Ducks-Red Wings: Round Two Preview

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Ducks-Red Wings: Round Two Preview
(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

The Anaheim Ducks are the last team to beat the Detroit Red Wings in the playoffs.

In 2007, the Ducks beat the Wings four games to two.

In 2008, those same Ducks lost in the first round—a fate shared by all of the previous Cup winners since 2002.

This semifinal matchup is one of intrigue. The Red Wings come out of a less-than competitive series with the playoff amateurs down in Columbus.

Sweeping the Blue Jackets didn't seem like much of a feat, but the team managed to answer a couple of questions about team defense. And Osgood, aside from a Game Four where he looked crippled by an injury, played solidly in net.

The proverbial switch seems to have been flipped, but after eight days of rest they may have to knock of the rust. As usual their offense clicked, outscoring Columbus 18-7 in the four-game series.

The Ducks, on the other hand, battled with the San Jose Sharks to a Game six victory, supposedly upsetting the number-one seeded Sharks. The Sharks, however, are notorious for failing in the playoffs for the better part of a decade—and to give the Ducks credit, they are not a typical eighth seed.

The Ducks are chalk full of Stanley cup experience and arguably have the best group of defensemen in the NHL, bolstered by playoff public enemy number one Chris Pronger.


Offense

The Red Wings are hard to bet against on the offensive side of the puck. Marian Hossa, Johan Franzen, Pavel Datsyuk, and Hendrick Zetterberg are far and away the best group of forwards in the game. Secondary scoring has not been a problem through four games either.

The Ducks have firepower of their own from Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf ,and Corey Perry, and get a lot of help offensively from their blue line, but don't quite stack up to the sheer talent that the Red Wings have on offense.

Advantage:
Moderate advantage to the Red Wings.  The Ducks' shutdown line will only be able to be out there against two of the Wings' top players: Hossa, Franzen, Datsyuk, or Zetterberg.  Pick your poison.



Defense

The Red Wings have struggled with defense all season long, blaming it on the Stanley Cup hangover and lack of motivation in the latter half of the season.

In the short-lived series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Wings seemed to put the clamp down defensively, seemingly a relief to the team and fans alike.

The second defensive tandem of Brad Stuart and Nick Kronwall have really elevated their play, and youngster Jonathan Ericsson is playing like he is well into his NHL xareer. Detroit's forwards seem to have a little more pep in theirstep on the back check as well, which makes the team as a whole dangerous on D.

Look for Anaheim to be a much stiffer test than the Blue Jackets, with a multi-faceted offense and ability to dominate the corners, the Wings will have to play the best defense they are capable of playing.

The grizzled Ducks' D-men will have it just as tough. Containing the firepower of the Red Wings has been a struggle for opposing teams all season, and early in the playoffs. If there is a team that could do it, it would be the Anaheim Ducks. They have five very good defenseman—including All-Stars Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer—and they're as hard working and tough as they come.

Advantage: Slight advantage to the Ducks. The Ducks have been playing playoff hockey for months now, and their D is primed and ready to go. The Wings have been playing playoff defense for four games now, but we know the Ducks' D is for real.



Goaltending


Chris Osgood looked great in three-and-a-half games of Round One, but seemed to tweak an injury about halfway through Game Four. He has had eight days to recover from what ever was bothering him, and is expected to return to form. Bobby Ryan has four goals, and Ryan Getzlaf is playing great playoff hockey, and will be Osgood's biggest worry.

Jonas Hiller seemingly out of nowhere took over the Duck's net minding position, beating out '03 phenom J.-S. Giguere . He looked like a wall at times against the Sharks, and is playing like a goalie who could tip a series in his favor.

He will have to battle the likes of Holmstrom, Franzen, and Cleary who are some of the best in the game at screening, and making great goalies look average.

Advantage: None. Franzen and Holmstrom will make Hiller look human, and Osgood has yet to face stiff competition.


X-Factors

Chris Osgood: Really in top form, or benefiting from playing a much weaker team?

Ducks: Really a playoff power house, or benefiting from playing choke artists from San Jose?

Red Wings' grit: They are not all fluff in the playoffs

Ducks offense: Who is Bobby Ryan?


Predicition: Red Wings in six games.

The Red Wings will continue to play at a very high level, and the Ducks will find the Wings' offense to be too much. Game one may go to the Ducks, but the Wings can close on the road if need be.

The Ducks will take too many dumb penalties, and the Wings' power play will dominate.

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