The Series: #4 Anaheim Ducks (47-30-5, 99 pts.) vs. #5 Nashville Predators (44-27-11, 99 pts.)
Regular Season: 3-1 Nashville, 17GF/11GA. Nashville and Anaheim each split 5-4 victories, and the Predators won two games by matching 4-1 scores.
History: There’s one word that comes to mind to describe the history between the Predators and the Ducks: innocuous. They have never met in the playoffs. They play in different divisions. There’s not any spectacular amount of bad blood between the two franchises. Aside from the fact that Paul Kariya was a scoring star for both teams, there’s not much to say.
The Case For Anaheim: The Ducks boast some of the league’s top talent: players like Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan, Lubomir Visnovsky, and Jonas Hiller. Some of those names were key pieces in previous championship teams, and their goaltending (if healthy) can match up against any other team in the league. Add a first class power play and a late season run to the mix, and it’s no wonder they’re the consensus favourites.
The Case For Nashville: Matched against the Ducks power play dominance is a strong even-strength Nashville team that also happens to have one of the league’s best penalty kills. That’s not the only place where Nashville is a study in contrasts to Anaheim; where Anaheim has key stars that play heavy minutes, Nashville has a deep and balanced attack. The strongest similarity between the two teams is probably in net: like the Ducks, Nashville has world-class goaltending.
- 5-on-5 GF/GA Ratio: Nashville, 1.16 (6th); Anaheim, 0.89 (21st)
- PP: Anaheim, 23.5% (3rd); Nashville, 15.2 (26th)
- PK: Nashville: 84.9% (5th); Anaheim 81.3% (19th)
- Goal Differential/Game: Nashville, +0.28; Anaheim, +0.03
Key Matchup: The Anaheim Ducks’ power play versus the Nashville Predators’ penalty kill. Nashville’s a very good five-on-five team (the sixth best in the league) and Anaheim’s a really bad five-on-five team – by goal differential the worst in the NHL. Based on the regular season, if this series is decided at even-strength it won’t be a contest. That leaves a special teams battle between weaknesses (NSH PP vs. ANA PK) and strengths (ANA PP vs. NSH PK). That latter battle is essential for the Ducks, and only marginally less so for the Predators.
Prediction: The Ducks have home ice and are undoubtedly the consensus favourite. I don’t buy it – Nashville’s a team with a wider range of strengths, and their depth and versatility will be the difference here. From the ‘this may come back to haunt me’ file: Predators in five.