Western Conference

A pair of dangerous upstarts will fall short in a first round that a Red Wings fan has got to love
April 19, 2009

1 Sharks vs. 8Ducks

SAN JOSE finished26 points ahead of Anaheim, but this series isn't the mismatch that that marginimplies. Adding Ryan Whitney at the trade deadline and getting Fran√ßoisBeauchemin back from a torn ACL gives the Ducks a deep defensive corps, and itsyoung line of Bobby Ryan, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf has evolved into one ofthe NHL's best. The Sharks must keep their cool and get a big series fromcaptain Patrick Marleau—who has never played with more confidence—and goalieEvgeni Nabokov.

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Sharks in Seven

2 Red Wings vs. 7Blue Jackets

THIS IS the worstpossible matchup for Columbus—and for the rest of the Western Conferencebecause Detroit won't be heavily taxed. The Red Wings can outplay the BlueJackets in every facet of the game and won't have much travel. Detroitdefensemen Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart can neutralizeColumbus scoring star Rick Nash, and the Red Wings have more than enoughscoring power to break through against the Jackets' sensational rookie goalie,Steve Mason.

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Red Wings in Five

3 Canucks vs. 6Blues

BESET BYinjuries, St. Louis nevertheless rallied to close 18-6-3. Young forwards PatrikBerglund, T.J. Oshie and David Perron carried the team, which under mastermotivator Andy Murray believes it can keep up its improbable run. ForVancouver, it's critical to get off to a good start in the series, to have topcrease-crashers Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler rattle Blues goalie Chris Masonand to have their near-telepathic twins, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, in symbioticform.

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Canucks in Six

4 Blackhawks vs.5 Flames

EXPECT ANemotional series given that Calgary's coach (Mike Keenan) and G.M. (DarrylSutter) each spent part of his career with Chicago. The Flames have animportant size edge in their skill players, with Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinenlooming over the Blackhawks' diminutive duo of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane;the physical Calgary players will test Kane, especially. Both goalies, theFlames' Miikka Kiprusoff and the Blackhawks' Nikolai Khabibulin, can dominatefor long stretches.

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Flames in Six

PHOTOROBERT BECK (MARLEAU)Patrick Marleau PHOTOJOHN RUSSELL/NHLI/GETTY IMAGES (KRONWALL)Niklas Kronwall PHOTONICK DIDLICK/GETTY IMAGES (BURROWS)Alex Burrows PHOTOBRUCE BENNETT/GETTY IMAGES (KIPRUSOFF)Miikka Kiprusoff FOUR ILLUSTRATIONS

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)