The Anaheim Ducks enter the post-season very hot, boasting 15-5 record down the stretch. That hot streak allowed them to jump the Predators home ice advantage in the first round, and that could prove to be extremely vital. The Ducks are 26-13-2 at the Honda Center, and will hope that that trend continues in playoffs. Lead by Corey Perry in scoring (50 goals, 48 assists), the Ducks are a team who can play multiple styles of hockey. Yes like most teams in the Western Conference they boast a talent of high scoring offensive players. Perry, paired with Bobby Ryan (34g, 37a) and Ryan Getzlaf (19g, 57a) can be considered the best line in hockey, and Old Man Selanne isn’t too shabby either (31g, 49a). But they can be a grind it out, let the defense control the game type of team as well. Big man Andy Sutton can lay out the best of them on the blue line, and Cam Fowler has been proving everyone who passed on him in last years draft wrong. Lubomir Visnovsky has been killing it all season, boasting a plus 18 and leading all defensemen in points. Things wouldn’t be so bad for the Duck’s if goalie Jonas Hiller was healthy, but he’s been suffering ailments since the All-Star break. Dan Ellis and Ray Emery have been filling in nicely for him in his absence, but you have to wonder when all that luck will catch up with the team.
You didn't think I'd make it through this preview without a Bombay reference, right?
The Nashville Predators are an interesting group. All season they put together streaks of both wins and losses, and only recently have they begun to buck the trend back to the positive column (11-4 in their last 15 games.) The biggest hill for this team to climb is that they aren’t too strong of road team, 20-18-3 away from home. If they can steal a game in Anaheim, they may hold the cards in the series. Out of the 16 playoff teams, they have the least offensive team. Sergei Kostitsyn leads the team with 50 points along with Martin Erat. However, with 3 defensemen with 29 points or more (Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, and Cody Franson) it is clear that the Predators play an all-around team game, and count on everyone to chip in and contribute. That is going to have to continue if the Preds are going to go anywhere in the playoffs.
Players to watch, after the jump.
Anaheim – With Jonas Hiller suffering from vertigo symptoms (seriously?), the nod is going to go to Ray Emery, who is our Ducks player to watch. Emery has had a troubled past, with stops in Ottawa and Philadelphia in the best. An injury forced him out of the picture for the Flyers last year, and he only recently found a team that would take him in. With a 7-2 record for the Ducks since being called up from the AHL, Emery is not only playing for the Ducks and Cup glory, he’s also playing for himself. An Unrestricted Free Agent at the end of the year, Ray will be looking to prove to all teams, not just the Ducks, that he is capable of becoming a NHL starter again. If he is trying to prove himself, this is as good a place to start as any.
Nashville – The Predators didn’t make the playoffs with the lowest offensive ranking for no reason. Pekka Rinne, in his third full year of NHL caliber hockey, is proving to become one of the more consistent starters in hockey. In a season that has seen him set career records in almost all categories, Rinne is showing that he is a diamond in the rough (he was picked in the 8th round of the 2004 draft.) While all teams rely on their goal tending to get by, it is clear that the Nashville Predators will live and die by their netminder. Should he falter, the Preds, as they always do, have a very capable back up in Anders Lindback. Look for him to push Pekka to be the best he can be.
New meaning to the term, in the spotlight
With my players to watch it can be easy to tell that this is going to be a series that will be won and lost by the goal tenders. That being said, I see this game going the distance. While it is defense that wins championships, it is a good offense that gets a team out of the first round. I just don’t think that the Nashville top line will be able to match Anaheim’s punch for punch. With that, I like the Ducks in 6.