NHL Second Round Playoff Preview: St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators

Scott Maxwell
April 25 2017 02:04PM

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© Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

And here begins the only predictable second round matchup. It was easy picking both of these teams to advance to the second round, as they both dominated the Western Conference this year. Both of these teams are unstoppable monsters, and even though it will also be a close series, I can only see Chicago coming out of it and winning the Cup.

Wait, this isn't Chicago and Minnesota? But I was told by everyone that Chicago was going to the Cup finals, even though Chicago-Nashville was still going to be a close series, and if not them, then Minnesota. Wait, Chicago got swept? Minnesota almost did too? Then who am I previewing? St. Louis-Nashville? Well, this will be more interesting.

SEASON SERIES

The Predators slightly edged out the Blues during the regular season, winning 3 of 5, but it was back and forth the whole way. 4 of 5 games came before the new year, while the last game came just before the playoffs.

These two played twice in November, once in Nashville and once in St. Louis. The first game saw the Predators win 3-1, with two goals from Calle Jarnkrok and a 23 save performance from Pekka Rinne, although Carter Hutton was in net for the Blues. The second game saw a reverse in the score, as the Blues won 3-1, with Jake Allen putting on the show this time, stopping 30 of 31.

They also had two games in December, once again splitting between Nashville and St. Louis. The first game saw St. Louis open with a 3-0 lead, but Nashville would score six unanswered goals to win 6-3. Mike Fisher scored two goals, while both goalies had sub par nights. Nashville would follow this with a 4-0 win later in the month. Filip Forsberg and Mike Ribeiro both had two points each, while Rinne stopped all 25 shots he faced.

They concluded their season series on April 2, as the Blues won 4-1. David Perron had a three point night, while Allen stopped 35 of 36, although Juuse Saros was in net for the Predators due to a back to back.

There isn't too much to take from these games, since most of these happened before St. Louis made their coaching change, while the last one saw Nashville play on a back to back, which won't be happening now.

WHAT THE NUMBERS SAY

St. Louis: 52.74 5v5 GF%, 50.18 5v5 CF%, 50.47 5v5 FF%, 8.39 Sh%, 92.33 Sv%, 21.3%PP%, 84.8 PK%

Nashville: 52.3 5v5 GF%, 51.36 5v5 CF%, 51.0 5v5 FF%, 9.3 SH%, 91.1 SV%, 18.9 PP%, 80.9 PK%

Well, this will certainly be close. St. Louis has the slightest edge in GF%, while Nashville has a similar edge in CF% and FF%. The two teams differences in shooting and save percentage even out to about the same, so that won't be a huge difference maker. The one edge we do see is the Blues have the better special teams, which could play the biggest role in this series.

Goaltending might be the biggest story going into this series, due to how red hot both goalies were during the first round. Rinne sits first in the playoffs in save percentage with .976%, while Allen is not far behind with a .956% in second. Both goalies stood on their heads in the first round, so whoever cracks first will probably be the loser in each game.

The Blues are constructed to be more of a star-oriented offense. They have Tarasenko, one of the best wingers in the league, who put up 75 points this season, more than any of Minnesota's forwards, but after that, it's bare. After Schwartz's 55 points and Steen's 51, the Blues have only three 40 point scorers: Pietrangelo with 48, Perron with 46, and Stastny with 40. However, they have a larger focus on defense, as only 7 skaters who played at least half of the season finished with a sub 50% CF%, all of them being past their prime veterans like Steen and Bouwmeester.

The Predators are very similar in this regard, as they also focus more on a few players for offense. Arvidsson and Johansen led the team with 61 points, while Forsberg had 58. After that, they only had two forwards with 40 points, with Fisher's 42 and Neal's 41. Some of their offense comes from their stacked blueline, as Josi (49), Subban (40), and Ellis (38) are all excellent producers on defense. Defensively, they're also quite solid, as the only players who are of great concern possession wise are their fourth line.

WHY YOU SHOULD CHEER FOR ST. LOUIS

If you like seeing teams with lengthy Cup droughts finally get their turn with the Cup, the Blues now have the longest drought with the Maple Leafs out, so they have that going for them. Also, if you hate country music, then you probably don't want Nashville going to the finals.

WHY YOU SHOULD CHEER FOR NASHVILLE

If you like seeing the more recent expansions teams find some success, then support the Preds, because they are the only team left that fits that bill. Also, if you want to see the Weber supporters of the Weber-Subban trade eat their words, a Preds Cup win would help justify that.

SCHEDULE

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PREDICTION

Predators in 7 games. It's going to be a close one, considering how close both teams are, but I ultimately think that the Predators will be the victor, as I think their blueline depth will prove to be the advantage. Although, my opinion doesn't mean much, as I was 1-2 last round in these posts, and the one I got right (Washington-Toronto), I didn't want to get right.

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I'm just a journalist going to school to get the degree. Follow me at @scotmaxw
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