Western Conference In analyzing the first-round matchups, SI's Pierre McGuire predicts two big surprises and one long series

April 11, 2004

(48-21-11-2) RED WINGS 1 VS. 8 PREDATORS (38-29-11-4)

SEASON SERIES: 3-3-0
UPSETOMETER: [1 UNIT]

Detroit has experience, skill and firepower: Expect scorching
play from snipers Pavel Datsyuk and Brett Hull. The Red Wings can
clamp down with a bolstered defense; they added Derian Hatcher
before the season, and veteran Mathieu Schneider is having his
best season. If Nashville has an edge, it's that goalie Tomas
Vokoun can steal a game. But for the Predators, making the
playoffs for the first time in their six-year history was their
Stanley Cup. There will be no meltdown for Detroit this year.
Wings in five.

OUR PICK [Detroit Red Wings]

(42-21-12-6) SHARKS 2 VS. 7 BLUES (39-30-11-2)

SEASON SERIES: 2-2-0
UPSETOMETER: [4 UNITS]

San Jose is the NHL's most underrated team, relying on
little-known forwards such as Nils Ekman and Jonathan Cheechoo as
well as a solid, unheralded defense that needs to get physical
against St. Louis's powerhouse forwards Keith Tkachuk and Pavol
Demitra. Blues defenseman Chris Pronger will be a target for
Sharks forecheckers. San Jose's strong penalty killing (ranked
No. 7, up from last in '02-03) is evidence of the fine job coach
Ron Wilson has done in his first full season with the team.
Sharks in seven.

OUR PICK [San Jose Sharks]

(43-24-10-5) CANUCKS 3 VS. 6 FLAMES (42-30-7-3)

SEASON SERIES: Canucks, 3-2-1
UPSETOMETER: [5 UNITS]

Center Matt Cooke, who brings a pit-bull mentality to every
shift, has done an excellent job replacing the suspended Todd
Bertuzzi on Vancouver's first line. The problem for the Canucks
is that Calgary plays the NHL's most ferocious physical style.
Led by defensemen Robyn Regehr and Rhett Warrener, and by
forwards Shean Donovan and Craig Conroy, the Flames finish their
checks and land devastating open-ice hits. Calgary also wins the
goalie matchup, Miikka Kiprusoff over Dan Cloutier. Flames in
six.

OUR PICK [Calgary Flames]

(40-22-13-7) AVALANCHE 4 VS. 5 STARS (41-26-13-2)

SEASON SERIES: Avalanche, 3-1-0
UPSETOMETER: [5 UNITS]

With players like Mike Modano, Bill Guerin and Sergei Zubov,
Dallas can match Colorado star for star. The Avalanche, which
will be without scoring threat Alex Tanguay (sprained right
knee), lacks depth on defense after Rob Blake and Adam Foote.
Watch for Foote to have a serieslong battle with Dallas left wing
Brenden Morrow. The Stars have better foot soldiers and a better
goalie (Marty Turco over David Aebischer), and they come in
seething that they've been overlooked as Cup contenders. Stars in
six.

OUR PICK [Dallas Stars]

[UPSETOMETER KEY]
1 UNIT -- No shot
2 UNITS -- Not impossible
3 UNITS -- There's hope
4 UNITS -- Just a bounce away
5 UNITS -- Upset special!

COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO (HULL) HULL COLOR PHOTO: BEN MARGOT/AP (CHEECHOO) CHEECHOO COLOR PHOTO: BARRY GOSSAGE/GETTY IMAGES (DONOVAN) DONOVAN COLOR PHOTO: RONALD MARTINEZ/GETTY IMAGES (TURCO) TURCO FOUR COLOR PHOTOS: COURTESY OF NHL (LOGOS)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)