Ducks-Red Wings: Duck Season in Detroit

Michael MrockCorrespondent IMay 1, 2009

DETROIT - OCTOBER 3:  Ryan Getzlaf #15 of the Anaheim Ducks faces off against Henrik Zetterberg #40 of the Detroit Red Wings on October 3, 2007 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

On the first day of May, the Detroit Red Wings will host the Anaheim Ducks in Game One  in the Western Conference semifinals.

The Red Wings have the target on their backs as the defending champs. 

Also, they have unfinished business with the Ducks

The last playoff series the Red Wings lost was to the Ducks in the 2007 Western Conference Finals.  It was a series that was drawn out and most known for the head shot to Holmstrom via a combined effort of Scott Neidermeyer and Chris Pronger. 

A video of this hit will probably be shown as much as possible to reiterate the physicality of this series.

This version of the Red Wings is an offensive juggernaut that averaged 4.5 goals in their opening-round sweep of the Columbus Blue Jackets

The Ducks, on the other hand dispatched the 2009 President's Trophy-winning San Jose Sharks in six games—in which they held the Sharks to only eight goals. 

Due to the Sharks losing, the Wings now have the home-ice advantage in the Western Conference.   However the advantage is challenged by the travel from Detroit to Anaheim for three of the games. 

The Wings and Ducks are the two most-experienced teams in the Western Conference.   The last two Stanley Cups were won by them.  Therefore these two teams will prove who will break the tiebreaker.  

The matchups are tricky.  In the past, the physical play helped the Ducks defeat the Wings. However, this new Red Wings team is a great deal more physical.  

Pavel Datsyuk, who is up for the trifecta of Lady Byng, Selke, and Hart, will have to go Jekyll and Hyde to make sure Anaheim stays honest.  Marian Hossa and Johan Franzen are both big enough to handle their own and they are both warming up their scoring touch. 

The rest of the team, including Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom, are also more than ready to face the Ducks again.  A weakness that could come up for the Wings is defenseman Jonathan Ericsson.  He is as tall as Pronger, but is still wet behind the ears.  Don't be surprised to see Pronger introduce himself to the rookie. 

With the experience of forwards Teemu Selanne, Ryan Getzlaf and Rob Niedermayer, the Ducks do match up well in talent—but that is only three lines, whereas the Wings have four lines to contend with. 

The Ducks do have Pronger and  Francois Beauchemin, as well as captain Scott Niedermayer on defense, but once again the Wings have four defensive parings that can give fits to any team.  Niklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski will match up with the Anaheim defense in talent and Kronwall and Stuart are equally up to the task to hit anyone on the Ducks to set the tone whose ice it is regardless of what city the ice is located.    

Chris Osgood was unstoppable against Columbus in the first three games of the first round which did somewhat silence his critics.  However, even though he held the Ducks to two goals in the first three games, he gave up five goals in Game Four.  There were rumors that Osgood might have been hurt in the elimination game.  If that's the case, the time off should have helped him heal.

The Ducks are not using Jean-Sebastian Giguere in net this time around.  Instead, they have Jonas Hiller starting in goal.  Hiller did help the Ducks shut down the Sharks as if the Ducks were the top seed instead of San Jose. 

Lidstrom, Zetterberg, Holmstrom, Johann Franzen, Niklas Kronwall, Mikeal Samuelsson, and Ericsson will take great pride in demonstrating to their fellow countryman what playoff hockey is all about.   However, there might be a problem for Detroit—if they can get to Hiller, they will have to face Gigiuere. 

The Wings have not eliminated a Ducks team in the playoffs with Giguere in net.  However, if Gigiuere was what he used to be, he would still be starting.

The advantage is in the Wings' favor.  The team is generally healthy, but Kris Draper will be out until at least Game Three and Andreas Lilja has no defined timetable for his return. 

They are deep in lines and experience.  They will match up to the Ducks in talent as well as physical presence.  The series could be short or be the distance so the safe bet is Wings in six.

The first day of May will signal the start of the second round for the playoffs when the Wings skate on Hockeytown ice.  

They have the target on their backs, but they also have the focus to take it upon themselves to succeed in these playoffs and hoist the Cup once again.