peerless' Last Prognostication for the Year

One more series.

There is little doubt, the two teams left standing are the best the NHL has to offer this year. Anaheim, a fine team over the course of the entire year, closed the regular season 11-3-3 and has gone 12-4 in the playoffs. Ottawa, which started the year sluggishly, left .500 behind at 18-18-1, then went 30-7-8 the rest of the way. They are 12-3 in the playoffs.

Statistically, Ottawa holds the playoff edge in virtually any category you’d care to look at:

Goals-per-game: Ottawa: 3.20/Anaheim: 2.62
Goals-allowed-per-game: Ottawa: 2.07/Anaheim: 2.12
Power Play: Ottawa: 20.0%/Anaheim: 15.3%
Penalty Killing: Ottawa: 88.6/Anaheim: 87.5
Face offs: Ottawa: 52.6/Anaheim: 49.7

Ottawa will bring three of the top four scorers in the tournament into this series. Dany Heatley (6-15-21), Jason Spezza (7-13-20), and Daniel Alfredsson (10-7-17) constitute a formidable top line in the traditional sense.

However, the Senators have no other scorers in the top 30. Anaheim, on the other hand, has seven players among the top 30 scorers:

Chris Pronger: 3-11-14
Ryan Getzlaf: 5-8-13
Teemu Selanne: 5-7-12
Samuel Pahlsson: 2-8-10
Travis Moen: 4-5-9
Corey Perry: 4-5-9
Scott Niedermayer: 3-6-9

Discipline and the manner in which the games are called could have a bearing on this series. Anaheim would appear to prefer a game with a lot of free-wheeling (yet tightly called) games. The Ducks are third in total power play opportunities (85) and lead the league in total time shorthanded in the playoffs (96). A march to the penalty box does not appear to have impeded the Ducks very much. On the other hand, Ottawa seems to flourish more in a continuous flow situation. They are fourth in total power play opportunities (but at 70 are 15 behind the Ducks) and third in total times shorthanded (their 79 times in that situation stands 17 behind the Ducks). If there are a lot of whistles, it will favor Anaheim.

For the hockey enthusiast, this is almost the perfect series. On the one hand, you have the formidable top line of the Senators, but perhaps the best pair of defensemen in the league in Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer, plus the somewhat underrated Francois Beauchemin. Conversely, there is the considerable balance among the Duck scorers, but for Ottawa a deep defense in the person of Wade Redden, Chris Phillips, Anton Volchenkov, and Andrei Meszaros.

Between the goaltenders, there is not much to distinguish. Jean-Sebastien Giguere is 9-3 since returning to the top spot, with a 1.87 GAA (fourth in the playoffs), and a .931 save percentage. Ray Emery has been at the top of his game for the tournament, going 1.95 (fifth) and .919 (12th).

But if you’re looking for one indicator of what might drive this series, it is this…the two teams have scored first in 18 of the combined 31 games they’ve played. 17 times, they’ve won (Anaheim taking the only loss when scoring first).

Way back in October, The Peerless picked Anaheim to win it all. He sees no reason to change that opinion. The Ducks have sufficient talent on their back line to keep the mischief from the Senator top line to a minimum, and they have enough balance on offense to make Ottawa’s defense work every night. In goal, J-S Giguere has the experience of a final in his resume and has demonstrated just the slightest bit of better performance over Emery to be enough.

In the end, this might be the perfect series to end this season, and it is a tragedy for the sport and for sports in general than so few are likely to avail themselves of the opportunity to watch. On June 11th, Anaheim will raise the Cup in triumph, winning the seventh game of what promises to be a thrilling series.

1 comment:

Rozi said...

Sens all the way.
They play Clean.
You don't need the Dirt the Ducks throw around.
Keep the Game Clean.

This is why the Sens deserve to Win, they play with Tact, and fortitude.