Canucks vs. Ducks - Breakdown
Anaheim made quick work of the defensively sound Wild in the first round and continued to flash their deep scoring attack. They can put the puck in the net and they can play as big as anyone left in the tournament. Their forwards love to hit and as impressive as the Ducks are moving the puck around the rink, they're just as happy to move opponents out of their way, too. The Ducks are mean and nasty and they're on a mission, which could be a lot for the tired Canucks to deal with.
Vancouver didn't score much in the first round. But in the games they scored at least a goal, they came out on top, thanks to the play of Roberto Luongo in net. As good as Luongo was in the first round, he wasn't the best goalie in that series. The second-round matchup with the tandem of Ilya Bryzgalov and J.S. Giguere might also be a classic.
Vancouver Game Breakers
Roberto Luongo: Luongo was great in the first round, but you can make a fine argument that he was not better than Marty Turco, who shut out Vancouver three times in the series. But in the final, deciding game, Luongo was the man, stopping 19 of 20 shots with his season on the line. After allowing Dallas' lone goal in the first period, he was unbeatable. The save he made on Stu Barnes midway through the third period of Game 7 stood up as the biggest one he made in the series, an example of how valuable he is to the Canucks. Now if they would just block a few more shots for him.
Henrik Sedin: When the Canucks needed their stars most in Game 7, Sedin was one of those who admirably stepped up to fight off elimination. Sedin scored the tying goal in the second period against Dallas and then helped to set up Trevor Linden's winner. A shifty playmaker, he led the Canucks with 71 assists in the regular season and will be counted on to find the net more than he did in the first round when he scored two goals against Dallas in the defensive opening series.
Taylor Pyatt: Some people used to call him Taylor "Quiet" because he never really said much, but his play in the playoffs has spoken volumes as he tied for the team lead with five points in the first round. It was Pyatt's empty-net goal in Game 7 that iced the series for the Canucks. Scoring two goals and three assists in the first round was an accomplishment against a dominant Turco and Pyatt figures to attract plenty of attention from the Anaheim defense.
Anaheim Game Breakers
Chris Pronger: He plays defense, as we all know. But Pronger was Anaheim's leading scorer in the first round with two goals and six points in the one-sided series win against Minnesota. In addition to helping produce on the offensive end, Pronger was regularly seeing ice time (a team-high 28:27 per) against the opposition's top scoring lines. In the first round against the Wild, Pronger helped put the clamps on an enemy attack that mustered only nine goals in the series.
Scott Niedermayer: With three Cups on his resume and two of the quickest feet in the game, Niedermayer can literally change a game with a coast-to-coast rush from behind his own net. While Pronger brings the size and strength to the Anaheim blue line, Niedermayer brings loads of playoff experience, the ability to also take on the opponents' top scoring threats, as well as quarterback the Ducks' power play, which was the top-ranked unit in the postseason in the first round. Niedermayer was second on the team in ice time behind Pronger with 27:32 per game.
Francois Beauchemin: You're saying, Where are all the forwards?' But here's the thing when it comes to the Ducks: they have plenty of forwards capable of breaking open a game. Few teams actually have three defensemen capable of doing it, and Beauchemin is probably the most underrated player in the League. Such is life playing behind two thoroughbreds like Pronger and Niedermayer, but the 26-year old Beauchemin has proven to be every bit as good as those two Norris-caliber defensemen. He plays one second less per game than Niedermayer at 27:31 per, suffered a cracked jaw in the first round and was still one of Anaheim's best players with two goals and a plus-1 in the first round. In his first game back after the jaw injury, Beauchemin led all Ducks skaters with 28:32 of ice time.
Trevor Linden: Linden is like a second captain in the Vancouver dressing room. With 119 playoff games under his belt, Linden's experience and street smarts were invaluable with the series on the line against the Stars. He scored the game-winning goal (his second of the tournament) in Game 7 and finished the first round tied with Pyatt for the team scoring lead with five points. At 37-years-old, Linden may not have many more chances to play for the Stanley Cup either.
Teemu Selanne: The Ducks are among the deepest teams left in the tournament, which makes Selanne's scoring output less important than ever. If he can't get it done, the Ducks have plenty of shooters capable of putting the puck in the net. But when Selanne is in the zone, Anaheim is a better team by leaps and bounds. Still one of the dangerous shooters in the game, Selanne scored 48 goals in the regular season. But in the first round, Minnesota's checkers held the Finnish Flash to one goal and two points in the series. Nobody wants to win a Cup in the room more than the 36-year old Selanne, so bank on him finding a groove as the tournament unfolds. Getting him going makes Anaheim that much more monstrous.
Vancouver will win if: they can skate with the Ducks and limit their scoring chances. Luongo is a spectacular goalie capable of snatching an entire series on his own, but the only way the Canucks survive this one is to get down, block more shots, clear the big Anaheim forwards from in front of their net and limit the opposition's chances in transition. They also must stay out of the penalty box against the top-ranked Ducks power play. If they give Anaheim too many chances, this series will be over in a hurry.
Anaheim will win if: they can get to Luongo. The Vancouver defense seems to let a lot get to their goalie and if the Ducks start crashing Luongo's cage like the Stars did in the first round, you're going to see a frustrated goaltender. Luongo took a swipe at some Stars in the first round when they got too close, and the Ducks seem like a team that loves to roll up their sleeves and get dirty. The Anaheim attack is deep and balanced and if they can keep Vancouver's few snipers on the perimeter, it should be an easy advance for the Ducks.