Monday, April 09, 2007

 

Western playoffs

The West should prove to be a battle, with 7 teams earning over 100 points.

#1 Detroit vs #8 Calgary

History: The teams met in 2004, with the Flames upsetting Detroit 4-2 in the West semi-final.

Interesting Fact: You have to go all the way back to 2000 for the last time Detroit lost a playoff series where their opponent had home ice advantage. They've been favoured in every other series loss.

Outlook: Calgary got a great draw in the Red Wings. Despite finishing in first again, nobody will be surprised to see Detroit falter again. They are skilled, but woefully soft. Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and the like are great regular season talents, but disappear time and again in the playoffs. Detroit has Hasek this year, but since Calgary has Kiprusoff in net, the goaltending advantage is nullified. The Flames will play the Red Wings physical, and Detroit will only have Chris Chelios and Todd Bertuzzi, who've been known to take a dumb penalty or two, to counter. Until the Wings prove otherwise, they are too soft to win in the playoffs, though I hope I'm wrong in this case.

Prediction: Flames in 6.

#2 Anaheim vs #7 Minnesota

History: The Ducks swept Minnesota in the conference final in 2003.

Interesting Fact: The Wild overcame two 3-1 series defecits in 2003, the only team to do so in the same year.

Outlook: Anaheim was early season favorites, and could certainly still win it all, but they are being discounted by some because Brian Burke failed to make any trade deadline upgrades. Toughness is crucial in the playoffs, and the Ducks have it in abundance, but this crew is a little too lunch-pail for me. If Jacques Lemaire's boys, the #1 dfensive team in the league, can shut down Teemu Selanne and Andy McDonald, the Ducks will be in trouble. Despite employing the trap, the Wild are still able to generate chances on the counter-attack, and Marian Gaborik was a beast with 17 points in 18 games four years ago. This is my big upset pick.

Prediction: Minnesota in 7.

#3 Vancouver vs #6 Dallas

History: The Canucks defeated Dallas in the 1994 Western semi-final.

Interesting Fact: Every regular season game between these two was 2-1 in favour of the home team.

Outlook: Dallas has gassed it early the last two years, while Vancouver has usually done the same thing. Marty Turco is really under the gun to perform well, and even though the Stars are underdogs (although that's debatable in itself), coach Dave Tippett's job could be on the line. The Canucks rely heavily on Roberto Luongo's heroics, and will need him to steal a couple of games for them in they're to advance. Both teams are quite low scoring, but Vancouver has all their eggs in one basket with Markus Naslund and the Sedin's, whereas the Stars' offense is much more spread out. Defensemen Sergei Zubov and Phillippe Boucher are two of Dallas' top point-producers, and it's strange to think your checking line might need to shut-down defensemen. Every year there's one series that should be close, expected to go 7 games, but is over early, and I think this will be the one in 2007.

Prediction: Stars in 5.

#4 Nashville vs #5 San Jose

History: They met last year in round one, with the #4 Preds losing 4-1 to the #5 Sharks.

Interesting Fact: This is the only rematch from last year's playoffs.

Outlook: The Predators are in a tough position. They pretty much have to win this series to save face after making the Forsberg trade and looking like the favorite to win the west for most of the year. But San Jose is very good, well-balanced team that looks like they have what it takes to win the Cup as well. In my opinion these are the two best teams in the conference, but one will be going home early. Nashville will miss Steve Sullivan badly, as he's been injured for two months and there's no clear date for his return. Forsberg is a playoff beast, and he'll have to be again for Nashville to win. Joe Thornton desperately needs a strong showing in order to shake the playoff choker label. This series should be a war of attrition. Whoever loses will have failed to live up to pre-season expectations, and whoever wins could have too much taken out of them to go much further.

Prediction: Nashville in 7.

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