Monday, April 7, 2008

Western Conference Quarterfinals
(4) Anaheim Ducks v. (5) Dallas Stars

Offense: The fact that the Ducks were two lines deep helped them immensely last postseason, as despite Teemu Selanne and Andy McDonald's faltering through the first few rounds, Ryan Getzlaf and co. were able to pick up the slack. Anaheim will have no such luxury this time around. With no legitimate second line center to set up Selanne and Corey Perry injured at least through the first round, an already tepid offensive team in the Ducks (Anaheim finished 28th in league scoring) will be hard-pressed to put the puck in the net. The Stars, on the other hand, enjoyed a bit of a role reversal through the first half of the season with the likes of Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow piling on the points. While that duo proved hot and cold down the stretch, the addition of known playoff producer Brad Richards serves to bolster a Dallas offense that simply couldn't score against Vancouver in last year's first round. Edge: Dallas.

Defense: Regardless of what anyone thinks of Marty Turco, Brenden Morrow or Mike Ribeiro, Sergei Zubov is without a doubt Dallas' best player. Unfortunately for the Stars, their No. 1 defenseman has been injured for nearly half the season and will not take the ice against Anaheim in the first round, reducing Dallas to a rather non-descript defense corps that will rely on veterans Philippe Boucher and Mattias Norstrom along with surprising rookie Matt Niskanen to get the job done. The Ducks have no such issues, however, employing one of the greatest bluelines in recent NHL history. Aside from Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer and Mathieu Schneider, Anaheim's blueline also boasts depth. Marc-Andre Bergeron could probably be a prominent power-play quarterback on most NHL teams, yet he's a bottom-pairing defenseman on the Ducks. Edge: Anaheim.

Goaltending: On paper, this is as lopsided of a netminding matchup as we have in the first round. Marty Turco, the infamous and unfairly branded playoff choker against J-S Giguere, the springtime superstar with a Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe Trophy and sparkling overtime record to his credit. Delving a tad deeper, it becomes apparent that Turco was far from a choker last postseason, when he was in fact far and away his team's best player, recording an unbelievable three shutouts in a seven-game loss to Vancouer. Giguere was terrific as well in guiding the Ducks to a Cup, but let's face it -- it's easy to look good with two Norris Trophy winners in front of you. Still, J-S is far more of a known quantity in the playoffs than the Stars' netminder. Edge: Anaheim

Overall: It's going to be difficult for the Stars to dethrone the Stanley Cup Champions, especially without Sergei Zubov in the lineup. Marty Turco and Mike Ribeiro are still playoff question marks and Brad Richards just hasn't fit in in Big D. The Ducks, on the other hand, have been on a season-long mission to defend their cup title. Prediction: Ducks in 5.

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