Nashville (0-0) at St Louis (0-0)
When: Wednesday, April 26th 2017
Where: Scottrade Center, St Louis, MO
Time: 8:05 ET | TV: NBC Sports Network
Two surprising teams will meet in a Western Conference Semifinal series when the Nashville Predators take on the St. Louis Blues in Game 1 on Wednesday night. The Blues and Predators finished third and fourth, respectively, in the Central Division before springing impressive first-round upsets. Nashville finished as the eighth seed in the West but turned up its defensive game in the postseason with a stunning four-game sweep of the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks, outscoring the No. 1 seed 13-3. Pekka Rinne posted his fewest wins (31) in a full season since 2008-09 but the veteran goalie was sensational against the Blackhawks, stopping 123 of 126 shots and coming within 5.5 minutes of posting three shutouts in the series. Nashville’s No. 1 line features 31-goal scorers Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson as the wingers for center Ryan Johansen, who tied for the team lead in scoring during the regular season and lit-up Chicago with a goal and five assists. The Predators also feature an elite defense headed by the pairings of Roman Josi-Ryan Ellis and P.K. Subban-Mattias Ekholm, who each logged at least 20 minutes in all four games versus the Blackhawks. Forsberg averages more than a point per game against the Blues with nine goals and nine assists in 16 games.
The Blues were not as dominant in the opening round as the Predators, but they continued their solid play since Mike Yeo replaced Ken Hitchcock behind the bench and needed only five games to eliminate the Minnesota Wild, which finished seven points above St. Louis in the Central. Nashville won three of five regular-season meetings against St. Louis, but the teams played only once since December when the Blues came out on top 4-1 at home on April 2nd. Like Rinne, Jake Allen had his share of rocky moments in net during the regular season, so much so that, he was left home during a road trip just prior to the All-Star break. Allen set the tone against the Wild with a 51-save effort on the road in Game 1 and stopped 174 of 182 shots in the series, boosting his save percentage to .942 since Yeo took over for Hitchcock. Forward Vladimir Tarasenko led the Blues during the regular season with 39 goals and 75 points and played in all 82 games.. The return of linemate Paul Stastny from a month-long injury absence and the late-season addition of Vladimir Sobotka from the Kontinental Hockey League, bolsters the team’s balance. Tarasenko has 10 goals and 22 points in 24 games against Nashville.
This might not be the most popular series of the remaining four, but it just might be the most competitive. The Predators have been a little inconsistent all season, but they looked incredible against Chicago. I think they eventually take this series in six games and it starts with a Game 1 road win.
Pick: Predators +105
HEAD TO HEAD
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