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ANA / VAN first look: Finishing off the Northwest Loop

Isn’t hockey a funny sport? First, after the lockout, the NHL decides to foster its divisional rivalries by having the Ducks play its Pacific rivals 8 times a year. Yet somehow, through the magic of actual rivalries (read: playoffs), the Ducks have gone and decided to get busy with the Northwest Division instead.

Over the last two playoffs, the Ducks will now have played all five NW teams in succession:
2006 Round 1: Calgary Flames
2006 Round 2: Colorado Avalanche
2006 Round 3: Edmonton Oilers
2007 Round 1: Minnesota Wild
2007 Round 2: Vancouver Canucks
That will mean that by the end of this series the Ducks will have played 25 - 28 consecutive playoff games against the Northwest—take THAT, Overlord Bettman!

From my offseason mascot cartoon series, here again is that Northwest Division:


From left to right: The Edmonton Oilcan, the Vancouver OrCanuck, the Calgary Flame, the Colorado AvalanchYeti, and the (ouch!) Minny Wild.

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Now on paper, this is an awesome match-up for Anaheim—the Ducks went 3-0-1 against VAN, outscoring them 14-6. But a lot of that was back in November, and I’m certainly not someone who needs reminding about what hot goaltending can do to a playoff series.

Should I start the goaltending controversy in Vancouver, though? Here’s how the VAN netminders fared in their games against Anaheim this season:
Roberto Luongo: 0-3-0, 3.78 GAA, .857 sv%
Danny Sabourin: 1-0-0, 3.13 GAA, .914 sv%
(Hey Vigneault, why not go with the numbers on this one?)
And just for effect:
J.S. Giguere: 3-0-1, 1.50 GAA, .941 sv%
And maybe that’s the thing that’s scary about this match-up: things are looking a little too convenient, a little too easy. Home ice advantage? Check. More rested than the opposition? Check. A team that we dominated in the regular season (and won me a t-shirt)? Check. A goalie who couldn't beat us all year? Check.

My spidey sense is definitely tingling on this one. More to come later; for now—Go Ducks.