Ducks' dominating play along the boards helps clinch Cup

Updated: June 7, 2007, 12:53 AM ET
By E.J. Hradek | ESPN The Magazine

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Quick Hits from Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals:

• One of the several reasons why the Ducks won this series was because they were flat-out better along the wall. Late in the first period, after serving a roughing penalty, Corey Perry jumped out of the penalty box and engaged Senators defenseman Chris Phillips for a loose puck at the Ducks' blue line. Perry won the puck battle, moving the biscuit up the sideboards. Teammate Rob Niedermayer tracked down the loose puck at the Senators' blue line. The big winger put the puck on his backhand, to protect it from opposing checkers, and drove to the net. As he approached the cage, Niedermayer shoveled the puck at Sens goalie Ray Emery. The puck caromed off the goalie and rolled into the net behind him. Niedermayer made a strong play to the net, and Emery could have made a better play. But if Perry doesn't beat Phillips along the wall, the play never happens. Throughout the five games, the Ducks dominated the puck battles with their size and will.

Anaheim Ducks
Kevork Djansezian/AP PhotoRob Niedermayer and the Ducks won every series-clinching game at home this postseason.

• In hockey, they say you work for your bounces, and that's true even if it doesn't seem that way. Late in the second period, with the Senators pushing to tie the game at 3, Phillips went back to play a dump-in behind his goal. It seemed like a nothing play. Emery went behind the net to stop the puck and set it up for Phillips. Still, it was nothing too unusual. Then, Rob Niedermayer made an aggressive play to pressure the puck behind the net. Suddenly hurried, Phillips rushed to escape Niedermayer. He tried moving out from behind the net on the right wing side. In his rush, he lost the puck, accidentally sliding it through the skates of a stunned Emery. Ducks left winger Travis Moen, the last Duck to touch the puck, was credited with the goal. But it was Niedermayer's hard work that led directly to the goal.

• Speaking of bad bounces, Senators center turned left winger (for Wednesday's game) Antoine Vermette caught one on a penalty shot attempt midway through the third period. Vermette earned the one-on-one showdown after he was impeded by Ducks center Todd Marchant on a shorthanded breakaway chance. On the penalty shot, Vermette closed in and tried to move the puck to his backhand. But, in doing so, he lost the biscuit and it drifted harmlessly to the corner.

• Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson desperately tried to keep his team in the game in the second period. He scored a pair of goals, pulling his team within a single goal on both occasions. Clearly, he wasn't bothered by the loud booing he received from the Anaheim crowd each time he touched the puck. It was the Ducks fans' way of letting him know they weren't really happy with the way he fired a puck at defenseman Scott Niedermayer at the end of the second period in Game 4. After struggling through the first two games of the final series, Alfredsson found his game and played very well, especially when working with center Mike Fisher. The Swedish star finished with a playoff-best 14 goals in 20 games.

• I don't think I've seen many players more nonchalant with the puck than Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf. The 22-year-old seems to have some icy Gatorade flowing through his veins. He's willing to hold the puck for the extra one or two or three beats. His patience doesn't always pay off. Sometimes he gets way too cute with the puck, as he did on a power play late in the second period when his errant pass attempt led directly to Alfredsson's second goal of the game. Still, I have to love his skill and his willingness to be creative with the puck. Coach Randy Carlyle has done a good job of pushing his young center to improve his overall game while not stifling his offensive imagination. Entering Game 5, Getzlaf was the club's leading scorer with 16 points.

• Senators center Jason Spezza probably won't sleep too well in the coming weeks. After breezing through the first three rounds, the young pivot struggled mightily against the Ducks. Midway through the first period, he had another nightmare experience when he was stationed just outside the crease with the puck on his forehand and an open net in front of him. Spezza calmly flipped the puck toward the cage, thinking he'd netted the tying goal. Just then, Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin reached in and swatted the puck out of the air with his stick. It was a terrific play by Beauchemin, but Spezza must have been wondering what else could go wrong for him.

• In the Eastern Conference finals, the Sabres quietly complained about the number of five-on-three opportunities the Senators received in that series. They especially didn't like the nature of some of the calls -- ticky-tack stick fouls -- that put them down two men. In the first five minutes of Game 5, the Senators were the victims in a similar situation. With defenseman Tom Preissing already serving an interference penalty, D-man Anton Volchenkov was nailed for hooking at the 3:25 mark. The second penalty gave the Ducks a five-on-three opportunity for 15 seconds. Ducks center Andy McDonald took advantage of the early chance by slipping an odd-angle shot between the skates of Emery to give the home team a 1-0 lead at 3:41.

• The Anaheim faithful took a little heat in the Canadian media during the finals, but they deserve a lot of credit for battling through traffic to get into their seats for a 5 p.m. local time start. Believe me, in Southern California, that's not easy. The early starting times didn't allow too many Ducks fans to enjoy any lengthy tailgating or pregame partying. In this case, though, they had plenty of time afterwards.

• Anthem report: Amanda Guerrero did a nice, albeit very quick, job with "O Canada." United States Staff Sgt. Juan Contreras followed with a strong rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner." Contreras added a Canadian touch by lifting the microphone and encouraging the Honda Center crowd to sing. I'm happy to report that the home throng responded very well.

• For the record, the Cup was passed in the following order. Scott Niedermayer. Rob Niedermayer. Chris Pronger. Teemu Selanne. Marchant. Sean O'Donnell. Brad May. Jean-Sebastien Giguere. McDonald. Samuel Pahlsson. Chris Kunitz. Beauchemin. Joe DiPenta. Moen. Perry. Shawn Thornton. Ric Jackman. Ilya Bryzgalov. Dustin Penner. Getzlaf. George Parros. Kent Huskins. Ryan Shannon. Joe Motzko. Ryan Carter. Andrew Miller. Mark Hartigan. Aaron Rome. Sebastien Caron.

E.J. Hradek covers hockey for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at ej.hradek@espnmag.com. Also, click here to send E.J. a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.

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