Wild's Rolston breaks down the second round
Brian Rolston is a three-time 30-goal NHL scorer, a three-time U.S Olympian, a Stanley Cup winner (Devils, 1995) and a former NCAA champ with Lake Superior State.
Not a bad résumé. Now, you can add hockey analyst to the list.
We called on the Wild winger, who was just bounced from the playoffs by the Ducks, to help preview the two Western Conference semifinals series.
No. 1 Detroit vs. No. 5 San Jose
Goaltending. There are so many strengths for Detroit. The Wings have great forwards, lots of experience, but I think goaltending is their No. 1 asset. If Dominik Hasek is hot, he can be the best in the league. At this time of year, nothing is more important than strong goaltending, and Hasek has experience and has proven he can win.
Depth up front. Look at the guys they have: Joe Thornton, Jonathan Cheechoo, Patrick Marleau, Bill Guerin. These guys are all amazing players. They are a tough matchup because most of their players up front are very physical, so it will be interesting how they counter Detroit's finesse team. The Sharks are a big, physical, intimidating team.
Defense. It's a tough call. There aren't really too many weaknesses on this team, but if I had to pick one, I would say their overall team defense. They have a good crew of guys on the blue line, but the physical forwards of San Jose might pound them into submission. Mathieu Schneider and Nicklas Lidstrom aren't the biggest guys. I mean, Lidstrom is one of the best in the league, but in a seven-game series against these Sharks forwards, it could really wear him down.
Goaltending. I don't know if Evgeni Nabokov has proven he can win the big games in the end. He has played really well so far, but now he has to deal with one of the best offensive teams in the league, so that could become an issue.
Kris Draper. Guys like Draper and Kirk Maltby, those guys have always been a huge reason the Wings win Stanley Cups. They always show up for the big games. They are hardworking guys who know how to win. They are a pain to play against.
Mike Grier. A lot of times in a series, the top guys will score the goals but it's the other guys that pitch in that can make the difference. A third-line guy like Grier can do a lot. He can score a goal here and there and kill penalties. He's playing really well right now.
• Sharks in 7. This is a really tough call. I think goaltending will be huge in this series. If Nabokov can come up big, San Jose will win. I think this may be a series where he can prove himself. The Sharks are just too strong up front. The Wings have a great team, but I just like the Sharks' overall makeup top to bottom.
No. 2 Anaheim vs. No. 3 Vancouver
Roberto Luongo. He's just huge, first of all. There is never much to shoot at. Positionwise, he's one of the best. I think you don't see a lot of incredible saves out of him because he's always in good position. Guys in the crease or whatever; he doesn't get rattled, he stays cool. He is a complete goaltender. He will always make the first save, so it will be up to the Ducks to go get whatever rebounds are out there.
Scoring up front. They don't score quite so many goals because they play such good team defense. Offensive depth could be troublesome. They use their checking line a lot. They have three really solid lines, and that's basically what they have, period. If they can get by with three lines, that's fine; but if the series drags out, this could be a problem.
Forwards. The production just wasn't there from their big players last series. They have some good skill players, but I don't think they have the best depth up front, especially against this Anaheim defense.
Samuel Pahlsson: The Ducks' checking line played a lot against us in the first round and they are really good. Pahlsson and Rob Niedermayer don't score a lot of goals, but they are solid and can contribute offensively when given the chance. They also play a lot on special teams.
Bryan Smolinski. He's been solid all season. He has a big upside because he's versatile. He can add some offense; he can check; he's tough to play against; and he's a veteran player who usually makes a difference.
• Ducks in 6. I just think their team defense is so strong. It could be interesting if they have trouble beating Luongo. But so far this postseason, we [Minnesota] had great goaltending, Calgary had great goaltending and we're both out.
I think Vancouver will have some serious issues scoring against the Ducks' great team defense, so I don't know if it's enough if Luongo plays great. The only way I see Vancouver getting out of this series is if Pronger or Scott Niedermayer gets hurt. I just think it is so hard to penetrate that defense. If you watch them, their D give you no room in the neutral zone. They always have a forward back, so someone is always in position.
ESPN reporter David Amber is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.
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