Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

STANLEY CUP FINALS | Scouting Report

It Could Be One and Done

May 27, 2003|Chris Foster

OFFENSE

Neither of these teams is going to be mistaken for the 1983 Edmonton Oilers -- or even the 2003 Oilers -- when it comes to burning out red lights behind the goal. The Devils were one of two NHL teams whose leading scorer had fewer than 60 points during the regular season. But both the Ducks and Devils pounce on opponents' mistakes. Patrik Elias led the Devils in goals during the regular season, but Jamie Langenbrunner and Jeff Friesen have scored the big ones in the playoffs. Langenbrunner has nine goals -- two in the Game 7 victory over Ottawa -- and four were game-winners. Friesen, a former Duck, has five goals, three of them game-winners. The Ducks have been equally opportunistic and have three solid lines. During one stretch, they had 10 goals by 10 players. Paul Kariya has five goals in the playoffs, followed by Adam Oates, Steve Rucchin and Stanislav Chistov with four.

Edge: Ducks.

*

DEFENSE

The Ducks used Rucchin and Keith Carney to smother opposing teams' most dangerous players in the first two rounds. Coach Mike Babcock is coy about which Devil that will be. The Ducks forecheck and back check so effectively that teams have had little time to set up and get clean shots. Carney leads a group that has grown in stature. Carney can now be considered among the elite defensive defensemen. There is no doubt who is the team leader for the Devils. Scott Stevens is focused and very aggressive. When he is teamed with Brian Rafalski, the Devils have one of the top duos in the NHL. While most teams -- the Ducks included -- are uncomfortable being labeled a trap team, the Devils revel in it. They have trapped their way to two Stanley Cup championships in the last eight seasons.

Edge: Devils.

*

GOALTENDING

About the only difference between the Ducks' Jean-Sebastien Giguere and the Devils' Martin Brodeur is that Brodeur has a longer resume. He has won two Stanley Cups and is considered one of the best ever even though he has never won the Vezina or Conn Smythe Trophy. Giguere has stunned the hockey world. The Ducks were sold on him the last two seasons, but now the secret is out.

Edge: Push.

*

POWER PLAY

The Ducks have lived with a sputtering power play in the playoffs, although it did produce two goals in the 2-1 Game 4 victory over Minnesota that sent the Ducks into the Stanley Cup finals. The elements for an effective power play are there, they just haven't clicked. The Devils' power play has improved in the playoffs. They had the worst power play in the NHL during the regular season, but it has produced 10 goals in the playoffs.

Edge: Devils.

*

PENALTY KILLING

The Devils, the trapping fools they are, seem to be on the penalty kill even at even strength. They have allowed only six power-play goals in the playoffs. Funny, the Ducks have scored only six during the playoffs. If Giguere is the Ducks' strongest link, the penalty-killing units rank second. The Ducks were strong at this during the regular season and have been even better in the playoffs. Dan Bylsma returned to the lineup for the Minnesota series and showed why he is valuable to the Ducks.

Edge: Ducks.

*

COACHING

Babcock is a rookie no more. He has kept the Ducks focused by telling the players each game is the most important one of the season. He has also managed to get matchups he wants on the road, tricky business in the playoffs. It will get even trickier because Pat Burns can mix and match with the best. He has coached 137 playoff games, the second most without winning the Cup.

Edge: Ducks.

*

INTANGIBLES

The Ducks have had 10 days off, the longest layoff by a team before entering the Cup finals. The glass-is-half-full version is that they are rested. The glass-is-half-empty version is that they are rusty. They had seven days off before playing Dallas and came out strong in Game 1. The Devils must be tired after their grueling seven-game series with Ottawa, where they nearly blew a 3-1 series lead. Those things, though, rarely seem to matter to this team, because it grinds out victories.

Edge: Ducks.

*

PREDICTION

Ducks in seven.

-- Chris Foster

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|