Anaheim Ducks vs Dallas Stars: Stanley Cup 2014 first-round preview

If you called the Anaheim Ducks finishing first in the Western Conference this season, well-done. Many believed they overachieved to win the Pacific in the 2012-13 lockout shortened 48-game season, but they’ve more than duplicated the achievement, so I guess it wasn’t a fluke.

And, if you had the Dallas Stars making the playoffs this year, that’s impressive. The Stars made a lot of franchise altering moves this past offseason but it was unclear whether those moves would pay dividends so quickly. They did.

The Anaheim Ducks vs the Dallas Stars is an interesting series that elicits some fond memories of postseasons’ past. In the 2003 Stanley Cup playoffs these two franchises competed in one of the most exciting second-round series’ in recent memory. The highlight of the showdown occurred when Petr Sykora scored a series tone setting legendary winner in the fifth overtime of Game One.

Recently, there hasn’t been much to get excited about between these two franchises. But that is all about to change, because the Ducks vs the Stars has the makings of an instant classic.

1. The underdog Stars stand a chance in this one. The Ducks struggled to assert themselves in the postseason one year ago. Should they suffer from the same issues that plagued them against a hard-working Red Wings club in the first-round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Ducks could exit the postseason early, again.

2. Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau has had trouble coaching his teams to playoff success. Whether it be his tenure with the Washington Capitals or last postseason with the Ducks, Boudreau coached clubs have a reputation for strong regular seasons and disappointing playoffs. Coincidence? Undetermined.

3. The Ducks goaltending situation is confusing, at this point. Pending unrestricted free agent and starter for most of the season, Jonas Hiller, has recently been stripped of his starting duties, creating an awkward goaltending conundrum at the wrong time – right before the postseason. If the Ducks run with kid John Gibson between the pipes, who knows what to expect? No one who’s being honest.

Plus, this is a late-night series that will get a lot of attention on the East Coast, so there’s bound to be amplified story-lines and Twitter praise galore.

Stars hot-shots Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn can establish even greater reputations if their incredible regular season performances carry over to a stunning first-round upset over the Anaheim Ducks.

The Ducks: they can prove their critics wrong with a decisive handling of the upstart Stars.

Anaheim Ducks Injuries: W Tim Jackman (hand).

Dallas Stars Injuries: F Rich Peverley (heart surgey), D Brenden Dillon (lower body), LW Ray Whitney (lower body).

Sal’s Prediction: Dallas Stars in 7.

Upsets happen in the Stanley Cup playoffs – they are part of what makes the first-round of the tournament so intriguing and exciting. There is a huge drop off in talent after the Ducks top line, making this series closer than the standings declare. If the Stars can punch back early in the series, they can put the Ducks on the ropes and win out on built momentum and superior goaltending.

Brett’s Prediction: Ducks in 5.

Dallas is a nice story here with the dynamic tandem of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. However, after that things get shady. The scoring depth is questionable, the defence is below average and trying to predict Kari Lehtonen’s performance under the spotlight is anybody’s guess. The Ducks meanwhile have an explosive duo of their own in Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, both performing at Hart trophy level all season. Add in the motivation to perform in Teemu Selanne’s last season and there’s no reason why the Ducks can’t get by big D in round one.