With Detroit's loss to Chicago and Dallas' win over Nashville on Sunday, the Red Wings' first-round playoff picture came into focus and revealed that Detroit will play the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the opening round.
Had Detroit defeated the Blackhawks to claim the Western Conference's first seed, they would have matched up with the Edmonton Oilers.
A first-round matchup with the Mighty Ducks will be better for the Red Wings than one with the Oilers would have been. The Ducks are a more defensive team than the Oilers, allowing only 193 goals this season compared to the 230 goals scored on Edmonton, but are coming into the playoffs with a slightly worse record. Anaheim is 5-2-1-2 in their last ten games, while Edmonton ended the season 5-1-3-1.
Anaheim also plays a less offensive game than Edmonton. The Oilers have scored a total of 231 goals this season while the Mighty Ducks have scored only 203. Edmonton utilizes the speed of forwards Mike Comrie and Radek Dvorak to pressure opposing defenses. The Ducks do not have the same speed at the forward position and can't apply the same amount of pressure.
History is in the favor of a matchup with Anaheim over one with Edmonton. The Red Wings are unbeaten in the playoffs against the Ducks, having swept them in 1997 and 1999. In two series' against Edmonton, the Red Wings are 2-8.
The Ducks are the weaker team from a goaltending standpoint as well. Jean-Sebastien Gigure has never appeared in an NHL playoff game. Edmonton's Tommy Salo has stolen series' from the Dallas Stars in 1997 and Colorado Avalanche in 1998.
Despite not claiming the first seed in the Western Conference, the Red Wings are in good position with their matchup against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. They should not see as tough a series as they would have against the Edmonton Oilers.
Note from the writer, 4/11/2003: Tommy Salo was not the goaltender between the pipes for Edmonton's upsets of Dallas and Colorado in 1997 and 1998, it was instead now-Red Wing Curtis Joseph. I failed to double-check my "facts" and apologize for any confusion. I still stand behind my belief that Anaheim is the better opponent for the Wings to be facing.