NHL.com: Goals should be hard to come by for Coyotes, Preds

Monday, 04.23.2012 / 11:39 PM CT / Nashville Predators Playoffs Coverage
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NHL.com: Goals should be hard to come by for Coyotes, Preds

Two of the game's best coaches and two of the game's best goaltenders will go head-to-head in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Indeed, goals will be hard to come by as the Coyotes and Predators will meet in a Western Conference Semifinal after the Phoenix franchise advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 25 years with Monday's 4-0 win at Chicago.

Each team won twice during its four-game, regular-season series. The Coyotes, though, went 2-1-1 as it dropped a 5-4 shootout decision to Nashville on March 12.

Both teams finished in the top 10 in the League in goals allowed per game. Phoenix, led by coach Dave Tippett and goaltender Mike Smith, finished fifth at 2.37 goals per game. Some felt the Coyotes were in trouble after losing Ilya Bryzgalov last summer, but Smith has been a rock between the pipes for Phoenix all season long.

Nashville, guided by world-class netminder Pekka Rinne, ranked 10th at 2.50 goals per game. An eighth-round draft pick (No. 258) in 2004, Rinne reached the 40-win plateau for the first time this season while recording five shutouts.

Not much has changed this postseason. The Predators disposed of the Detroit Red Wings in five games, as Rinne allowed just nine goals in five games while boasting a .944 save percentage.

Rinne has a very formidable opponent in Round 2, as Smith has been nothing short of sensational for Phoenix. Smith stopped all 39 shots he faced in Monday's series-clinching 4-0 win at Chicago and boasted a 1.81 goals-against average in six games against the Blackhawks with a .950 save percentage.

Two of the game's best leaders will go head-to-head in this series. Phoenix captain Shane Doan has been with the club since being drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in 1995, one year before the franchise relocated to the desert. Shea Weber, meanwhile, has emerged as the go-to guy in the Nashville dressing room and is unquestionably one of the top defensemen in the League.

Alexander Radulov has played a huge role for Nashville since returning from the KHL in March. The Russian forward had a goal and four assists against the Red Wings in the opening round after going 3-4-7 in nine games down the stretch. With Radulov on board, the Preds were able to secure the No. 4 seed and home-ice advantage against Detroit.

They won't have home-ice advantage in Round 2, however. Despite some fierce competition, Phoenix managed to secure the No. 3 seed with a record of 42-27-13. While the Predators finished with seven more points, the Coyotes were able to claim the Pacific Division crown.

Phoenix went 22-13-6 on home ice during the regular season, while Nashville finished 22-16-3 on the road.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

Author: Brian Compton | NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

SMASHVILLE CENTRAL

SCHEDULE
 

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS
 

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 CHI 58 36 18 4 160 134 76
2 DAL 55 35 15 5 178 147 75
3 STL 57 31 17 9 138 133 71
4 LAK 54 33 18 3 151 128 69
5 COL 58 29 25 4 155 160 62
6 SJS 53 28 20 5 154 143 61
7 ANA 53 26 19 8 120 125 60
8 NSH 55 25 21 9 142 148 59
9 ARI 54 25 23 6 143 164 56
10 MIN 54 23 21 10 133 134 56
11 VAN 54 22 20 12 125 144 56
12 CGY 54 25 26 3 144 160 53
13 WPG 54 24 27 3 139 157 51
14 EDM 56 22 29 5 138 168 49

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
R. Josi 55 11 29 -2 40
F. Forsberg 55 18 18 -7 36
S. Weber 55 14 21 -5 35
M. Ribeiro 55 6 28 3 34
J. Neal 55 20 13 18 33
M. Ekholm 55 6 19 3 25
R. Ellis 54 6 16 2 22
C. Smith 55 11 7 -1 18
C. Jarnkrok 54 9 8 0 17
C. Wilson 38 4 12 -1 16
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Rinne 20 18 8 .902 2.57
C. Hutton 5 2 1 .916 2.36