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From The Point: Playoff battle lines are drawn

For the bottom line on the playoffs, all you need is The Headline, The Deadline and The Last Line:

Detroit Red Wings (1) vs. Calgary Flames (8)

The Headline:
“HE SCORES!”
Pavel Datsyuk, who had suffered through three goal-less playoffs and hadn't scored in the post-season since 2002, snapped his 26-game springtime drought when he beat Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff in the second period of Game 1. (Datsyuk had been stymied on a great chance earlier in the game and could only gaze skyward after Kiprusoff denied him.)

The Deadline:
The Flames have a pressing problem: they can't win on the road. Calgary's 13 out-of-town wins is five fewer than the next-worst playoff team (the Islanders, 18-17-6 on the road). Detroit, meanwhile, had the best home record in the NHL at 29-4-8. If you do the math, it most definitely does not add up to Calgary in Round 2.

The Last Line:
Forty-five-year-old Chris Chelios is participating in his NHL-record 22nd post-season – breaking Ray Bourque's mark of 21 – and leads all Detroit players with 17 playoff games against Calgary. On the other side, the Flames' Stephane Yelle, a one-time grinder with the Avs, has suited up against the Wings in 26 playoff games.

Anaheim Ducks (2) vs. Minnesota Wild (7)

The Headline:
“NHL'S BEST DEFENSIVE TEAM TAKES ON NHL'S BEST DEFENSEMEN”
The Wild has speed to burn, but any Jacques Lemaire-coached team puts defense first. And second and third and fourth and fifthÂ…

Anaheim's post-season hopes begin and end with the Ducks' double-billed defense, with Chris Pronger and/or Scott Niedermayer on the ice at all times. But low-scoring doesn't mean no scoring. Not in a series that also has Teemu Selanne, Andy McDonald, Marian Gaborik, Pavol Demitra, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Brian Rolston, among other offensive weapons.

The Deadline:
A No. 7 seed has knocked off a No. 2 in nine straight post-seasons dating back to 1997. The stingy Wild, which gave up a league-low 191 goals this season, is more than capable of being this year's Lucky Number Seven.

The Last Line:
These two clubs are special teams. Literally. Anaheim ranked third in the NHL on the power play (22.4 per cent) and fifth in penalty killing (85.1 per cent); Minnesota was sixth with the man advantage (19.0 per cent) and second while a man down (86.0 per cent).

Vancouver Canucks (3) vs. Dallas Stars (6)

The Headline:
“ROBERTO LUONGO MAKES NHL PLAYOFF DEBUT – TWICE”
As Game 1 in the Canucks-Stars series graduated from a typical Game 1 to the sixth-longest playoff game of all-time, Luongo continued to do what he has done in the past seven regular seasons – make save after save after save. By the time Henrik Sedin beat Stars goalie Marty Turco at 18:06 of the fourth overtime period, Luongo had set an NHL record for the most shots faced in a playoff game (76). Vancouver's 5-4 win came 20 years after another memorable quadruple-overtime game, when Pat LaFontaine scored to give the Islanders a 3-2 win over Washington. Kelly Hrudey faced 75 shots in that game (the previous record), stopping 73 (still a record).

The Deadline:
The teams that lost the five longest overtime games of all-time all ultimately lost the series. But if there's a silver lining for the Stars, it's that the marathon heartbreaker of a Game 1 was, in fact, just that – Game 1 of the series. There's still a long way to go, and if Dallas truly is a contender, it should be able to overcome an early tough loss.

The Last Line:
In the four regular season games between the Canucks and Stars, the home team won 2-1 every time.

Nashville Predators (4) vs. San Jose Sharks (5)

The Headline:
“STANLEY CUP HOPEFULS MEET IN FIRST ROUND”
Only one team – the Presidents' Trophy-winning Buffalo Sabres – won more games than the Preds and Sharks. The Sabres led the NHL with 53 victories, just ahead of the 51 wins posted by both Nashville and San Jose. Yet, since both clubs failed to win their division, the result is a vicious matchup of the fourth and fifth seeds.

The Deadline:
Calling Joe Thornton! Calling Joe Thornton! It's time that the playoff performance of this regular season superstar matches his October-to-April output. Eight goals and 27 points in 46 career post-season games is unacceptable for the reigning NHL MVP. He's never been farther than the second round in his previous six spring forays. Sure, most of those playoff “runs” were with a Bruins team of modest expectations, and, yes, Big Joe battled some big injuries in past post-seasons. But enough's enough. Show us your Peter Forsberg face, Thornton.

The Last Line:
Don't worry if either team's starting goalie goes down. Preds backup Chris Mason had a better season than starter Tomas Vokoun, while Vesa Toskala played 11 playoff games last year compared to just one for Evgeni Nabokov. You don't hear this often, butÂ…it doesn't really matter who's in net in this series.

Buffalo Sabres (1) vs. New York Islanders (8)

The Headline:
“ONE OF THESE TEAMS IS NOT LIKE THE OTHER”
If there's one series that's “easy” to predict, this is it. The Sabres are an explosive team with defensive depth and a top-notch goalie and they barely slowed after a slew of injuries in the second half of the season. The Isles, meanwhile, snuck into the post-season by winning their final four games, led by AHL goalie Wade Dubielewicz, including a Game 82 shootout win over New Jersey.

The Deadline:
If Buffalo is intent on making amends for past playoff disappointments, the Sabres need to make short work of the Islanders. Five games, max.

The Last Line:
The hockey gods displayed their wicked sense of humor, pitting Isles coach Ted Nolan against the last NHL team he coached. After Nolan's inglorious exit from Buffalo in 1997, the one-time coach of the year was out of the NHL until wacky Islanders owner Charles Wang – whom you may remember from such GM hirings as Snow, Garth – took a chance.

New Jersey Devils (2) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (7)

The Headline:
“MARTIN VS. MARTIN”
The Devils are led by all-world big-game goalie Martin Brodeur; the Lightning looks to Martin St-Louis and Vincent Lecavalier. New Jersey has a huge advantage in net in this series as Tampa's Johan Holmqvist and Marc Denis have provided backup goaltending at best. Look at it this way: Brodeur is No. 3 all-time among NHL goalies with 153 playoff games, while neither Holmqvist nor Denis had ever before even been in the NHL playoffs.

The Deadline:
If John Madden and Jay Pandolfo can contain St-Louis and Lecavalier, this series could be over fast-quick.

The Last Line:
This series marks a meeting between the 2003 Stanley Cup champs (New Jersey) and the '04 Cup winners (Tampa). Both have losing playoff records since their Cup win: the Devils are 6-8; Tampa is 1-4.

Atlanta Thrashers (3) vs. New York Rangers (6)

The Headline:
“GOALIES' BODIES, EGOS BRUISED”
The Thrashers make their long-awaited, much-anticipated playoff debut, featuring high-octane offensive stars such as Marian Hossa, Ilya Kovalchuk, Slava Kozlov and Keith Tkachuk. And the Rangers, of course, are led by the incomparable Jaromir Jagr, as well as Brendan Shanahan, Michael Nylander and Martin Straka.

The Deadline:
As Jerry Seinfeld once said: “It's Euro-pean!” These two clubs could dress a combined 18 players from Europe, including each side's top three scorers and starting goalies.

The Last Line:
The Rangers' 4-3 win in Game 1 was their first playoff victory since 1997 (when Wayne Gretzky led the Blueshirts to the Eastern Conference final). They missed the post-season from 1998 through 2004, then there was the 2005 lockout and last year New York was swept by the Devils.

Ottawa Senators (4) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (5)

The Headline:
“THE SENS ARE LIKE THE PENS”
Jason Spezza is to Sidney Crosby as Dany Heatley is to Evgeni Malkin as Daniel Alfredsson is to Jordan Staal as Wade Redden is to Ryan Whitney as Ray Emery is to Marc-Andre FleuryÂ…In every instance, the Pens player may one day be superior to his Sens counterpart. But not this year. Ottawa has endured too many playoff disappointments to lose to birds that aren't yet ready to fly in the post-season.

The Deadline:
NHL leading scorer Sidney Crosby managed a mere mortal four points – one goal and three assists – in four games against Ottawa this season.

The Last Line:
Gary Roberts, who was rumored to be on the Sens' radar at the trade deadline, sparked Toronto to three consecutive playoff upsets of Ottawa from 2001 to '04.

Sam McCaig's From The Point appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Have a point to make with Sam McCaig? You can reach him at smccaig@thehockeynews.com.

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