Depth To Be Tested in Quarterfinals Series

Wednesday, 04.13.2011 / 12:32 PM CT / Nashville Predators Playoffs Coverage
By Jay Levin  - Nashville Predators
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Depth To Be Tested in Quarterfinals Series
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 51 24 7 228 221 109
2 y - STL 82 51 24 7 239 197 109
3 x - NSH 82 47 25 10 226 202 104
4 x - CHI 82 48 28 6 220 186 102
5 x - VAN 82 48 29 5 236 220 101
6 x - MIN 82 46 28 8 227 198 100
7 x - WPG 82 43 26 13 223 204 99
8 x - CGY 82 45 30 7 237 213 97
9 LAK 82 40 27 15 218 197 95
10 DAL 82 41 31 10 257 257 92
11 COL 82 39 31 12 209 223 90
12 SJS 82 40 33 9 224 226 89
13 EDM 82 24 44 14 193 276 62
14 ARI 82 24 50 8 165 267 56

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
F. Forsberg 82 26 37 15 63
M. Ribeiro 82 15 47 11 62
R. Josi 81 15 40 15 55
S. Weber 78 15 30 15 45
C. Smith 82 23 21 11 44
C. Wilson 77 20 22 19 42
M. Fisher 59 19 20 4 39
J. Neal 67 23 14 12 37
R. Ellis 58 9 18 8 27
S. Jones 82 8 19 3 27
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Rinne 41 17 6 .923 2.18
C. Hutton 6 7 4 .902 2.61