April 25th, 2003

Playoff Preview

Marc Ciampa

Ottawa (1) vs. Philadelphia (4)
Senators (52-21-8-1, 113 pts); Flyers (45-20-13-4; 107 pts)
Season Series: 2-1-1 Ottawa

After being completely embarrassed by the Senators in last year's playoffs, the Philadelphia Flyers finally get an opportunity to redeem themselves. The only thing likely on the mind of Senators fans is the relief that they don't have to play the Maple Leafs for once. Count on the Flyers to not roll over like they did in the first round last season.

Keys for Ottawa: The reason the Sens were so solid against the Flyers last season was their attention to detail with respect to team defence. Ottawa needs to play a strong team game and overall much better than they did against the Islanders, who failed to capitalize on the Sens' miscues.

Keys for Philadelphia: Roman Cechmanek was not great in the Toronto series. Often he looked shaky as he flopped around on the ice as it was only the Leafs' lack of finish that made him look good. Chances are Ottawa will bury those chances if given the opportunity so he needs to be at the top of his game. Tony Amonte can't go another series without a goal or the Flyers will be golfing 10 days from now.

Prediction: The most intriguing part of this series could be the start as the Flyers are weary from a frantic finish to last round while the Sens could be rusty after disposing of the Islanders in five games. Count on nerves playing a factor in Ottawa as the Senators drop the first two games at home and never recover. Flyers in 6.

New Jersey (2) vs. Tampa Bay (3)
Devils (46-20-10-6; 108 pts); Lightning (36-25-16-5; 93 pts)
Season Series: 1-1-2

With the elimination of Colorado and Detroit, the field is now wide open for the Devils to claim their third Stanley Cup championship. If New Jersey concentrates on the task at hand they should have a relatively easy go of it through to the finals where only Dallas really presents a true obstacle.

Keys for New Jersey: Martin Brodeur is the key to any success the Devils will have in the postseason. As long as he's playing well, the club has just enough offence up front to be successful. Count on Jamie Langenbrunner and John Madden to continue their surprising postseasons. The Devils need more contribution from the likes of Nieuwendyk, Elias and Gomez but that's not necessary for success this round.

Keys for Tampa Bay: Martin St. Louis emerged as a big-time playoff performer last round as the Lightning bounced back from a 2-0 series deficit to dispose of the Caps in six. More clutch goals are going to be needed from Lecavalier and Andreychuk, while Khabibulin will have to play out of this world to outduel Brodeur.

Prediction: The Devils are on a roll and will steamroll past the inexperienced Lightning as they continue their march to the Cup. Devils in 5.

Dallas (1) vs. Anaheim (7)
Stars (46-17-15-4, 111 pts); Mighty Ducks (40-27-9-6; 95 pts)
Season Series: 3-1-1 Dallas

The biggest individual story of these playoffs so far has been the play of Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

Keys for Dallas: Dallas got past the Oilers without the likes of Bill Guerin but they're going to need all their top offensive weapons firing in order to take down Giguere and the Ducks. It also doesn't hurt that the Stars' goaltender Marty Turco isn't too bad himself.

Keys for Anaheim: The biggest individual story of these playoffs so far has been the play of Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Heading into last series there were questions about whether Giguere could handle the pressures of the postseason and he answered them in a big way. If he continues to play as well as he has, there's no telling how far the Ducks will go.

Prediction: Dallas has had some time to prepare for Giguere and they should have him figured out by the time this series is over. Dallas in 7.

Vancouver (4) vs. Minnesota (6)
Canucks (45-23-13-1; 104 pts); Wild (42-29-10-1; 95 pts)
Season Series: 2-2-1

Don't think that the Canucks will be taking this series lightly. Certainly they're glad they won't be facing the Avalanche if only because Vancouver now has home ice advantage this round but the Wild have the ability to frustrate opponents as was shown in the Colorado series. The Wild's playoff slogan this year is "We will not go quietly." Believe it.

Keys for Vancouver: Don't count on the Canucks scoring four or more goals per night on Manny Fernandez and the Wild like they did on Chris Osgood and the Blues. This only means that Dan Cloutier has to be that much better. Todd Bertuzzi needs to play more like he did in the latter half of last series as opposed to his quiet first four games.

Keys for Minnesota: Like Canucks GM Brian Burke stated, "The Minnesota Wild aren't a hockey team, they're a cult." Every single player has bought into the Wild system and that makes for a dangerous hockey team. Certainly a big weakness is lack of offence but they don't need to score much with their team defence and Manny Fernandez. One factor that makes up for the lack of offence is a solid power play. If the Canucks start taking a lot of penalties the series will tilt in Minnesota's favour.

Prediction: While first round upsets are the norm in today's NHL, it's rare to not see the better team advance in round two. It'll be a battle, but Canucks in 7.

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