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Western Conference Quarter Finals: Game 1 – Detroit @ Nashville


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Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images

The Detroit Red Wings and the Nashville Predators face-off for a third time in the Western Conference Quarter Finals. The difference in this series is that the Predators have home-ice against Detroit. This is also the first time Nashville has ever finished the season ahead of Detroit in the standings. They say to be the man, you have to beat the man and this Predators team is the deepest and most talented roster Nashville has had since the franchise’s inception. It is fitting that the first hurdle of the playoffs is against the most heated and hated rival of Nashville (would the Boston Red Sox post-season success been as magnificent without going through the Yankees?).

Puck drop is at 7 P.M. Central and the game will be televised on SportSouth with Pete Weber and Terry Crisp on the call. The radio side is covered at 102.5 the Game by Tom Callahan, Stu Grimson and Willy Daunic.

Season Series: 3-3-0 (Home 2-1-0) (Away 1-2-0)

The Red Wings: One thing is for certain, the Red Wings are quite possibly the most complete team every year and built for the playoffs. Although the roster has been hampered by injuries to top players on the ice (Datsyuk, Franzen, Howard) the Red Wings still found a way to have a record-breaking home winning streak this year.

The Red Wings are almost fully healthy as it has been rumored that Darren Helm may be ready to go by Game 2 centering Cleary and Miller. Helm has speed to burn and causes mismatches on the third line.

Jimmy Howard limped into the post-season with a 2-2-1 record in his last five games. Howard was a brick wall between the pipes for Detroit this season when he’s been healthy and his play was good enough to get him his first All-Star nod. Howard has dealt with multiple injuries this year (broken finger, groin) yet still maintains the league’s 6th best GAA.

The Predators: The Nashville Predators ended their season with a bang. Even though the Colorado Avalanche game was meaningless with the playoff seeding already set, the Predators still took care of business with a 6-1 pounding of Colorado. The top line for the Predators and their second defensive pairing were scratched for the Avs game so others could get much needed playing time and showcase why those players should crack the lineup for the playoffs.

One player took this chance to prove and did wonders against Colorado posting 1 goal and 2 assists. Craig Smith has a tenacity and drive that all younger players should have. He is hungry for the puck and can create some great scoring chances. But with that fire comes the inevitable mistakes that trying to do too much with the puck can bring to light (see Colin Wilson).

Anders Lindback has done very well in his last two starts allowing only 2 goals. Unfortunately, Lindback went down with an injury in the final game of the season but is expected to be on the bench as back-up to Pekka Rinne tonight.

The Game: Look for this to be a test of who flinches first. The Red Wings know they have to take the crowd out early since Bridgestone Arena will be deafening, especially with the contempt and scorn Predators fans have against Detroit. It’ll be a sold-out crowd tonight and that kind of momentum and solidarity is what makes Nashville what Hitchcock said earlier this year “like going into the Coliseum in Rome.” Our fearless leader, Kris Martel, lists the crowd and it’s ability to lift the Predators to a win as one of the x-factors of the series.

The Predators will need to push the play into Detroit’s zone but not over-extend and allow the speed of Detroit to get behind them. Detroit will have to slow down some formidable offensive lines in the Erat/Fisher/Kostitsyn line and the Kostitsyn/Legwand/Radulov line. But taking care of those lines is only half the issue. Matt Halischuk and Gabriel Bourque can find ways to score using their hard-nosed play and speed.

Needless to say, these two teams match up very well with each other and this series along with the Pittsburgh/Philadelphia series may be the most entertaining of the first round.

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If you have any questions or comments, feel free to respond in the comments section or find me on Twitter…@Preducated

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