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Western Conference Quarterfinals
Anaheim Ducks (2) vs. Detroit Red Wings (7)
Season Series: Red Wings win 2-1
Game 1: Tuesday, April 30th, Red Wings @ Ducks, 10:30 PM EST; NBC Sports Network, TSN
Game 2: Thursday, May 2nd, Red Wings @ Ducks 10:00 PM EST; NBC Sports Network, TSN
Game 3: Saturday, May 4th, Ducks @ Red Wings 7:30 PM EST; NBC Sports Network, TSN
Game 4: Monday, May 6th, Ducks @ Red Wings 8:00 PM EST; CNBC, TSN
*Game 5: Wednesday, May 8th, Red Wings @ Ducks, TBD
*Game 6: Friday, May 10th, Ducks @ Red Wings, TBD
*Game 7: Sunday, May 12th, Red Wings @ Ducks, TBD
It took the Detroit Red Wings until the final day of the regular season to clinch their 22nd consecutive playoff berth, but they did it in convincing fashion, winning their final four games while dominating each team. The Red Wings are heating up and at the perfect time. That can bode badly for the Anaheim Ducks who have had a playoff berth and second place locked up for a period of time now but have still won three out of their past five. In the past, the Red Wings and Ducks have met up for some entertaining and fast paced playoff series and there is no reason that this should be any different. Let’s see how these two teams match up in a series that will be yet another can’t miss event.
The Red Wings have three forwards who are critical to their success who have dominated the opposing teams in the past week. Pavel Datsyuk has been the Datsyuk we all know him to be. He has recorded 8 points in the final four games (2 goals, 6 assists) to help the team win four straight. Henrik Zetterberg has been on a tear with his assists in the past four games. In the past four games, Zetterberg has recorded 8 assists. He has added 2 goals to bring his four game point total to 10. Johan Franzen has had his usual April surge and is being the Franzen that the Red Wings need him to be if they are to make an impact. He has tallied seven goals in his past eight games and has added an assist for eight points in eight games. The Ducks also have a trio of forwards that are high impact players in Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Bobby Ryan. Getzlaf is the leader of the Ducks and lead the team in assists (34) and points (49). In his past 10 games, Getzlaf has recorded two goals and five assists. Corey Perry leads the Ducks in goals (15) and has recorded three goals and three assists in his past ten games. Perry is a player who can record multi-point games on any given night and must be kept in check. Bobby Ryan is third on the Ducks in points this season with 30 (11 goals, 19 assists). Ryan has struggled to close out the season, recording only one goal and two assists in his last 10 games played. The Ducks will need all three players to contribute to get past the Red Wings.
Advantage: Red Wings
The Red Wings come into these playoffs with arguable their most inexperienced defense in the 22 consecutive playoffs. Led by veteran Niklas Kronwall, the Red Wings will have an influx of youth at the position who will gain valuable playoff experience. Niklas Kronwall has been a steady force along the blue line for the Red Wings in this year of transition and Danny DeKeyser has emerged as a top four defenseman in his short time with the Red Wings. The fault with the Red Wings defense is the youth and inexperience. The playoffs are a different game, and it is easy for a young defense to get exposed if they are put up against a good offense like Anaheim.
The Ducks don’t necessarily have an all star defense and they will certainly have their hands full with the likes of Datsyuk and Zetterberg. They are led by veteran Francois Beauchemin, who was on Anaheim’s championship team in 2006-2007 and who has been a steady force on the blue line for the majority of his career. He is also joined by veteran Sheldon Souray who is tied for the team lead in +/- with Beauchemin at +19. They are joined by Cam Fowler who is a good young defenseman and who is starting to heat up. If the Ducks want to contain the Red Wings forwards, they will need all of their defensemen to come up big.
The Red Wings have been riding the hot goaltending of Jimmy Howard for the past couple of weeks and there is no goaltender who is hotter going into the playoffs. Howard is coming off of a four game win streak, shutting out two of the four teams and only allowing three goals total in the other two games. The only thing that the Red Wings and their fans need to be concerned about is the amount of play Howard has seen to close the season. He has started in 15 straight games and there is no chance of him getting rest any time soon. If Howard can stay hot, he has the chance to steal a game or two just by himself.
The Ducks have a problem that most teams wish they had. They are face with the question of who to start in net for the playoffs. At the time of this writing, the Ducks still had not decided who their starter was going to be, but they have the opportunity to be able to switch out goaltenders if one falters. The goaltenders in question are veteran Jonas Hiller and rookie Viktor Fasth. They really can’t go wrong with either, as they have both been stable in net this season, with both of them posting GAA below 2.50. Right now I would imagine them going with Hiller in net based off of playoff experience and success. They will not hesitate to switch however if the starter falters in the first couple games.
Advantage: Based off depth, Anaheim
The Red Wings struggled for most of the season to find any consistency on the powerplay, but as of late they have been one of the most consistent teams on the powerplay. After struggling to score a road powerplay goal for the first half of the season, the Wings were able to rebound to score on the road more consistently. They sit at the middle of the pack at 15th overall with an 18.4% success rate as opposed to Anaheim who sits fourth overall with a 21.5% success rate. The two teams are almost dead even on the penalty kill success rate as well, the Red Wings 12th overall with an 81.7% success rate and Anaheim at 13th overall with an 81.5% success rate. The Red Wings play on the powerplay recently is proof of what they are capable of so don’t let the overall standing of the powerplay confuse you.
The Red Wings match up with the Ducks very well and are a popular pick for the first round upset. This series is not going to be short and it has all the ingredients needed for a seven game series. The travel could once again do in the Red Wings, but if they play like they have been in the past couple weeks, they will be fine no matter what.
Prediction: Red Wings in 7