1 Red Wings vs. 8 Canucks
SEASON SERIES: Detroit 3-1-0
TELLING STAT: Among playoff teams, Vancouver is second youngest (average: 27.2), the Wings the oldest (30.8).
With the league's two highest-scoring offenses, this series will be a shootout and the best first-round matchup. Detroit's key is to keep D Nicklas Lidstrom from taking a pounding, especially from Matt Cooke, an underrated bodychecker. Meanwhile, the Wings will try similar strong-arm tactics against Todd Bertuzzi and Ed Jovanovski—they must maintain their discipline for the Canucks to have a chance. Detroit has a big edge in goal and experience. Wings in six.
2 Avalanche vs. 7 Kings
SEASON SERIES: Tied 2-2-0
TELLING STAT: L.A. led the NHL in power-play rate (20.7%) and tied for the lead in man-advantage goals (73).
With Colorado's star Peter Forsberg still on the sidelines after undergoing ankle surgery and sniper Milan Hejduk out with an abdominal strain, don't be surprised to see the usually tight-checking Kings play run-and-gun with the scoring-challenged defending champions. Both clubs excel on special teams, and the Avalanche has the advantage in net with Patrick Roy, but the healthier Kings will null the unset. Los Angeles in seven.
3 Sharks vs. 6 Coyotes
SEASON SERIES: San Jose 3-2-0
TELLING STAT: After the Olympic break Phoenix went 15-5-1-2 for a Western Conference-best 33 points.
The Sharks go to the net as hard as any other team in the league, so the Coyotes will need to clear traffic in front of goalie Sear Burke. San Jose's Mike Ricci, Niklas Sundstrom and Scott Thornton make up the best third line in hockey—watch them shut down Phoenix's young scorers Daniel Bri�re and Daymond Langkow. The Sharks are also aggressive on the penalty kill, scoring more shorthanded goals than any team but the Bruins. San Jose in five.