NHL Conference Final Preview
Published: Thursday, May 11th 2017, 4:05pm
By: Stephen Safinuk
After a month of Playoff hockey, we are down to the final four teams fighting for Lord Stanley’s Cup. Nobody is all that surprised to see the Pittsburgh Penguins or Anaheim Ducks in their respective conference finals, but the Ottawa Senators and Nashville Predators have done a great job of being bracket busters through the first 2 rounds of the playoffs. Let’s take a quick look at how each team got here.
On the back of great goaltending from Pekka Rinne, timely scoring, and a good defense, the Nashville Predators made quick work of the Chicago Blackhawks (swept, scoring a total of 3 goals) and St Louis (6 games). Coming in to the playoffs as an 8th seed in the Western Conference, not many would have predicted the Nashville Predators would be 8 wins away from a Stanley Cup win.
You can’t say the same about the Anaheim Ducks. Many had them predicted to make it to at least the conference finals, and here they stand. It’s not goaltending or defense that has them through to round 3, but rather a strong offense led by (S)Corey Perry that saw Anaheim disappoint the entire province of Alberta in separate series.
Not quite as big a shock as Nashville, but I doubt anyone had the Ottawa Senators as the last Canadian team standing when the playoffs began. Ottawa is making it through entirely on depth. No forwards in the top 10 in playoff scoring, Craig Anderson 9th in GAA and 10th in Save %, yet they just keep winning.
Thanks to an awful playoff structure, the defending champs (at the #2 seed) had to go through the 4th best (Columbus) and top (Washington) teams in the NHL to get through to round 3. Led by a high-powered offense, and good forward depth the Penguins have 4 players in the top 10 in scoring through 2 rounds.
How is Round 3 going to go?
Anaheim vs Nashville
My head tells me that Anaheim rolls through Nashville in 5, but if these playoffs have proven anything, it’s don’t count out the Nashville Predators. This is going to be a battle of high scoring offense (Anaheim) vs excellent defense/goaltending (Nashville).
How Anaheim Wins:
Get pucks on Rinne. Plain and simple, you must get a lot of pucks on net to beat Nashville, as they don’t give up a ton of great scoring chances.
How Nashville Wins:
They need to keep doing what they have been doing. Great defense leads to great counter attack opportunities, and the Predators have done a great job of taking complete advantage of that. If Pekka Rinne continues to shine, the Predators will make short work of the Anaheim Ducks.
My Prediction: Nashville in 6
Pittsburgh vs Ottawa
The Cinderella Ottawa Senators are the only thing still giving Canada hope for their first Stanley Cup win since 1993, and they will have their toughest task yet. Going up against the #2 team in the NHL, and defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
How Ottawa Wins:
Get to Fleury early. The Penguins have been giving up a ton of shots all playoffs long, but Fleury has been up to the task. Ottawa needs to take advantage of a defense that is missing Kris Letang and potentially Trevor Daley, and keep the puck in Pittsburgh’s zone. Avoid giving up the odd man rushes that the Penguins have been capitalizing on, and Ottawa will have a good chance of getting through to the Stanley Cup finals.
How Pittsburgh Wins:
Pittsburgh has been winning on the back of a high-powered counter-punching offense, and they will need more of that in round 3. Keep Erik Karlsson contained (no easy task) and the Senators offense takes a hit. As he goes, so go the Ottawa Senators. Get to Craig Anderson. Ottawa hasn’t faced an offense like Pittsburgh yet in the playoffs.
My Prediction: Pittsburgh in 5
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