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STRADER'S BLOG: CONFERENCE FINALS

Tuesday, 05.06.2008 / 4:26 PM / Features
By Dave Strader


Hello Coyotes Fans!

Here’s a quick update on my second round observations before I head out on the road again for the Western Conference Finals on NHL Radio.

My first assignment in the second round was game 4 of the Detroit-Colorado series for
NHL Radio. Detroit put on an offensive display that I hadn’t seen since the “Russian 5”
performed for the Wings in the mid-nineties.

Coach Mike Babcock was able to keep the line of Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Holmstrom together because of the outstanding play of the Filppula-Franzen-Samuelsson line. In the first round against Nashville, Babcock sometimes split up Datsyuk and Zetterberg so the Predators couldn’t focus on these guys on the same line. This was something that the Wings did occasionally during the regular season, especially on the road. But the elevated play of Samuelsson and the emergence of Franzen as a potential Conn Smythe Trophy candidate enabled Babcock to keep his top two lines intact and the Avs couldn’t contain either one. The Zetterberg line accounted for 3 goals and 5 assists while the Franzen line had 5 goals and 2 assists in the series clincher.

It was special to be there to witness such artistry on ice, but at the same time, I felt sorry
for Joel Quennville, Tony Granato and the rest of the Colorado staff and management.
They had done such a terrific job to keep the Avs in the playoff race despite so many key
injuries throughout the season. Then, they made the big move to get Forsberg before the
trade deadline. When the playoffs began, a healthy Avs squad had a chance to go deep in
these playoffs.

After eliminating the Minnesota Wild in six games and getting such a dominating performance from Forsberg in game 6, it looked like the Avs were poised to give the Wings all they could handle. But injuries to Forsberg, Smyth, Wolski, Stastny as well as Svatos and Clark left Colorado a mere shell of the team that could have challenged for a spot in the Stanley Cup Final.

I left Denver for Montreal and Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Semi-Final against
the Philadelphia Flyers on Versus. This series really surprised me from the standpoint of
the Flyers ability to negate the vaunted Canadiens’ power play and the fact that Marty
Biron totally outplayed Carey Price in goal. The Flyers have managed to advance to the
Eastern Conference Final while getting just one goal from their defense (Derian Hatcher),
but they’ve more than made up for that with the emergence of R. J. Umberger as a goal
scoring threat. After scoring just 13 goals during the season, Umberger is leading the way
for the Flyers in the post-season with 9 tallies.


Western Conference Finals

I heard Drew Remenda, the fine TV analyst for Sharks’TV, talking on XM Radio today about San Jose being a faster team than Dallas, but the Stars played the game at a quicker pace than the Sharks. Dallas’ ability to play at a quick pace will be put to the ultimate test against a Detroit team that is running like a well oiled machine. This matchup may also feature the two best teams at “paying attention to the small details”. Dallas has the goaltending, the system and enough talent to keep every game close. Their captain, Brendan Morrow, is playing like a man possessed. Detroit also has solid goaltending, a little more depth of talent, and I like the experience and depth of their defense corps. And speaking of playing like a man possessed....how about Johan Franzen? Detroit in 6 or 7.

Eastern Conference Finals

The only series I picked wrong in the second round was Philadelphia-Montreal. Not only did I pick the wrong team, I thought the Canadiens would win in 5 games. Oops! I have a new found respect for this Flyers’ team, but they are facing the kind of obstacle that Dallas is facing in the West. Philadelphia does have seven 20+ goal scorers (five had 28+ during the season), but the Penguins have more game breakers. The combo of Malkin and Crosby will be too much for the Flyers. I like the Penguins in 6.


I’ll be calling all the games in the Detroit-Dallas Series with Jim Fox (Los Angeles Kings TV Analyst) in the booth, and Brian Hayward (Anaheim Ducks TV Analyst) doing the sideline reporting for NHL Radio and Westwood One. All the games can be heard on XM Radio (Channel 204 or 205).


PS- I just wanted to let Coyotes’ fans know that I stay in touch on a daily basis with Panger, who is up in Toronto working for TSN. It’s great when something happens in one of the games I’m covering; I send a text to Panger and ask him “What did you think of that play?” Not only can I get Panger’s perspective, but he is working with a terrific group of hockey people that includes Bob McKenzie, James Duthie and Darren Dreger. Also, Panger and I will be getting together in Ottawa for the NHL Draft in June and providing coverage of the Coyotes’ selections for PhoenixCoyotes.com. I can’t wait!
 
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