May 27th, 2003

Playoff Preview

Rick Charlton


Anaheim (W7) vs. New Jersey (E2)
Mighty Ducks (42-29-10-1; 95 pts); Devils (46-20-10-6; 108 pts);
Season Series: 2-0 New Jersey

You would have to reach back into the darkest depths of time to find a team the equal of the Mighty Ducks should the Disney heroes actually manage a Stanley Cup triumph this spring.

Scoring an average of only 2.36 goals per game the Ducks could become the most offensively challenged team to ever hoist the Stanley Cup onto their shoulders.

Even the Devils, at 2.65 goals per game this playoff year, have company on the radar screen of previous Cup champions, at the low end to be sure but not so different than the 1964-65 Montreal Canadiens at 2.7 goals per game as one example.

Unless something unexpected happens, however, a parade down Main Street in Disneyland - oh, you know that's going to happen if Anaheim wins - would be one for the ages.

Or one for Jean Sebastien Giguere.

The former flailing Flames prospect turned All-Universe is, barring a complete collapse, the likely Conn Smythe Trophy winner even if the Ducks fail in their quest.

Anaheim's lack of offence compared to their current lofty standing is certainly testimony to what's really powering the Ducks barge, the .960 save percentage of Giguere all you really need to know about an otherwise efficient but fairly average team.

One key to this unexpected series will be the lengthy 10 day layoff endured by Anaheim as it waited for New Jersey to dispatch plucky Ottawa, a delay that many think could take the edge off Giguere's game.

At the other end, the Devils will have to settle for Martin Brodeur and his ordinary .937 save percentage, Mr. Cool in the face of a storm-cloud of personal problems but calmly surrendering himself to a decade of experience in these types of series.

And there are a veritable gaggle of other Devils with Cup final experience as well.

The Devils, a faster, smaller team than the bunch that claimed The Almighty Prize in 2000, appear like the speedy Wild with a lot more experience, a few more weapons and quite a few meaner guys than the Ducks.

It pains me to pick either of these teams but in the lengthy grind that is the Stanley Cup tournament; both deserve to be there.

They outplayed, outwitted and outlasted their opponents.

The Devils greater experience in these matters as well as a lack of offensive polish for the Ducks will come home to roost and the game itself, with all its history behind it, will finally punish the upstarts from Anaheim.

New Jersey will be the sole survivor, downing the Ducks in a rather merciful five games.

THIS PROMISES TO BE THE MOST DREADFULLY BORING STANLEY CUP FINAL in recent memory as both teams, it's been well documented, bring little scoring to the table while each will be attempting to frustrate what little offence the other side might offer. Highly competitive yes. But interesting? Probably not. How then do the Devils and Ducks, at 2.65 and 2.36 goals per game, stack up offensively with previous champions? Not as out of whack as you might think. Between 1957-58 and 1966-67, the final decade of the Original Six, before the dilution of the great expansion era, the yearly Stanley Cup winner popped an average of 3.15 goals per game which, astonishingly, is virtually the exact same number, 3.14, generated in the last decade, 1992-1993 through to 2001-2002. In the earlier period, out of ten years, there were four where the Cup winner averaged offence of less than three goals per game, the lowest being the 1964-65 Montreal Canadiens at 2.7 per game. The highest scoring Cup winner for that decade was the 1959-60 Canadiens at 3.625. In the last decade, there has been three Cup winners under three goals per game scored, the Devils of 1999-2000 being the lowest at 2.65 per game, an duplicate of their number this year. The Avalanche of 1995-96 with 3.6 goals per game was the highest scoring Cup champion of the last decade. I bring this up only to point out that current scoring playoff scoring statistics for eventual Cup champions are a virtual exact mirror for the last decade of the Original Six, right down to the lowest and highest points. Unless the Ducks upset the apple cart.

THE 1980'S, OF COURSE, WERE ANOTHER MATTER. In 1984-85, the Stanley Cup champion Edmonton Oilers scored an astonishing 5.5 goals per game, including an average of NINE per game in their four wins (six game series) in a semi-final matchup with Chicago, the less-than-legendary Murray Bannerman serving as target practice for the pumped-up Oilers. Only one series removed from the Cup final, the four Edmonton victories over Chicago were by scores of 11-2, 7-3, 10-4 and 8-2. But then, Chicago had also averaged 7.33 goals per game themselves when they were slaughtering the hapless 27-41-12 Detroit Red Wings (yes, they made the playoffs) in an opening round three game series, rolling over less than adequate Wings netminders Greg Stefan and Corrado Micalef as though they were invisible. A different time to be sure.

"DO YOU THINK I'M TELLING THE PLAYERS NOT TO SCORE? I've read a couple of articles and it's just like I'm telling the (expletive deleted) players not to score goals. That's horse (pucky). Everybody's job is to score goals. Do you think there is a coach in the league who says, `Don't score goals because this system is a defensive system?' Wake up and smell the (expletive deleted) coffee." - Pat Burns in a Canadian Press story yesterday.

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