Western Conference Finals Preview
Previewing the NHL's 2008 Western Conference Finals series between Detroit and Dallas
#1 Detroit Red Wings vs. #5 Dallas Stars
I had Detroit playing San Jose in the Western Conference finals, but Dallas, once again, made a fool of me, as they have slaughtered both of their opponents thus far. Both Anaheim and San Jose could not even make a series out of it as the Stars beat each team relatively easy. The Red Wings got a scare from Nashville, but completely ran over the injured Colorado Avalanche to take them to the Western Conference Finals.
Detroit has only lost 2 games in the playoffs so far, both coming @ Nashville. In 10 games they have played, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk have combined for 26 points, +17 plus-minus and 78 shots on net.
While Zetterberg and Datsyuk are proving their leadership and importance on this team, it is the play of Johan Franzen that has really emerged as the turning point. Johan “The Mule” Franzen has 4 more goals than anyone else on the team with 11 but also leads with Wings with his 14 points.
Chris Osgood is showing the Detroit staff that he should have been the #1 goalie all along in the playoffs. Dominik Hasek did start the playoffs, but after his 2-2 start, Osgood got the nod and did not disappoint. He has yet to lose in net going 6-0, with a shutout and a .937 save percentage. The match-up in this series will be very interesting indeed.
Dallas was beaten twice by both Anaheim and San Jose, but has not ever looked threatened to lose a series. A well-coordinated defensive style works well for this counter attacking team. They get scoring from every player while scoring goals at the most important times.
Captain Brenden Morrow is showing great leadership in every way. He is plays hard in the corners, hits with intensity and his 11 points are tied for second on the Stars. The 2 “Mike’s” on the team, Ribeiro and Modano, are playing like they should totaling 24 points in the playoffs so far. Modano is seeing more power-play time, on the point, while Ribeiro is making it easy for his line mates to score with his 11 assists.
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The Stars also acquired Brad Richards during the trade deadline this year and he has not proven this team wrong. He is a great two-way talented player that has a scorer’s touch. His 11 points and great locker room aura may take Dallas to Stanley Cup land.
I cannot believe that Marty Turco has contributed to the Stars being in the Conference final. He has not made it past the first round in what seems to be forever, but his .929 save percentage is ridiculously impressive along with his 1.73 goals against average. Turco has side-swiped, befuddled, and really made me scratch my head when I have watched him play in the playoffs this year.
These teams have played each other 4 times this year with Detroit winning 3 and outscoring the Stars 12-5 in those games. The Red Wings are much more of an offensive team supplied with finesse players, while the Stars play defense first, everything else second. Morrow and Stephane Robidas are hitting machines, with 125 hits between them in 12 games, but can they hit the speedier Wings?
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In the playoffs, Detroit averages close to 40 shots per game with Dallas allowing close to 30 per game. Turco will be seeing a lot of rubber during this series, that is if Tomas Holmstrom lets him. During the Avalanche series, Ryan Smyth did cause a ruckus in front of the net before he got hurt. Now Dallas has to deal with the relentless Holmstrom, who acts like an impossible-to-move brick wall outside the crease. During power plays, it will be crucial to remove him from Turco’s vision.
When it comes to Stanley Cup rings, the Wings have 23, while the Stars only having 4 players with rings.
Three key factors in the Western Conference Finals:
1) Marty Turco vs. Chris Osgood
Osgood has not lost this year in playoffs and his play is vital in Detroit survival. The Stars have battered and bruised their previous goalies, but Osgood’s 2 Stanley Cup Rings will keep his head in this series. He has great defensemen in Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski and Niklas Kronwall who should limit the major scoring chances that he faces. Add that with Kirk Maltby and Kris Draper keeping an eye on Ribeiro and Richards; Osgood should be fine.
Turco has a terrible record at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. His 0-7-2 record is mind-boggling, but will not affect his play. He has already passed 2 playoff rounds of terror, including a 61 save, 4 overtime victory to eliminate the Sharks. For a defensive team, the Stars have called upon Turco many times. He has faced a lot of shots from teams who had could not finish their opportunities; the Red Wings do not miss many.
I think these two goalies will play exceptional hockey, but Osgood’s experience is better than Turco’s fantasy hot streak. Give the edge to Ozzy.
2) Finesse vs. Grinders
Detroit’s skill is way beyond what Dallas has. Zetterberg and Datsyuk have more talent than the Dallas team combined, when it comes to finished touch and stick handling. Dallas loves to play a punishing style of hockey and will have a hard time hitting the speedy Wings. The dump and chase (I mean dump and hit), will not work as well against the very skillful Detroit defense. A few powerful hits early in the games should eventually lead to turnovers.
As long as the Stars use discipline when they hit, by not taking penalties, they may be able to break down the Wings players. I usually like skill over size, but I believe that the Stars’ intense style of play will work in this series. Give the edge to Dallas.
3) Franzen vs. Ribeiro
Can these players keep up their scoring paces throughout the Western Conference Finals? Both lead their teams with 14 points. Both are silent killers, Franzen with goals, Ribeiro with assists. A lot of attention goes to Zetterberg and Datsyuk leaving the gap for Franzen’s current success.
“The Mule” is a special teams threat with his 4 PP and 2 SH goals and Ribeiro is just an overall threat. Edge has to go to Franzen, since this year’s playoffs have proven that special team success has lead to series wins.
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I have picked Dallas to lose in each of their two previous series and they have dominated both. My brain keeps telling me to finally choose the Stars, but now they face the Presidents Trophy winning Red Wings. It’s still hard for me to think that Turco can keep his incredible play for another series.
Detroit wins this series 4-2.
By Kevin Chaves
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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