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WESTERN CONFERENCE
Pierre McGuire
April 12, 2004
In analyzing the first-round matchups, SI's Pierre McGuire predicts two big surprises and one long series
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April 12, 2004

Western Conference

In analyzing the first-round matchups, SI's Pierre McGuire predicts two big surprises and one long series

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(48-21-11-2) RED WINGS 1 vs. 8 PREDATORS (38-29-11-4)

SEASON SERIES: 3-3-0
UPSETOMETER: No Shot

Detroit has experience, skill and firepower: Expect scorching play from snipers Pavel Datsyuk and Brett Hull. The Red Wings can clamp down with a bolstered defense; they added Derian Hatcher before the season, and veteran Mathieu Schneider is having his best season. If Nashville has an edge, it's that goalie Tomas Vokoun can steal a game. But for the Predators, making the playoffs for the first time in their six-year history was their Stanley Cup. There will be no meltdown for Detroit this year. Wings in five.

(42-21-12-6) SHARKS 2 vs. 7 BLUES (39-30-11-2)

SEASON SERIES: 2-2-0
UPSETOMETER: Just a bounce away

San Jose is the NHL's most underrated team, relying on little-known forwards such as Nils Ekman and Jonathan Cheechoo as well as a solid, unheralded defense that needs to get physical against St. Louis's powerhouse forwards Keith Tkachuk and Pavol Demitra. Blues defenseman Chris Pronger will be a target for Sharks forecheckers. San Jose's strong penalty killing (ranked No. 7, up from last in '02-03) is evidence of the fine job coach Ron Wilson has done in his first full season with the team. Sharks in seven.

(43-24-10-5) CANUCKS 3 vs. 6 FLAMES (42-30-7-3)

SEASON SERIES: Canucks, 3-2-1
UPSETOMETER: Upset special!

Center Matt Cooke, who brings a pit-bull mentality to every shift, has done an excellent job replacing the suspended Todd Bertuzzi on Vancouver's first line. The problem for the Canucks is that Calgary plays the NHL's most ferocious physical style. Led by defensemen Robyn Regehr and Rhett Warrener, and by forwards Shean Donovan and Craig Conroy, the Flames finish their checks and land devastating open-ice hits. Calgary also wins the goalie matchup, Miikka Kiprusoff over Dan Cloutier. Flames in six.

(40-22-13-7) AVALANCHE 4 vs. 5 STARS (41-26-13-2)

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