#5 Detroit Red Wings
(44-24-14, 102 pts)
#1 San Jose Sharks
(51-20-11, 113 pts)
Detroit Red Wings
How They Got Here: It certainly wasn’t as easy of a task as originally thought, but the defending Western Conference champs figured out how to take care of the ownerless #5 Phoenix Coyotes in seven games, taking the seventh in dominating fashion. There were times that Detroit looked like it could beat anyone in the NHL in that series, but there were also moments that just made the average NHL betting fan scratch his head. Still, the Wings made it through to this point, which is all that anyone in the Motor City could ask.
Player To Watch: LW Henrik Zetterberg was a monster on the front line for the Red Wings in the Phoenix series. He logged three assists in the 6-1 thrashing in Game 7 and also had a hat trick in Game 2. Quite often, he’ll find himself matched up against the Canadian national line for the Sharks, and it’ll be key for Zetterberg and his line mates to keep them in check.
Goalie Outlook: By no means was G Jimmy Howard solid in his first playoff series as the Red Wings goaltender, but he ultimately got the job done. Still, he badly needs to improve upon a 2.59 GAA. The confidence that the Detroit coaching staff had in Howard may ultimately prove dividends though, as he came back with a strong Game 7 after getting booed off the ice following Game 6 in Hockeytown.
Key To Victory: That front line of Marleau, Thornton, and Heatley just has to be contained if you’re the Red Wings. That’s the line that has played together the longest, and it could be incredibly devastating if those three can start lighting the lamp multiple times every single night. It’ll be up to C Pavel Datsyuk and Zetterberg to keep up with those three, something that is a must to win this series.
San Jose Sharks
How They Got Here: After Game 1 against the Colorado Avalanche, the Sharks had to be wondering if this was just another, “Here we go again…” situation. After all, their history in the NHL playoffs isn’t exactly a pristine one, with no trips to the Stanley Cup Finals. Still, the better team ultimately prevailed, as the Sharks took care of business in four of the final five games of the series to advance.
Player To Watch: With the front line kept in check in the Colorado series, LW Ryane Clowe really came to play, scoring a goal and six assists and finishing with a +6 against the Avalanche. Clowe did pick up 57 points during the regular season, proving that he has the ability to produce a lot of offense. He has tallied at least one point in nine of his L/10 hockey betting battles.
Goalie Outlook: After struggling in Game 2 against the Avalanche and allowing five goals, G Evgeni Nabokov was simply unbeatable. He lost 1-0 in overtime in Game 3, but fired back by allowing just three goals in his final three games. His 1.76 GAA was the best amongst goaltenders in the first round of the playoffs, and Nabokov will be crucial to keeping the Detroit offense off of the scoreboard.
Key To Victory: Don’t worry about the past! The Sharks need to forget about the problems of San Jose teams of yesteryear and the fact that the Red Wings are the defending champs of the conference. This is a series that can be had, and if they keep mentally strong, the Sharks will win it and advance to the Western Conference Finals.
The Final Word: The Red Wings just don’t feel like a team that is clicking on all cylinders 100% of the time right now. San Jose will get better play from its front line in this series, and if Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Dany Heatley get going, this actually has the potential to be a short series.
Sharks in 5