Can't Bolt from Lightning

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 4:23 PM ET


 Given the roll he's on right now, maybe Paul Maurice should rush out and snap up as many lottery tickets as possible.

 Maurice, The Toronto Sun's NHL playoff prognosticator, is on a hot streak when it comes to picking post-season winners in the past several weeks.

 After the one-time Carolina Hurricanes coach correctly predicted the Philadelphia Flyers' second-round elimination of the Maple Leafs in six games, he was right on the mark in his selections of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Calgary Flames to make it to the Stanley Cup final.

 So which team will have its roster chiselled on the Cup?

 "I picked Tampa to come out of the East ... prior to the trade deadline and I'm not about to change now," Maurice said last night. "My heart is with Calgary but I think Tampa has the edge. They came out of the East relatively unscathed while all the other big boys in the conference were beating each other up."

 Both the Lightning and Flames play a high-tempo pressure game, an exciting style that Maurice expects other NHL teams to emulate.

 "This is often a copycat league, especially when it comes to following whatever trend is successful," Maurice said. "It could very well come to pass that the end-to-end, electric style of these teams is adopted throughout the league, and I think that is something fans would really enjoy."

 Here is Maurice's breakdown of the final:

 OFFENCE

 "In terms of pure skill, Tampa Bay has the edge here. Brad Richards, Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, they form as good a young nucleus of forwards as you'll find. Calgary has a grittier look to them, although you'll be hard-pressed to identify better performers in these playoffs than Jarome Iginla and Martin Gelinas. Nevertheless, credit for the Flames' success should go just as much to guys like Oleg Saprykin, who never takes a shift off from finishing his checks.

 "The Flames use speed as the basis for their attack, a blueprint that stresses a straight-ahead, drive to the net philosophy. Tampa Bay likes to move the puck around and is more likely to use more passes in the offensive zone than Calgary."

 EDGE: Slight edge to Lightning.

 DEFENCE

 "The way these two teams play, both defensive units are going to take a beating. Tampa gets the nod here simply because this appears to be the healthier defence of the two. The absence of a physical presence such as Denis Gauthier is a blow to the Flames although the youngsters who have stepped in have been outstanding for Calgary. Both teams are not afraid to have their defencemen jump into the rush."

 EDGE: Lightning, based on health.

 GOALTENDING

 "Miikka Kiprusoff has not had very many off-nights in the post-season, showing the consistency it takes to challenge for a Stanley Cup. Nikolai Khabibulin has enjoyed his own outstanding moments through the first three rounds, but Kiprusoff remains the story thus far."

 EDGE: Flames.

 SPECIAL TEAMS

 "This will be strength versus strength, a head-to-head matchup between Tampa's power play and Calgary's penalty killers. The Lightning power play was virtually unstoppable against the Philadelphia Flyers, while the Flames were outstanding while short-handed against San Jose. Still, Tampa's fire power with the man advantage can't be ignored."

 EDGE: Slight edge to Lightning.

 COACHING

 "It's no surprise that both Tampa's John Tortorella and Calgary's Darryl Sutter are finalists for the Jack Adams Trophy as top coach in the league. They've both got the most out of their respective rosters. In my opinion Darryl should win it, although that is in no way meant to be disrespectful to John, who also is an outstanding coach. Both guys will be more concerned with their own benches and making smooth line changes than matching lines against the opposition. I don't see it being too much of a line-matching series, although that could change as the series evolves."

 EDGE: Even.

 INTANGIBLES

 "Both teams are in similar positions.This is the Stanley Cup final, and neither side has a lot of guys who have been this far before. Many of the previous finals have featured an underdog David versus a favoured Goliath but I don't see that here. These two are evenly matched."

 EDGE: Even.

 THE SKINNY

 "Both teams built their up-tempo philosophies from the defence-first foundations each promoted several years ago. Each team likes to pressure and take risks, which should make for one of the most exciting finals in recent memory. But I picked Tampa earlier in the season and I'm not going to back off that now."

 PREDICTION:

 Tampa Bay to win the Stanley Cup in six.


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