Nashville (0-0) at Anaheim (0-0)
When: Friday, May 12th 2017
Where: Honda Center, Anaheim, CA
Time: 9:05 ET | TV: NBC Sports Network
After finally putting their Game 7 demons to rest on Wednesday, the Anaheim Ducks turn right around and welcome the Nashville Predators for Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Friday night. Anaheim had been eliminated from the postseason the past four seasons by losing a Game 7 at home each time, leading to the firing of head coach Bruce Boudreau. That included a Game 7 loss to the Predators last season, but the Ducks have the best playoff winning percentage of all teams since the start of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs (22-12). Anaheim lost the first two games at home to Edmonton last round, but rebounded to win the series in seven. Ryan Getzlaf got off to a slow start to the regular season with only two goals in his first 26 games, but has been terrific in the playoffs with eight goals and seven assists. Linemate Corey Perry also has come alive after a mediocre regular season with a goal and five assists in the last four games versus Edmonton while 33-goal scorer Rickard Rakell scored in four straight games against the Oilers. The defense, despite the absence of Cam Fowler in the first-round win over Calgary, is providing healthy offensive production with a combined three goals and 20 assists. The biggest question mark might be in net, where John Gibson has surrendered at least three goals in six of his last nine appearances and lost both playoff starts against the Predators a year ago.
The Predators are turning into the Cinderella’s of this postseason as the eighth-seed – the sixth bottom team to make the conference finals since 1982. Nashville dispatched of top-seeded Chicago in a four-game sweep in round one, then fought-off a tough St. Louis Blues team in six games. The re-emergence of 34-year old goaltender Pekka Rinne has been a big reason why. Rinne overcame an inconsistent regular season by allowing 14 goals in 10 playoff games, including a pair of shutouts in the sweep of the Blackhawks. The defensemen, despite the blockbuster offseason trade of longtime captain Shea Weber for fellow blueliner P.K. Subban, are getting it done at both ends of the ice by recording nine goals and 27 points in the postseason. The offense is led by the No. 1 line of center Ryan Johansen and 31-goal scorers Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson, who were fairly quiet against St. Louis before combining for four points in the series-clinching victory. Anaheim and Nashville traded five-goal wins before the Ducks’ 4-3 shootout victory at home on March 7th and the away team won five of seven games in the playoff series last season.
The teams with the best goaltenders step it up when we get closer to the Stanley Cup, and right now, the Predators have the better netminder. Gibson can be brilliant at times, but can get rattled easily. The defense in front of Rinne has been outstanding this postseason and I look for it to continue in Game 1.
Pick: Predators +100
HEAD TO HEAD
Trends courtesy of SportsOptions.com – an UltimateCapper.com partner