ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Hey, you, wake up. That's right, you hockey fans who fell asleep after the Western Conference finals and thought you'd missed the entire Stanley Cup finals.
You didn't. It's here, finally. The Stanley Cup finals, Monday night in Anaheim, Game 1.
You remember the Ducks, the luckiest team on two legs? And the Ottawa Senators, the most rested team on two legs? Just to reacquaint you with the teams and some of the story lines that are likely to unfold over the coming days, we present our annual Stanley Cup finals primer.
Depth? We don't need no stinking depth
One of the reasons the Senators are overwhelming favorites (at least among the media covering the finals) is that Ottawa has, on paper, far greater depth up front and along the blue line. Not necessarily better players, just more of them. Not surprisingly, Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle does not subscribe to this theory.
"I think it's always easy to categorize 'ifs' before the playoff series start," Carlyle said. "We were criticized earlier in probably all three playoffs rounds; we didn't use our bench, we should be doing this and shouldn't be doing that. We found ways to get through that. I think there's a lot of overemphasis put on four lines versus three lines."
And this year's Ray Bourque is ...
In every Stanley Cup finals, it seems there's a veteran player who's toiled long and hard and never had a shot at a Cup. This year's honorary Ray Bourque nominee is Teemu Selanne, who is playing in his first Cup finals since breaking into the NHL with Winnipeg in 1992.
"Makes me feel pretty old," Selanne said with a laugh. "Obviously, there's a lot of players who have never won anything, so it's tough in this league. But I was waiting for this 15 years to get this chance and I'm going to enjoy every moment.
"Obviously, we have a good feeling about this. We have a good team. We have the same dream together. So, it's going to be very exciting. But like I said earlier, nothing is going to come easy. There's a lot of hard work ahead."
How do you spell lucky charm? B-A-C-K-U-P
During the 2005-06 season, Martin Gerber was the starting netminder for the Carolina Hurricanes. When he became ill at the start of the playoffs, he was replaced by rookie Cam Ward, who went on to earn playoff MVP honors as the Canes won their first Stanley Cup.
In the offseason, Gerber, an unrestricted free agent, signed a three-year deal worth $3.7 million annually with the Senators. But after a shaky start for both the Senators and Gerber, the Swiss has once again been relegated to backup status.
"He's a lucky charm. I'd like to be in the Cup final as often as he is," coach Bryan Murray said. "Martin's been a great soldier, ready if we had to play him at any time during the year. I think he won 12 of his last 13 games. But I wasn't wise enough to put him back in. As a result, he gets designated right now for the bench and Ray Emery plays."
Only four players on the current Ducks roster were with the team when it advanced to a surprise berth in the 2003 Stanley Cup finals, when they lost to New Jersey in seven games. Only three of those players, Samuel Pahlsson, Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Rob Niedermayer, were actually on the ice. The fourth, Andy McDonald, was in that nether world that is home to the seriously injured.
McDonald, a free agent signed by the Ducks in April 2000, suffered a concussion after an open-ice hit courtesy of Colorado's Adam Foote in January of 2003 and did not play the rest of that season.
"It was a difficult time for me," McDonald said. "I was out in January with a concussion. I tried to come back three or four times and had no luck. I had recurring symptoms. I was around the team a little bit. One of the series, I stayed away. Bryan Murray [then GM] had recommended that I just stay away from it, give myself a break, because it was pretty stressful."
McDonald did travel with the team during the finals.
"It was difficult," he said. "Obviously, I wanted to be a part of it. I'd played the first part of the year with the team and felt like I'd contributed. Then, when I got hurt, obviously that ends pretty quick and you really don't feel like you're part of the team anymore. And then questions about my career kind of crept in and I didn't know whether I'd even play again …"
McDonald, who did not get clearance to play until shortly before the start of training camp in 2003-04, recalls his teammates' reaction after Game 7.
"I remember those guys' faces when they were coming off the ice and how disappointed they were and that's something I'll probably never forget and it's something I carry that with me and use that to motivate me," McDonald said.
Two degrees of separation
One of the interesting elements of a series like this is to trace the relationships between the two teams, relationships that often stretch back years, even decades.
Ducks GM Brian Burke recalls meeting Murray when Burke was playing for Portland in the American Hockey League with Murray's brother, Terry.
"And [Bryan] would come down and watch games. That was the first time I met him, in '77, '78. We've been friends ever since. We'll put it on hold for a couple of weeks," Burke joked Sunday.
Of course, Burke arrived in Anaheim after Murray made the decision to go back to coaching in Ottawa near his hometown of Shawville, Quebec. Burke is quick to credit Murray for drafting young stars like Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.
"Did we meet in a beer parlor or something," Murray joked when asked about their long-standing relationship. "Great respect. He's not afraid to take a chance, this guy. He steps up to the plate. He's made big trades in the league. He's not afraid to speak his mind. We all know that."
Murray calls the decision to leave Anaheim, whom he guided to the 2003 Stanley Cup finals, one of the most difficult of his career.
Said Murray: "[Ottawa GM John Muckler] gave me an opportunity to go back to my home area and to coach a good hockey team. I had great friends here. People in the office and the scouts that I was either involved in bringing here or working with. And that was as tough as leaving the team, just knowing full well that you affected some of their lives, as well, and I did. And I feel awful about that."
Hockey-mad Canada has a participant in the Stanley Cup finals for the third straight year. In each of those years, Canadian teams have played against non-traditional hockey markets -- Tampa Bay, Raleigh and now Anaheim.
Does it make a difference? Yes and no, according to Burke.
"I mean, hockey is not a sport in Canada," he said. "Everyone knows that. It's a religion. It's not going to change. If you look at the newspapers here today, we've got excellent coverage and the people that cover our team are thorough and professional and we have excellent coverage. But you also see how it gets obscured by both baseball teams; as luck would have it, they're in first place."
There's also college football, in which USC has been dominant.
"I've been here two years and I think they've lost two games," Burke said. "You know, these are all things that we compete with. There's two NBA teams. NFL is probably coming back at some point. So, the coverage we get, while it's excellent, is obscure, camouflaged and often lost."
Of the dozens of media on hand for the pre-series interview session Sunday, there were only a handful of representatives from major American hockey markets outside the Los Angeles/Anaheim area, another indication of hockey's tenuous perch on the American sporting radar.
We introduce ...
Regardless of what Carlyle says, it's clear he feels the need to try and squeeze more from his lineup, especially up front, since he's had difficulty replacing Chris Kunitz, who suffered a broken bone in his hand early in the Western Conference finals and is lost for the season.
Carlyle used sophomore Dustin Penner with McDonald and Selanne, but Penner struggled. Then, he used veteran Todd Marchant, and that didn't exactly produce fireworks. So, it appears, based on practice units this week, rookie Drew Miller, who has exactly 2:15 minutes of NHL playoff experience to his credit, will get a chance to play with Selanne and McDonald.
"Those guys are really easy to play with," Miller said Sunday "They make it the easiest I think they could make it. They're very good with the puck and make a lot happen. If I get the chance to play with them, I'm just going to try to get them puck and try to be responsible."
The 23-year-old is the lesser known of the Miller brothers. Big brother Ryan is the Buffalo Sabres netminder of the present and future.
"He's just excited and he's looking forward to watching me if I get to play," the Anaheim version said Sunday.
How does he keep from being overwhelmed at the prospect of stepping onto the ice in a significant role in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals?
"Everyone just keeps saying, 'Just play your game and have fun with it. Just don't put too pressure on yourself," Miller said. "Just keep it at that."
Trade deadline overkill
Take a good look at the long list of big-name players that were on the move at the trade deadline, often for a significant chunk of some team's future. Now take a look at the rosters of the Anaheim Ducks and Ottawa Senators. With all due respect to Oleg Saprykin and Brad May (the two players picked up by the Senators and Ducks, respectively, during the deadline period), you don't see anything approaching a big-name acquisition on either roster.
"Well, I said this at the time, that our group of GMs make more mistakes at the trade deadline than we make the whole rest of the year," Anaheim GM Brian Burke said Sunday. "The pressure to win and add guys is tremendous."
Burke looked hard for more depth, but balked at the asking price many veteran players were generating. Likewise for Ottawa GM John Muckler, who wanted Gary Roberts but wouldn't pay what the Florida Panthers were asking. In hindsight, it's hard to argue with either of either of them.
You win some, you win some
Anaheim defenseman Scott Niedermayer has an absolutely sick record when it comes to winning the big prize. He has three Stanley Cup rings from his days in New Jersey; he won a gold medal with Canada at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. He has a World Cup of Hockey championship, a Memorial Cup championship as a junior -- he was also named Memorial Cup tournament MVP. He's won a Norris Trophy as the NHL's best defenseman and could win another this season. But, as Niedermayer pointed out, it's inevitable that he's also had his share of disappointments, too.
"I've probably lost almost everything, as well," the Ducks captain said. "You don't win things by not sticking your nose in there and taking your licks and getting beat at different times."
My save percentage is bigger than yours
Anton Volchenkov may not have much command over the English language, but the Russian defenseman has seen his stock rise dramatically with his play this season and even more so during the playoffs. Volchenkov got a chance to move into a top-four role with the Senators thanks to the departure of Zdeno Chara to Boston as a free agent.
Volchenkov led the NHL in blocked shots during the regular season by a wide margin and is doing so again in the postseason. He and partner Chris Phillips have been instrumental in shutting down top offensive players versus Pittsburgh, New Jersey and Buffalo.
"You see some of the shots he gets in front of. It's a lot of times shots from far out that he's down and could easily be hitting him in the face," Phillips said. "I think he just hopes that it gets him into his chest or legs. But he really is just fearless. He'll get in front of everything."
Murray credits Volchenkov with instilling the same fearlessness in his teammates. As for Emery, he's in favor of the whole thing.
"He's got a better save percentage than I do, I think. I mean, it's great for me," Emery said. "He not only blocks shots that are kind of point shots and the normal blocked shots, but he makes saves where there's an empty net, back-door passes, things like that. He's really good at reading the play."
Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for ESPN.com