Pre-Series Musings: vs. Phoenix

Thursday, 04.26.2012 / 2:25 PM CT / Nashville Predators Playoffs Coverage
By Jay Levin  - Nashville Predators
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Pre-Series Musings: vs. Phoenix

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

SMASHVILLE CENTRAL

SCHEDULE
 

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AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

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