The Nashville Predators (44-27-11) head to the Stanley Cup playoffs for the sixth time in the last seven NHL seasons and face the Anaheim Ducks (47-30-5) for the first time in the post season. Both teams finished with 99 points with the Ducks taking fourth with the tiebreaker.
The Predators were 3-1 against the Ducks in the regular season but you can't read much in to the record, as each game seemed to be at an odd time or involve strange circumstances.
When the Preds played the Ducks in the season opener in Nashville, on October 9, the Predators beat a hapless Ducks squad 4-1. The Ducks had a horrible start to the season and that game was the beginning of a tough slide.
In Anaheim, on November 7, the Predators suffered a devastating loss when they forgot to play the last two seconds of the game and lost 5-4. It was a freakish type game that was completely out of character for the Predators.
On January 5, the Preds scored two empty netters and Pekka Rinne stopped 40 shots in a 4-1 win at Anaheim. The game was nip and tuck and was actually a 2-1 game until the first empty netter with 52 seconds left.
Most recently, on March 24th, the Predators were playing an excellent game against the Ducks and gave up three goals at the end to make it a close 5-4 win.
The primary story line of the series will be the match-up between the Ducks top line of Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, and Ryan Getzlaf against the Predators top defense pairing of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber.
Vezina contender, Pekka Rinne (33-22-9, 2.12, .930) will be in net for the Predators while the Duck situation in goal is unsettled at best. Ex-Pred Dan Ellis (21-10-7, 2.77, .898) appears to be the starter by default due to injuries to Jonas Hiller and Ray Emery. Emery is reported to be "available" for game one.
The Predators will try to play a tight defensive game and limit Anaheim’s scoring chances as much as possible. The Ducks rely heavily on their top two scoring lines for offense while the Preds have more balance with scoring across all four lines.
One of the keys for the Predators will be to play with discipline and keep the Ducks off the power play. The Predators also need to avoid being drawn into fighting majors, which is one of the Ducks traits when they fall behind.
On special teams, the Ducks are ranked third (23.5%) in the league on the man advantage while the Predators are fifth (84.9%) on the penalty kill. On the flip side, Anaheim’s 19th place ranking (81.3%) on the kill should give the Preds meager 26th ranked (15.2%) power play an opportunity to score.
The series promises to be interesting involving two teams with different styles but the Predators should have the edge as defense and goaltending are generally keys to playoff success. The Predators have not previously won an playoff round but should win a tough series in six games.
Other Previews come from Amanda Dipaolo, Josh Cooper, Chris Burton, The Tennesseasn, Predatorial, and Predators.com.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass