Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Stanley needs shades: California gets its cup

The Anaheim Ducks ended their Stanley Cup run much the way the began this final series, by dominating the Ottawa Senators and leaving them confused as to what to do about a focused attack unable to find an answer to all that the Ducks threw at them.

With nothing but a determination to bring the Cup out of the hallway and to centre ice, the Ducks went about their business quickly gaining a lead and then controlling the play.

For a bit of time, the Senators based mainly on the will of Daniel Alfredsson mounted a comeback, the Sens captain scoring their only two goals of the game, but even in his determination came disappointment as an errant pass by Alfredsson sealed the Sens’ fate falling to the stick of Corey Perry .

Other miscues would haunt the Sens as well, Chris Phillips lost the puck in the skates of Ray Emery a puck that deflected into the Ottawa goal, bringing back ancient memories of Steve Smith and another own goal that sunk a team.

Anton Volchenkov normally a fierce blocker of shots, instead out of character deflected a point shot with the shaft of his stick past Emery, before the Sens knew it self implosion had run its course and the Ducks were hoisting Lord Stanley’s mug.

But make no mistake about it, this was a series that was won by a team that played a better game, not a particularly artful game at times, but one which served the purpose of bringing a championship to a territory that for all but their loyal fans may not even notice it has arrived.

The team though was crafted by Brian Burke and Randy Carlyle to win this trophy and his plan, complete with its raw physical nature and solid defensive play worked as designed.

The Ducks were strong in their own end, stronger in the Ottawa one. They frequently beat the Senators to the puck on the boards, in the corner and the neutral zone and seemed to score when needed.

The 6-2 score of the final game was not indicative of a series that seemed to concentrate on one goal victories, but in the end when the goal was required to win, four times out of five it went to an Anaheim stick.

For Ottawa it was one of those bitter moments, a long hard march to the mountain top only to slide down, cut down by a stronger and seemingly hungrier opponent.

Every year the 29 other contestants for the Cup examine their rosters and look for ways to improve, it will be interesting to see if the Burke blue print becomes a template for the NHL for the next five to six years, teams of crushing forwards, the hardest of hits and an occasional mean streak that puts fear into their opponents.

For most of the season the talk was about the way Ottawa came out after the Christmas break and dominated the regular season, a showcase of scoring, speed, finesse and toughness combined with outstanding goaltending from Ray Emery.

The potion lasted for three playoff rounds and abruptly ran out just as the Ducks took to the ice in Game one. In Ottawa now the question will be to stay the course and refine a bit, or make some larger changes to a lineup that came close again, but in a familiar fate came up just a little shorter than they or their fans would have liked.

There will be no such soul searching in Anaheim, they have larger and more enjoyable plans for the off season, a summer of fun in the sun with their new best friend Stanley, who is about to go to some of the best BBQ’s and parties that a trophy has ever seen.

And yes, we believe they'll be taking Stanley to Disneyworld!

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