Series breakdown: Sharks (2) vs. Red Wings (3)
Regular-season series: Sharks win, 3-1
Snapshot: If Alex Burrows didn't score in overtime of Game 7, if Chicago found a way to win, the Red Wings would have opened the second round at home against Nashville. But thanks to Burrows, Detroit has to start its next series in the deafening H-P Pavilion, where the Sharks hope to keep the Wings tangled up in teal for a second straight year. They met in the Western semis last year, with San Jose winning in a surprisingly easy five games. Don't count on that being the case this time.
For starters, Pavel Datsyuk is back at the top of his game for the Wings. The wondrous Russian center might be the toughest player in the league to check because he never skates in a straight line. For another, Henrik Zetterberg said he's ready to go again after missing the first round with a knee injury. The Wings haven't played since April 20, so rust would normally be a concern. But with so many older players, the time off will likely do them a world of good.
If San Jose had trouble keeping the short-handed Kings off the scoreboard in the first round, how will they do against the high-octane Winged Wheel?
Spotlight's on: Antti Niemi. His numbers in the first round (3.99 GAA, .863 save percentage) don't inspire great confidence in the Sharks' netminder going forward. Luckily for Niemi, he continues to play for playoff teams that give him a lot of goal support. He's shown the ability to make the saves when his team really needs them, and he had a strong second half for the Sharks. Still, there's a feeling among some hockey people that Niemi's about to be exposed once and for all in this series.
X-Factor for Red Wings: Johan Franzen. He says he'll be ready to go for Game 1, though Detroit is known for putting a smiley-face on injury situations when the truth might be otherwise. Franzen missed Game 4 of Detroit's first-round sweep of Phoenix with a lower-body injury, believed to be to an ankle. Even if he isn't at full strength, his presence would create the same match-up problems for San Jose's defense as it does for every other NHL team.
X-Factor for Sharks: Douglas Murray. The 6-3, 240-pound Swedish defenseman was credited with 24 hits in the first round against the Kings. If he can register that many or more against Detroit, it will give San Jose a much better chance at victory. Trouble is, you've got to catch the Wings first -- not an easy chore. Murray will have to walk the fine line of being physical enough in front of the net -- where fellow Swedes Franzen and Holmstrom like to lurk -- and not being so brutal that he leaves his team short-handed against a dynamic Detroit power play.
The Pick: Red Wings in six.