Posted on: April 12, 2011 3:27 pm
Edited on: April 12, 2011 5:18 pm
The Ducks may have to rely on their scoring a little more than they might have had to early in the season. With a goalie situation that remains in flux due to injuries, Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy-winner Corey Perry and his linemates can certainly lead that charge. Nashville, however, has one of the stingiest defenses in hockey, led by likely Vezina Trophy finalist Pekka Rinne. There might not be two differing styles of play on display in the first round than what we have here. The Preds won three of the four meetings.
Here's the breakdown:
Forwards: Perry, who is the only player in the league to finish with 50 goals, leads a star-studded line with Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan. It could very well be the top line in hockey at the moment, but the Ducks do have some secondary scoring. Teemu Selanne, who at age 40, had an 80-point season (31 goals, 49 assists) and Saku Koivu finished with 45 points. Sergei Kostitsyn and Martin Erat, the Predators’ top scorers with 50 points, would only be tied for sixth with that kind of output in Anaheim. Edge: Anaheim.
Defense: Anaheim’s Lubomir Visnovsky was tops among NHL defenseman in scoring (68) and assists (50) and second in goals (18). He also finished strong down the stretch, with six points over his final seven games and was plus-18 on the season. The Ducks, however, have some vulnerabilities, especially if Francois Beauchemin’s injury limits his play. Ducks coach Randy Carlye likes his defenseman to be active on offense, but Beauchemin is one of his shutdown guys. Shea Weber, the only Nashville blueliner to play in all 82 regular season games, anchors the Preds’ defense that allowed the third-fewest goals (2.32 goals per game). Ryan Suter has evolved into an even more solid defenseman this year and was a plus-20 to go along with his 39 points. All the Preds defenseman who played more than 45 games were in the plus territory this season. Edge: Nashville.
Goalies: The Ducks’ made it through the first half of the season leaning on Jonas Hiller, who put up some of the league’s best numbers in the crease. Then he had his bout with vertigo after the All-Star break and the team’s goalie situation was no longer settled. Ray Emery, who was out of the NHL more than a year after hip surgery, and Dan Ellis, acquired from Tampa Bay before the deadline, stabilized things. Ellis will likely get the start in Game 1. Boston’s Tim Thomas may have put up slightly better numbers and faces more shots, but Rinne should be right there with Thomas in the Vezina conversation. He’s the primary reason the Preds allowed the second-fewest goals this seasons. Edge: Nashville.
Special teams: These two power play units couldn’t be any different from a production standpoint. The Ducks finished with the third-best power play (23.5 percent), while the Preds finished 26th (15.2 percent) – the worst among the 16 teams in the playoffs. The stats are flip-flopped on the PK, with Nashville ranked fifth and Anaheim 19th during the regular season. Selanne (16 goals) and Perry (14) combined, scored just 14 goals fewer than the Preds tallied on the power play combined.
-- A.J. Perez
Photo: Getty Images