2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – First Round Series Preview
Western Conference -
(5) Nashville Predators vs. (4) Anaheim Ducks
A good 25 or 30 years ago, who would have ever thought that the cities of Anaheim and Nashville would even have hockey teams in the first place? Now, these two locales in warm, sun-drenched climates will boast two Stanley Cup playoff teams that will do battle in the first round of the Western Conference postseason. Yes, this is not your father’s or grandfather’s NHL. This is the new look of a reshaped league with a rather expansive geographical footprint.
For the first time ever, the Nashville Predators and Anaheim Ducks will face off against each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. These two franchises have two totally different compositions and play two different brands of hockey. For starters, the Ducks ride the explosive offense of their top line, led by Hart Trophy candidate and Rocket Richard winner Corey Perry. Meanwhile on the other bench, the Predators stress defense first with arguably the NHL's best blue-line tandem in Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. That will probably be the most important matchup of the series. There are simply too many prime performers involved, with Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan joining Perry on the Ducks’ most loaded line. There are always role players and glue guys toward the lower ends of lineup combinations. There are always unexpected heroes who tally overtime goals or make key plays in pressure-cooker situations. Nevertheless, the foremost matchups are very likely to carry the day when the Predators and Ducks have at it.
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The burden of proof in this series rests on the shoulders of the Predators. The Nashville franchise has never escaped the first round of the playoffs. Coach Barry Trotz has pushed some high-caliber opponents such as the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks to six games, but Nashville has never been able to close the deal. Last year, Nashville led Chicago by a goal in Game 5 of a 2-2 series and owned a late power play, but the Preds wasted that chance and then gave up a tying goal with just under 15 seconds left in regulation. Chicago then won in overtime to steal that game and eventually take home a 4-2 series victory. Nashville is even more of a postseason tease than the San Jose Sharks, which is saying a lot given San Jose’s postseason woes. The Predators have to break through a huge mental barrier, and what’s more is that they’ll have to do so against the Ducks, who won the 2007 Stanley Cup title and have a coach, Randy Carlyle, who knows how to ride his team through the grind-it-out months of April and May. It’s up to Nashville to handle the heat on the ice. If the Preds can’t push through their past, they’ll be history against the Ducks.
By: Matt Zemek
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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