Scott Wraight
Friday April 13th, 2007

Regular-season series: Tied 2-2
11/1: Red Wings 3-2  11/17: Flames 4-1  2/11: Red Wings 7-4  3/20: Flames 2-1

1st in Central

David E. Klutho/SI
The Skinny: If a No. 1 seed is going to fall in the first round, it's going to be the Wings. Of course I don't see that happening. But things could get testy for Detroit, which will be without key blueliner Niklas Kronwall -- meaning even more minutes for graybeards Chris Chelios and Nik Lidstrom, and proving time for Brett Lebda and Andreas Lilja. Think the Flames will get after those two on the forecheck? If Calgary has serious thoughts of pulling the upset, the defense will need to keep the shooting lanes free and clear for Miikka Kiprusoff.
The Spotlight Is On: Dom Hasek. The last time Hasek was in the playoffs, he hoisted the Stanley Cup after backstopping the Wings to their last title in '02. If he can stay healthy, there's no reason to think The Dominator can't do it again. But he'll have to make sure not to get frazzled or frustrated if the Flames camp a few players in front of his net for the entire series.
X-Factor for Wings: Kyle Calder. The 28-year-old, acquired from Chicago via Philly, will play a key role on the second line. Since landing in Hockeytown, Calder (left) had five goals and 14 points in 19 games. He may be a savior if Pavel Datsyuk's postseason slump continues.
X-Factor for Flames: Kristian Huselius. After a breakthrough season (34 goals, 77 points), Huselius (right) could hold the key if the Flames are going to pull off the major upset. That's because Detroit will be focused on slowing Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay.
The Pick: Wings in five.

3rd in N'west

Darren Carroll/SI
Regular-season series: Tied 2-2
10/20: Ducks 2-1  10/27: Wild 3-2 (OT)  11/12: Ducks 3-2  12/31: Wild 4-3

1st in Pacific

David E. Klutho/SI
The Skinny: This should be a tight, interesting series. Few teams forecheck more aggressively than the Ducks, who feature strong special teams: 2nd on PP, 4th on PK. But that stellar power play will have its hands full against the Wild's second-ranked PK unit. To pull off the upset, the Wild will have to stay disciplined in their own zone -- limiting the options that the Ducks tend to fully exploit. Anaheim will rely on rock-steady blueliners Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer as well as playoff-tested J-S Giguere, who has carried the team before.
The Spotlight Is On: Teemu Selanne. With 48 goals and 95 points, the "Finnish Flash" had his best season since 1998-99. Looking to build on it and capture his first Cup, Selanne will be more than a handful for the likes of Martin Skoula and Kim Johnsson. He will get his points, but he'll need to make sure that he does not forget about his duties on the defensive end of the ice.
X-Factor for Ducks: Chris Kunitz. He didn't do much in last year's playoffs (eight points in 16 games), but Kunitz (left) is more than capable of providing a spark should linemate Selanne be held in check. The Wild must keep an eye on this guy.
X-Factor for Wild: Niklas Backstrom. He's the definition of an x-factor. Backstrom (right) enters his first playoffs as the Wild's No. 1 goalie, with a 23-8-6 record and 1.97 GAA. If he wilts under the pressure, coach Jacques Lemaire won't think twice about bringing in Manny Fernandez.
The Pick: Ducks in six.

2nd in N'west

Darren Carroll/SI
Regular-season series: Tied 2-2
10/23: Stars 2-1  11/6: Canucks 2-1  1/3: Canucks 2-1 (OT)  2/25: Stars 2-1 (OT)

1st in N'west

Lou Capozzola/SI
The Skinny: Have you ever watched paint dry or seniors play shuffleboard? This series might be as exciting. These are two of the most defensive-minded teams in the league. Judging by the four regular-season meetings, there probably won't be an abundance of goals. Of course, if you're a fan of solid forechecking and stellar goaltending, this is right up your alley. The Stars had just two regulation losses in their final 16 games. The Canucks went 2-3 to close out the season. With scoring at a premium, this will come down to who commits fewer defensive mistakes.
The Spotlight Is On: Roberto Luongo. It will be interesting to see how he performs in his first postseason. He'll have to be nearly perfect since no Western Conference playoff team scored fewer goals than the Canucks. But if his regular season against Dallas was any indication (2-1, 1.46 GAA, .951 save percentage), Vancouver will be in fine shape.
X-Factor for Canucks: Sami Salo. The Canucks' lack of offensive depth means backliners like Salo (left) must provide some punch. If anyone's capable of doing it, it's this 32-year-old who managed a career-high 37 points in 67 games. He'll have to shoulder even more of the load if Kevin Bieksa can't go.
X-Factor for Stars: Sergei Zubov. The 36-year-old is the cog that keeps the Dallas machine rolling. Not only does Zubov (right) QB the power play, he's one of the best offensive blueliners in the league. If he goes down at any point, the Stars are all but finished.
The Pick: Stars in six.

3rd in Pacific

David E. Klutho/SI
Regular-season series: Predators won 3-1
10/26: Preds 4-3  12/9: Sharks 3-1  2/14: Preds 5-0  2/28: Preds 4-3 (OT)

2nd in Central

Lou Capozzola/SI
The Skinny: Like Ottawa-Pittsburgh in the East, this should be very entertaining. A possible issue for the Preds: their aggressive forecheck, which could mean more men in the penalty box. That's asking for trouble against the West's top-ranked power-play. In the Sharks' favor: goaltending. Evgeni Nabokov was nearly unbeatable down the stretch, whereas Tomas Vokoun was very mediocre. San Jose should win the series if they can keep the Preds out of its zone and away from their young, inexperienced blueliners. Of course, Nashville has Peter Forsberg working in their favor.
The Spotlight Is On: Tomas Vokoun. He went just 2-4 in his final six starts, but he's healthy. Vokoun was 1-2 against San Jose this season, but he had a solid 2.35 GAA and .928 save percentage. If he struggles out of the gate, coach Barry Trotz won't think twice about pulling him for Chris Mason. No matter who's between the pipes, the Predators have to keep the PIMs to a minimum.
X-Factor for Preds: Kimmo Timonen. This is one player Nashville can ill afford to lose. Like Zubov in Dallas, Timonen (left) is the QB at the point and more than capable of generating offense (13 goals, 55 points this season), but his defense could hold the key to the series.
X-Factor for Sharks: Craig Rivet. The veteran blueliner (right), who came over from Montreal, helped stabilize an inexperienced defensive corps. San Jose goes into the playoffs with two rookies (Matt Carle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic) logging big minutes, so Rivet will be a huge asset.
The Pick: Sharks in seven.

2nd in Pacific


SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.