1 STARS (46-17-15-4)
8 OILERS (36-26-11-9)
SEASON SERIES Dallas 3-1-0-0
TELLING STAT Two Stars, Kirk Muller and Jason Arnott, have scored Cup-winning goals, Muller for the 1993 Canadiens, Arnott for the 2000 Devils.
This will be an up-tempo, physical series. Dallas is banged up (box, page 67) but has the NHL's top defensive shutdown tandem in Derian Hatcher and Sergei Zubov. Expect Hatcher to be matched against wing Ryan Smyth, who loves to crash the crease. To be successful, Edmonton needs to contain explosive center Mike Modano; that job will likely go to defenseman Eric Brewer, 23. The Oilers also need to stay out of the box because their penalty killers are no match for Dallas's outstanding power play. Stars in six.
2 RED WINGS (48-20-10-4)
7 MIGHTY DUCKS (40-27-9-6)
SEASON SERIES Detroit 3-1-0-0
The Mighty Ducks were the NHL's most improved team, increasing their point total from 69 in 2001-02 to 95 this season.
A puck-possession team, Anaheim must do well on face-offs to have a chance against the defending champions. If Detroit dominates on draws, the Red Wings will control the play, pressure the inexperienced Mighty Ducks defense and create havoc for goaltender J.S. Giguere. Detroit's blue line was bolstered by the late-season acquisition of veteran Mathieu Schneider, who teams with Chris Chelios to form a tough and skillful tandem. Expect them to line up against Anaheim's top scorer, Paul Kariya. Wings in five.
3 AVALANCHE (42-19-13-8)
6 WILD (42-29-10-1)
SEASON SERIES Colorado 2-0-2-1
Minnesota's Dwayne Roloson and Manny Fernandez had a combined .926 save percentage, best among NHL netminding duos.
This seems to be a mismatch in Colorado's favor. The Avalanche was among the NHL's hottest teams down the stretch and had the league's only 50-goal scorer ( Milan Hejduk) and best playmaker ( Peter Forsberg). To keep the series close the Wild must play a tight checking style, or Colorado's offensive depth will blow away the Minnesota goalies. Expect Wild speedsters Marian Gaborik and Cliff Ronning to get a steady hammering from the Avs' physical blueliners, led by Adam Foote. Avalanche in five.
4 CANUCKS (45-23-13-1)
5 BLUES (41-24-11-6)