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The Hockey News 2007-08 NHL Playoff Preview - Round 3

Detroit and Dallas faceoff in the West while Pittsburgh and Philadelphia do battle in the East. (Getty Images)

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Detroit and Dallas faceoff in the West while Pittsburgh and Philadelphia do battle in the East. (Getty Images)

What’s old is new again in the West with two perennial superpowers butting heads, while in the East two young teams that both spent time in the NHL’s basement are rising to the challenge of establishing themselves as legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.
 
It’s amazing that since the 1996-97 season the Dallas Stars and Detroit Red Wings won four Stanley Cups between them, but only faced off against each other once, when 10 years ago the Wings downed the Stars 4-2 in the Western final.
 
Meanwhile, the Eastern final has become the battle of Pennsylvania, where the gradually maturing and shifty young Penguin stars will battle the sudden revival of the big, bad, banging Flyers.
 
However the series play out, the Stanley Cup final will be the showdown of old and new, experience and youth, persistence and patience.
 
Below you'll find breakdowns on both of the conference final matchups and, coming off a tough one-for-four performance in the second round, THN.com's picks to move on. (See The Hockey News's Round 2 preview and predictions HERE)

Detroit Red Wings DETROIT RED WINGS vs. DALLAS STARSDallas Stars

NUTS AND BOLTS
Detroit - Home | Stats | Roster | Schedule | Transactions | Injuries
Dallas - Home | Stats | Roster | Schedule | Transactions | Injuries

Regular Season Record:
Detroit - 54-21-7, 115 pts
Dallas - 45-30-7, 97 pts

Season Series
Detroit – 3-1-0 (12 GF; 5 GA)
Dallas – 1-3-0 (5 GF, 12 GA)

Leading Scorers vs. Opponent
Detroit – Valtteri Filppula, 5 (1G, 4A); Nicklas Lidstrom 5 (5A); Pavel Datsyuk 5 (3G, 2A)
Dallas – Joel Lundqvist 3 (3A); Jere Lehtinen 2 (1G, 1A); Loui Eriksson 2 (1G, 1A)

2008 Playoff MVP
Detroit – Johan Franzen. Has four more playoff goals – including two more playoff game-winners – than anybody else on Wings.
Dallas – Marty Turco. Only Philadelphia’s Martin Biron has faced more shots in these playoffs than the Stars starter, but Turco’s save percentage (.929) is far better than Biron’s (.914).

Why They’re Here
Detroit – The Red Wings needed a bit of good fortune to get past the plucky Predators in the first round and had a relatively easy go of things against an injury-plagued Avs squad. They’ve been good, but far from fantastic.
Dallas – The Stars have received timely contributions from just about every player on the roster, but have leaned heavily on Turco when their opponents made pushes. He’ll need to be stupendous again this time if Dallas is to have a chance against the high-powered Wings.

Special Teams
The Wings’ post-season power play came in at ninth overall (20.4 percent) after two rounds, but their penalty kill was much better, ranking fifth at 85.4 percent. Dallas edged out the Wings with the fourth-best penalty kill of the post-season (85.7) and only the eliminated Calgary Flames had more success with the man advantage than the Stars’ 25 percent ratio. Edge: Dallas

Forwards

Franzen’s scoring prowess has taken some of the focus off Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg and the duo responded in the second round by combining to put up 17 points; Mikael Samuelsson and Tomas Holmstrom have been quietly effective, registering nine points between the two of them against Colorado. Dallas’ forwards have spearheaded their offense, led most notably by Brenden Morrow (seven playoff goals), Mike Ribeiro (14 points) and Brad Richards (nine assists). Greybeard Mike Modano is tied with Morrow and fellow veteran Stu Barnes for the team lead in game-winning goals with two. Edge: Dallas

Defense

Three of Detroit’s top seven scorers this post-season are blueliners, as Nick Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall and Brian Rafalski amassed 22 points in just 10 games. The D-unit has supported Chris Osgood enough to the extent that the veteran goalie doesn’t have to steal the show. Meanwhile, the Stars’ defense corps performed admirably and got a big boost with the return of Sergei Zubov (1 goal, 4 points) in the Sharks series. But they don’t have anywhere close to the depth and all-around skill level of Detroit’s D-men. Edge: Detroit

Goaltending

Chris Osgood has yet to lose a post-season game this spring, and his stellar .937 save percentage and playoff-best 1.52 goals-against average in these playoffs isn’t a fluke. That said, Turco (1.73 GAA) has faced tougher playoff opponents and emerged from beating them looking just as good, if not better. He’s looking like a driven man. Edge: Dallas

Coaching
Coach-of-the-year candidate Mike Babcock has his toughest coaching challenge in Dallas' Dave Tippett, whose laid-back attitude is just about the polar opposite of the intense Wings coach. Both have received great results, but Tippett has been getting results under intense pressure since Doug Armstrong lost his GM job. A virtual toss-up here. Edge: Detroit

X-Factor
People will question the Wings’ ability to cope with Dallas’ physical style, and rightfully so. That’s not to say Detroit doesn’t have its share of bangers and bruisers, but they’ve yet to encounter a smart, sturdy, snarly opponent like the Stars.

Related Links

Prediction
Goaltending will be one of the main focuses of what is sure to be a tight series, and right now it looks as if the Stars have the better one. They’ve also overcome two very tough tests in Anaheim and San Jose, while the Wings had somewhat of a lighter load in taking out Nashville and Colorado. That could give Detroit a little extra energy, but it also could mean they’re less able to deal with Dallas’ intensity. Dallas in seven.

Who do you think will win? Vote HERE.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINSPITTSBURGH PENGUINS vs. PHILADELPHIA FLYERSPHILADELPHIA FLYERS

NUTS AND BOLTS
Pittsburgh - Home | Stats | Roster | Schedule | Transactions | Injuries
Philadelphia - Home | Stats | Roster | Schedule | Transactions | Injuries

Regular Season Record
Pittsburgh – 47-27-8
Philadelphia – 42-29-11

Season Series
Pittsburgh 3-5-0 (23 GF, 28 GA)
Philadelphia 5-3-0 (28 GF, 23 GA)

Leading Scorers vs. Opponent
Pittsburgh – Evgeni Malkin, 15 (6G, 9A); Petr Sykora, 8 (3G, 5A); Sergei Gonchar, 8 (3G, 5A)
Philadelphia – R.J. Umberger 11 (6G, 5A); Joffrey Lupul, 10 (5G, 5A); Mike Richards, 8 (1G, 7A)

2008 Playoff MVP
Pittsburgh – Marc-Andre Fleury. The Penguins goaltender has been everything he has failed to be to this point in his career. The Penguins have enough offense that they don’t need superhuman goaltending, but Fleury is providing close to that.
Philadelphia – Martin Biron. Really, really wanted to say R.J. Umberger here, but we have to go with Biron in an incredibly close vote. Biron’s play in the second round made the margin of victory much larger than it should have been.

Why They’re Here
Pittsburgh – Unlike last season when the Penguins looked like a deer peering into oncoming headlights in the first round, Pittsburgh’s star players are being difference makers and they have enough of them to carry the team a long way.
Philadelphia – For years, the Flyers searched for a goaltender who could lead them to victory in the playoffs and they’ve finally found one. Their elite players are coming through, but lesser lights such as Umberger and Joffrey Lupul have been terrific.

Special Teams
This could prove to be the difference in the series if the Flyers continue to flirt with disaster in this area of the game. The Flyers have been shorthanded more than any other team in the league by far and if they take too many penalties against the Penguins, they’ll be scorched by one of the best power play units in the league. Edge: Pittsburgh

Forwards

The Penguins are deeper down the middle than any team in the playoffs and in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin they have two of the best players on the planet. But the Flyers are getting such great production from such unlikely sources that it has given them depth up front the Penguins don’t have. Edge: Philadelphia

Defense

You’d think it would be the other way around, with the Penguins having the edge at forward and the Flyers better on defense, but the Penguins much-maligned defense corps has held up quite well so far in the playoffs. They get the edge because they move the puck better than the Flyers do. Edge: Pittsburgh

Goaltending

Both teams have received all-world goaltending from their Quebec-born stoppers through the first two rounds of the playoffs. Biron has proved he has what it takes to be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL and Fleury has proved he can deliver in important games. Edge: Even

Coaching
Let’s face it, neither of these guys is the second coming of Dave King. Both coaches tend not to micromanage their rosters and give their top players the freedom to do what they do best. Michel Therrien, in particular, has really grown as a coach over the years and has done a good job of tightening the Penguins’ game up. Edge: Even

X-Factor
Almost half of Umberger’s 13 goals this season came in his eight games against the Penguins. The Flyers owned the Penguins in their first four matchups of the regular season, but the Penguins took three of the last four.

Prediction
The Flyers have already gone light years further than anyone thought they would this season and while it certainly wouldn’t be a shock to see them give the Penguins a series, it took the Flyers 12 games to get out of the first two rounds and the Penguins just nine. The Penguins are playing with the authority of a team that will seriously challenge for the Stanley Cup. Penguins in five.

Who do you think will win? Vote HERE.

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