A little more detailed look at the #1/#5 matchup: The Vancouver Canucks VS The Nashville Predators
Who’s better? OFFENSE - VANCOUVER
As was the same case against the Anaheim Ducks, Nashville’s offensive weapons don’t even compare against Vancouver’s offensive weapons. It would be like bringing a knife to a gun fight…at least, on the outside it looks like that, comparing the top 2 lines:
Vancouver Line 1: D. Sedin – H. Sedin – A. Burrows
Vancouver Line 2: C. Higgins – R. Kesler – M. Samuelsson
Nashville Line 1: M. Erat – D. Legwand – J. Ward
Nashville Line 2: S. Kostitsyn – M. Fisher – P. Hornqvist
See what I mean? Knife to gun fight. BUT, take a look at the later two lines:
Vancouver Line 3: V. Oreskovich – M. Raymond – J. Hansen
Vancouver Line 4: T. Glass – M. Lapierre – R. Torres
Nashville Line 3: N. Spaling – J. Smithson – J. Tootoo
Nashville Line 4: J. Dumont – B. Geoffrion – S. Sullivan
On paper it may look about even, but Nashville holds the advantage on the bottom two lines. Nashville’s third line nearly single-handedly won games 5 and 6 for the Predators while line 4 is just as dangerous. Sully and Dumont may be aging veterans, but they are that: Veterans. Dumont brings 50 games of playoff experience (34 points – 17g/17a) and 41 for Sullivan (17 points – 7g/10a). That is a lot more than most of the Predators players combined.
Still, overall, Vancouver gets the nod here for their top 2 lines…but don’t count out Nashville’s combined OVERALL lines
Who’s better? DEFENSE – PUSH
The Predators have all world talent back-stopping their blue line in Ryan Suter and Shea Weber. A extremely dangerous shutdown combination that also chips in a vast majority of points for the Preds (whether it’s feeding the puck or hitting the back of the net), plus you can NEVER forget that Shea Weber has a 105 mph slapshot. Getting in the way of it may end up causing an injury, and to either team at that.
You also cannot count out veteran and former Canuck, Shane O’Brien. His last two games against Anaheim show exactly what he can bring to a team during the playoffs, almost on a top line efficiency. Nashville finishes off with Franson/Blum/Klein. You can’t discount what any three of these players can do. Franson has sick offensive skills, but can be a little slow. Blum single handedly kept Getzlaf/Perry/Ryan in check for most of games 5 and 6. Kevin Klein ACTUALLY scored a goal during game 5! They all can contribute
Vancouver is completely balanced on all 3 of their defensive lines: Edler/Ehrhoff backstopping their top line, Hamhuis/Bieksa on their second, and Ballard/Alberts on their third. All of them but Alberts, maybe, are pretty much names any hockey fan would recognize on any given day, however they don’t have 3 Weber/Suter combinations.
Like I said, Vancouver? COMPLETELY balanced defense, that’s why they earn the push here. If it was one or two lines only? It would be Nashville with the win cleanly.
Who’s better? GOALTENDING – NASHVILLE
It’s almost a crapshoot with Pekka Rinne and Roberto Luongo, but you have to look at ONE important thing: Who can steal more games than the other goalie? Over the course of 82 regular season games, Pekka Rinne had to ROB teams night in and night out to keep a Nashville team alive in a uber-competitive Western Conference playoff race. Luongo? Not so much. He had to steal a few games here and there, but for the most part he didn’t have to be perfect every night for the Canucks to win, Rinne did.
That’s the difference here: When it’s all on the line and you need someone to literally steal a game, Rinne takes it over Luongo on ANY day of the week in my opinion, call me a homer or not
Who’s better? SPECIAL TEAMS – VANCOUVER
Vancouver’s powerplay and penalty kill are both extremely dangerous. They can kill off the majority of the penalties they face (24 of 30 against Chicago in the first round) and can convert on the powerplay just as efficiently (4 of 18 against Chicago in the first round). They have too much talent to NOT be dangerous on both sides.
If it wasn’t for the lack of attention on the Penalty Killing in the first round, Nashville could have earned a push here, however their PK right now is a little questionable (14 of 22 against Anaheim in the first round), BUT…they DID face Teemu Selanne and he DID hurt the Predators as expected. Until they prove otherwise against a more potent Vancouver team, it’s hard to factor in Nashville’s PK. But…WHERE is their powerplay coming from as of late? (6 of 27 against Anaheim in the first round). Dare I say is Nashville’s powerplay…dangerous? Weber/Suter firing from the point and the many different offensemen collecting the garbage and putting it into the net.
The X-Factor: Vancouver Canucks – ROBERTO LUONGO
We all saw what a shaky and questionable Luongo can be like for the Canucks in the round 1 series against Chicago. It can get you 3 straight losses. This time, however? He won’t be able to count on Schneider to back him up. Luongo HAS to play near perfect to beat the Predators on a 7 game series. If he plays like he did in game 4-6, there is going to be trouble in British Columbia
The X-Factor: Nashville Predators – PEKKA RINNE
Pekka Rinne can NOT play like he did against the Ducks in round 1. Pekka Rinne is a fellow Vezina candidate, just like Luongo, but he has to be at the TOP of his game to steal 4 wins from Vancouver. The way Rinne played against Vancouver during the regular season will definitely help, however if he plays like he did against Anaheim, he won’t have a shaky goaltender like Emery/Ellis for the Predators to try to score against…he’ll have a fellow Vezina candidate staring his team down. Rinne HAS to step up…PERIOD.
Game By Game Prediction:
Game 1: Vancouver 2, Nashville 1 (OT)
Game 2: Vancouver 1, Nashville 3
Game 3: Nashville 3, Vancouver 2 (OT)
Game 4: Nashville 1, Vancouver 4
Game 5: Vancouver 2, Nashville 3 (OT)
Game 6: Nashville 1, Vancouver 0 (OT)
Final – Nashville wins the series over Vancouver, 4 games to 2
Nashville is going to split the home series in Vancouver as well as the home series in Nashville, but they’re going to give the Canucks the Anaheim Ducks treatment in games 5 and 6 to take the series, however it won’t be without a little drama along the way
This series is going to be SERIOUSLY tightly contested and it’s going to show. Expect most of these games to go to overtime to be settled, starting in game 1. Vancouver, still on an emotional high from the game 7 victory against Chicago will take game 1 in the same fashion. Nashville is going to benefit from two home overtime wins to help take the series.
Overall, I think Nashville gets out of the second the same way they get out of the first: Hard work and a team effort