Now that Detroit has a playoff spot locked up, the question turns to who are the Red Wings going to play in the first round?
There's no chance that Detroit could catch Phoenix for the 4th overall seed. By way of points they could catch Phoenix but by way of tiebreaking procedures (seed goes to the team with more wins) Detroit would fall to fifth seed still. Technically, Detroit could fall all the way to the 8th seed if they can't earn any points in their remaining four and Colorado picks up 5 points and LA 1 point.
Keep in mind that although Nashville could potentially be the fourth seed if they win out and Phoenix loses out, Detroit would not play them because the Predators and Coyotes would be tied in points and the tiebreakers would Phoenix ahead of Detroit.
With all that mind, which team would you want to play in the first round? We'll go through each of the teams by their current seeding in the West
1. San Jose Sharks
Say what you will about their post-season failures of late, that doesn't make them prone to collapses again necessarily. They've got a solid defense, goaltending and the fourth highest goal scoring in the league. Dany Heatley has made the top line of San Jose a nightmare to defend and Patrick Marleau has had a resurgence in goal scoring this season. The Sharks are also undoubtedly looking to show that they are capable of postseason success given that their last Conference Finals appearance was pre-lockout era.
2. Chicago Blackhawks
Nothing to make the rivalry boil more than a first round exit for either team. The Blackhawks won the division over Detroit and Nashville, their first title since 1992-1993 season but the Red Wings are more than capable of wiping that grin off their face in the first round. Chicago has a great offense, there's no denying that, and their defense has been solid too. But how much does the loss of Brian Campbell affect them down the stretch and is the goaltending as shaky as it looks?
The remaining two after the jump...
3. Vancouver Canucks
Vancouver is an interesting team. They have loads of offensive talent (2nd most goals in the NHL) but have also struggled defensively and in net at times, including an 8 goal night given up by Roberto Luongo. The Sedin twins are one of the best duos of players in the NHL and work together incredibly well. Add in guys like Alex Burrows and 30 goal scorer Mikael Samuelsson and that offense is downright intimidating. The biggest question in my opinion is their division. The Northwest isn't the toughest and that might be a big reason for the Canucks success as they are 14-7-1 against the division. Definitely an interesting team to watch in the first round if the Wings don't play them.
4. Phoenix Coyotes
One of the most dangerous teams in my opinion. The Coyotes have found the answer in net with Ilya Bryzgalov and have a well balanced offense (10 players with 10+ goals, 4 with 15+ goals) that distributes the puck well and plays a good team attack. Bryzgalov is the X-factor in the Phoenix playoff hopes as he is more than capable of carrying the team to the next round with his play in net, much like Jean-Sebastian Giguere, Miikka Kiprusoff, or Jonas Hiller have all done at points. The Coyotes also have one of the hottest players in the NHL as Lee Stempniak has 13 goals in his 15 games with the Coyotes.
My vote: Vancouver. Something about facing them I like better. I think its just a style of play that the Red Wings are able to handle and can have success against.
Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts.