Scout's-eye view

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 5:04 PM ET


 Members of the media have made their prognostications.

 Even the wheel-spinning monkey on TSN has predicted the winners and losers of this year's NHL playoffs.

 But what about people actually paid to scout the game?

 We asked an Eastern Conference bird-dogger to provide his insight on the Flames-Canucks series to give you a little more to think about before the puck drops.

 Here's what he said:

 * Do the Flames have a chance?

 "I think they do. They have a big-time chance. I think they have a chance to go further than the first round, too."

 * Is Vancouver's defence its strength?

 "Their ability to score is a strength. I think they had the most points of anyone in the league for points from the back end. I also think it's their weakness. If it gets into a tough series, outside of Ed Jovanovski and Bryan Allen, the rest of the defence doesn't like to get hit."

 * What's the trick to beating Canucks netminder Dan Cloutier?

 "Long shots will beat him and short-side high. You don't often beat him five-hole, no more than anyone else. If he gets hot, he can make the difference but if you get a goal early, beat him, you'll get some doubt in his mind and get him in a bad position."

 * How do you keep Markus Naslund from beating you?

 "The obvious way is do what Minnesota did last year -- they shut down Todd Bertuzzi and shut down Naslund. With Naslund, the thing to do is make him carry the puck in the neutral zone. He's not going to be an end-to-end scorer, he's most dangerous when he finds space between the blueline and the top of the circles."

 * Are the Sedins too timid for the post-season?

 "They've got a chance to be that team's best line. Neither are afraid, I've seen them run lots of times but they always come back."

 * Who are Vancouver's X-factors?

 "Geoff Sanderson and Martin Rucinsky. Rucinsky has never been a great performer in the playoffs but I've watched him since he was traded and he's been snakebit. If he gets hot, it'll be scary. With the way the Sedins cycle the puck, they generate space. If Sanderson gets open, he'll put the puck in the net."

 * Who from Calgary do you see surprising?

 "One is Jordan Leopold. Offensively, with the way powerplay goals are so important, he could make the difference. Martin Gelinas has always been a good playoff performer and he knows what it takes. Also, watch for Matthew Lombardi. He's a good playoff-type player, he skates well, has good defensive sense and is quicker than people realize. Plus, they won't focus on him as much."

 * Will Jarome Iginla dominate or falter?

 "I expect him to be the best player in the series. He's got to be the best for his team to win but showed he can do it with a big second half and can play like a bull. The thing with Iginla is he's streaky. If he scores in the first game, he might score in every game. Maybe even more than once."


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