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Jim Kelley

 
   
 

No. 1 Detroit vs. No. 8 Vancouver

Strengths: The Red Wings would seem to have it all, size, speed, scoring, great defense and goaltending, the winningest coach and one of the best coaching staffs ever. Put the winged wheel on the ice and it looks like a living, breathing Hall of Fame with the likes of Bowman (already in the Hall) Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, Brendan Shanahan, Sergei Federov, Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Chelios, Dominik Hasek and maybe even Igor Larionov likely to some day go in. Overall a great offense and quite possibly the league's best defensive team. Whew. Vancouver can't counter that, but it does have some size and speed and two very good scorers in captain Markus Naslund and winger Todd Bertuzzi. There's also a good supporting cast of scorers, a credible defense led by the tough and talented Ed Jovanovski and an up-and-coming goalie in Daniel Cloutier. Weaknesses: The Red Wings have none unless you count age. Father time could work against this elderly collection, there's also maybe not quite enough toughness in the forward ranks for a really bruising series. The Canucks can get pushed around down low and also don't get back on transition as well as they might largely because their defensemen are often up and involved in the offensive play. While there is some concern as to whether or not Hasek is "The Dominator" of old, there is certainly much more concern as to whether or not the still-young Cloutier can keep his oft-times excitable emotions in check. Outlook: Look, a series of heavy-hitting teams could eventually slow the Red Wings down, but it likely won't happen this early. Vancouver will scare the heck out of Red Wings fans with some timely goals, but unless there are injuries galore or Hasek goes south early, there's just too much of everything on the Red Wing side of the line. Prediction: Detroit is five games.
Tagged: Red Wings, Canucks, Dominik Hasek, Chris Chelios, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brendan Shanahan, Luc Robitaille, Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Markus Naslund, Ed Jovanovski

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