Western Conference Breakdowns
Posted: Thursday May 06, 1999 01:12 PM
We've enlisted the help of SI's Kostya Kennedy to break down the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. His thoughts and predictions follow. To take a look at his preview for the second round in the Eastern Conference, click here.
Dallas Stars (1) vs. St. Louis Blues (5)
St. Louis has better team speed than Dallas and the Blues also have a very well-controlled defensive system that could suffocate the Stars, who have had a lot of trouble scoring goals in the playoffs. Dallas benefitted greatly by sweeping the Oilers, which gave the Stars time for their many wounds to heal. Everyone, save center Guy Carbonneau , should be healthy for this round and the Stars are a deep and confident group. Even with Derian Hatcher out for the first game of the series as he serves the end of his suspension for breaking Jeremy Roenick 's face in the regular season, Dallas appears to outclass the Blues' talent.
The Stars will win if: They can get three goals a game ... they don't suffer the injuries to key players that have crippled them in the past ... they can find a way to limit the effectiveness of either Al MacInnis or Chris Pronger , the Blues' elite defensemen.
The Blues will win if: Goalie Grant Fuhr plays the way he did in their 1-0 Game 7 win over the Coyotes in the first round ... Pierre Turgeon scores consistently ... Pronger and MacInnis don't fall down exhausted from playing 600 minutes a night, each.
Colorado Avalanche (2) vs. Detroit Red Wings (3)
Avalanche forward Theo Fleury is about to burst with joy at being in the second round for the first time in 10 years and he could come out and light things up in the opener. But the Wings do best when they settle in and get into a series-long groove. They have better depth than the Avalanche (particularly with Stephane Yelle out) and they can smell the silver polish on their third straight Cup. The Avalanche has the star power -- read, Joe Sakic , Peter Forsberg , Sandis Ozolinsh and goalie Patrick Roy -- to dominate games, but the Red Wings' fine and skilled leadership ( Steve Yzerman , Igor Larionov , Brendan Shanahan ) will keep them focused even if they get behind. Expect Scotty Bowman to give all of his capable forwards key ice time and, as he always does, use the right players in the right spots. This is could be Scotty's last stand (can we stand ANOTHER immortal retiring?) and he'll pull out all his stops.
The Avalanche will win if: They sweep the first two games at home ... Roy performs brilliantly under pressure, as he is capable of doing ... they get a couple of longshot goals off of Chris Osgood .
The Red Wings will win if : The series goes six or seven ... they rattle Roy with fireplug forwards like Darren McCarty and Martin Lapointe ... none of their top four defensemen get hurt ... Sergei Fedorov plays to his high playoff standards.
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