Detroit couldn't have had a better opening round of the playoffs, dismissing the Columbus Blue Jackets with a convincing sweep, while the Ducks are already being heralded as "the best 8th-seed team ever" following their 1st-round victory over the San Jose Sharks. Expect high-quality, intense action between two teams that met in a classic series in the 2007 playoffs, which Anaheim won en route to winning the Stanley Cup.
Detroit holds a clear edge in just about every territory, but give credit to the Ducks for the adjustments they made at the trade deadline. While most observers reckoned that the team was looking ahead towards the free agency period, new additions like Ryan Whitney and the return of Francois Beauchemain from injury have deepened and solidified a top-notch defense corps. I suspect the Anaheim skaters won't be totally mismatched, as would otherwise appear to be the case here.
|2008 - Jean-Sebastien Giguere||46||2458||19||18||6||3||127||3.10||1274||1147||.900||2|
|2008 - Jonas Hiller||46||2486||23||15||1||6||99||2.39||1217||1118||.919||4|
|2008 - Ty Conklin||40||2246||25||11||2||4||94||2.51||1033||939||.909||6|
|2008 - Chris Osgood||46||2663||26||9||8||0||137||3.09||1208||1071||.887||2|
Anaheim made the gutsy decision to go with Jonas Hiller to start the playoffs, and he hasn't disappointed. Chris Osgood has, for now, shaken off criticism based on his awful regular season results, but Anaheim should pose more of a challenge than Columbus did.
No OtF preview would be complete without a look at Penalty Plus/Minus, to see which players will head to, or send other players to, the box:
|Anaheim||Penalties Drawn||Detroit||Penalties Drawn|
|Player||Draws||Fouls||Pen +/-||Player||Draws||Fouls||Pen +/-|
|Corey Perry||52||48||+4||Henrik Zetterberg||38||18||+20|
|Ryan Getzlaf||36||50||-14||Pavel Datsyuk||30||10||+20|
|George Parros||33||33||0||Marian Hossa||30||25||+5|
|Bobby Ryan||27||15||+12||Valtteri Filppula||29||20||+9|
|Teemu Selanne||17||13||+4||Mikael Samuelsson||26||25||+1|
|Todd Marchant||17||16||+1||Kirk Maltby||23||14||+9|
|Penalties Taken||Penalties Taken|
|Ryan Getzlaf||36||50||-14||Niklas Kronwall||10||26||-16|
|Corey Perry||52||48||+4||Marian Hossa||30||25||+5|
|Chris Pronger||10||39||-29||Mikael Samuelsson||26||25||+1|
|George Parros||33||33||0||Dan Cleary||22||23||-1|
|Scott Niedermayer||15||30||-15||Tomas Kopecky||21||23||-2|
|Rob Niedermayer||4||21||-17||Brett Lebda||5||23||-18|
One of the keys to Anaheim's first-round victory was the outstanding work by their penalty killing crew, because if there's one consistent theme with the Ducks, it's a parade to the penalty box. Top offensive leaders usually have positive Penalty Plus/Minus values, but Ryan Getzlaf's -14 is one of the worst for a forward in the entire NHL. That PK effort will be essential if the Ducks are to survive the Red Wings' league-leading power play.
One thing Detroit should be able to do that San Jose couldn't was drive the net; the Wings are deep in talented goal-scorers who aren't shy about getting their nose dirty. That offensive depth, combined with the strength (and the likely number of opportunities) of the Detroit power play, should be the difference-maker, so I'm taking the Detroit Red Wings. Oh, and Earl? You're welcome.