Nashville Predators at Vancouver Canucks 1st Round Preview: Who has the Edge?

The Nashville Predators will meet the Vancouver Canucks in the 1st Round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the second all-time postseason meeting between the two.
Dec 19, 2023; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators left wing Filip Forsberg (9) skates the
Dec 19, 2023; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators left wing Filip Forsberg (9) skates the / Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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Filip Forsberg
Oct 24, 2023; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators left wing Filip Forsberg (9) shoots the / Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Battle of Superstars

Let's first take a look at each team's superstar weapons and who might have the slight edge when stacking against each other.

For the Canucks, it starts with Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes. Pettersson actually saw a decline in point production this season, but still finished with 89 points and a deadly shooting percentage of 16.4.

Pettersson does so much of his damage on the power play when he gets loose in the slot and has open range target practice on goalies. He notched 13 power play goals this season, and added another 18 assists on the man advantage to push the Canucks to the 10th-ranked power play.

Hughes is the frontrunner to win the Norris Trophy, with Cale Makar and Roman Josi chasing him. We'll get to Josi in a second. But for Hughes, he has broke out and eclipsed the 90-point mark while being an elite puck distributor with 74 assists.

Just like Pettersson, Hughes does most of his damage on the power play with 32 helpers while on the power play.

But the two top superstars for the Canucks actually didn't even lead the team in points this season. That goes to J.T. Miller with 103 points. The 30-year-old veteran has a 19 percent shooting percentage and is one of the better two-way players in the NHL with 217 hits and 61 blocks.

Brock Boeser leads the Canucks in goals with 40. The Canucks are sixth in the NHL in goals per game at 3.42. The Predators rallied to finish 10th in this category with 3.24 goal per game.

Shifting to the Predators, Filip Forsberg has taken the next step into elite superstardom this season. Forsberg has always been a great player, but there was always questions of if he can take the next step into elite territory. His 2021-22 campaign suggested he could, but we needed to see it again. Then the concussion ends last season prematurely, and now to current times he has exploded thanks in large part to Brunette's system and getting two quality linemates in Ryan O'Reilly and Gus Nyquist.

Josi is right behind Hughes in the Norris Trophy race which is incredible on its own with Josi about to turn 34-years-old. Josi also has steadily improved the defensive side of his game with 151 blocks, his highest season total since 2014-15. Hughes has just 54 blocks. Not a knock necessarily, just an observation.

Forsberg and Josi have been in these high pressure playoff moments before for this franchise. Pettersson and Hughes have only 17 games each of playoff experience.

O'Reilly also has immense playoff experience that includes a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe trophy.

Juuse Saros can also be considered a superstar talent, and Thatcher Demko has certainly had a superstar caliber season up until his injury. But Demko has just four games of playoff experience, while Saros has 17 games (10 starts) of playoff experience. More on the head-to-head comparison between the goalies later in this piece.

When comparing the top end superstar talent on both rosters, it's a toss up for me. You really can't unequivocally say one is better than the other. It will be fun to see who shows up more for their respective team. It will mean a lot to who advances.