NHL playoffs preview: No. 2 Anaheim Ducks vs. No. 7 Detroit Red Wings
Feb. 15: Ducks 5, Red Wings 2
March 22: Red Wings 5, Ducks 1
March 24: Red Wings 2, Ducks 1
Ducks: D Luca Sbisa (lower-body, questionable)
Red Wings: C Darren Helm (back, out for season); RW Todd Bertuzzi (pinched back nerve, cleared to play); RW Mikael Samuelsson (groin, finger, chest; indefinite); LW Drew Miller (broken right hand, indefinite)
Anaheim's keys to victory
There is a superb collection of established forwards here, including ageless wonder Teemu Selanne, Ryan Getzlaf (team-high 49 points), Corey Perry (36) and Bobby Ryan (30), who gave the Ducks the league’s fourth-best power play (21.5 percent) during the regular season. On defense, the resilient shutdown pairing of veterans Sheldon Souray and Francois Beauchemin (both +19) has been a revelation, and the surprisingly successful combination of Viktor Fasth and Jonas Hiller in goal has done more than anyone could have asked. The Ducks can score; their defense and goaltenders will make or break them.
Detroit's keys to victory
There was always a sense that the Red Wings were better than their record and that if they made the playoffs again, they would strike fear into a higher-seeded team. But was that just a mirage? Not really. First, Detroit had a poor record in shootouts during the season. Only Toronto fared worse than Detroit’s 2-5 mark. So with no shootouts during the postseason, you can wipe away one advantage a team may have had against the Wings. But Detroit needs to get some of its injured forwards back and not let its older players get worn down by overwork. The Red Wings can’t have Nick Lidstrom back, but the addition of steady rookie Danny DeKeyser has helped their transition game. Some offensive production from the backline (Niklas Kronwall, Jakub Kindl, Jonathan Ericsson) will surely help.
Anaheim in seven: Detroit doesn’t fear going on the road in the slightest. Earlier this season, the Ducks were sporting a 14-game win streak at the Honda Center before the Red Wings came in and beat them in back-to-back games, 5-1 and 2-1. When you’ve reached the postseason for 22 consecutive years, as Detroit has, you develop a winning culture and an institutional confidence, so not much flusters you. But even though this should be a more competitive series than the standings indicate, the Ducks' firepower and healthy depth should prevail in the long haul. MORE PREP: Staff picks | Upset alert | Key storylines | X-factors | Power Rankings | Schedule