Detroit-Anaheim: Breaking Down the Second-Round Series

Keith SheltonAnalyst IApril 28, 2009

ANAHEIM, CA - JANUARY 14:  Andrew Ebbett #48 of the Anaheim Ducks attempts to deflect a shot on goaltender Chris Osgood #30 of the Detroit Red Wings as Andreas Lilja #3 defends during the NHL game at Honda Center on January 14, 2008 in Anaheim, California.  The Red Wings defeated the Ducks 4-3.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Here's a second-round matchup that features two well-seasoned playoff rivals. This pairing has all the factors—skill, history, revenge, and most importantly, hate—that make a series great.

Anaheim is coming off an impressive first-round win over the President's Trophy-winning San Jose Sharks. However, it isn't as huge an upset as some would like to think: The Ducks are not your average No. 8 seed. In the second half of the season, the Ducks were one of the top teams in the NHL.

Detroit swept the fresh-faced Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round and appear primed for another deep playoff run. They answered the critics in round one, with goalkeeper Chris Osgood and the rest of the team stepping up their play collectively.

So how do the Ducks and Red Wings stack up? Here's a look:

Forwards

Where to start for Detroit? The Wings spread the wealth around against Columbus.

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Johan Franzen led the team in points in the first round. Coming off a fresh long-term contract extension, "The Mule" racked up six points during the four-game sweep, and looked like the dominant player he was in the 2008 Cup chase.

Dan Cleary surprised with five points in the first round, and was a team-best plus-six on the ice. As the Columbus defense concentrated on the Wings top line, Cleary was able to get open. A hard-working skater, it will be interesting to see if he can keep it up.

Pavel Datsyuk had a quiet series on the score sheet with one goal and one assist, but certainly contributed with his body. The 5'11", 180-pound Datsyuk showed his physical side, delivering some punishing back-checks all series long.

Tomas Holmstrom appears to be back to his old self. He was a vital component against Columbus, consistently blocking goalie Steve Mason's vision and contributing two goals and two assists as well.

Jiri Hudler, Henrik Zetterberg, and Marian Hossa all chipped in four points apiece.  Zetterberg leads the team in playoff goals with three.

Not surprisingly, Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf led the way for the Ducks against San Jose with eight points (two goals, six assists). He is second in the NHL in playoff scoring thus far, and he's getting physical as well, even throwing down with 235-pound Sharks center Joe Thornton and leading the team in penalty minutes.

Rookie Bobby Ryan has continued his success from the regular season and leads the Ducks with four goals on 24 shots so far. The American-born Calder Trophy finalist will be a force to be reckoned with. This is a rare case of a rookie understanding what it takes to play playoff hockey.

Corey Perry is at his best in the playoffs, and is cruising right along with four points while getting under the skin of the opposition.

The "Crazy Eights" line of Andrew Ebbett, Drew Miller, and Teemu Selanne has a relatively quiet series, totaling seven points (four goals, three assists) with Miller leading the way. Selanne appears to be dropping off a bit, but is still a welcome veteran presence.

Edge: Detroit

While Anaheim has a solid stable of forward talent, no team in the league has the depth at the position that Detroit does.

Defense

Detroit's defense did an outstanding job on the Blue Jackets, forcing their shots to the perimeter and clearing pucks out of the defensive zone in a hurry.

No one was better at doing so than Nick Lidstrom who played a mistake-free series while chipping in four points as well.

This is Nik Kronwall's favorite time of year, and he continues to remind Wings fans of Vladimir Konstantinov with his punishing checks. His offense has come along this season as well and he is being used on power plays. He also has four points.

Brad Stuart leads the team in hits. Surely Columbus' R.J. Umberger remembers the one that nearly knocked him unconscious...or maybe he doesn't.

Brian Rafalski chipped in a goal and two assists while recording a respectable plus-five against the Blue Jackets.

Anaheim, meanwhile, got some solid production from its impressive crop of defensemen.

This could be the last go-around for Scott Niedermayer and he's playing like it. His defense has been sound, and he's also taking plenty of shots on the power play, with five points in the first round.

Ryan Whitney continues to be a valuable addition to the Ducks, giving them yet another viable option on the power play, where he had assists in the first round.

Chris Pronger had a dominant series against the Sharks, leading the team with a plus-six rating, delivering punishing checks, taking few penalties, and chipping in four points as well. A long time playoff nemesis of the Red Wings, Pronger will be bringing his "A" game to this series.

James Wisniewski brings a modest two points into the second round, but also plays physical while making few errors.

Edge: Even

There are few teams that can match Detroit's talent on defense. Anaheim is one of them. Guys like Niedermayer and Pronger were key to the Ducks' first-round upset and both are former Norris trophy winners. Detroit's Lidstrom makes three Norris winners on the ice in this series.

Goaltending

Osgood calmed the critics and the fans in Detroit with his play in the first round. Osgood was mostly dominant in the sweep of the Blue Jackets, and through the first three games of the series, allowed just two goals before taking some heat in Game Four.

He handily outdueled Steve Mason, and it's probably safe to say that no one saw that coming. Throw out his Game Four numbers, and Osgood's 1.75 GAA and .936 save percentage look far better.

Jonas Hiller has exceeded expectations himself in Anaheim. Practically a rookie, the young netminder turned away the impressive firepower of the Sharks, blanking them twice while recording a 1.65 GAA and an impressive .957 save percentage.

Now armed with legitimacy, Hiller appears to be the real deal.

Edge: Even

Detroit has a three-time cup champ in Osgood who just had a great series, but Hiller had the tougher test in round one and aced it. This will be an interesting matchup.

Intangibles

Detroit skidded into the playoffs, but proved that the "flipping the switch" theory still holds true sometimes. They responded well to the critics and are playing at the same high level they did in 2008. They're also motivated to get Hossa the cup that he came here for.

Anaheim is well-seasoned and is no stranger to playing the role of the underdog. They've beaten Detroit in the playoffs the last two times these teams have played, so confidence won't be an issue, either. They also just took out the top overall seed in the playoffs.

Edge: Anaheim

Coaching

Detroit has arguably the top coach in the game today in Mike Babcock, formerly of the Ducks. Babock is 7-2 in playoff series with a Stanley Cup in four seasons with the Wings. So far in these playoffs he has employed a fast-paced tactic of using 40-second shifts to keep his guys fresh and keep the lineup changes constant.

Anaheim is coached by Babcock's successor, Randy Carlyle. Carlyle himself has a 2007 Stanley Cup win to his credit. So far, it's Carlyle 1, Babcock 0 in head-to-head playoff matchups, which adds another level of intrigue to this series.

Obviously Carlyle can coach and does an excellent job of exceeding expectations with his team and getting them to take that next step.

Edge: Even

If we were going by regular season success, Babcock has been unmatched for the past few seasons. In the playoffs, Carlyle has been just as successful as Babcock. This should be a great coaching duel.

Prediction

The Wings will have had more than a week of rest by the time this series starts, while Anaheim fought out a tough six-game series against the Sharks.

The Ducks have a lot of skill and tenacity, and match up well against the Wings. However, one of the deciding factors in 2007 was injuries. Detroit is coming in healthy this time.

Detroit in six