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Previewing the Ducks-Red Wings Series, with a Special Guest Host

In Hockey on April 30, 2013 at 8:54 pm

Today April 30, 2013 marks a special day in the history of this blog, as we are running our first ever guest piece. We here at The D.A.R.T. Board enjoy visitors, and joining us for a last minute preview of the Anaheim-Detroit series is the one and only Pierre Canard. As the only Ducks’ fan I have ever come in contact with, I had a moment of weakness when I asked Pierre to lend his thoughts to the Ducks’ first round matchup.

So boys and girls, without further ado, here is Pierre’s take on the Ducks-Wings series (which may not be as awesome as mine, which you can read here).

Anaheim started off hot and fast, posting an impressive record that was overshadowed by the Chicago Blackhawks historic streak. While the Ducks streak out of the gate went relatively unnoticed, the team comfortably “flew under the radar”, building up an impressive lead that, with the exception of a bit of a slide towards the end of the season, cemented the teams second Pacific Division title.

Detroit on the other hand, struggled out of the gate, (understandably so) in the Red Wings first season post-Lidstrom. The team saw the obvious lack of defensive depth exploited initially, and had struggled with injuries up front. Detroit closed out the season very strong, on the backs of Jimmy Howard, and the still reliable forward depth.

The teams faced off three times this season, with the road team always winning. Detroit won 2 games (back to back) in Anaheim, where the Ducks were outclassed.

I am obviously biased towards the Ducks, but the depth that Anaheim has had is something any team would desire. With 6 players with 10 or more goals, and even more depth throughout the line up, the Ducks are team that easily rolls 4 lines.Ryan Getzlaf (fresh off an extension) has returned to form, and the other omnipresent threats like Bobby Ryan, Teemu Selanne and Corey Perry (who also re-signed with the Ducks), are complimented with pleasantly surprising performances from Saku Koivu, Andrew Cogliano and Kyle Palmieri. Defensively, this team is built very well, with Francois Beauchemin enjoying a career year, Sheldon Souray enjoying his own resurgence. Cam Fowler has been struggling with injuries this season, with solid depth further in the line up in Luca Sbisa, Toni Lydman and Bryan Allen rounding out the rotation. Ben Lovejoy, a mid season pickup was a revelation, has played his way into the lineup. The Ducks also enjoy a terrific depth in net, with Viktor Fasth and Jonas Hiller posting 15 wins each.

Detroit has seen Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Val Filppula get support from younger blood in Dan Cleary, Justin Abdelkader and Damien Brunner in scoring, but beyond the top 6, this team struggles mightily in scoring depth. (However Jordin Tootoo is a constant threat to Anaheim’s sanity; in his time with the Predators he was a constant thorn in the Ducks side, and always got the Ducks off their game). Defensively, Detroit simply has no real threats beyond Jonathan Ericsson and Niklas Kronwall. The drop off cannot possibly be expected to compete in a long series. Jimmy Howard looks to carry the load for the Red Wings.

My Take:

Detroit and Anaheim always have great playoff battles- Detroit stormed into the playoffs, while Anaheim did cool off towards the end of the season. Detroit’s hot streak worries me; this is a team that can still do damage despite the depth limitations. Jimmy Howard quietly has had another good year, and is capable of stealing games for his team. Anaheim’s depth is intimidating, and should be able to wear down Detroit over the series. This will make for some great TV, and I have Anaheim winning the series in 6 games.

I would like to thank the owners of this blog for the opportunity to post my incoherent thoughts on this series. Feel free to agree/disagree/stir up some arguments with me on Twitter @SargeTheDuck.

And there you have it! If you like Pierre’s take on the Ducks, follow him on Twitter because there’s plenty more where that came from. If you didn’t like it, tell me and I’ll be sure to let Pierre know on the 7th of Never.

Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview: #4 St. Louis Blues vs. #5 Los Angeles Kings

In Hockey on April 29, 2013 at 11:59 pm

Get ready for a series in which both teams could seriously hurt each other (fingers crossed!).

The St. Louis Blues didn’t look like the same team that made things miserable for opponents for much of the year. But over the last few weeks, the Blues appear to have rounded into form. Thanks to the Blackhawks icing their AHL team in the regular season finals, cheating me out of a Sharks-Kings matchup, St. Louis will open at home for the second straight year.

The first thing that stands out for the Blues is their defense, which might be the deepest out of all the teams in the playoffs. Adding Jay Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold has shored things up on the back end and made Brian Elliott look like an all-star again. Speaking of Elliott, he is the unquestioned top goalie going into the playoffs this year, and he’s going to have the microscope on him given how bad the Kings made him look last year.

On offense, the Blues are more dangerous than you might think. As much attention as their defense and Ken Hitchcock’s boring system get the credit, the forwards are deep and have plenty of skill. With Chris Stewart playing for a new deal and a healthy Andy McDonald, this team has a legitimate chance to make a run to the conference finals for the first time since 2001.

Oh hey, the Kings open the playoffs as the underdog again. Of course, that doesn’t bother them whatsoever. It’s not far-fetched for the Kings to steam-roll through the playoffs again. But in order for that to happen, Jonathan Quick needs to figure a few things out. He didn’t play during the most pointless lockout in sports history and had back surgery before the lockout came to an end, making him look pedestrian at times. But he’s been here before, and I have to think Quick will be ready to go.

Just like the Blues, the Kings are extremely deep at forward and on the blue line. I like the skill of the Kings more than the skill of the Blues in this series. Anze Kopitar is the most talented player in the series, and he’s flanked by playoff warriors Dustin Brown, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. If the Kings can swarm the Blues with all four lines like they did last year, they’ll be smiling in the handshake line once again this year.

Plus, if we can see this again, that would be awesome. That’s what you get when you fight in your weight class, Roman Polak.

St. Louis will win if:They learned their lesson from one year ago. Last year’s series between these two teams wasn’t even close, and the Blues need to be as physical as they have been all year to unseat the defending champs. They got killed in that area last season and Brian Elliott was exposed as a mediocre goaltender. St. Louis needs to put that in their rear-view mirror to have any success this year.

Los Angeles will win if:
They can handle the pressure of being the hunted. This is basically the same team that won the Cup last year. But they know this year, the target is on their back and their chest. Teams are going to throw everything they have at the Kings, and it’s going to start with a team that can match their physicality.

Prediction:
Trainers, get your ice packs ready. These two teams are going to throw everything they have at each other, and a Cup favorite is going to be done after the first round. I’m actually very excited about this series because it’s going to be the closest thing to legalized assault we will see in the first round. Hitchcock and Blues’ captain David Backes will not allow his team to get run over like they did last year. In the end, I like the guy between the pipes for the Kings to be the difference maker.

Plus, I look forward to the humor coming from @theroyalhalf on Twitter. If you hate the Kings, you’re REALLY going to hate that guy.

Without question, this has been the hardest series for me to make my mind up on. If there was any way both teams could lose this series, I’d be cool with that. But someone has to win. Kings in 7.

I am Ryan Thomas, and I approve this post. Follow me on Twitter @rthomas_22 so you can harass me for an opinion piece. Also, so you can tell me why it’s wrong to dislike Roman Polak. Keep in mind, I will ignore anything you try to tell me.

Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview: #2 Anaheim Ducks vs. #7 Detroit Red Wings

In Hockey on April 29, 2013 at 11:18 pm

Lost in the scrum of how dominant the Blackhawks and Penguins were this year was the stellar season turned in by the Anaheim Ducks. Bruce Boudreau turned a team that not many expected to challenge for a playoff spot into an offensive juggernaut, just like he did in Washington. Getting a bounce-back season from captain Ryan Getzlaf and stellar goaltending from both Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth has been critical to the team’s success. Both veterans and youngsters at both forward and on defense, including the immortal Teemu Selanne, have spelled success for the Ducks all year long.

But despite their Pacific Division title, the Ducks still can’t get any respect. As good as they’ve been, alot of people still consider the Ducks’ season a fluke. I’m not saying it’s a fluke, they’ve been great. But some guys (Francois Beauchemin, for example) played out of their minds all year and may have gotten a bit of a break with the short season. So Anaheim should be carrying a big ass chip on their shoulder as they get ready for the playoffs.

Standing in their way are the Detroit Red Wings, who played their best hockey of the year when it counted. The held off the Stars and Blue Jackets (#Lumbus forever!) to clinch their 22nd straight playoff berth, thanks to some outstanding play from Henrik Zetterberg and Jimmy Howard. With their playoff pedigree, some even have the Wings as the favorite in this series.

Detroit has also seen several role players make the jump to NHL regulars. I still worry that the Wings aren’t going to be able to score enough to be able to hang with the Ducks. Val Filppula is going to need to be better than he was during the regular season to give the Wings some secondary scoring. But the Wings play hard and they will not back down from the Pacific Division champs.

The Ducks will win if:They continue to get secondary scoring. It’s a given that the Getzlaf-Perry line is going to see a steady dose of Pavel Datsyuk. So the likes of Andrew Cogliano, Saku Koivu, Selanne, etc. will need to take some of the heat off the top line. Watching those two centers clash is going to be awesome, but I like the support for the Ducks alot more than what the Wings will be trotting out.

The Red Wings will win if:Jimmy Howard plays up to his new contract. I don’t know what took the Red Wings so long to get Howard locked up long-term. He was great down the stretch, and unlike the Ducks’ goaltending tandem, we know who will be in the cage for the Winged Wheel. The Ducks have the offensive edge and with guys like Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindl getting set for their first playoff run, Howard could have some messes to clean up.

Prediction:This one is going to be a battle. But the offensive depth the Ducks possess gives them the edge in a series that I expect to get nasty in a hurry. Ducks in 7.

I am Ryan Thomas, and I approve this post. Follow me on Twitter @rthomas_22 and criticize me for not looking at any stats before posting this.