Anaheim wins the Stanley Cup! (Write your own duck puns.)

That crashing sound you heard off in the distance was Ottawa's bandwagon, veering off the road and into the ditch.

For most of Game 5, the Senators looked like the Kanadian Keystone Kops. With the exception of two goals, one short-handed, by Daniel Alfredsson, the Sens' offense was just plain inept. Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley were mere wisps of steam in white-and-red jerseys. Ray Emery reached the limits of his skills. The defense in front of him spent too much time running around. Worst of all, Anaheim's Cup-winning goal was an echo of Edmonton's Steve Smith: Chris Phillips, skating out from behind the net, got too close to Emery at the right post, losing the puck in the goalie's skates as he returned to the crease. Emery didn't know where the puck was until it was across the line. Travis Moen, as the last Duck to touch the puck, will go down in history as "scoring" that goal.

For the Ducks, this game perfectly captured the style of play that got them to the finals. They beat the Senators to every loose puck, cycled well, and forced Ottawa into dumb penalties. They were ragged, occasionally sloppy, but took advantage of every opportunity. Jean-Sebastien Giguere had it fairly easy, facing only 13 shots, but with a lot of help from his D. Francois Beauchemin and Todd Marchant each stopped shots destined for empty nets behind Giguere.

All that was left was the jubilant dogpile in Giguere's crease, the roar of the standing-room-only crowd, the great tradition of the handshake line, and the best trophy presentation in professional sports. No owners, no presidents, no general managers. Just Gary Bettman having the Stanley Cup practically ripped out of his hands by Scott Niedermayer, who raised it in triumph for the fourth time in his career, then handed it to his brother Rob, who has just won his first. Then to Chris Pronger, who was one game away with the Oilers last year. Then to Teemu Selanne, in what may be the twilight of a stellar NHL career.

Pierre McGuire had two of the most stirring moments of the post-game celebration. First, he needed to give Selanne a minute to compose himself. McGuire caught up to Selanne just as he met his wife on the ice, and the Finn was overcome with emotion. When asked if this, his 14th NHL season, would be his last, Selanne simply answered, "I don't know." Later, when McGuire spoke to Chris Pronger, he asked why Pronger had missed so much ice time in the first period. Pronger revealed that he separated his shoulder on an early hit against the boards, and it was popping in and out of the socket. He played his regular shift through the second and third periods, lifted that Cup, and just to make crystal clear the heart it takes to win in the NHL, lifted his son into his arms as he told that story to Pierre.

And so another season of NHL hockey pours out its last drops of heart, sweat, and soul onto the Honda Center ice. A victory parade in Anaheim and a black tie affair to hand out awards in Toronto make a sweet coda. Then the next season gets rolling with the entry draft in Columbus on June 22-23.

October can't come soon enough.

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2 responses

  1. F the Ducks! the mighty dirty Sucks.F Bettman too!http://www.FireBettman.com

  2. Thanks for your hockey postings. I have read and enjoyed them all.

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