Friday, May 9, 2008

Round Three... Halfway There (Focus on the West)

After two fun-filled rounds of the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs, we're down to the elite (see: really good and have played that way... sorry, Sharks) final four teams. This means that for whichever team eventually winds up taking the silver Cup, they're now... halfway. Crazy how much hockey is still left until it's all decided.

Let's take a look at the matchups and see what we may be able to expect (yes, a spot of cheating going on as game one has been played in each series.

Western Conference: Dallas at Detroit

Dallas Stars
Expository Statement: The Stars entered the playoffs with quite a few questions after not playing well the final month of the season, but have shown themselves to be a very solid team who took perhaps the toughest playoff road to get here... having defeated Anaheim and San Jose in rounds one and two.

Players of Note:
Offense: The top line is a force to be reckoned with featuring a "Jarome Iginla play-alike" in Brenden Morrow along with Jere Lehtinen and Mike Ribeiro. Beyond this, Brad Richards and Mike Modano are two of the best 2nd and 3rd line Centers in the league.

Defense: A historically smothering defense welcomed back maybe it's most important cog when Sergei Zubov returned during the San Jose series after missing several months of action. As I heard stated, "they must really know how to do sports hernia surgeries in Germany" because Zubov looks excellent out there. Beyond this, Stephane Robidas has been very solid and made up for the abcense of Philippe Boucher.

Goaltending: Marty Turco has quieted many of the naysayers (myself included) by putting together a stellar playoff run. One aspect of his play that has been fascinating has been his relatively conservative handling of the puck. Turco has often been the type of goalie who would make one horrible play for every two good ones handling the puck (usually outside of his crease). In these playoffs, though, you've seen a lot of the "good wandering" and little of the "bad wandering."

Detroit Red Wings:
Expository Statement: Many expected the Wings would be here in the Western Conference Finals and they haven't disappointed. An extremely complete hockey team that knows how to win.

Players of Note:
Offense: Offense the Wings have. Highlighted by Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, the Wings can put the puck in the net in bunches. Additionally, Tomas Holmstrom seems to always be parked two inches in front of the opposing goalie (and gets results accordingly) and Johan Franzen has emerged as an unexpected scoring machine.

Defense: Nicklas Lindstrom and Brian Rafalski... almost certainly the best defensive combo west of Stadium Drive in Anaheim.

Goaltending: An interesting position for Detroit. Dominik Hasek went into these playoffs as the number one, but after four middling games against Nashville was replaced by Chris Osgood. Ozzie hasn't missed a beat and has the requisite experience to make Wings fans feel confident with him between the pipes.

Forecast for the Series: Dallas looked very good against the Sharks, but (to borrow an analogy from hopefully soon to be ex Sharks Coach Ron Wilson), the Stars have recently put the ingrediants together into the cake, and Detroit has been baking it for some time. I like Detroit.

Coming soon to a computer near you: random musings on the Eastern Conference Finals.

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