The Nashville Predators will be facing the Anaheim Ducks in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
We heard a stat today that of the 51 media pundits picking the first rounds of the playoffs, only three chose the Predators over the Ducks. Most have gift wrapped the series and put it under their tree. Let’s hope that Anaheim feels the same way.
There are all sorts of reasons that no one is choosing the Predators. First place against a Wild Card team. The Ducks were best in goals against for the season. They had the number one power play and penalty kill in the league. And a lot of folks had them picked for the champion even before the season started.
The Ducks went to the Western Conference Finals last season and were supposed to be even better this season. Their season is well-documented in that they started the season terribly and ended the season fantastically. They snuck past the Kings on an “extra” day of the season when they played a makeup game against Washington who were resting their regulars.
Okay, so how will the lowly Nashville Predators ( who was the third hottest team since Christmas) beat the Mighty Ducks? (Had to slip that in there!) All of these folks that are picking the Ducks on their wonderful stats had better take a look at this.
Here is how the two teams fared this season in 5-on-5 play. You will notice that the Predators scored 15 more goals this season than the Ducks and had a plus 5 to Anaheim’s -4. Corsi or control of the puck was even. As a matter of fact, other than Shooting Pctg. (OSh%), where the Preds had a nice advantage, everything else was even or in the Preds favor.
So the Ducks are better on Special teams and the Preds are better in 5-on-5 play. Let’s look at something else.
You can see in these stats that Anaheim was on the Penalty Kill nearly 80 minutes more than the Nashville Predators. And they drew less too as they were on the Power Play less than the Preds. The amazing thing is that they were second worse at taking penalties and were short-handed over 100 minutes more than with the Man Advantage.
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So now they are worse on 5-on-5 and they are in the box more. They might be good at killing penalties but you aren’t going to score much that way and the Preds gave up the least amount of shorthanded goals in the league.
One more argument against Anaheim’s fancy stats. They played in the Pacific, not the Central. I don’t think you will find anyone in the know that would say that the Central wasn’t a far superior division this year from top to bottom. Both Wild Card teams are from the Central as are some of the very best teams in the league. Three of the bottom five teams in the league are from the Pacific. The Preds stats were against tougher competition.
Anaheim Coach Bruce Boudreau likes to play a two-headed monster in goal with John Gibson and Frederik Anderson. The Preds know they are going with Pekka Rinne. It’s a guessing game with two, hoping to hit the hot goalie. Rinne seems really focused going into this series.
The one other area that we think the Predators match up well is the speed of the Ducks defenders against the next level speed of the Nashville Predators. We think the Preds, especially their rushing defenders in Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis can take advantage of the Ducks “D”. After looking at everything we are picking the Predators in six games.
Peter Laviolette has taken two other teams to the finals, with one Stanley Cup win when he was at Carolina. No one thought that they would win either.