Monday, June 11, 2007


Who knew that a team with a nickname of the Ducks could win the most prestigious trophy in all of sports. Well they did. The Ducks are no longer Mighty, but they played like Mighty Ducks in their run to their first Stanley Cup (probably the easiest, tackiest sentence around but it was too simple to pass out).

They won games with and without Chris Pronger. They won games with two goalies. They won with most of their offense coming from their checking line. Probably every way not to win a Cup and they did it. I was surprised that Scott Niedermayer took home the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP (because the NHL actually rewards performance over the entire stretch of the playoffs, not just for four-to-seven games in one series). But when you think about it, he really deserved it. He played nearly 30 minutes per game, that's half the game if you can't do the subtraction. He was the go-to guy in the two games in which Pronger selfishly was suspended in the playoffs. And he held firm in the defensive end, just like a good former Devils defenseman would.

I was pretty bitter about Niedermayer leaving New Jersey at the start of last season because the Devils wanted to reward him for all that he did with a max deal. But family was more important. I bet if Scott didn't beat Rob in the 2003 Stanley Cup Final, he wouldn't have left New Jersey. But seeing how his brother felt after coming so close to winning his first ring, that probably was a selling point that no agent could sell. I am happy for Scott and Rob and Scott is the only active player now with four Cups, which is pretty damn good. So good that he is now certified as not only a Hall of Famer in the waiting, but arguably among the Top 10 defensemen of NHL history.

It was also great to see Teemu Selanne win a Cup. I could remember when he was a rookie wanting the 1992-93 Winnipeg Jets jersey (of course with the Goals for Kids patch on the shoulder) with his name on the back after he scored a memorable goal in which he celebrated by tossing his glove into the air and using his stick as a gun, shooting the glove in the air. He set a rookie record for goals in a season and was one of the top goal scorers throughout the 1990's, but could not get to a Stanley Cup. He even moved on to a contender, the Colorado Avalanche, and still couldn't get a taste of a title. After returing to Anaheim, Selanne watched the Ducks lose to the Cinderella Oilers last season in the Conference Finals. This season, Selanne looked like a man possessed and sure enough, it was his play that helped guide the Ducks to the Cup.

As for next year, I think if the Buffalo Sabres can keep Chris Drury, they will again be my favorite to at least get to the Stanley Cup Final. They will probably have to make a decision on whether to re-sign either he or Daniel Briere, and if you needed any reason why it should be Drury, you didn't have to look further than his playoff performance. Called a hockey god by many, his game-tying goal in the final seconds of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Rangers firmly establishes Drury as one of the all-time clutch playoff performers of the last 25 years.

In the West, Anaheim could easily make it two straight trips to a Final. The Ducks have youth and a strong defense that learned so much these last two postseasons and if they can re-sign Jean-Sebastien Giguere, they are immediately the favorite coming out of the tough conference.

We'll talk more about free agency in the coming weeks. My team, the Devils, have their usual offseason contract situations to worry about. I believe Scott Gomez will not re-sign with the Devils. I believe Brian Rafalski also played his last game in New Jersey. And if he gets a clean bill of health, Pat Burns, who won the 2003 title against Anaheim, will return to the bench as head coach.

I know the ratings suck, but hockey had another fantastic playoff, even if the Stanley Cup Final was over in five games for the first time since 2002. It's a shame that no one in mainstream television watched the playoffs or the Final. You missed out on talent and not to mention the best announcer in the game, Mike Emrick, keep you on the edge of your seat. If there was never a scorebug on the screen, you never could tell what the score is with Emrick. Maybe I am lucky because he's the Devils lead play-by-play man, but there's a reason why NBC/Versus picked him as their lead man, he's awesome. When hockey returns or this summer on youtube, search him or any of the NHL videos from this postseason, you'll know its Emrick. If you don't, I'll list some of his favorite sayings that you will definitely recognize.

Have a great night and we'll talk soon

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