May 9th, 2003
Ottawa (1) vs. New Jersey (2)
Senators (52-21-8-1, 113 pts); Devils (46-20-10-6; 108 pts);
Season Series: 3-1 Ottawa
Both of these teams know that if they win this round all that stands between them and a Stanley Cup is Anaheim or Minnesota. Certainly the pressure is on to try and advance. Experience lies on the Devils side while the Senators have a ton of speed and skill.
Keys for Ottawa: The biggest key for Ottawa will be to get the jump on the Devils early in the series. New Jersey hasn't exactly faced a stiff test yet in the postseason, having defeated Boston and Tampa Bay. If the Senators win both games at home in Ottawa they should be able to grind out the remainder of the series.
Keys for New Jersey: The Devils will have their hands full with Ottawa's skilled forwards but if they stick to their patient game plan, Brodeur should be able to hold the fort long enough for them to pull out a series win.
Prediction: I can't fathom a Stanley Cup final without one of New Jersey, Colorado, Detroit or Dallas. Devils in 6.
Minnesota (6) vs. Anaheim (7)
Wild (42-29-10-1; 95 pts); Mighty Ducks (40-27-9-6; 95 pts)
Season Series: 2-1-1-1 Anaheim
At the beginning of the year, if anyone would have predicted that the Minnesota Wild would have home ice advantage in the conference finals they would have had their head examined. If they further predicted that Minnesota's opponent would be the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, they would have been outright committed. It's perhaps encouraging to Calgary Flames fans that both these teams had less points than the Flames had this season. You just never know what might be in store for the Flames next year. With two 1-0 games in the regular season series between the Wild and Ducks expect a very low scoring playoff round - perhaps the lowest scoring in league history.
Keys for Anaheim: Clutch scoring and solid goaltending is the key for the Ducks - two things the Vancouver Canucks lacked last round versus the Wild. If Giguere plays like he did throughout most of the previous two rounds, the Wild will be hard pressed to score more than 5 or 6 goals throughout the entire series.
Keys for Minnesota: The most troubling aspect of this series for the Wild is the fact they have home ice advantage. They would probably also be better off if they were facing elimination starting from Game 1. Of course, the biggest key to the series for the Wild is their team system - followed closely by Gaborik, Brunette and Walz. Roloson and Fernandez have shown that they're essentially interchangeable parts along with the rest of the team. Look for Fernandez to get considerable playing time, especially if Roloson continues to have problems with his groin injury.
Prediction: It's going to be very difficult for Minnesota to get a good jump right at the beginning of this series with all the travel they've had in the past week. Anaheim has been a fantastic road team in these playoffs while the Wild have struggled at home. Call it home ice disadvantage. Another factor against the Wild is they're playing an opponent who also has nothing to lose. Ducks in 5.