The playoffs are here, and the Phoenix Coyotes and the Detroit Red Wings will meet again in Round One. It has been noted by some that this match-up is the best possible for the Red Wings, but it required seven games for the Red Wings to eliminate the Coyotes last year, and the deciding game was at Phoenix. This time around, the Red Wings have the home ice (dis)advantage, being they played .500 hockey at home this season. The Coyotes also had a .500 home record, so which team will really enjoy playing at home?
The Coyotes lost Shane Doan after the third game last year and he was playing very physical hockey against the Red Wings; given that the series went seven games, it’s fair to say that losing their best player was the difference for the Coyotes. This time, Doan will most assuredly be ready to play. Ray Whitney, Ed Jovanovski, and Keith Yandle are experienced, talented players who can cause the Wings trouble as well. And perhaps most importantly of all, the goaltending advantage goes to Ilya Bryzgalov over Jimmy Howard.
On the other side of the ice, the Red Wings begin the series without Henrik Zetterberg, and he may not play at all. This has to help Phoenix as Zetterberg is one of the best two way players in the NHL, and will be missed by the Red Wings.
The Red Wings displayed several disturbing habits during the season which included too many turnovers leading to odd-man rushes and break aways, sloppy zone play, and too many shots on goal. Teams no longer fear playing in Detroit. In fact, opposing teams seem quite comfortable on the Joe Louis Arena ice. It also shows the parity of the new NHL, as any team can advance no matter what the match-up.
There will be upsets in the first round, but not by the Coyotes. The Red Wings will prevail due to their experience. Some predictions have the Red Wings winning in five or seven games. This writer picks the Red Wings winning in six games, which would be at Phoenix since they play better on the road. This prediction is based on the Red Wings having the second-best road record in the league, but it won’t be easy as some pundits are predicting.