Depth To Be Tested in Quarterfinals Series

Wednesday, 04.13.2011 / 1:32 PM / Nashville Predators Playoffs Coverage
By Jay Levin  - Nashville Predators
Most series previews focus on the Anaheim/Nashville series as a match-up of offense versus defense --- the Preds ranked third in the NHL in goals against while the Ducks ranked 11th in goals scored. That may be a storyline to the series, but the x-factor is likely to be the battle of depth.

Anaheim’s top-end forwards have drawn a lot of publicity – and rightfully so, the Duck have four forwards with 70 or more points this season, including the league’s leading goal scorer Corey Perry. The Perry-Ryan Getzlaf-Bobby Ryan line might be the best line in the NHL. And as amazing as Perry has been the second half of the season, Teemu Selanne has been just as good over the season’s final month-plus. But beyond those four, the Ducks only have three other forwards with more than 20 points.

In contrast, the Preds leading scorers closed out the regular season with 50 points. But Nashville countered that with nine forward contributing at least 20 points – and an additional three with 18 or 19 points. The Preds have been at their best when they’ve been able to roll all four lines – during the team’s 11-3-1 string to close out the season the Mike Fisher-Patric Hornqvist-Sergei Kostitsyn line was an offensive force, while the Martin Erat-David Legwand-Joel Ward trio has provided consistent two-way play. And Nick Spaling and Jerred Smithson have been penalty kill standouts. But it was Blake Geoffrion’s hat trick and timely scoring that saved the team at Buffalo and the Matt Halischuk/Jordin Tootoo combo carried the team in last week’s win over Atlanta.

Defensively, the dynamic shifts; Nashville relies heavily on goaltender Pekka Rinne and its top defensive duo of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber. Rinne appeared in 64 games this season, starting 29 of the team’s final 30 games down the playoff stretch run. Suter and Weber both logged over 25 minutes a game … and both upped their work load down the final stretch run (Suter skated over 25 minutes in 15 of the last 22 games and Weber in 14 of those same 22 games). Only one other Preds defenseman on the playoff roster averaged more than 20 minutes a game – Kevin Klein at 20:47.

The Ducks have four defenseme who average over 20 minutes a night with none approaching 24 and half. Toni Lydman was a standout for the Ducks through the first half of the year, but faded some in the second half, while Lubomir Visnovsky stepped up his play over the stretch run. In net, Jonas Hiller carried the load for the Ducks through the first half, but stuggled with a bout of vertigo after the All-Star Break and was limited to just one game over the last month-plus. As a result Dan Ellis (44 games played this season) and Ray Emery (10 games played) – neither of which opened the season on Anaheim’s roster – enter the playoffs in a battle for the starting job. Ellis was acquired from Tampa Bay at the Trade Deadline, while Emery was unsigned until the Ducks added him in early February.

So while the offense vs. defense comparison will grab the headlines in series previews, Nashville’s star defensive players are likely to even out the star power Anaheim possesses up front making the battle between the Preds secondary scoring depth and the Ducks defensive depth to the key x-factor to the series.

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STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - ANA 82 54 20 8 266 209 116
2 y - COL 82 52 22 8 250 220 112
3 x - STL 82 52 23 7 248 191 111
4 x - SJS 82 51 22 9 249 200 111
5 x - CHI 82 46 21 15 267 220 107
6 x - LAK 82 46 28 8 206 174 100
7 x - MIN 82 43 27 12 207 206 98
8 x - DAL 82 40 31 11 235 228 91
9 PHX 82 37 30 15 216 231 89
10 NSH 82 38 32 12 216 242 88
11 WPG 82 37 35 10 227 237 84
12 VAN 82 36 35 11 196 223 83
13 CGY 82 35 40 7 209 241 77
14 EDM 82 29 44 9 203 270 67

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
S. Weber 79 23 33 -2 56
P. Hornqvist 76 22 31 1 53
C. Smith 79 24 28 16 52
M. Fisher 75 20 29 -4 49
R. Josi 72 13 27 -2 40
M. Cullen 77 10 29 4 39
C. Wilson 81 11 22 -1 33
N. Spaling 71 13 19 2 32
R. Ellis 80 6 21 9 27
G. Bourque 74 9 17 -5 26
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Hutton 20 11 4 .910 2.62
D. Dubnyk 11 18 3 .891 3.43

 
 

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