Canucks can't breathe easy as Nashville awaits
Previous Playoff Meetings…
First playoff meeting
VAN: Daniel Sedin, 7 pts (5 G, 2 A) … NSH: Mike Fisher, 6 pts (3 G, 3 A)
Canucks (4/18, 22.2%) … Predators (6/27, 22.2%)
Canucks (23/29, 79.3%) … Predators (14/22, 63.6%)
Tale of the Tape…
Edge: Canucks… Vancouver is simply deeper and more talented, but don’t overlook Nashville’s energy line.
Edge: Even… Shea Weber and Ryan Suter are a great combo; Vancouver has three solid pairings and they play well as a unit.
Edge: Canucks… It will be a duel between Vezina contenders; that said, Roberto Luongo’s playoff stats against everyone but Chicago: 13-9, 1.94 GAA, .934 SV%.
Edge: Canucks… Nashville’s PK was torched by Anaheim; Vancouver had two of the best units in the NHL all year.
Edge: Predators… Neither Barry Trotz nor Alain Vigneault has gone deep; however, most decisions made by Trotz in round one were great.
Edge: Canucks… They have the edge here by a slim margin; Nashville is the youngest team in the NHL.
Edge: Even… Both teams had some long-term injuries coming into the postseason; Martin Erat (upper body) seems to be ready to go for the Preds.
Keys to the Series…
1. Confident Luongo… Is his sharp performance in Game 7 exactly what he needed to put it all together in the playoffs? Luongo would like to carry over that confidence against a Nashville team that kept up with Anaheim offensively.
2. Turnover-free defense… The Predators love to forecheck like crazy, so the Canucks will need to be smart in their own zone and limit turnovers. Nashville is always ready to pounce.
1. Frustrate the Sedin twins… At even strength, Weber and Suter were able to contain (and frustrate, at times) the Ducks’ premier top line by getting in passing lanes and finishing checks. It will benefit the Preds if they can do this to the Sedins in this series.
2. Power play success… They had a below average man advantage all season, but found some success late in the year and in round one. Can they keep it up against a solid PK unit?
Ryan Kesler… Did you see him in Game 7 against Chicago? The guy was a mad man all game long; he was Vancouver’s best player in that game. If the Canucks get more of that in round two, it will complicate things for Nashville. Kesler will probably be shadowing the Preds’ top line, which features Fisher.
Patric Hornqvist… How the Luongo and the Canucks get ousted by the ‘Hawks in two straight years? One factor was traffic in front; this is where Hornqvist comes in. Hornqvist is younger version of Tomas Holmstrom and can cause havoc in front of the crease. He scored twice against the Ducks, but had numerous chances. He can’t let Luongo see the puck in this series.
Vancouver’s power play vs. Nashville’s penalty kill… Both of these units were ranked in the top five this season. However, Nashville’s PK was lit up and exposed by the Ducks in the first round. Going back to their regular season meetings, the Preds had some success against this dangerous man advantage (15-of-16). If the Canucks come out on top in this battle, it will make it that much tougher on Trotz and company to pull off the upset.
Why the Canucks will win…
If Vancouver plays mistake-free defense and gets contributions from its second line (Kesler and Alex Burrows), I really like their chances in this series. As highlighted, Luongo is a much better playoff goaltender when he’s not playing Chicago. The Canucks’ power play is more than good enough to take advantage of Nashville’s struggling penalty kill. Their back end is deeper and better than the one the Preds faced with Anaheim. One thing that is slightly worrisome is they have not advanced past the second round in 17 years. If they can avoid a hangover from beating Chicago, will the flood-gates open for Vancouver?
Why the Predators will win…
Anybody who is overlooking the Predators in this series is making a mistake. Trotz’s system, at even strength, frustrated Anaheim to no end in the first round. Now they have an even bigger challenge at hand. With saying that, Weber and Suter are more than prepared to face Vancouver’s top guns after going head-to-head with the Ducks’ top line for two weeks. Pekka Rinne (3.29 GAA) and the penalty kill (63.6%) are going to have to be better for the Preds to have a chance to win this series. If the forecheck can be effective consistently, and Rinne steals a game or two, could the Preds pull the upset?
These two teams were pretty even when they met up in the regular season; all the games were of the 2-1 variety. I would expect more of the same in this series. I feel the Canucks are destined for greater things and will find a way to get by a better-than-you-think Nashville team. They were my Cup pick, after all.
PREDICTION… CANUCKS IN 6
Photos credit: Getty Images
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