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 56 36 16 4 158 128 76
2 DAL 53 33 15 5 170 142 71
3 STL 55 30 17 8 132 129 68
4 LAK 51 31 17 3 135 117 65
5 SJS 51 27 20 4 147 138 58
6 NSH 53 25 20 8 136 139 58
7 COL 55 27 24 4 148 152 58
8 ANA 51 25 19 7 113 121 57
9 MIN 52 23 20 9 127 126 55
10 ARI 52 24 22 6 138 161 54
11 VAN 52 20 20 12 120 142 52
12 CGY 51 23 25 3 134 148 49
13 WPG 52 23 26 3 136 150 49
14 EDM 54 21 28 5 132 164 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
R. Josi 53 10 27 -2 37
S. Weber 53 14 21 -4 35
F. Forsberg 53 15 18 -6 33
M. Ribeiro 53 6 27 3 33
J. Neal 53 19 13 18 32
M. Ekholm 53 6 16 3 22
R. Ellis 52 6 15 2 21
C. Smith 53 11 6 -1 17
C. Jarnkrok 52 9 7 0 16
C. Wilson 36 4 12 0 16
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Rinne 20 17 7 .904 2.50
C. Hutton 5 2 1 .916 2.36