West predictions: Wings, Hawks rematch on horizon
A quick glance the at the Western Conference semifinals:
(1) San Jose (51-20-11, 113 points) vs. (5) Detroit (44-24-14, 102 points)
The skinny: San Jose head coach Todd McLellan spent three seasons as an assistant in Detroit under Mike Babcock. The Sharks haven't played since last Saturday. Detroit won the first three meetings this season before San Jose salvaged the final meeting with a 3-2 shootout victory at Joe Louis Arena on Feb. 11, when Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov made 50 saves.
This series features two 40-year-old defenders in San Jose's Rob Bake and Detroit's Nik Lidstrom, who scored twice in the Wings seven-game clincher in Phoenix on Tuesday. The two teams met in the conference semis three years ago with the Wings prevailing. Babcock coached Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle on the Canadian Olympic team.
Season series — Detroit 3-0-1
- Jeff Marek — Detroit in 6.
- Scott Morrison — Detroit in 6.
- Tim Wharnsby — Detroit in 6.
(2) Chicago (52-22-8, 112 points) vs. (3) Vancouver (49-28-5, 103 points)
The skinny: This is a rematch from the Blackhawks six-game victory in the second round last spring. Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo shed a tear after his team was eliminated at the United Center. The rivalry was heated every time the two teams met this season. Canucks defenceman Willie Mitchell clobbered Chicago's Jonathan Toews with an open-ice hit that sidelined the Hawks captain for six games with a concussion. Vancouver's Ryan Kesler and Hawks sniper Patrick Kane played together on the U.S. Olympic team and are friends.
Will be interesting to see if Canucks forward Mikael Samuelsson, who scored seven times in the opening round, can beat Chicago in back-to-back seasons. He helped the Red Wings take care of the Hawks in the conference final last year. The Canucks penalty-killing unit has to be better against the high-flying Hawks than it was in the first round against Los Angeles.
Season series — Tied 2-2-0
- Jeff Marek — Chicago in 6.
- Scott Morrison — Chicago in 6.
- Tim Wharnsby — Vancouver in 7.
Overall first-round records
- Jeff Marek — 6-2.
- Scott Morrison — 5-3.
- Tim Wharnsby — 4-4.