The Series: #3 Detroit Red Wings (47-25-10, 105 pts.) vs. #6 Phoenix Coyotes (43-26-13, 99 pts.)
Regular Season: 2-2 Coyotes, 12GF/11GA. Three of the four games between these two clubs went past regulation, with the Coyotes winning the lone regulation decision and adding a shootout victory, while the Red Wings won a pair in overtime.
History: In the history of the Coyotes franchise, the Detroit Red Wings loom relatively large. Not only were the Red Wings the last team to beat the Winnipeg Jets, but of the six times that the Coyotes have made the playoffs the Wings have been the team to oust them on two occasions – including last season.
The Case For Detroit: The Detroit Red Wings hardly need a case to be made for them. They’re a perennial power in the league, as witnessed by two trips to the Stanley Cup finals since the NHL lockout. Only Vancouver scored more goals than the Red Wings did this season, and Detroit was lethal both 5-on-5 (fifth in the league) and 5-on-4 (second in the league). This despite injuries to key players like Pavel Datsyuk and Brian Rafalski.
The Case For Phoenix: The Coyotes were a better five-on-five team than the Red Wings this year. In net, Ilya Bryzgalov is clearly a better option than Jimmy Howard. They have a deep and capable assortment of forwards, with no real stars (with the possible exception of Shane Doan. Of note – no Coyotes regular finished the season as a minus player.
- 5-on-5 GF/GA Ratio: Phoenix, 1.17 (4th); Detroit, 1.02 (15th)
- PP: Detroit, 22.3% (5th); Phoenix, 15.9 (23rd)
- PK: Detroit 82.3% (17th); Phoenix 78.4% (26th)
- Goal Differential/Game: Detroit, +0.24; Phoenix, +0.08
Key Matchup: The Detroit Red Wings power play versus the Phoenix Coyotes penalty kill. Going off the regular season results, Phoenix has a slight edge on the Red Wings at five-on-five, but that advantage disappears on special teams. The worst imbalance is in our key matchup: the Red Wings are dynamite with the man advantage, and the Coyotes are awful on the penalty kill. I suspect that will be the difference.
Prediction: I have some doubts that this Red Wings team is quite the same calibre as some of the others we’ve seen over the last few years, and there are things to like about the Coyotes. Still, looking at the rosters it feels like there’s some discernable gap here. Red Wings in six.