The playoffs get underway tonight with four match-ups, two from each conference. Let’s look at them one by one, and I’ll offer up my completely unprofessional prediction regarding each.
Last season this one went an unexpected seven games, and this year should be no exception. Phoenix managed to stun Detroit on home ice a few times, and that was with a healthy Detroit roster. This season, the Wings are short a few important pieces for the first round. Henrik Zetterberg, their top scorer, twisted his ankle during the first period of a game against the Carolina Hurricanes on April 6th, and is extremely questionable for the first round. Other important forward Niklas Kronwall has a separated shoulder, and is at the most questionable for game one. Detroit goaltenders Jimmy Howard and Chris Osgood (who is done for the season) have been laden with injuries. If Howard goes down at any point, it’s up to Joey MacDonald to step in. That shouldn’t instil confidence in Wings fans.
On the Phoenix side, they took the Red Wings to the limit last season, and fully expect to do so this year. As Phoenix netminder Ilya Bryzgalov said in a CBC interview:
“I’m not looking at the roster and saying, ‘Oh my God, we play Detroit,’” Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov said. "’They have Pavel Datysuk, [Henrik] Zetterberg, how are we supposed to play? Oh my God, let’s quit, guys.’
As always, I appreciate the sarcasm.
Both teams played well this season, but Detroit suffered down the stretch. Whether they were tired or injuries were mounting up, the Wings were not their usual selves. They lost six out of their last ten games, including the 10-3 stinker to the St. Louis Blues. If Detroit bounces back from injury, and if their vets are up to the challenge, they could very well win in seven games again this year.
Phoenix, though, could prey on any weaknesses on the Detroit roster. This match-up depends a lot on the health of goaltenders, and if Jimmy Howard goes down, this series is the Coyotes’ to take.
My Prediction (which will probably be wrong): Phoenix in seven.