|The teams split their six games this season. (Getty Images)|
For the first time in the Nashville Predators' history, they will have home-ice advantage for a postseason series. And did they ever pick the right time with a matchup against the Detroit Red Wings in the opening round of the playoffs.
The Preds were good on home ice this season, going 26-10-6, but the Wings were better than any team in the league. Remember that 23-game win streak at home? That propelled them to a 31-7-3 mark. So you can see why it was so important to get that edge.
With two teams that seem to be such equal competitors as they were pretty much all season long in the Central Division, that could be the deciding factor.This is where I point out that the Wings were 17-21-3 away from the Joe this season.
Also, if there is something to be said for entering the playoffs hot or not, Detroit didn't close the season out terribly strong. Injury-riddled or not, the Wings had only two wins before a shootout in their final 14.
But this is the playoffs. Everything starts fresh.
NSH offense vs. DET defense
There is a misconception about the Predators and that's that they don't have offense. This group was eighth in the league in goals. The attack is very balanced with 11 players in double figures in goals led by Patric Hornqvist with 27. That doesn't include Alexander Radulov.
The Wings D is no slouch either. The big concern going into the season, they fared well. They finished seventh in the league in goals against but were third in shots against per game. Part of that is how well they control the puck but the D does its job too.
DET offense vs. NSH defense
This is strength on strength. Like the Preds, the Wings have 11 players with double-digit goals and, unlike Nashville, they have arguably the most dynamic play-maker in the league in Pavel Datsyuk.
The Predators can counter that with a couple of defensemen you might have heard of named Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. Still, the Preds didn't have the same numbers we've come to expect. They were 10th in goals against and 20th in shots per game against.
You aren't going to find a weak link back here for either team. In most seasons, both of these guys could be up for the Vezina as finalists but maybe neither will get there.
Either way, I'm going to give a nod here to the Predators and Pekka Rinne. He has a little better track record than Jimmy Howard, especially in the postseason. Just rewatch some of last year's series against the Canucks to see how good Rinne can be.
At even strength, there was no team in the league better than the Red Wings this season with a 1.44 goals for/against ratio at 5-on-5. Special teams? Not as special. The Wings were only 18th on the PK this season at 81.8 percent. The power play was even worse, surprisingly, checking in at 22nd with a 16.1 percent success rate.
Can't say the same for Nashville, which had the league's best power play, scoring 21.6 percent of the time. The Preds' PK was definitely respectable at 10th in the league with an 83.6 percent kill rate.
It goes without saying that the Wings need to keep out of the box as best they can this series. Interestingly enough, these two were the least penalized teams in the NHL for the season.