Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Calgary Flames vs. Detroit Red Wings - Pre Series Analysis cont.


The last time the Flames faced Detroit in the playoffs, it was their defensive group that was their strongpoint. Not so anymore. Their are mighty holes in this group, despite their 'brand name' and high draft pick status. Andrei Zyuzin is incredibly inconsistent, even if his play has improved lately, Rhett Warrener, although a tremendous leader, has simply seemed too injured this season to make a difference. Brad Stuart, although physical, seems unable to pick his spots effectively, and his offensive side was highly overrated. Dion Phaneuf has been inconsistent this year, and his biggest weak point has been his defensive zone positioning. I still believe our brightest spots have been the emergence of Marc Giordano as a legitimate two way threat, David Hale as an unheralded defensive stalwart (although small sample of games played), and Robyn Regehr who I think has played very well considering the partners he's been given. Roman Hamrlik has shown he can either be very good or very bad.

That said, I fully expect Dion to explode in the playoffs. His pedegree is that of a big game player, and I was very relieved post playoffs last season to find out he was hobbled by a broken foot. Even Chris Pronger looked bad with a broken foot. Warrener I think will fall into this category. He's been hobbled all year but I suspect he won't play hobbled in the playoffs, I think he'll find a way to be better. Robyn Regehr has consistently saved his best for the playoffs (and other big games, ie World Cup).

Detroit has the best overall defenceman of this series in Nick Lidstrom. He has been the pillar of consistency in all 3 zones his whole career, and he was arguably the best player for Detroit last year. Mathieu Schneider has got some very good offensive chops, and I think he's improved his overall defensive play since he got to Detroit. Danny Markov has shown he can dish out the big hit (Jarret Stoll anyone?). Detroit's last top 4 guy, Niklas Kronwall (pronounced Kronvall), at one point hailed as a 'mini-Lidstrom' guy, is out for the conceivable future, and that puts a big hole in the top 4. Detroit has a couple of options to go with to fill that hole, but judging from TOI, they've decided to go with their own (older and less injury prone) version of Rhett Warrener: Chris Chelios. I think this is a huge hole in Detroit's defence. While fans rave about Chelios' longevity, the fact is he is not very effective anymore. He gets beaten on the outside more often than a top 4 guy should, and the rest of his game is pretty basic at best. Although he scored a goal against Edmonton in the playoffs last year, his biggest contribution was diving at every chance he got. Andreas Lilja and Brett Lebda round out the top 6, and they both play about 15 minutes/game. Lebda in particular has made pretty good use of his ice time, garnering a +16 (3rd on the defence) and 18 pts.

Edge: Detroit

There is a caveat I must put in with my decision, and that is: it depends on a)which defensive group the Flames ice, and b)if the Flames defensive group deals out a liberal serving of physicality. If the Flames are willing to play Giordano and Hale in place of Zyuzin or an injured Warrener, it could make a huge difference. Those two in particular play a nice complimentary role to eachother, and they're both easily capable of 15 minutes/night. In addition, I think top to bottom the Flames defence CAN be more physical. We haven't seen a lot of it this year, but Brad Stuart is pretty consistent, Regehr loves to finish behind the net, Hamrlik can play it tough, Warrener put out Fedoruk last year with a massive hipcheck, and Dion, well, Dion is Dion.

The Wings on the other hand, get an added boost from a superior defensive puck posession system. Their biggest advantage may come from the fact Robyn Regehr is questionable for game 1, and even if he plays, he's probably going to be playing hurt.
Still up: Forwards, coaching, unsung heroes,


Anonymous said...

Great Blog! Nice to see some solid analysis on the upcoming series, which is going to be a good one. Keep up the good work!

San Diego Wingnut

Kyle said...