Vancouver or Detroit? Who Can Nashville Beat?

With the San Jose Sharks eliminating the Los Angeles Kings Monday night, the Predators await the result of one game that will determine their opponent for the Western Conference Semi-Finals.

Chicago forced Vancouver to play a game 7 Tuesday night after Ben Smith, playing in just his 12th NHL game, scored in overtime Sunday night, extending the series to the final game after having been down in the series 3-0 to the Canucks.

If Vancouver wins, the Predators face the Canucks. If Chicago becomes the second team in as many years to overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a series, the Predators will play the Central Division champion Detroit Red Wings.

 

Looking at the rosters alone, like the Anaheim series, it will be high-flying offense against the Predators stellar back end lead by Captain, All-Star and now Norris Trophy nominated Shea Weber, U.S. Olympian Ryan Suter and Vezina nominated goaltender Pekka Rinne.

Some might question the play of Rinne in the first round of the playoffs, but that would be a mistake. While his goals against average and save percentage did not match his play of the regular season, the great Buddy Oakes said it best when he commented during Game 6 that there was only one statistic for goalies that mattered in the playoffs, the W column. And Rinne has four of them.

Why should the Predators play the Canucks? Doesn’t it seem like Vancouver has a meltdown in the second round every season? It looks like that meltdown came earlier than anticipated, but even if the Canucks can pull it together and get the goaltending controversy settled one would have to think the Predators have the mental advantage after just winning their first ever playoff series.

And every series likes a little drama, right?  Remember when Dan Hamhuis signed with Vancouver and said in a Canadian Press article that he was looking forward to getting out of the first round of the playoffs? Fun. Also it would be nice to see Hamhuis back playing on Bridgestone Arena ice. He was out with a concussion both time this season Vancouver made the trip to Music City.

A tired, mentally drained Canucks team with goaltending issues that is not nearly as big and physical as the Ducks seems to be a good match up for the Predators.

In four games, Nashville scored 8 goals against Vancouver and came out on top twice — so conventional wisdom would say the series would be low scoring, but the Anaheim series tells us there is just no place for conventional wisdom  in the playoffs. Mike Fisher led the way with two goals against Vancouver and is also leading the way during the first round of the playoffs for the Predators with 3 goals and 3 assists.

As an added bonus, if Nashville plays Vancouver the Bridgestone Arena will be full of people supporting the Nashville Predators, the way it should be.

Season Series: 2-2

On the other hand, if Chicago wins the Predators play Detroit. The Blackhawks could put a Chelsea Dagger right in the heart of the Predators again without ever stepping on the ice to play them.

While the Predators owned the Red Wings during the regular season, Detroit is a different kind of beast in the playoffs. Did anyone really think they would have swept Phoenix so convincingly in round one?

Detroit is well rested and their walking wounded, namely Zetterberg and Franzen, should be good to go come the start of the second round. The Arena will feature a couple thousand people rooting for Detroit.

Nashville scored 18 goals in six games against the Red Wings, a positive for maybe wanting to face Detroit in the first round over the Canucks. However, two goals came from Colin Wilson who was a healthy scratch the entire first series and two were scored by Martin Erat. Erat suffered an upper body injury during the first round, but did practice with the team Tuesday morning. Finally, four goals were scored by Sergei Kostitsyn, who set up four goals during round one, but was unable to find the back of the net himself.

Season series: 4-1-1

Who what is the best case for Nashville?

On the one hand, you have a team that is tired, with goaltending issues and potentially a mental block moving forward. Playing the Canucks would also guarantee that when at home the fans are all in attendance to help boost the Predators.

On the other hand you have a team that brings it during the playoffs, but a team that Nashville has scored against this season. It is a team that Rinne has played exceptionally well against, and a team that the Predators have a history with in the post-season.

It is hard to say who the best draw is for the Predators, but one thing is for certain, Nashville is going to bring it.

 

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