1 Red Wings vs. 8 Canucks
SEASON SERIES: Detroit 3-1-0 TELLING STAT: Among playoff teams,
Vancouver is second youngest (average: 27.2), the Wings the
With the league's two highest-scoring offenses, this series will
be a shootout and the best first-round matchup. Detroit's key is
to keep D Nicklas Lidstrom from taking a pounding, especially
from Matt Cooke, an underrated bodychecker. Meanwhile, the Wings
will try similar strong-arm tactics against Todd Bertuzzi and Ed
Jovanovski--they must maintain their discipline for the Canucks to
have a chance. Detroit has a big edge in goal and experience.
Wings in six.
2 Avalanche vs. 7 Kings
SEASON SERIES: Tied 2-2-0 TELLING STAT: L.A. led the NHL in
power-play rate (20.7%) and tied for the lead in man-advantage
With Colorado's star Peter Forsberg still on the sidelines after
undergoing ankle surgery and sniper Milan Hejduk out with an
abdominal strain, don't be surprised to see the usually
tight-checking Kings play run-and-gun with the scoring-challenged
defending champions. Both clubs excel on special teams, and the
Avalanche has the advantage in net with Patrick Roy, but the
healthier Kings will pull the upset. Los Angeles in seven.
3 Sharks vs. 6 Coyotes
SEASON SERIES: San Jose 3-2-0 TELLING STAT: After the Olympic
break Phoenix went 15-5-1-2 for a Western Conference-best 33
The Sharks go to the net as hard as any other team in the league,
so the Coyotes will need to clear traffic in front of goalie Sean
Burke. San Jose's Mike Ricci, Niklas Sundstrom and Scott Thornton
make up the best third line in hockey--watch them shut down
Phoenix's young scorers Daniel Briere and Daymond Langkow. The
Sharks are also aggressive on the penalty kill, scoring more
shorthanded goals than any team but the Bruins. San Jose in five.
4 Blues vs. 5 Blackhawks
SEASON SERIES: Chicago 3-1-1 TELLING STAT: Blues forward Pavol
Demitra scored more game-winning goals (10) than any other NHL
Chicago must stay out of the penalty box. The Hawks have one of
the NHL's worst penalty-killing units (rank: 28), and St. Louis
possesses a dangerous power play. The Blues' first-line center,
Doug Weight, returned last week after missing 19 games with a
sprained knee. St. Louis's dominating defensemen, Chris Pronger
and Al MacInnis, will be split up so that one of them will always
be on the ice when Chicago's top two scoring lines are in action.
Blues in six.
1 Bruins vs. 8 Canadiens
SEASON SERIES: Boston 3-2-0 TELLING STAT: The Bruins scored more
goals against Montreal this season (19) than against any other
The Canadiens had a difficult time scoring in the regular season,
and things won't get easier against Boston. The small Montreal
forwards will have a tough time breaking through the Bruins'
solid D and getting chances against goalie Byron Dafoe. Boston's
penalty killing is the NHL's best, taking away another potential
source of goals from the Canadiens. Montreal netminder Jose
Theodore is good enough to steal a game, but the Bruins'
firepower will prevail. Boston in five.
2 Flyers vs. 7 Senators
SEASON SERIES: Ottawa 2-1-1 TELLING STAT: The Senators are 5-1-2
in their last eight games in Philadelphia, outscoring the Flyers
Expect Philadelphia to have a huge advantage on draws. With
excellent face-off men such as Adam Oates (who won 56.3% of his
draws in the regular season) and Keith Primeau (51.2%), the
Flyers will control the puck and dictate the pace of the game.
Ottawa is the only Eastern Conference opponent against which
Philadelphia has an advantage in net, with Roman Cechmanek
holding the edge on the Senators' Patrick Lalime. Flyers in six.
3 Hurricanes vs. 6 Devils
SEASON SERIES: New Jersey 2-1-1 TELLING STAT: Arturs Irbe of
Carolina had the worst road save percentage (.877) of any regular
New Jersey's physical cycle game will create many quality scoring
chances against a defense that's among the weakest in the
playoffs. That advantage will force the Hurricanes' all-around
forwards Ron Francis and Rod Brind'Amour to defend down low,
tiring them out and reducing their chances to break through a
tough Devils defense and score. New Jersey also has a big edge in
goal with Martin Brodeur. Devils in five.
4 Maple Leafs vs. 5 Islanders
SEASON SERIES: New York 3-1-0 TELLING STAT: The Islanders' Alexei
Yashin has not scored a goal in his last 10 playoff games.
The marquee matchups will be New York's Yashin and Mike Peca
against Toronto's Shayne Corson and Mats Sundin, respectively,
but the series will turn on the effectiveness of the Maple Leafs'
physical forwards. The Islanders rely on three defensemen--Adrian
Aucoin, Roman Hamrlik and Kenny Jonsson--to log loads of ice time,
and Toronto will pound them on the forecheck every chance it gets
and make this a battle of attrition. Maple Leafs in six.
COLOR PHOTO: ROCKY WIDNER Shark stopper The deft Evgeni Nabokov will help San Jose shut down Phoenix.
COLOR PHOTO: LOU CAPOZZOLA Tied up After two years of poor playoff performances Yashin hopes to break out.