Tuesday, April 10, 2007

2007 NHL Playoffs Round I Western Conference

Moving right along....

Series E: Detroit Red Wings (50-32; 113 points; 1st Central Division, 1st Western Conference, 2nd Overall) vs. Calgary Flames (43-39; 96 points; 3rd Northwest Division, 8th Western Conference, 13th Overall)

Detroit coasts into the playoffs in a familiar position. A division title wrapped up along with the top seed in the Western Conference. Calgary stumbled badly down the stretch but got themselves into the playoffs and a date with the Red Wings. However, the Flames aren't pushovers by any stretch. This is a team that can get physical and the longer this series goes, the more important that will be for them. Calgary has the fewest road wins of any team in the NHL Playoffs but the most wins at home of any team in the league. As the eighth seed, they'll have to figure out a way to win on the road in order to advance through the playoffs. On paper this looks to be a mismatch as the Red Wings still have Chris Chelios, Nicklas Lidstrom, Todd Bertuzzi, and Dominik Hasek. However not a single one of those players is under the age of 32. I believe that Calgary has the favorable matchup here because of their defense, but they will need a few breaks to go their way. Flames in six.

Series F: Anaheim Ducks (48-34; 110 points; 1st Pacific Division, 2nd Western Conference, 4th Overall) vs. Minnesota Wild (48-34; 104 points; 2nd Northwest Divsion, 7th Western Conference, 11th Overall)

Two teams with the same number of wins and losses yet separated by six points. Welcome to the "new NHL." Ok, rant over. Anaheim along with the Buffslugs was the sexy pick to make it to the finals and most people predicted that they would win it all. However, if Minnesota knows anything, it is how to slow down the game. Remember the epic Western Conference Finals these two teams played back in 2003? Anaheim is still figuring things out in net and that isn't a good thing come playoff time no matter what your seeding is. I think this could be the worst possible matchup for both teams. Here's another playoff series that is going to come down as to who gets the bounces and breaks going their way. This playoff series could very well end up being Exhibit A in the quest to have the gimmick applied to the playoffs. Wild in seven.

Series G Vancouver Canucks (49-33; 105 points; 1st Northwest Division, 3rd Western Conference, 8th Overall) vs. Dallas Stars (50-32; 107 points; 3rd Pacific Division, 6th Western Conference, 6th Overall)

Another statistical oddity where the team with more points and the better record, Dallas, ends up without home ice advantage because somebody has to win a Division. Here's another compelling playoff matchup because of the goaltenders involved. Roberto Luongo is in his seventh NHL season but is appearing in the playoffs for the first time. Playoff hockey is very different from the regular season. Ask Jim Carey. (If you can find him) Marty Turco is in the playoffs for the fifth time and is looking for just his second series win. Somebody has to win this series and on paper, Vancouver looks to be the favorite simply because they are and have been healthier this season. The Canucks are also a younger and while Luongo is making his playoff debut, he has done well in international playoff competition. Canucks in six.

Series H: Nashville Predators (51-31; 110 points; 2nd Central Division, 4th Eastern Conference, 3rd Overall) vs. San Jose Sharks (51-31; 107 points; 2nd Pacific Division, 5th Eastern Conference, 5th Overall)

Similar records and yet separated by 3 points. Ok, Nashville has gone "All-In" to win the Cup this year. They lead their division for a good stretch this season but came up short in the end. The Predators have had problems winning the big games and they are hoping against hope that Peter Forsberg can provide them with the push that they need to get over that hump. They of course have to hope he can stay healthy. That little extra something is all Nashville is missing as they have great speed and good defense. However, should San Jose get some breaks, the Sharks can easily dump the Predators. The Sharks have good goaltending as well as a strong offense. The only downside to the Sharks is their platooning goaltender situation. The Sharks Power Play is also something to watch out for but will have to contend with an equally good penalty killing unit. Defense usually wins but my gut tells me something different here. Call it the David "Bud" Poile factor. Sharks in six.

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