And Round 2 Is Under Way
Thursday, 04.28.2011 / 6:18 PM
Tonight the waiting stops and the pucks drops. Game One of the Western Conference Semifinal series between the Preds and Vancouver Canucks kicks off in B.C.
Heading into this game the Predators are fresh off its first ever playoff series win over the Anaheim Ducks in six games, while the Canucks needed seven after blowing a 3-0 series lead against the Chicago Blackhawks. Storylines seem obvious enough between two Vezina-nominated goaltenders, the Art Ross (league scoring) champion in Daniel Sedin and last year’s Art Ross winner and twin brother Henrik on the same line, Vancouver’s depth and defense, and Nashville’s plucky determination and unheralded cast of superstars in their own right.
I think goaltending will be a legitimate storyline in this series, but more like NASCAR where you’re waiting for the wreck. Will Luongo keep it together? Will one bad game shake his confidence, the team’s confidence, or head coach Alain Vigneault’s confidence? Can the Canucks endure another bad performance without really facing a mental block after the way the ‘Hawks came back in the first round? And on Nashville’s side, will Pekka Rinne’s continued improvement throughout the opening round continue to manifest itself, or will the mental clock re-set itself somewhat? Those are the reasons I think the crease is compelling this series.
That's a little counter to the regular season series between the two teams. The season series was a low-scoring affair. Pekka Rinne posted a 1.26 GAA against the Canucks in four games this year yet went 2-2. I’m not predicting the same for this post-season. In the first round, both teams showed they can score goals in bunches and allow goals in bunches at times, so, much like the Anaheim series, I think four goals will be the magic number to win games in this series.
Nashville will need its depth lines to continue to produce and be effective in whatever matchup they are handed. Vancouver is a deeper team than Anaheim and so the difference won’t be quite as striking for forwards 7-12 as it was last series. That also serves as an indication of how important the defense will be on both sides of the coin. If the blueline can chip in with some points for Nashville, it could be the tipping point in the series.
One more thing to watch will be Shane O’Brien and Dan Hamhuis. Both have their motivation amped up even more playing former teammates. Each wants to make a difference and help his team advance. I don’t know that the series will swing on any single player on either side, but they could at some point factor in during key plays in the series.
There are still several hours before faceoff, and all I want to do is get to the rink! Until next time, keep your stick on the ice.