Nashville Predators: Analysis of Possible Playoff Match-ups

Mar 21, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville Predators center Mike Fisher (12) dives to score past Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick (32) during the second period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 21, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville Predators center Mike Fisher (12) dives to score past Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick (32) during the second period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

The Nashville Predators are playoff bound

The Nashville Predators are making the playoffs for the second year in a row. A 15-3-5 surge has put some distance between the Avalanche and Wild, cementing their playoff berth. Knowing their team is in, Nashvillians are left scoreboard-watching to see which team the Predators will play first.

Here are the odds of possible first round match-ups for the Predators:
Odds courtesy of Sportsclubstats

LA Kings –  52.4%

Anaheim Ducks -16.7%  

Dallas Stars – 15.7% –

St. Louis Blues- 11.2%

Chicago Blackhawks- 3.6%                                                                          

Before we start rooting for certain match-ups, let’s take a look Nashville’s record vs each of these teams…

LA: 1-0-2
Anaheim: 2-1
Dallas: 1-1-1 (2 games remaining)
St. Louis: 1-3-1
Chicago: 2-3

So a quick glance at the Nashville Predator’s record shows that a fan of this team should want no part of the Blues. Anaheim is the only team Nashville has a winning record against.

But we can’t just look at the record, there are many underlying statistics that can indicate which team the Predators might have the best chance against.
I gathered the following stats from War-on-ice to see who the Predators played the best and worst against.

total score
total score /

I excluded overtime goals because as we all know, there is no 3-3 OT in the Playoffs.

There are no glaring successes or failures in this data set. If total goals can’t narrow down our choices, we must dive a little deeper.

Final Total shots
Final Total shots /

The total shots over the season figure has some surprises. Teams we might not expect look the most advantageous. Nashville outshot Chicago and St.Louis by 38 and 24 respectively. The Predators have a combined 3-6-1 record against both teams so it’s rather odd that Nashville outshot them by so much. However, the Predators were forced to chase the scoreboard in these games. Teams tend to throw everything at the net when they’re losing.

It certainly did not feel like the Nashville Predators played 15-20% better than both the Blackhawks and Blues in their games this season. While shots are an important indicator, shots of goal alone can’t measure the flow of a game. A shot from the redline and a breakaway are two very different things.

Luckily, we can measure that!

Final High danger scoring chances
Final High danger scoring chances /

Nashville has out-chanced all 5 teams this season. This is a very good sign if you are a Preds fan.

The High Danger Scoring Chances vs St.Louis and Dallas are basically a wash. Nashville has a small advantage on Anaheim.

However, the Predators have a very healthy scoring chance margin against LA and Chicago. Each of these teams has been swapping Stanley Cups back and forth since 2010 other than the Boston Bruins run in 2011. This is a very good sign because it means that Nashville has the ability to raise it’s level of play against the very best teams in the league.

There is no clear cut choice. The parity of the salary cap era NHL forces teams to remain competitive against each other… unless of course you play in Edmonton.

There are solid arguments to almost every match-up.

Chicago is not as good as they were last year and a healthy Shea Weber with newcomer Ryan Johansen may make the difference.
Dallas has a suspect defense and goaltending. The Predators may be able to out-score the Stars if they can somewhat slow down a top-heavy Stars offense. Not to mention, who knows how healthy Tyler Seguin will be come playoff time?
Anaheim is one of the two teams Nashville has beaten in the playoffs and their secondary scoring is always suspect. The Predators have also matched up well against them this season.

Who should the Predators avoid?

The St. Louis Blues

Nashville is 1-3-1 against the Blues this year and has frankly looked bad in many of the games. The Blues have had terrible playoff luck in years past. Luck has to turn around in St.Louis at some point and this may be their year. The Blues also play a grinding style that typically frustrates the offensive minded Predators. St.Louis sits back and waits for the other team to make mistakes. Nashville’s active defense is exciting but can lead to odd-man rushes the other way if another team is savvy enough to wait for it. The Blues have been battling injuries all year and are still one of the top teams in the NHL. They are slowly getting their player off IR and a healthy Blues team is scary this year.

Who should the Predators hope to play?

The Los Angeles Kings

I know… the Kings are perennial contenders. But if Nashville wants to go far this year they will have to go through teams like LA anyway. Why not do it while you’re still healthy? Teams get banged up in the playoffs and I would rather play a contender fresh. Additionally, an L.A Nashville series would then send the Predators into the Pacific division bracket and play the winner of Anaheim and San Jose.

That is a much friendlier match-up than the winner of Dallas/St.Louis/Chicago. The Kings have also had the benefit of playing in a top heavy Pacific division all season. Five games against Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary, and Arizona every year. The Kings fortunate schedule leads me to believe LA would not be where they are in the standings were they in another division.

Nashville has not lost to the Kings in regulation in the past 2 years, posting a 4-0-2 record. Playoff overtime is 5v5 continuous which would benefit a younger, faster team like the Predators. One could easily look at the Preds-Kings record as 4-0 Nashville.

I believe Nashville could take the Kings in a 7-game series. Shea Weber and Roman Josi have the ability to slow down the Anze Kopitar line leaving the Kings the rely on scoring from deep in their line-up. Kings defenseman Drew Doughty is fantastic, but the Predators have the luxury of a 1A and 1B offensive lines instead of a typical 1st and 2nd line. If the Kings try to line-up against Forsberg’s line, James Neal will be playing against the 3rd and 4th defensemen. Coaches have yet to find an answer, and this is why when Forsberg’s line is cold, Neal has been on fire and vice-versa.

Next: Smashville Roars!

It may end up a surprise to you but it really looks like the best possible matchup for the Predators is to stay where they are in the standings and play the Kings and stay in the Pacific side of the Western Division.  It will make for some late night viewing though!