The Red Wings had no one among the top 25 goal scorers or in the scoring race, but their 253 goals ranked them second in the West to Colorado. The Kings' top line of Adam Deadmarsh, Jozef Stumpel and Ziggy Palffy must score early and often. A bad knee contributed to Bryan Smolinski's scoreless series against Detroit last spring. He and linemates Luc Robitaille and Glen Murray must be aggressive and productive to keep this from being a rout. Edge: Red Wings.
Chris Chelios and Larry Murphy are dinosaurs and Steve Duchesne is no pup, but Nicklas Lidstrom is having a Norris Trophy-caliber season and is smooth and smart. The Kings' defense is more mobile and probably more physical. Edge: Even.
Chris Osgood has played for two Stanley Cup winners but might never get any respect. Backup Manny Legace did a splendid job but might not be able to do it over the long haul. Both will probably play in the series. Felix Potvin (13-5-5, 1.96 goals-against average and .919 save percentage) is the reason the Kings made the playoffs. They hope to ride him as long as they can. Edge: Kings.
The Red Wings had the NHL's second-best power play, at 22.1%. The Kings were in the top five most of the season but faded to seventh, at 19.3%, after they traded Rob Blake. Robitaille led the team with 16 power-play goals. Look for Deadmarsh to battle for rebounds and deflections in front of the net. Edge: Red Wings.
Detroit ranked sixth, at 85.7%, while the Kings were 24th after a late-season improvement brought them to 81.2%, below the NHL average of 83.4%. The Kings were fourth in short-handed goals with 14, led by Palffy's four. The Edge: Red Wings.
Scotty Bowman has eight Stanley Cup rings and intimidates referees, mainly because he knows the rules better than they do. Bowman has done an excellent job in adapting to yet another decade and another team. Murray merits kudos for keeping the Kings together when they were about to drop out of the playoff race. Edge: Red Wings.
The Red Wings set a club record with a season-ending 17-0-2 streak at Joe Louis Arena. Fans create a great atmosphere of standing-room-only crowds and ear-splitting cheers. The Kings ended with a 9-1-3 surge at Staples Center. The lower bowl is usually less populated than the upper reaches, and empty seats detract from the frenzy. There's also a loud contingent of Red Wing fans in the building. But think of the special playoff "South Park" cartoons on the video board. Edge: Red Wings.
Prediction: Red Wings in five, or in six if Potvin really excels.