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CP's pick: Ottawa Senators will end Canada's Stanley Cup drought

Edmonton was the obvious underdog in last year's championships series, losing to Carolina, following underdogs Calgary in 2004, Anaheim in 2003 and Carolina in 2002. Not that the Oilers, Flames and Ducks didn't put a scare into their favoured opponents, before each losing in seven games.

But in reality, not since Colorado edged New Jersey in seven games in 2001 has there been a Cup final pitting two cream-of-the-crop clubs.

There's not much to choose between Anaheim and Ottawa - two well-oiled machines who have it all to win it all.

But pick a winner CP will, feeling somewhat confident with our playoff picks this spring. Let's break it down:

Ottawa's star-studded top line of Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley and captain Daniel Alfredsson wreaked havoc in playoff series wins over Pittsburgh, New Jersey and Buffalo.

But they face their biggest challenge yet in Norris Trophy candidates Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger, who are on the ice almost all the time on separate defence pairings. Not to mention the Ducks' checking line of Samuel Pahlsson, Rob Niedermayer and Travis Moen, one the best in the NHL.

Having said that, Devils checkers Jay Pandolfo and John Madden aren't exactly chopped liver, neither is the Sabres defence pair of Toni Lydman and Henrik Tallinder. But they were no match for the Spezza line.

The Detroit Red Wings have star forwards, but not a 1-2-3 punch on one single line like Ottawa. Neither Vancouver or Minnesota had anything close to the Spezza line. This will be Anaheim's biggest test defensively.

Special teams are always key. Ottawa shut down Buffalo's power play in the East final and that was major contributor factor for the five-game win. If the Ducks struggle to score on the power play like they did against Detroit in the West final, they're toast.

Anaheim has the edge in goal with J.S. Giguere over Ray Emery. Yes, Emery has done well to answer his critics in these playoffs, but Giguere is the better goalie with more experience, having carried the Ducks to the Cup final in 2003.

Then again, New Jersey had the edge in goal with superstar Martin Brodeur and Buffalo with star Ryan Miller.

Ottawa has true four-line depth. Dean McAmmond centres a fourth line with Christoph Schubert and either Patrick Eaves or Oleg Saprykin that plays 8-9 minutes a game. Contrast that to Anaheim's fourth line of Brad May, Ryan Carter and Joe Motzko, who played three minutes in their clinching win over Detroit on Tuesday night.

While Niedermayer/Pronger offer a 1-2 punch on defence that no team in the NHL can match, Ottawa's group of six is arguably the deepest.

Canada, get ready to party.

Prediction: Ottawa in six. The Senators will snap Canada's 14-year Stanley Cup triumph.


Pierre LeBrun's record through three rounds: 12-2.



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