In the mess that was the race for the Western Conference playoffs, we often tend to look at the teams at the top and the bottom of the fray, meaning that these two teams often were a bit overlooked down the stretch. There's no real reason for that, though.
It's a fantastic duel between the rock hard defense of the Preds and the incredible offensive talent of the Ducks, and there's really no prediction that's wrong in a series like this.
Ray Emery has been a savior for the Ducks in the absence of Jonas Hiller, and believe it or not, the Dan Ellis acquisition near the deadline was a big boost to Anaheim as well. Hiller and Emery will be the guys in the postseason, and with some injury issues there, questions can be raised. Still, when healthy, that duo is more than capable (and it's not likely that both guys go down with injury at the same time anyway, right?).
None of that really matters, though, when you're comparing them to Pekka Rinne. Plain and simple, he's a stud, and he's the reason why the Predators are in the position they are. The number of big wins he carried Nashville to on his back down the stretch is ridiculous, and he leads the league in even strength save percentage.
He's a Vezina candidate and he can steal a series. The edge goes to Nashville.
We don't want to make this section short and sweet, but any team with a line of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan is going to win this discussion. Add in Teemu Selanne (31 goals, no big deal) and you have an attack that's tough to shut down. Edge Anaheim, without even talking about the Preds offense (not that there's much to talk about).
On the back end, it's really the total opposite. Shea Weber and Ryan Suter are arguably the best defensive pairing in the NHL, and since they'll surely be matched up with the Perry-Getzlaf-Ryan line at even strength, that's a battle that could ultimately decide the series.
Anaheim isn't bad on the blueline and they get a good bit of offense from their defense, but they simply can't match what Nashville has. The question, of course, is will they need to match what Nashville has? Edge to the Preds.
The Ducks are a very good team on the power play, as should be expected with those weapons they employ, but there's something left to be desired on the penalty kill, which ranked 19th in the NHL this season. Nashville, on the other hand, is the complete opposite -- top-5 penalty kill, weak power play. It's about what you'd expect from two teams that play two different styles and have completely opposite strengths and weaknesses. It's a push.
Game 1: Wed., April 13 at 10:30 p.m.
Game 2: Fri., April 15 at 10:30 p.m.
Game 3: Sun., April 17 at TBD
Game 4: Wed., April 20 at TBD
Game 5*: Fri., April 22 at 10 p.m.
Game 6*: Sun., April 24 at TBD
Game 7*: Tues., April 26 at TBD