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Western Conference finals preview

Western Conference finals preview

Western Conference finals preview and pick

Dallas vs. Detroit

Season series: Red Wings 3-1

Series price: Detroit -200, Dallas +180

When your second-line center leads the playoffs with 11 goals and you have three defensemen with at least seven points through 10 games, it's not hard to see why you're the Stanley Cup favorite.

That’s the balanced attack the Red Wings are bringing to the ice right now and the Dallas Stars are the next team with the tall task of trying to stop them.

The Stars will have to find a way to keep Johan Franzen from scoring. He ripped up nine goals in four games against the Avalanche last round and he now has 26 goals in his last 26 games. Niklas Kronvall, Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski each have at least seven points and there are 12 Wings in total who have scored at least once these playoffs in 10 games.

The Stars have also been winning with balance, which is why we might see these underdogs give a tougher fight in this series than the odds might suggest. Fourteen Stars have goals through 12 games and their top four scorers all have double digits in points.

The three centers of Mike Rebeiro, Brad Richards and Mike Modano have been the anchors for three strong lines and each player has at least six assists and 10 points coming into Detroit. They’re also getting great goaltending from Marty Turco, who has the second-best goals against average after two rounds.

Detroit’s Chris Osgood has the best GAA so far at 1.52 so we can expect some low over/unders at least in the early going of this series. Both teams also like to play defensive styles, so scoring goals won’t come easily.

Special teams might be the deciding factor in this series and right now it’s tough to find an edge. Detroit scored seven power play goals in the sweep over Colorado, but the Wings also allowed two power play goals in each of their last two games.

Dallas scored at a rate of 22.7 percent against San Jose’s solid penalty killing unit last round and allowed only two PP goals against. 

Pick: Detroit in six games

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Re: Western Conference finals preview

Western Conference Finals Preview
By Judd Hall

No. 1 Detroit Red Wings vs. No. 5 Dallas Stars

Series Price: Detroit -280, Dallas +240

Series Format: Detroit, 2-2-1-1-1

Skinny: I think for the first time in a while, the best two teams in the Western Conference have made to the finals.

Detroit got through the Predators reasonably clean aside from the fact that Dominik Hasek was poor between the pipes. Enter Chris Osgood and all of the sudden the Red Wings had a goaltender that has gone 6-0 with a 1.52 Goals Against Average and 93.7 save percentage for the playoffs.

The Red Wings also have taken advantage of lesser goaltending during the postseason to post 38 goals en route to the West Finals. Johan Franzen, who found the back of the net just 27 times in the regular season, leads the Wings with 11 goals in as many playoff appearances.

To be fair, Franzen’s scoring touch extends well into the regular season though. He scored 15 goals in his last 16 games from March 2 on.

Dallas comes into this series as a highly skilled, extremely hard-working squad. The Stars came in third in terms playoff goals scored (35), while being the third most penalized team remaining (134 PIM).

The Stars numbers are much more impressive when you consider they had the tougher path to trek to this point. First, they had to oust the defending Stanley Cup champs in six games. Then the Stars had to push the hot Sharks out to the golf course this last round in six as well.

Dallas also received top notch offensive success came from Mike Ribeiro (14 points), Brenden Morrow (11 points), Brad Richards (11 points) and Mike Modano (10 points) pacing the team.

Yet we can’t forget to talk up Sergei Zubov’s five points during the series with San Jose. His return to the ice is important as it gives the Stars’ blue line an imposing figure that has allowed just two goals per game this postseason.

Marty Turco even looks like he may have shaken off the stigma of being a playoff underachiever. He’s gone 8-4 with a 1.73 GAA and 92.9 save percentage this postseason. I must be fair when I say that he gave up some of the softest goals I’d ever seen in Games 4 and 5 against San Jose. Turco was forgiven by stopping 61 shots…you heard me right…61 SOG in Dallas’ 2-1 quadruple overtime victory.

Gambling Notes:
Well, if you’re looking at playing totals in this series, you may want to take a pass for the first two games.

Detroit is on a 4-0 ‘over’ run thanks to Avalanche’s Jose Theodore having an aversion to actually stopping the puck in the second round. The Stars, on the other hand, have seen the ‘under’ go 3-0-1 in their last four playoff tilts.

If you must play on the combined score right away, take a look at the ‘over’ as it is 5-1-3 for the Stars in their last nine road contests this year.

The season series went three-games-to-one in favor of the Red Wings. That record is misleading as some of those matches were played when the Stars couldn’t lace up the skates properly, much less find the goal on their own.

Outlook: Much is being made about Detroit being at full strength after a good month of being down by at least two men. Well, Dallas is just as healthy at this point of the season. Plus the Stars won’t be out of sync like the Wings will be after a week off from playing.

The bottom line for me is that the Stars are the hottest team in the NHL for my money right now. And you’re getting a great value amongst the sportsbooks to take Dallas to win the series.

Besides, Dallas has only lost one of its three Western Conference Finals appearances…which happened to be against the Red Wings.

Don’t let that sway you to the other side, consider it a spot for revenge as the Stars win in six.

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