Ducks v. Predators Playoff Preview

Posted: 04/11/2011 by bc in Uncategorized

Throw out the season. It’s yesterday’s news. These teams start the Stanley Cup quarter-final tied at zip. Toss out the stats except as they help explain the traits, tendencies and intangibles.

You think that maybe Dan Ellis who Nashville let walk away at the end of last season isn’t looking for some payback? OTOH, the Predators know Ellis very well. Yeah, yeah how do I know RC will start Ellis? I don’t but, with Hiller & Emery physically questionable and Carlyle’s tendency to stay with the hot hand, look for Ellis to get the start.Make no mistake, right now Nashville’s Pekka Rhinne is among the best five goalies in the world. On paper there is just no comparison. The Predators have a huge edge in goal, on paper. Rhinne is also relatively unproven in playoff competition. Throughout his entire career, NHL, AHL and European Junior his playoff stats are less than spectacular.

How will Rhinne respond to having Corey Perry and Brad Winchester in his kitchen shift after shift and game after game?

Goal? You pick ’em. A journeyman with a something to prove v. a great netminder who’s unproven in the playoffs.

During a between periods chat with Brian Hayward and John Ahlers, GM Bob Murray talked about success in the playoffs being born of playing defense first hockey. Our Ducks GM said he wasn’t worried about the offense but repeated the guys need to play defense first.

Meet the Nashville Predators. Coach Barry Trotz has made a career of accomplishing more with less than any coach in recent memory. Trotz’  Predators have bought into a very patient, strong positional game that capitalizes on the mistakes of their opponent.

Like all teams, the Predators forecheck and trap but they don’t try to force mistakes. They’re patient and frustrate their opponents into beating themselves.

Which brings us to the second key to the series. Scoring first is imperative against this Nashville team that went 25-4-7 when leading after the first period and 31-3-5 when leading after two. Our Ducks comparable stats are even slightly more telling. 25-3-0 when leading after one and 30-1-2 when leading after two.

Conversely and perhaps surprisingly though is that the Preds are better than our Ducks at coming from behind.  Nashville is 8-11-1 and 6-16-0 when trailing after the first and second periods respectively. Hold on to your hats Ducks fans. Our guys are 8-18-2 and 3-22-1 similarly.

Which brings us to the third key to this series, turnovers and penalties. In a nutshell, Ducks can’t afford to make ’em and the Predators can’t afford a take ’em. Our guys will avoid their tendency to get too cute out there and elect to eat the puck rather than make some hi-light reel play.

On the penalty side this series pits the NHL’s 3rd best PP against the 5th best PK. Even more challenging is that Nashville is the league’s second least penalized team averaging 8.8 PIMS per game. That might be enough for our Ducks high-powered PP but our guys will probably have to manufacture and draw some favorable calls as well.

In the match up department, our fourth key to the series, look for Randy Carlyle to try keep the top line away from Mike Fisher at center and Shea Weber/Ryan Suter on D. Conversely, that is the match up Coach Trotz will seek. It’s also the lesser match ups, secondary scoring and who wins those loose pucks.

Regardless of who wins this series I suspect the cost or price of winning will be paid in later rounds, perhaps even as soon as the second round. Our Ducks couldn’t have drawn a tougher opponent psychologically. This is one many expect our Ducks to win. Our guys seem to do better as the underdog with their backs are against the wall.

Either team couldn’t have drawn a tougher opponent. You really don’t win a playoff series against our Ducks. You survive, usually bruised, battered and banged up.

Which brings us finally to the most important intangible, unmeasurable of all. Let’s call it the heart & smarts stat for the recent back and forth Jenelyn Russo and I enjoyed following the Blues game. Well, I’ll let Russo speak for herself on the enjoyment part. It was good chat for me though 🙂

Prediction? No prediction. I think our Ducks can win this but I don’t know if they will. It really comes down to the hearts and smarts.

Note: This post started out as the traditional O for O, D for D comparison but I got bored while drafting it that way. If you want that THN, The Tennessean, give the measuring stick comparison and the OCR Ducks Blog looks at the Predators By the Numbers.

  1. bbdux93 says:

    BC, I can not agree with you more. Whoever wins this series will come away battered and bruised from the experience. No other team worries me more – none of them.

    In an on-line conversation with a friend shortly after he came to us, I said I think Winchester is better than Parros. That opinion has not changed. I just hope he is up the task before him. He has to control his temper. I saw him do it on Saturday, that needs to continue

    • BackCheck says:

      Yeah, a guy like Winchester always draws hope and attention bb. Is he more than a very good depth forward? If so, holy jumpin’. Even if Winnie’s career is as a 3rd liner who we can match up against top D for a couple shifts, he’s a great addition.

      When we got him I posted that we finally replaced Shawn Thornton. The kind of guy who’s always an unsung hero finalist.

  2. czhokej says:

    Those battles around the crease will be crucially important. I said it several times: If the opposition (Trotz) can shut down Perry, we will be in trouble, but my prediction is Ducks in 6.

    • BackCheck says:

      Throughout this season czhokej, we’ve had a running conversation about whether the 3rd line should be primarily a shut down line or a line that can provide some occasional scoring. Do you think we’ll see a shut-down line of say Marchant-Ruutu-Winchester in these playoffs? Or if you really want to rock ’em toss Chipchura between Ruutu/Winchester.

      So far at least, RC has seemed to go for a little more offense with McMillan-Belesky-Winchester on that all important pivotal line. You know RC is going to throw something different out there. He’s been toying with the 3rd line of late, moving Bobby Ryan there for a few shifts per game.

      RC marshals his assets differently from Coach Trotz. BT is more of a traditional/old school European in that he tends to roll set lines and five man units matching up unit on unit.

      Is your Carnac hat is working sufficiently to anticipate some of Coach Carlyle’s moves and counter moves?

  3. czhokej says:

    It will be a tactical battle. Carlyle at the end of the regular season succeeded with his aggressive defensive system, where forwards had to move to the low slot and areas in front of the goal to cover for wandering Ds. However, occasionally there were some holes there. Marchant (+/- : -18), is useful only on PK because of his mobility and zeal and he is better FO man than Chip. Chipchura (+1) is much stronger, but slower, but he is no Sammy P. Again, I would give more time to Chip, as you suggested.
    Beleskey used to be a good fit with the Twins, but there is nobody good to pair with Bobby (?).

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