NEW JERSEY Devils vs. ANAHEIM Mighty Ducks

Article excerpt

Byline: Dave Fay, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

OFFENSE

The term "dead puck era" is starting to catch on, and that's a good thing because it should get a lot of use in the next 10 days or so. Most of the top scorers for both teams have taken the postseason off so far, at least offensively. They have made contributions but not the type their respective clubs hoped for. Anaheim's Paul Kariya and Petr Sykora have a grand total of seven goals (although Kariya got his team's improbable run to the finals started with an overtime winner against Detroit in Game 1); New Jersey's Patrik Elias and Jeff Friesen also have a total of seven goals (although Friesen scored three game-winners against Ottawa). Surprisingly, the muckers and grinders have been doing the scoring for both teams, leaving the offense hard to figure. Being this is the Stanley Cup Finals, the already minuscule offensive output probably will decline further because teams play it even closer to the vest and players don't want to make that one mistake that turns a game or series. Unless there is an unforeseen goaltending failure, expect a lot of low-scoring games. Advantage: Even.

DEFENSE

Both teams play the trap and both play it well. How well? Anaheim scored just nine goals in four games as it ousted trap-devotee Minnesota in the West finals. Now, that's defense. Before that, the Ducks eliminated Detroit and Dallas, as tall an order as there is. The Stars scored 14 of the 21 goals Anaheim has allowed in postseason and still the Ducks won that series in six. New Jersey is the team that puts defense above all else; it shared the league lead (with the Flyers) for fewest goals allowed this season with 166. There will be few odd-man rushes because of the defensive systems both employ. Don't expect more than two forecheckers deep or in the Devils' case, more than one. Advantage: Devils.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Not a strong suit for either club, but the Devils could exploit the Ducks in this area. Anaheim's power play connected just six times in 52 chances, and only once on the road. Adam Oates is the team's top power play scorer with three goals, and two of those came in the same game. New Jersey isn't the model of offensive efficiency on the road either, hitting just twice. However, the Devils score nearly 16 percent of the time on the power play in the playoffs, far better than Anaheim (11.5 percent). Both clubs have allowed six short-handed goals but New Jersey has been shorthanded 56 times, seven more than the Ducks. …