NHL Conference Final Preview: Nashville Predators vs. Anaheim Ducks

Cam Lewis
May 12 2017 10:50AM

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© Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

This is a series between two teams who finally got over the hump. After being eliminated on home ice in game seven three years in a row, the Ducks downed the young Oilers earlier this week, ending a streak of playoff frustration that's lasted for the past decade. The Predators, on the other hand, have always knocked on the door, but have never made it inside. This year, that's changed, as the Preds downed the Blues in order to advance to their first Conference Final in franchise history. 

Season series

The Ducks and Predators played three times this season. Both teams earned a blowout win, and Anaheim won the final meeting of the season in overtime. 

In the first meeting back on Oct. 26, Pekka Rinne got lit up for four goals on 17 shots and was pulled in favour of Marek Mazanec, who didn't fare much better. The Ducks won 6-1, with three of their goals coming on the power play, and were outshot by the Predators despite the lopsided score. 

The second game came on Nov. 12 in Nashville. The shots were dead even at 27 a piece, but this time it was John Gibson who got lit up. He allowed four goals on 18 shots, then Jonathan Bernier allowed one in relief. This game saw a lot of fireworks, as the two teams combined for 40 penalty minutes, 20 of which were fighting majors.  

And finally, the final game was played on March 7 in Anaheim. The Ducks won in overtime, but clearly outplayed the Preds, outshooting them 42 to 27. Like the previous meeting, there were a lot of penalties, including two scraps, and the game was ultimately decided in a five-round shootout. 

If the season series is any indication, this series will come down to goaltending and special teams, and will likely be rough and physical. 

What the numbers say

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%

Anaheim: 53.0 5v5 GF%,  49.7 5v5 CF%,  50.1 5v5 FF%, 9.1 SH%, 91.9 SV%, 18.7 PP%, 84.7 PK% 

At this point in the playoffs, your regular season statistics don't matter all that much. Teams have been grinding through the playoffs for nearly a month now, and injuries and the overall physical beat down players have taken results in the teams being different than they were during the season. That said, the Ducks and Preds were very evenly matched over the 82-game sample size, boasting similar shot attempt differential numbers, shooting and save percentages, and special teams. 

But like I said, things are different in the playoffs. One thing that's helped set Nashville apart that wouldn't appear in their regular season numbers is Pekka Rinne. He's been spectacular. Rinne has a .951 save percentage through 10 games, helping the Preds to a whopping +14 goal differential so far. If Rinne can't keep up this level of play, the Preds probably aren't going to win. Because while they've been solid overall, he's stolen them multiple games. 

Why you should cheer for Nashville

P.K. Subban. It would be poetic if the Preds won the Stanley Cup just one year after acquiring Subban from the Montreal Canadiens in one of the most controversial trades in recent memory. Imagine Subban taking the Stanley Cup to the children's hospital in Montreal. 

Why you should cheer for Anaheim

Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa... Uhhhhh. I don't know. The Ducks aren't a particularly lovable team, but it would be sort of funny to see Randy Carlyle win another Stanley Cup, considering how his time in Toronto went down. But if you're cheering for Anaheim, chances are you're a Ducks fan already.  

Schedule

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Prediction 

This is going to be a tight series. It'll largely come down to whether or not Pekka Rinne can continue to play dominant hockey, which we all know he can. But still, a .951 save percentage is ridiculous, and to expect him to play at that level is a bit much. But the way Nashville has played so far through the first two rounds, dominating Chicago and shoving St. Louis aside with ease, it's honestly difficult to see anybody stopping them at this point. Predators in six. 

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Nation Network utility infielder. Twitter: @cooom, Email: cameron@oilersnation.com
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