(2) Anaheim Ducks vs. (7) Detroit Red Wings
Season series: Red Wings won 2-1-0
They have a history: This will mark the sixth playoff meeting between these two teams, with the Red Wings prevailing in three of the five head-to-head series. The most memorable meeting came in 2003, when J.S. Giguere and the No. 6-seeded (Mighty) Ducks swept the defending-champion Red Wings in stunning fashion in the first round.
For the Ducks to win: You get the sense that this Ducks team is flying under the radar despite a great regular season. They aren’t exactly coming into the playoffs on fire (3-4-1 in their last eight games), and they’ll be facing a Detroit team that has momentum. Anaheim benefited from the breakout seasons of Andrew Cogliano and Kyle Palmieri, who flourished under coach Bruce Boudreau. The Ducks can’t afford to see those two secondary producers flame out here in the playoffs. Also, the defence corps has a big challenge at hand in trying to slow down the dynamic duo of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, who combined for 18 points in the team’s four-game winning streak en route to a playoff berth. If Anaheim can take care of home-ice advantage in this series, they have a good chance to prevail.
For the Red Wings to win: Just when you thought Mike Babcock’s club was down and out, it once again proved people wrong by steamrolling its way into a 22nd consecutive playoff appearance. The Red Wings turned it on in the final week and claimed four wins, outscoring the opposition 15-3 in the process. While their top line of Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader has been a force of late and could pose problems, Detroit must find a way to contain Anaheim’s top line of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan. Are Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson up to the task? The 2013 Red Wings lineup might not be on par with some of Detroit’s recent teams, but you can’t count them out with the horses they still have in the stable. Don’t overlook the fact that they played meaningful games down the stretch while Anaheim did not.
Matchup to watch: Which power play will be more successful? Anaheim’s man advantage is ranked fourth in the league and has scored in four straight games. Detroit’s power play, which struggled early on, executed at a 21.5% clip in April. If either unit goes cold, it could prove costly in the end.
Big question: How will Boudreau handle Anaheim’s goalie controversy? If Jonas Hiller starts Game 1, how short will the vet’s leash be with Viktor Fasth waiting in the wings?
Best bet: Red Wings in seven.
Hockey Central insider predictions
Chris Johnston: Red Wings
Mike Keenan: Ducks
Nick Kypreos: Ducks
Brad May: Ducks
Doug MacLean: Red Wings
Scott Morrison: Ducks
John Shannon: Ducks