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End of the road

Young Flames are flying high, but veteran Red Wings are just too talented

Posted: Tuesday April 20, 2004 1:26PM; Updated: Wednesday April 21, 2004 12:23PM
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No. 1 Detroit vs. No. 6 Calgary

OVERVIEW

Second-Round Breakdowns

SI.com's Kostya Kennedy breaks down the conference semifinals.

Eastern Conference
Lightning-Canadiens | Flyers-Maple Leafs
Western Conference
Red Wings-Flames | Sharks-Avalanche

The Flames are a hard-hitting emotional team with arguably the best forward going in the playoffs. They're terrific to watch. Expect Calgary to put up a serious fight against the talented and experienced Red Wings in a series that will start in high gear and shift up to a pedal-to-the-metal pace when it moves to Calgary for Games 3 and 4.

FORWARDS

Watching the Flames' Jarome Iginla play in this, his first playoffs, can get a hockey fan giddy. Though he was cloaked and battered throughout Calgary's opening series against Vancouver, he still potted five goals, including two in his breathtaking performance in Game 7. Iginla is the dominant forward in this series, but he's all the Flames have to rely on from a scoring standpoint. The Wings' lineup of star snipers finally got going a bit against Nashville in Round 1. Robert Lang was dynamic all series, and Brett Hull and Steve Yzerman had key goals late. If Pavel Datsyuk gets rolling, the top lines will be hard to stop.

Edge: Red Wings

DEFENSE

Led by Robyn Regehr and Rhett Warrener, the Flames' blueliners lay some truly punishing hits. It makes them a scary team to forecheck against. But the Red Wings have the thoroughbreds. Nick Lidstrom is playing like his all-world self, while Mathieu Schneider has diversified the Wings' offense tremendously. This could be the last postseason for 42-year-old Chris Chelios, and though he's vulnerable to a darting skater, he can outwill an opponent for the puck. Detroit's defense shut down the Predators completely for long stretches near the end of the series.

Edge: Red Wings

GOALIE

With Manny Legace on the bench, the Wings have turned to veteran Curtis Joseph, who made the stops he had to make in closing out the Predators. He allowed just one goal over the last two games. (Still, he had to make only 43 saves in about seven periods of work.) Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff can be beaten by a relentless attack, but he also goes through long stretches when he seems impenetrable. He has the myriad of skills necessary to stone an offense such as Detroit's.

Edge: Flames

COACHING

The Red Wings' coaches have been disturbingly slow in making adjustments over the past two playoff series. It took them more than two games to adjust to Nashville's superior speed. Calgary's Darryl Sutter coaches on passion, and for the moment, he has his boys believing.

Edge: Flames

SPECIAL TEAMS

Either team can hurt you short-handed. Detroit, though, with all those scoring forwards and some elite skill at the point, has the much more dangerous power play. To make matters worse for Calgary, the Flames' penalty killers took a beating against the Canucks.

Edge: Red Wings

INTANGIBLES

The Flames come in off a physically and emotionally draining series. Calgary's leave-it-all-on-the-ice style was compounded by overtimes in Games 6 and 7, and the question is what will this team have left for Round 2? The Wings woke up after getting a scare from the Predators in the middle games of their opening series, but they've have had some time to relax after beating Nashville going away.

Edge: Red Wings

OVERALL

Detroit's roster, even as aged as it is, is better in too many areas for Calgary to keep up. The Flames will win a game or two on emotion, and because of the seemingly inevitable Detroit letdown. Red Wings win it in six games.

Sports Illustrated senior writer Kostya Kennedy takes sides each week at SI.com.

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