Greetings Phoenix Coyotes fans. This week the FFH staff are again joined by special guest. This week's guest is Craig Morgan. Craig is a correspondent for Fox Sports Arizona and CBSsports.com. You've likely seen him on Coyotes pre-game broadcasts on Fox Sports Arizona from time to time as well. He also writes a weekly column on parenting that appears in The Arizona Republic. You can also follow him on Twitter. This week's title sums up what what we will be discussing, so let's go straight to the questions/answers.
The Coyotes will once again face the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Can they take them down this time?
Craig - Sure they can. They came close last year with Shane Doan on the shelf, but they certainly don't want it to come down to Game 7 in Detroit. I think the Red Wings are more vulnerable defensively this year and the numbers bear it out. They give up a lot more quality chances than they used to and I'm still not sold on Jimmy Howard. Phoenix must consistently frustrate Detroit's elite players, avoid getting into a skating game, get a body on Holmstrom and be especially strong on the PK to offset what will continue to be a below-average PP.
Paul - I have no doubt that the Coyotes will fare better against the Red Wings this year. Doan will be healthy and they have that experience of getting bounced that will drive them. The specialty teams play must be better for this task to be an easier one - playing disciplined hockey will be another key for victory.
Jordan - Absolutely. The Coyotes took points in all four games against the Red Wings this year and will play a physical, defense-first style that should frustrate the skilled Detroit offensive attack. The real key will be staying out of the penalty box and keeping the front of the crease clear of Tomas Holmstrom and Todd Bertuzzi.
Carl - The Desert Dogs can definitely win the series. As several folks before have mentioned, special teams play will be critical.
Ben - We were 2-0-2 with the Wings this year, including a win at the Joe. Pair that with last year's 7 game playoff series, and I think we match up nicely with them. If we can win one of the first two at the Joe we will be in great shape for the rest of the series.
Travis - They can and they will. The Wings are still the Wings, but while the Coyotes may not have as many points as they did last year, in many ways they're better and deeper than they were last year. While it'll still be a tough series to be sure, the Wings aren't exactly coming in playing their best hockey and are a little beat up. Jimmy Howard hasn't had the same kind of season either and he's definitely beatable. I just want Shane Doan to stay healthy and be a wrecking ball in the postseason again. The games he played in last time out were awesome.
What Coyotes player do you think has the chance to break out with a unexpected playoff performance?
Craig - Lauri Korpikoski on the offensive end and Martin Hanzal on the defensive end. Korpikoski's north-south speed game plays well against the Red Wings and Hanzal will get a chance to shut down Detroit's elite centers. Somebody had better shut down Datsyuk. He looked unreal Sunday against Chicago.
Paul - I'm looking to Lauri Korpikoski and hoping that Lee Stempniak gets hot.
Jordan - I don't know that it will be unexpected, but I really don't think people realize just how good Shane Doan is going to be in this series. He's not going to get hurt by trying to avoid a collision with Jimmy Howard this year and the wrecking ball that we saw in the first two games is going to be a big factor in this series. I'd also say that Lauri Korpikoski is going to get a bit more attention as a stand-out player.
Carl - Guys like Hanzal, Vrbata, Yandle, and Korpikoski have all played well against the Wings in the past and I expect that to continue. For a surprise I'm going with Taylor Pyatt. He's played well all season and his ability to crash the net is tailor made for the postseason.
Ben - Hanzal, being injured for most of the stretch run, I think, will provide an offensive and competitive spark in him.
Travis - Unexpected? I'm not sure anyone will have some sort of surprise breakout, but Lauri Korpikoski always shows up big against Detroit. For some reason they like giving up highlight shorthanded goals to him. That would be pretty nice. Other than that If Kyle Turris could breakout and have a big series that would be great. He really put in a lot of effort over the last few games though it didn't turn into goals for him. He was finding open ice but just had good saves made against him.
Last year Montreal surprised the hockey world by knocking of the President's Trophy winners the Washington Capitals and the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in successive series. Who will be this year's surprise team?
Craig - I like the Ducks. They're on a roll right now (15-5 over their last 20 games) and Corey Perry is my MVP. They're going to have to earn it against a pesky Nashville club and then, likely the Canucks, but they appear to be peaking at the right time.
Jordan - I don't know that the Blackhawks surprising folks would be a surprise, but as an 8 seed, winning the first round series against Vancouver would probably surprise at least some. Considering how tight that series has been the past few years now, I wouldn't put it past Chicago to win it. Pretty much any team in the West, I think, has the ability to win their first round series, so I won't consider anything a surprise. In the East, I think the difference between the top and bottom seeds is a bit larger, so if any of those bottom seeds win, I'd consider that a bit surprising.
Carl - The Predators. Similar to the Coyotes they've never won a playoff series. However, after years of getting bad matchups for their style of play, they finally have the perfect first round opponent in Anaheim. The Ducks are only two lines deep and the Preds have shown that when they are healthy they can slow down the Bobby Ryan - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry line. The Preds went 3-1 against the Ducks in the regular season and their only loss happened when Pekka Rinne & Ryan Suter were out hurt. Also, if/when they get past Anaheim, the Preds should have a shot to advance even further as they held their own against the other top 3 seeds in the West during the regular season.
Ben - Who plays the Capitals in the first round this year? Just kidding Carl. My choice, of course, will be the perennial "underdogs" The Coyotes.
Travis - I honestly don't know that anyone would be a "surprise" this year unless the Rangers win early. Everyone seems to be all over the place with picks because the lower seeds aren't that far off of the higher ones this time around. Sure Seeing Vancouver get bounced would be impressive, but not surprising since they drew Chicago. I guess if I have to pick one I'll go with the Bruins. Mostly because I hate them.
Conversely, who is going to be this year's Washington Capitals and flame out early in the playoffs?
Craig - Crazy as it sounds, I'm picking the Canucks. They had the best power play, the third-best penalty kill, the best goal differential and the best record, but since the Presidents' Trophy was introduced in the 1985-86 season, only seven of the 28 teams that have won the award went on to win the Stanley Cup.
It's not that it's a curse, it's that it adds intense pressure to a team. You've been top dog all season and you're expected to maintain that, but lose Game 1 in your playoff series and all of those accomplishments go out the window and you're suddenly in unfamiliar territory. Add to that Vancouver's playoff history and a blue line on which I am still not sold and you have the potential for a flame out. Then consider the Canucks' road. The Blackhawks didn't look imposing in the regular season, but they won the Cup last year and will clean the slate when the playoffs start. They've bounced the Canucks the past two seasons and will get a rested Dave Bolland back for this series. He helped shut down the Sedins last year and easily could have won the Conn Smythe for his role in shutting down every opponent's top line.
If Chicago doesn't get it done, a red-hot Anaheim (15-5 over its last 20) club awaits in the next round with strong goaltending and red-hot Corey Perry. Vancouver is trying to become the first Canadian team to win the Cup since Montreal in 1993.
Paul - The Flyers will be the flame out team this year (sorry Jordan!). I see the top teams (save for Detroit) getting through the first round in the West.
Jordan - As much as it pains me to say it, I'm a bit worried about the Flyers coming off of a fairly off month of March and seeing some goaltending questions crop up. I think with Chris Pronger likely to return, they should be fine, but a hot Ryan Miller could spell trouble for them. In the West, I'd say Vancouver drew a pretty unfavorable match-up in Chicago and that could spell their early demise.
Carl - I think it will be either the Canucks or Flyers due to key injuries. The Canucks without Manny Malhotra are an easier team to play, especially for a team like the Blackhawks who have depth problems of their own. The Flyers aren't the same intimidating team without the presence of Chris Pronger on the blueline. If he is unable to play or is ineffective when he returns more pressure will be placed upon rookie netminder Sergei Bobrovsky. If I had to choose between the two teams I'm going with the Canucks because I trust the Flyers to be able to handle adversity better.
Ben - The Canucks, that Presidents trophy is a curse I tell 'ya.
Travis - The Capitals or the Flyers. You're welcome guys ;)