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First-round breakdown: Canucks vs. Stars

This series pits the two lowest-scoring teams in the Western Conference and, outside of New Jersey, the two lowest-scoring teams in the whole playoff grid. That means mistakes will be costly and discipline will be at a premium.

It also might be a bit like watching two blades of grass grow. The Stars, and specifically netminder Marty Turco, are trying to shake off their label as playoff choke artists, something the Canucks know something about, given that they have won just two playoff series since their appearance in the 1994 Stanley Cup finals.

The Canucks weren't expected to be here, but the otherworldly play of Roberto Luongo (47 wins) vaulted them not only into the playoffs but also to the Northwest Division title and home-ice advantage. Hard to believe, but this will be Luongo's first NHL playoff experience.

The Stars, meanwhile, are smokin' hot coming into the playoffs, having lost in regulation just twice in their past 16 games. It's difficult to imagine either team having enough offense to get beyond the second round, but this matchup should provide a lot of close-checking games.

1. Starting off right. The Dallas Stars somehow have managed to lose the first game in seven of their last eight playoff series. How does that happen? Given the team's recent history -- you'll recall how the second-seeded Stars spit the bit a season ago and were thumped in five games by Colorado -- getting off to a good series start will be crucial to putting those demons to bed.

2. Special teams. The Canucks boast the league's finest penalty-killing unit but are well down the list (20th) in power-play efficiency. Watch for the Stars to try to make life miserable for Luongo in front, especially on the man advantage; still, it's a tactic most teams have tried to employ -- with only modest success. Having captain Brenden Morrow back in the fold helps the Stars in that area. No other team in the West was as successful coming from behind as Dallas. As for protecting a lead, both teams were among the best in the league.

3. Defense. Both teams rely on significant contributions from their back end to offset a lack of offensive depth. The Canucks have three defensemen who are in double digits in goals (Kevin Bieksa, Sami Salo and Mattias Ohlund); Sergei Zubov, the Stars' Norris Trophy nominee from a season ago, and Philippe Boucher ranked third and fourth, respectively, in team scoring. Both teams will need to get continued production from those players. Bieksa left Saturday's game against San Jose after taking a shot in the foot and missed the Canucks' finale Sunday. He hopes to be back for the opener.

4. The Sedin twins, then what? There are the Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik, then there is everyone else when it comes to scoring for the Canucks. The two combined for 165 points and have emerged as elite NHLers. They finished more than 20 points ahead of the team's third-highest scorer, captain Markus Naslund, a man who once looked as though he might be on the verge of winning a scoring title. In the past, Naslund's offensive production, or lack thereof, might have been the main barometer of the team's fortunes. Yet Naslund has emerged as a better two-way player under coach Alain Vigneault, and the Sedins' evolution has taken the pressure off the captain.

5. The Nagy factor. Dallas GM Doug Armstrong gave up a first-round pick and Mathias Tjarnqvist for then-Phoenix Coyotes top scorer Ladislav Nagy. The idea was that Nagy, set to become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, would juice up the offense the same way Mattias Norstrom bolstered the back end. Unfortunately for the Stars, Nagy has scored just four times in 24 and is a minus-5. Tjarnqvist, by the way, has scored five times for the Coyotes. Nagy, who has had little playoff exposure (11 career playoff games, one goal), needs to step up in what will be an excruciatingly tight series.

Roberto Luongo vs. Marty Turco: Playing for the first time in a true hockey market, Luongo responded magnificently. But now, Luongo must prove he can deliver the goods for the first time in the postseason. At the other end of the ice, Turco is a perfect example of a netminder whose regular-season heroics have been diminished because he has failed to deliver the goods in the postseason (he's 8-19 and has a .892 save percentage in 27 career playoff games).

Canucks: Morrison has hit the 20-goal plateau for the fifth time in six seasons (the other time, he finished with 19) and has collected points in eight of his plast 13 games. Jan Bulis has two goals in the past 28 games.

Stars: Mike Ribeiro is the surprise scoring leader for the Stars and has 11 points in the past eight games. Eric Lindros hasn't played in a month and has just five goals this season.

This series may actually turn out to be more compelling than it might appear. This time, it'll be the Stars who stage the upset. Dallas in seven.

Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for ESPN.com.