Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It's Duck hunting season!!!

It's official! The Detroit Red Wings will be facing the Anaheim Ducks in round 2 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Last night the Ducks beat the first place, San Jose Sharks, 4-1 in game 6 of round 1.

Let me tell you, I am ready for some Red Wings playoff hockey and some duck hunting. Haha! Once all series for the first round are over, I will post my results from the first round and make my picks for the second round. I will also post the schedule for round 2 when that becomes available.

DETROIT -- The Anaheim Ducks aren't the same team the Detroit Red Wings faced during the regular season.

They have a revamped defense, one of the best in the NHL. They have a different starting goaltender in Jonas Hiller, one of the hottest in the league.

Anaheim is the eighth seed in the Western Conference, but not a typical eighth seed, as the Presidents' Trophy-winning San Jose Sharks discovered.

The Ducks eliminated San Jose from the first round of the playoffs Monday with a 4-1 victory in Game 6.

It sets up a second-round matchup against the Red Wings in a battle between the past two Stanley Cup winners. The Red Wings anticipate Games 1 and 2 to take place Friday and Sunday at Joe Louis Arena.

"They were struggling a little bit in the regular season, that's why they ended up eighth, but they definitely are a higher-ranked team than that," Detroit center Henrik Zetterberg said. "It's always good games when we play each other."

The Red Wings won the season series 3-0-1, outscoring the Ducks 15-11.

But since the teams last met Feb. 20, a 5-2 victory for Detroit at home, the Ducks have made significant changes.

They added defensemen Ryan Whitney (from Pittsburgh for forward Chris Kunitz) and James Wisniewski (from Chicago for forward Samuel Pahlsson) via trades and welcomed back defenseman Francois Beauchemin, who missed most of the season with a torn knee ligament.

They join a pair of Norris Trophy winners -- the punishing, 6-foot-6 Chris Pronger and the speedy Scott Niedermayer -- to form a formidable top five.

"When you add Wisniewski, Beauchemin and Whitney to your blue line for the last 15 games, they're feeling better," Red Wings forward Dan Cleary said. "They got a great defense and Hiller's been great."

Hiller, in just his second season, snatched the starting job from 2003 playoff MVP Jean-Sebastien Giguere late in the season. Hiller posted a pair of shutouts in the first round.

"He's a big, butterfly guy," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "He's on his knees all the time, but he's tall enough and he stays upright enough that he seems to be able to cover the net."

The Ducks have one of the most dominant lines in the league, with Ryan Getzlaf centering Corey Perry and rookie scoring leader Bobby Ryan.

"Their ability to cycle the puck -- they're big, strong, shoot it, pass it, they read each other well -- it's going to be a great challenge for us," Cleary said. "They play pretty edgy. The team that's more disciplined will win."

Perry was undisciplined on Monday, elbowing San Jose's Jonathan Cheechoo in the head in the first period, a hit that might earn him a suspension.

Zetterberg's line, with Johan Franzen and Cleary, most likely will be matched up against the Ducks' big line.

"I don't know if they're that big," Zetterberg said.

The Ducks are big, physical and fast (Teemu Selanne is on their second line), and Pronger is sure to renew acquaintances with his net-front nemesis Tomas Holmstrom. But they are not nearly as deep at forward as Detroit.

Anaheim has won the past two playoff meetings against the Red Wings, eliminating them in six games in the 2007 Western Conference finals and sweeping them in the first round in 2003.

"They have a great No. 1 line, one of the best lines in hockey," Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood said. "They're a quicker team now. Since Beauchemin's been back, he's solidified their defense. Their goalie's playing great, but they're doing a good job of clearing guys up front. The battle's going to be won in the trenches, in front of our net and their net."



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