Pre-Series Musings: vs. Phoenix

Thursday, 04.26.2012 / 3:25 PM / Nashville Predators Playoffs Coverage
By Jay Levin  - Nashville Predators

When Nashville and Phoenix meet in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals it will mark the first time the two franchises square off in the post-season, with the series winner advancing to its first-ever Conference Finals.

There wasn’t much to differentiate the two teams during the regular season series with the Coyotes taking both games in Nashville and the Preds claiming both contests in Phoenix. Each team posted a three-goal win and each edged out a one-goal victory. However, three of the four series meetings occurred early in the season, with just one coming after the Trade Deadline, a 5-4 Preds shootout win on March 12.

The parallels between the two franchises are many --- the Coyotes have been in Phoenix for 16 years, the Preds in Nashville for 14; the coaches are friends in the off-season and share similar “X’s & O’s” philosophies; both teams lean on balanced offensive production --- and the recent successes mirror each other. Nashville has made the playoffs in seven of the last eight seasons, including the last three years; Phoenix has made the playoffs three straight seasons as well.

Now on the pre-series musings…


THREE MUSINGS:
Limit the Mistakes – Nashville and Phoenix are very similar in that they both do a great job of creating offense off of opponent’s mistakes. Both teams like to play tight defensive systems, wait for their opponent to over-commit, and then quickly strike on the counter-attack. To be successful both teams depend on winning one-on-one battles and making smart decisions with the puck. Whichever team is more patient in the series and does the best job of limiting puck errors and giveaways will be in a very good position to claim the series.

Offense From The Defense – Both teams, Nashville and Phoenix, like to activate their defensemen into the offensive flow. Nashville has some big shots from the point, notably Shea Weber and Ryan Ellis, but Phoenix likes to have its defensemen join the rush in transition and jump down low during offensive sequences. And with Oliver Ekman-Larsson & Keith Yandle for Phoenix and Ryan Suter & Roman Josi with Nashville, this series will feature some of the most mobile defensemen in the league.

In The Crease – Phoenix starting goaltender Mike Smith played in only one of the four regular season series meetings between the Preds and Coyotes, a 5-4 Nashville shootout win on March 12. Instead it was backup Jason LaBarbera who was in the net for three of the four games this season, including both Phoenix wins. Prior to this season Smith spent three seasons in the Eastern Conference with the Tampa Bay Lightning, so there is not a lot of history there between Smith and the Nashville shooters, which might give Smith a slight edge at the onset of the series. By the same token, so much of goaltending success is the mental frame of mind; if Smith has a shaky start to the series he doesn’t have a past history of success versus the Preds to lean back on mentally. And if Nashville gets a lead in the series, don’t be too surprised if – because of his regular season wins at Bridgestone Arena – Phoenix gives LaBarbera a chance.

SEASON SERIES THREE STARS:
   1) PHX G Jason LaBarbera – 2-1-0, 2.01 Goals Against Average, .931 SV%;
   2) NSH F Martin Erat – 1 goal, 3 assists, +3 in 3 games; averaged 19:38 ice time; missed the first meeting of the season (PHX win)
   3) NSH F Craig Smith – 1 goal, 2 assists in 4 games; struggled in the first meeting of the season but had an impact in the other 3 games

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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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