Detroit Red Wings Pick Their Poison With Anaheim Or Vancouver In Next Round

Keith SheltonAnalyst IApril 25, 2009

VANCOUVER, CANADA - APRIL 15: Roberto Luongo #1 of the Vancouver Canucks keeps a close eye on the puck balancing on his glove during Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs at General Motors Place on April 15, 2009 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Nick Didlick/Getty Images)

Here I am, a Detroit Red Wings fan, already hockey starved after they've had a couple days off. Honestly, after witnessing that awesome game 4 with multiple lead changes, I wouldn't have minded all that much if they were playing game 5 tonight.

Now, like I'm sure all of the Red Wings are doing, I'll be scouting out our next opponent.

The Vancouver Canucks finished their first round series a day ahead of Detroit, sweeping the St. Louis Blues while the 8th seeded Anaheim Ducks currently hold a 3-1 series lead over San Jose.

There are no weak teams still standing in the playoffs. Every team remaining has at least one world class component of their team. For the waiting Detroit Red Wings, it's pick your poison as surely Vancouver or Anaheim will offer a bigger challenge than the ousted Bluejackets.

Here's the breakdown:

Anaheim is very likely the strongest #8 seed in NHL history. The 2006 Edmonton Oilers are likely still fresh in the hockey fan's mind, but that was a team that got by with hard work and a neutral-zone trap. The Ducks on the other hand, have considerable skill.

Their forward ranks consist of surprising rookie, Bobby Ryan who led all first-year players in goals, and has continued that success in the playoffs. Ryan already has four goals in the first round.

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Ryan Getzlaf is one of the best playmakers in the game and his physical game is also undervalued.

When you throw in Corey Perry and veteran Teemu Selanne, you have a solid group of forwards that can and will score against even the Wings vaunted defense.

Anaheim's "Crazy 8's" line of Selanne, Drew Miller, and Andrew Ebbett has a total of four points so far, but this line rolled during the regular season and could get hot.

Anaheim's elite defense is perhaps second only to Detroit, maybe even on equal footing. Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger have both won Norris trophies in the past and both are still playing at a high level. As far as physical defensemen go, Pronger is the most notorious. Detroit would have their hands full here.

Ryan Whitney has been a big addition to this team. Quarterbacking powerplays and bringing a welcome scoring touch to the defense, Whitney has 4 assists in the first round thus far.

The Ducks biggest strength so far in the playoffs has been the goaltending of Jonas Hiller. Hiller unseated started J.S. Giguere in the regular season and has only been getting better. Through four games, he has a sparkling 1.51 GAA and two shutouts against the President's Trophy winning Sharks.

Columbus had a hot goalie in Steve Mason but not the elite defense to go with him. Anaheim has both and could pose potential headaches for Detroit.

Overall, this team is dangerous. Detroit would be best suited if the Ducks/Sharks series went to 7 games and continued to beat themselves up.

Vancouver looked impressive in a four game sweep of the red-hot St. Louis Blues in the first round.

The Sedin twins were dominant in that series, combining for 9 points, while the Canucks breakout forward, Alex Burrows added three goals as well.

Mats Sundin was relatively quiet on the score sheet, but his game without the puck is also solid. This is likely his last shot to win a cup, and he'll be playing at a high level.

The Canucks have no shortage of depth either as they carry veteran Pavol Demitra and some skilled second line forwards in Kyle Wellwood and Ryan Kesler.

On defense, Sami Salo had an outstanding series and breakout defensemen, Willie Mitchell also continued his regular season success and also displayed the physical side of his game.

Mattias Ohlund is a veteran of the game and a top-notch defenseman who could get hot at any time, while Bieksa and Edler add size to the blue-line.

This group of defenseman is a more skilled version of Columbus's big defense. The combination of size and skill make them tough to play against.

The Canucks true strength of their team is in goal, with brick-wall goaltender, Roberto Luongo. In four games, Luongo has a shutout and an intimidating 1.16 GAA

Those numbers probably won't stick against the Wings group of forwards, but Luongo is no Steve Mason. His regular season numbers translate to even better playoff numbers. He's a veteran and keeps his composure, and he has a solid defense.

Overall, the Canucks are built well and have their best player at the most important position in the playoffs, in goal.

So who would be the better matchup for Detroit?

Vancouver is considerably weaker than Detroit on defense and a notch below in their forward ranks as well, but they would have a big advantage in goal. A hot, winning goaltender like Roberto Luongo can take over a playoff series so for that reason I'm in favor of...

Anaheim. The Ducks certainly have the more complete team. An elite defense and a very skilled group of forwards. Practically a rookie in goal though. Although Hiller has been playing great, he'll be tested by Detroit's tenacious forwards, and we'll see how he reacts. We'll hope the Ducks win in seven and are tired after a long series with the Sharks. This series could end tonight though.

Either way, it will be no sweep for Detroit. We're looking at a six or seven game series in the second round whether its Anaheim or Vancouver.

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