There were 14 Canadians in Anaheim’s lineup and 13 in Ottawa’s lineup the last time the two finalists played a game, so the Hockey Hall of Fame reps who tote the trophy around when each member of the championship team gets his day with it will see plenty of the country either way.
When the final begins Monday in California, the Senators will try to become the first Canadian entry to skate away with the Stanley Cup since 1993.
Coach Bryan Murray’s team certainly would like the support of the entire country behind it.
“We have a chance to be that,” the Shawville, Que.-born Murray said of being billed as Canada’s team in the NHL’s championship series. “There’s such an interest, such fascination and emotional attachment to hockey in Canada that, when you are representing the country, everybody gets caught up in it.
“That’s a great thing. When the Montreal Canadiens won the Cup (in 1993), whether we were Montreal Canadiens fans or not, we were pulling for them. Right now, in the city of Ottawa we’ve certainly brought a lot of pride to the community.”
The Vancouver Canucks of 1994, the Calgary Flames of 2004 and the Edmonton Oilers of 2006 had a chance to end the Canadian-club drought and came up short.
Can the Senators do it?
Check this out: in years ending with a seven since the inception of the NHL in 1927, a Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup six of eight times.
There will be far less buzz around Los Angeles for the championship series than there will be in Ottawa, where Senators flags flutter atop car roofs.
“They are extremely fired up,” Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson says of his team’s fans. “I know our home games are going to be crazy.
“It’ll be an unbelievable atmosphere in our building.”
Yet, there will be pockets of Ducks support from Nova Scotia to British Columbia, and even in Ottawa’s Kanata district where the Senators’ rink is located because Anaheim defenceman Sean O’Donnell is from Kanata.
Mike Fisher will have family and friends cheering for his Senators in his home city of Peterborough, Ont., and a few streets away a loud contingent of Corey Perry fans will be wearing Ducks jerseys.
In Calgary, there’ll be support for Dany Heatley of the Senators and also for Ryan Getzlaf of the Ducks.
“We’ve got lots of Canadians,” says Sudbury, Ont.-born Ducks coach Randy Carlyle. “All of our coaching staff is Canadian.
“But it’s not the U.S. versus Canada as we perceive it. That’s just a marketing tactic used by some people. It’s just two good hockey clubs.”
The finalists have met only once, in January 2006, in the last three years.
“Sometimes it’s good to have a little bit of a history with a team,” says Alfredsson, who has played all 94 playoff games in franchise history. “We’ve only played them once since the lockout.
“I don’t know very much about them, to be honest.”
Carlyle is a stickler at matching lines but hasn’t had much experience matching wits with Murray.
“I don’t know Bryan much at all,” says Carlyle, who played in Pittsburgh when Murray coached in Washington.
Murray was GM of the Ducks when they got to the championship series in 2003, losing in the end to New Jersey when Anaheim captain Scott Niedermayer played for the Devils.
“It’ll be very interesting for me, maybe more so than if we’d played any other team,” says Murray.
Niedermayer played against Alfredsson and the rest of the Senators often when he was with the Devils so he’s more familiar with them than many of his teammates.
“Both teams are in the same boat,” Niedermayer says of the lack of familiarity. “Once the series starts and you get a game or two under your belts you become familiar quickly.”
Ottawa’s chances grow substantially if the line of Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Heatley continues the torrid scoring pace that has seen the three combine for 23 goals and 58 points in this post-season. Carlyle will have his checking line centred by Sammy Pahlsson harassing the trio as often as he can manage.
Anaheim’s chances are enhanced if the line of Getzlaf, Perry and Dustin Penner can continue to supply high-level offensive support to the first line centred by Andy McDonald.
The Ducks are unlikely to push the Senators around as they did previous opponents. Ottawa’s D is too big and strong for that to happen. And the Ducks will be in trouble if their penchant for taking penalties continues. Ottawa’s power play could ruin things for them.
The Senators should be advised to avoid overtime because Jean-Sebastien Giguere is 12-1 in sudden death going back to ’03.
These variables set up what should be an entertaining series.
The Stanley Cup tour will follow with stops in Toronto, Hamilton, Mississauga and Yellow Grass, Sask., or maybe Montreal, Winkler, Man., or Cranbrook, B.C., but definitely in Peterborough and Calgary.