The Detroit Red Wings have changed goaltenders but they haven’t changed the minds of the oddsmakers.
As they enter the second round of the NHL’s playoffs tonight, with Chris Osgood their starting netminder rather than Dominik Hasek, the Wings remain ranked as the team most likely to garner the Stanley Cup. Oddsmakers rate them as heavy, 2-to-1 favourites to prevail.
Following the Wings are the San Jose Sharks (5-to-2), the Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens (each at 9-to-2), the Dallas Stars and New York Rangers (each at 7-to-1) and the Colorado Avalanche and Philadelphia Flyers (each at 15-to-1).
A look at the second-round matchups:
COLORADO VS. DETROIT
Hasek started in the Wings’ first-round series against the Nashville Predators, but he struggled and was replaced by Osgood, who wound up sparking Detroit by allowing only one goal in nearly eight periods and recording consecutive victories.
Avalanche goalie Jose Theodore was no slouch himself in his squad’s first-round triumph over the Minnesota Wild, and was even reminiscent of his glory days with the Canadiens, but he’ll be facing some sharp-shooting gunners from Detroit, including Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom.
Colorado couldn’t beat Detroit once in their four games during the regular season, so why should things change now?
Wings in four.
PHILADELPHIA VS. MONTREAL
This is a serious mismatch.
The high-flying Habs, the only Canadian-based team still in the playoffs, dominated the Flyers in the regular season and it would be illogical to suggest that rookie goalie Carey Price et al won’t easily subdue them in this series.
Philly’s already exceeded expectations by squeezing past the Washington Capitals in the first round and advancing this far. The party ends for them here.
Canadiens in five.
NEW YORK VS. PITTSBURGH
The Penguins should romp, but:
The Rangers handled the Pens well during the regular season and they have the ultimate x-factor in Sean Avery. He may be “a jerk,” as TSN analyst Mike Milbury described him, but he was a key reason for the Rangers’ first-round upset over the New Jersey Devils and he could easily get in the heads of Pittsburgh stars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury in this series.
The Rangers are peaking.
Rangers in seven.
DALLAS VS. SAN JOSE
While the Stars dethroned the Anaheim Ducks with surprising strength in their first-round series, and while the Sharks had a tough time against the Calgary Flames, look for the opposite in this series.
The Stars simply don’t match up well with Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Jonathan Cheechoo and the other Sharkies.
Sharks in four.