Phoenix Coyotes, Detroit Red Wings Ready for Playoff Rematch

Mark BrownContributor IApril 12, 2011

Goalteder Ilya Bryzgalov and defenseman Keith Yandle could hold the key to Phoenix's playoff chances
Goalteder Ilya Bryzgalov and defenseman Keith Yandle could hold the key to Phoenix's playoff chancesChristian Petersen/Getty Images

This Series            

Forwards- The Detroit Red Wings have a clear advantage on talent and experience. The Phoenix Coyotes' advantage lays in their grit, and response to difficult situations. Phoenix survived a rash of injuries and the protracted debate concerning their future in desert to advance to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

With lethal weapons like Pavel Datsyuk (23-36, 59), Henrik Zetterberg (24-58, 80) and Johan Franzen (28-27, 55), the Wings are beyond dangerous. Plus, the Coyotes need to guard against timely goals from Valtteri Flippula and must be able to move Tomas Holmstrom from the crease. Danny Clearly set a personal best with 26 goals (26-20, 46) and the Wings can skate a very underrated fourth line of Darren Helm, Kris Draper and either Patrick Eaves, Drew Miller or Mike Modano. Nursing a injuried knee, Zetterberg is out of Game 1, and the Wings hope he will play later in series.

The Coyotes clearly lack firepower, Captain Shane Doan was the only 20-goal scorer (20-40, 60), and three, Lauri Korpikoski, Radim Vrbata, and Lee Stempiak each scored 19 goals. Taylor Pyatt picked up 18 and could be a factor because of his 6'4" frame. Pyatt needs to park himself in the crease, and screen the goalie as much as possible. Ray Whitney is superb with the puck, but will set up teammates before he will shoot on net.

Edge- Red Wings

Defense- Wings captain Niklas Lidstrom, seems ageless at 41, and may be losing a step or two. He finished among the leaders in defenseman scoring, but also recorded a minus-two for all 82 Detroit games. His blue line parter Niklas Kronwall missed the last five games of the regular season, but should be ready for game one. Brad Stuart is solid and should aid in creating a defensive tempo.

Veteran defenseman populate the Coyotes' blue line. Coach Dave Tippett can turn to Adrian Aucoin, Michal Rozsival, Derek Morris, Ed Jovaovski and Rostislav Klesa for experience and acumen. In acquiring Rozsival and Klesa in midseason deals, Phoenix clearly strengthened the position. Keith Yandle, mentioned as a Norris Trophy candidate (11-48, 59 in all 82 games), is a strong offensive threat, but also is mobile and intelligent back on defense.

Edge - Coyotes

Goaltending- Jimmy Howard was the Wings' go-to guy and kept Detroit in the race for the Western Conference championship. In 63 games, he posted a 37-17-5 mark, two shutouts and a 2.75 goals against. Detroit will live or die on his performance.

Phoenix's Ilya Bryzgalov is regarded among the elite of the NHL goal keepers, and if not for him, the Coyotes would not be in the postseason. In 68 games, the 30-year-old recorded a 36-20-10 season, seven shutouts and posted a 2.48 goals against. Conversely, Brzygalov can give up goals early and put his team at a disadvantage. Because the Coyotes allowed an average of over 30 shots per game during the regular season, the defense in front of Bryzgalov needs to be nearly air tight.

Edge - even

Intangibles- The Wings playoff history is well documented. With 11 Stanley Cups, only Montreal (23) and Toronto (13) have more hardware. Their experience, the Hockeytown environment at Joe Louis and their ability to capitalize on opponent's mistakes will be difficult factors for the Coyotes to overcome. Plus, Phoenix has never advanced beyond the opening round of the playoffs.

The franchise, located in Winnipeg, did move into the second round twice, in 1985 and 1987. Both times, they defeated Calgary in the opening round, and lost to the Oilers each time in the next round. The Coyotes must find a way around the psychology of their weak playoff history and lack of scoring. As well, the Coyotes must be aware at all times of what the Wings can do with their experience and firepower.

PREDICTION - The Wings are among the elite of the Western Conference, and as this playoff season progresses, they will battle San Jose and Vancouver for conference honors. Detroit will win the series-clincher at home in five games.



Game 1 - Wed. April 13 - Phoenix at Detroit, 7 p.m. EDT

Game 2 - Sat. April 16-  Phoenix at Detroit, 1 p.m. EDT

Game 3 - Mon. April 18 - Detroit at Phoenix, 10:30 p.m. EDT

Game 4 - Wed. April 20 - Detroit at Phoenix, 10:30 p.m. EDT

Game 5 - Fri. April 22 - Phoenix at Detroit, 7 p.m. EDT

Game 6 - Sun. April 24 - Detroit at Phoenix, TBA

Game 7 - Wed. April 27 - Phoenix at Detroit, TBA