Thursday, May 8, 2008

Prediction: Western Conference Finals

Last round we were a respectable 3-1 (bringing our overall playoff predictions to 9-3), so here's a quick and dirty look at the Western Conference Finals....

Detroit Red Wings (1) v. Dallas Stars (5)

There's no doubt Dallas belongs here; beating the defending champion Anaheim Ducks and then dispatching the very well-rounded San Jose Sharks team. Detroit's road (as a #1 seed) was signigificantly easier. They survived a little hiccup from Dominik Hasek during the Nashville series and then completely over-matched and out-classed an injury riddled Colorado team.

But, in a workman like fashion, Detroit has shown their dominance. Johan Franzen leads the league with an amazing 11 goals (in 10 games)...Hardly anyone is even mentioning the Red Wings usual top guns of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg and they both have 13 points. Ever the machine, Nicklas Lidstrom is chewing up 25+ minutes a night and is reliable and steady as always. Chris Osgood is 6-0 with a 1.57 GAA and a 93.7 save percentage. They are humming along perfectly.

But Dallas knows how to play against such a buzzsaw. They've been under-dogs in their first two series and haven't backed down. The Stars have great depth at center (Mike Ribeiro, Brad Richards, Mike Modano). Their best defensemen (Sergei Zubov) is back from injury and back into form. Marty Turco has exorcised any and all playoff demons that may have haunted him. An unsung hero, Stephane Robidas, is playing excellent and quietly coming into his own.

Also, don't sleep on a key for Dallas: fast starts. They've started the first two series on the road and won both of those games both times. We don't have the stat-book handy, but anytime a team goes 0-2 at home the odds of them winning that seven game series is not very good.

Two great teams, but only one will emerge. To us, it's looked like a Detroit/Pittsburgh show down has been inevitable for a while now. But something just doesn't feel right about this matchup. Detroit has no shortage of hard-working, honest players, but in Dallas' two earlier series it's just looked like they've wanted it more. Wanted to get to loose pucks, wanted to initiate contact, wanted to block shots, wanted to make saves. We think that same desire will hold and be enough to oust the more talented team.

Series key: What style prevails; Detroit's puck possession or Dallas' uptempo game

Dallas in 6

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