If the first round match-up between the Phoenix Coyotes and the Detroit Red Wings looks like a little bit of déjà vu, you wouldn’t be mistaken. These same teams met in the first round last season, engaging in a thrilling seven-game series in which Detroit ultimately prevailed. Will the Coyotes be able to knock off the Red Wings this season? Keep reading to check out our Stanley Cup playoff picks.
#6 Phoenix Coyotes
How They Got Here: For much of the season, Phoenix was battling San Jose for the Pacific Division title, but fell off late in the year to allow the Sharks to clinch the division title. The ‘Yotes had a good chance at clinching home-ice advantage in the first round, but lost four of their last six to finish in the six spot despite having the same amount of points as the No. 4 Anaheim Ducks and No. 5 Nashville Predators. The Coyotes have shown that last year was no fluke though, making the playoffs for the second straight season.
Player to Watch: RW Shane Doan is the leader of the team in all ways. The only original Coyote from when the team first moved from Winnipeg, Doan has notched 50+ points for the past eight seasons and is the most consistent player on the team. This NHL betting season, Doan racked up 20 goals and 40 assists and led the team with 60 points. His leadership and scoring prowess will both be needed to take down Detroit.
Goalie Outlook: Ilya Bryzgalov put together another solid season in net with the Coyotes in 2010-11. Bryzgalov was one of the most worked goaltenders in the NHL this season and responded to the workload nicely. He put together a 36-20-10 record with a respectable .921 save percentage and a 2.47 GAA. He will need to continue his good play to move the Coyotes past the veteran Red Wings.
Key to Victory: The Coyotes will need to play a balanced game in order to get past the Red Wings and that means solid performances from Doan, Bryzgalov, and D Keith Yandle. Of utmost importance for the Coyotes will be converting their power play chances, and Yandle is one of the most skilled distributors in this situation with 23 power play assists.
#3 Detroit Red Wings
How They Got Here: For the 20th consecutive season, the Red Wings are in the postseason and for the 14th time in those 20 seasons Detroit, has won a division title. It seems as if playing in the postseason is a birthright for Head Coach Mike Babcock and crew, and the Red Wings are one of the most decorated teams in hockey with 11 Stanley Cups. They have the oldest roster in the NHL and are stacked with veterans who know what it takes to win in the postseason.
Player to Watch: Center Pavel Datsyuk has been hampered by injuries this season, but is arguably the most talented player on the Red Wings when healthy. In just 55 games this season, Datsyuk averaged over a point a game, putting up 58 points (22 G, 36 A) for the Red Wings. Datsyuk is one of the most electric players in the game and handles the puck better than almost anyone in the world.
Goalie Outlook: It just wouldn’t be a Detroit Red Wings postseason, without major questions in net. Jimmy Howard has gotten the bulk of the work this season and has an impressive 36-17-5 record, but he benefits from playing for the second best offense in the game. Howard’s GAA is an alarming 2.78 and he owns a save percentage of .908 this season. Howard isn’t a world-beater but just needs to be average for Detroit to advance.
Key to Victory: Staying healthy. Detroit has been bitten by the injury bug much of the season and is one of the most talented teams in the league when everyone is healthy. Datsyuk just returned to the line-up last week after missing two weeks with a lower body injury and Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall have been banged up as well. The Red Wings needs to stay healthy and not have any more injuries if they want to move on to the conference semi-finals.
2010-11 Regular Season Meetings
March 5th – Phoenix 5 – Detroit 4
November 8th – Detroit 3 – Phoenix 2
October 28th – Detroit 2 Phoenix 4
October 16th – Phoenix 1 – Detroit 2
Season Series Notes: Phoenix and Detroit met four times in the regular season with teach team winning two games. Three of the four games were tied at the end of regulation and each meeting has been a close affair. After playing each other three times in the first month, the two teams only met once in the last five months of the season so there is some unfamiliarity.
The Final Word: Can Phoenix knock off Detroit and reach the second round for the first time since the franchise moved to the desert from Winnipeg? Probably not. Phoenix does have talent and has a chance to beat the Red Wings, but we think a healthy Detroit will just be too much for the Coyotes to overcome.
Stanley Cup Free Picks: Detroit in 6
Aaron Ryan has been in the sportswriting biz since the late-90s, and he has worked side by side with some of the best and brightest in sports gambling. Always searching for the best trends in sports, Andrew uses his brilliant math mind to his advantage to beat the books.