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RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 5:02 PM ET

 The Calgary Flames against the Tampa Bay Lightning for the Stanley Cup.

 Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, does it?

  Nor is it hardly the dream matchup for ESPN and ABC.

 So what.

 If you want to enjoy hockey with speed, skill and finesse -- a far cry from last year's trap-filled finale between New Jersey and Anaheim -- brace yourself for what has the makings of a great series.

 Literally, the unstoppable force versus the immovable object.

 Based on the regular-season statistics, you're going to see the NHL's third-best offence (Tampa racked up 245 goals) against the third best defence (Calgary surrendered only 176 tallies).

 Sure it's not sexy by U.S. network standards -- that would be a Philadelphia-Colorado matchup or New York Rangers-Detroit final -- but rest assured fans who tune into the fight that will decide who claims hockey's Holy Grail won't be disappointed.

 Here's how the clubs stack up against each other:

 - - -

 GOAL:

 If not for Jarome Iginla, Miikka Kiprusoff would be the local favourite for the Conn Smythe Trophy to this point. Even still, a pretty legitimate case can be made for Kiprusoff.

 Kiprusoff has proven his mettle by bouncing back from disappointing efforts. He's been perfect in games following nights he's surrendered four or more goals.

 Tampa Bay's Nikolai Khabibulin is no slouch either.

 Like Kiprusoff, Khabibulin has collected four shutouts in this post-season.

 All in all, there's no edge for either team.

 - - -

 DEFENCE:

 Let's face it, these are two of the most unheralded defence corps in the league.

 Calgary's crew has performed remarkably well through three rounds, limiting a trio of offensively gifted clubs even without Denis Gauthier and Toni Lydman since midway through the first round.

 Still, the young collection of Jordan Leopold, Robyn Regehr, Rhett Warrener, Andrew Ference, Steve Montador and Mike Commodore has plenty to prove.

 Tampa's defence corps doesn't exactly strike the kind of fear in hearts as so many other championship teams but the Flames and their fans can't be lulled into a sense of security.

 Jassen Cullimore, Pavel Kubina, Cory Sarich, Dan Boyle, Brad Lukowich, Nolan Pratt and Darryl Sydor are more of a who's that? collection than a who's who? but there's plenty of skill, size and steadiness on the Eastern Conference champions.

 Cullimore is playing injured but when healthy is their best defenceman.

 Kubina is coming off a 17-goal season, while Boyle and Sydor are just as much offensive threats.

 Pratt and Sarich provide the physical grit.

 Like the Flames blueline brigade, the playoffs have shown how good they are.

 - - -

 FORWARDS:

 Tampa has so many snipers it hardly seems fair.

 Start with Marty St. Louis, the former Flame who was cast aside and is now the odds-on favourite to win the Hart Trophy as regular-season MVP.

 Then you have Brad Richards, another small yet extremely skilled production machine.

 It doesn't end there. Also regularly putting the puck in the net for the Lightning are former first-overall draft pick Vincent Lecavalier, Fredrik Modin, Ruslan Fedotenko -- eight goals -- and another former Flame, Cory Stillman.

 Calgary's offensive attack hasn't proven to be as vaunted but this playoff has shown the Flames aren't just a one-man team.

 Sure, Jarome Iginla is the catalyst and he's delivered the goods with a league-best 10 goals and 17 points.

 It doesn't end there. Craig Conroy has rebounded nicely from a sub-par regular season while the third member of the top line, Martin Gelinas, has scored the clinching goal in all three series.

 Calgary's second line of Marcus Nilson, Ville Nieminen and Shean Donovan has outscored its opposing second units in all three series.

 The difference will be made by which team's other two units are most effective.

 - - -

 SPECIAL TEAMS:

 Neither Detroit nor San Jose had a consistently productive powerplay heading into its series against Calgary but the same can't be said about Tampa Bay's.

 The Lightning went into last night's Game 7 having scored an incredible eight powerplay goals (in 24 chances) during the Eastern Conference final.

 Its PK isn't shabby either. In the first six games of the East showdown, Philly went one-for-24 on the powerplay.

 Calgary's powerplay has been somewhere between dismal and mediocre in the post-season. With only a 10.7% success rate (9-for-84), there's obviously been some dry spells. In the last nine games, the Flames have but two goals on 32 chances.

 The PK, a huge problem early in the Vancouver series, has been very good of late. Over the last 10 games, Calgary has killed 33 of 36 chances, a huge improvement from the beginning of the post season.

 - - -

 INTANGIBLES:

 Is Dave Andreychuk this year's Ray Bourque?

 Giving a greybeard like him a championship after all these years will certainly be a rallying point in Florida.

 Four Lightning players have won Cups: Chris Dingman (Colorado 2001), Tim Taylor (Detroit 1997), Brad Lukowich and Darryl Sydor (Dallas 1999).

 One thing interesting to watch will be how the poor ice conditions in Tampa affects the Flames, who are used to great ice at home.


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