In a series too close to call ... Sens in seven

MIKE KEENAN -- For Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:33 AM ET

We need to make one thing clear as we look ahead to the 2007 Stanley Cup final between the Ottawa Senators and Anaheim Ducks.

Yes, I am picking the Sens to win the Cup in seven games.

But it's hardly chiseled in stone.

In fact, I've been debating this selection all day. One minute the Sens look good; the next minute, the Ducks seem to have a slight edge.

That's how close I think this series will be.

In the end, I'm banking on the intangible that the Sens will be fuelled by the emotion of having most of Canada supporting them.

Of course, that can be interpreted in two ways.

On a positive note, it can be a boost.

On the other hand, knowing the weight of an entire country is on your shoulders can serve as a detriment if you let the pressure get to you.

As for the Ducks, they have experience going for them. A handful of their players remember the pain of losing Game 7 of the Cup final to the New Jersey Devils just four short years ago and are hoping to learn from it.

It's easy to pick out the difference makers in this series.

For the Ducks, their stud defensive duo of Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer will chew up minutes and try to slow the Sens down.

For the Sens, the big line of Daniel Alfredsson, JasonSpezza and Dany Heatley will attempt to set the tone. Whichever team gets the best performances from their top players is likely to win.

FORWARDS

Anaheim's forwards didn't score as much as they might have liked in the semi-final series against Detroit.

Teemu Selanne and Andy McDonald lead the first line; Ryan Getzlaf highlights a second unit full of talented kids; and Rob Niedermayer anchors a pretty good checking line.

But Ottawa's Big Three of Heatley,Spezza and Alfredsson clearly are the best forwards in the series and Mike Fisher brings some much-needed sandpaper to the table.

EDGE: Sens

DEFENCE

When two of the Norris Trophy finalists are on the same team, the Ducks easily have the edge. Wade Redden is very talented and Anton Volchenkov is a shot-blocking machine, but Pronger and Niedermayer are the cream of this crop. Coach Randy Carlyle will try to have one of these guys on the ice for at least 50 minutes per game.

EDGE: Ducks

GOAL

Ray Emery seems to have answered all the pre-playoff questions about him. Coach Bryan Murray could not have asked for more. Having said that, J-S Giguere won the Conn Smythe in 2003 and knows how to handle the Cup spotlight.

EDGE: Slight one to Ducks

COACHING

Murray gets the nod here but not for anything tactical.

His advantage comes in that he is familiar with some of the Ducks players dating back to the days when he was the Anaheim GM. Will it help? I think it might but we'll have to see. Carlyle, for the record, is a good coach.

EDGE: Slight one to Sens

SPECIAL TEAMS

Anaheim plays a pressure penalty kill, so it will be interesting to see if the Sens adapt. The Achilles heel of the Ducks has been their penchant for taking penalties and that could be a problem.

EDGE: Slight one to Sens

INTANGIBLES

Anaheim is the most physical team the Sens have seen. Moreover, they own home-ice advantage and are more accustomed to the lengthy travel. Officiating will also be a factor, and I'm hoping the referees let the teams play.

Keenan's pick: Sens in seven

(Playoff record: 10-4)

Former NHL GM/coach Mike Keenan is opining for Sun Media during the NHL playoffs.


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