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On brink of victory or defeat, what they're really saying at Cup finals

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It is a basic truth of the NHL playoffs that the closer one gets to the Stanley Cup, the heavier the words uttered by players and coaches.

And when the Stanley Cup is physically in the building, as it will be Wednesday night when the Anaheim Ducks have an opportunity to become the first California team to win a Stanley Cup, players' words become positively dipped in cement.

No one in the Anaheim dressing room wants to say too much for fear of upsetting the delicate balance between good fortune and catastrophe.

The Ducks know that only one team in history under the best-of-seven format has ever come back from a 3-1 final series deficit to win a Stanley Cup -- and that was 65 years ago. So the last thing they want to do is anger the hockey gods by seeming flippant or even excited.

Over in the Senators' dressing room, the term "dead team skating" seems appropriate given the steep odds they face. They, too, are keenly aware of the deep, deep hole in which they find themselves, but are in no position to articulate it.

And so, the end result is a blizzard of clichés and non sequiturs and sometimes just nonsense. But that's what we're here for, to help wade through the words floating about and provide the true meaning of what's being said on the eve of what could be the final game of the 2006-07 season.


What they said
"The thing that surprised me the most about it all was that Scott Niedermayer took it upon himself and told the team to just the turn the page on it. And that's a leadership statement." -- Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle on the team captain's reaction to having Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson rifle a puck at him at the end of the second period of Game 4.

What they meant
"I was really surprised that Scott even realized Alfredsson did it. He's so calm, he's ice. Get it? Ice … on the ice? You know, sometimes I bring a pocket mirror with me and put it in front of him on the bench to make sure he's still breathing or hasn't gone into some sort of catatonic trance. Of course, you guys know what I'm talking about, having talked to him after games."


What they said
"I don't think there's much to be said to be honest with you. I mean, we all realize what's at stake, what's sitting in front of us and it's going to take a big effort and it's not going to be easy." -- Anaheim's Chris Pronger on whether Scott will likely say anything before Game 5.

What they meant
"Do you think they're going to name that new 'hit to the head' penalty after me next season? You know, like they name stars or asteroids after people who discover them? Hey, you guys were the ones who ratted me out on the Tomas Holmstrom hit in the last round, so the least you can do is lobby Mr. Bettman for it. OK, I've got to go. Oops, sorry. Did that hurt? Hey, I'm 6-foot-6. Look at you -- you're 5-foot-5. Oops, there goes another one. Medic!"


What they said
"It's not going to come easily, but we have to just maybe do a quick analysis of what's going on and try and get right back at it [Wednesday] and try and bring it back home for Game 6." -- Ottawa's Jason Spezza on the team's frustration in this series after playing so well for so much of the season and through the first three rounds of the playoffs.

What they meant
"I sent my mom and dad to Buffalo after Game 4 to see if they could find my game. I know I had it there and think I might have left it in my hotel room underneath the desk next to that plant. Gee, I hope it gets here in time."


What they said
"No, not at all." -- Alfredsson when asked if he thought his shooting the puck at Niedermayer motivated the Ducks in the third period of Game 4.

What they meant

"I thought it was Samuel Pahlsson."


What they said
"From our standpoint, I look at it as a positive. I look at it as it's maybe frustration on their part and maybe Alfie was trying to rally his troops or whatever it was." -- Veteran Anaheim forward Todd Marchant on the Alfredsson altercation with Niedermayer.

What they meant

"That was weird, eh? I think Alfie must have thought it was Samuel Pahlsson."


What they said
"I don't know. I would never think that I would be a candidate or anything. I don't know if I am now. It's all about winning the games. I don't really care about the personal." -- Anaheim checking specialist Pahlsson on his being considered as a possible playoff MVP.

What they meant

"Do you get to keep the Conn Smythe Trophy? That'd serve Alfredsson right for trying to shoot that puck at me. Oh, wait a minute. That was Scott Niedermayer. Never mind. Can I go now?"


What they said
"There's no question we're in a tough one. It's not going to be easy. I'm sure there's not a lot of people who believe we can do it." -- Alfredsson on coming back from a 3-1 series deficit.

What they meant

"Hey, is something burning? Is that barbecue I smell? Oh, wait. It's us."


What they said
"We can't be worried about the results. Just go and play as hard as we can and hopefully they'll take care of themselves and we'll have another game to play and take it step by step, instead of looking at the big picture here." -- Ottawa defenseman Chris Phillips on the need to focus on the task at hand and not think too much about anything beyond Game 5.

What they meant

"Big picture? What's that big painting of hell? Dante's Inferno? That's what we see when we look at the big picture. Do you know how hard it is to skate in the fetal position?"


What they said
"Finding ourselves? It's a little late in the year to be finding ourselves. Hopefully, we will play the way we are supposed to and have been playing up until we started here." -- Ottawa coach Bryan Murray on his team's aimlessness through most of this finals series.

What they meant

"OK, I've photographed a bunch of these flyers and will be putting them up all over Anaheim on billboards and milk cartons. Can you read the names clearly enough: Heatley, Spezza, Alfredsson, Redden, Comrie? Did I miss anyone? And we've got little pictures of them there, too, in case anyone sees them."


What they said
"They'll have the parties arranged, I'm sure." -- Murray on what will be an emotionally charged atmosphere in the Honda Center on Wednesday night.

What they meant

"Do you know what the losing teams get after the game? It's not pretty. Old sandwiches that the media has picked through, those wheat thins I hate and warm beer."


What they said
"So, I think an old saying 'All for one and one for all' is kind of what we're trying to live." -- Carlyle on the team's unity throughout this season and the playoffs.

What they meant

"It doesn't matter who it is. If they're slacking off or having too much fun, I trot out some withering vocabulary at a very high volume that would make a longshoreman wince with pain. And if that doesn't work, I kick them in the butt. How's that for 'all for one'?"


What they said
"Our focus is just on the game. Obviously, the end result is there, but we've worked too hard and we've sacrificed too much to lose focus at this point." -- Marchant on not thinking too far ahead.

What they meant

"Have you ever heard what Carlyle sounds like when he gets angry? He makes Al Pacino in 'Scarface' sound like Howdy Doody. So, we'll just pay attention to the game until he tells us it's time to open the champagne, and not before. I've been in the league since 1994 and he still scares the bejeebers out of me."

Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for ESPN.com