The Nashville Predators first-round playoff showdown with the Pacific Division-winning Anaheim Ducks is here.
It will be the first time that the teams will meet in a postseason series since the Predators beat the Ducks in the opening round of the 2010-11 Stanley Cup Playoffs, where Nashville came away with a four games to two series victory.
Both teams had rough stretches this season, but have improved greatly since the two teams last met on November 17. (Nashville won the season series, 2-1).
Since these teams haven’t played in a while and the changes to the roster, now would be a good time to get to know the Ducks. For more information, it was time to ask The Hockey Writers Anaheim Ducks beat reporter Felix Sicard for the lowdown on the team.
The Anaheim Ducks Biggest Strength
Anaheim is one of the better teams on special teams. The Ducks are the first team since the 1984-85 New York Islanders to top the league at both man-up and man-down situations at the end the of the season.
The penalty kill does not give teams time to make plays, while the power play has a 23.1-percent conversion rating. This is a far cry from last year’s squad that only cashed in just over 15 percent of their opportunities. The Predators would do well to stay out of the penalty box in this series.
However, Sicard said don’t discount how good the Ducks are in 5-on-5 situations.
The biggest strength for the Ducks is their ability to control play at even strength. They make it really hard for the other team to enter their zone, and they’re just as quick to transition to offense. Once they’re in the offensive zone they have a really potent cycle game.
The Ducks are really strong down the middle with Ryan Kesler, Ryan Getzlaf, and Nate Thompson. The centers will test the Nashville pivots of Ryan Johansen, Mike Fisher and Mike Ribeiro.
The Ducks Biggest Fear
One thing that has Ducks’ fans worried is the Predators excellent defense. Nashville arguably has the best pairing in the league in Roman Josi and Shea Weber, and one of the most underrated pairs in Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm.
Nashville’s defense joins rushes and can cause a lot of headaches for Anaheim as Sicard points out.
I guess the biggest thing that scares me about the Preds is the mobility of their defense, which might burn the forecheck of the Ducks a couple of times.
The Predators were able to spin that depth in defense into a top-line center when the team sent Seth Jones to Columbus for Johansen. Nashville has relied on Ekholm and Ellis, while calling Petter Granberg and getting minutes from Anthony Bietto and others.
The Goaltending Issue
The one major question is who will be the man in the net for the Ducks. Frederik Andersen and John Gibson have split time this season and left Ducks’ coach Bruce Boudreau with a conundrum. (However, Boudreau has often defied logic in riding one goalie when he coached the Washington Capitals.)
A concussion to Andersen has forced Gibson to get most of the time as of late and he’s flourished. The young goalie also was the starting goalie for Team USA that home the gold medal at the 2013 World Juniors.
Andersen is also a steady goalie who can come in if things go south on Gibson. It’s a luxury to have two goalies that can start if needed. The duo did win the Jennings Trophy for least goals allowed.
Sicard is still worried that Pekka Rinne will bounce back and become a guy that can steal a couple of games. The Finnish netminder has been hot and cold all season, but will need to find the magic from the first part of last season.
Both Felix and I predict that Anaheim will advance. He has the Ducks taking it five games, while I have the Predators forcing a seventh game before the Ducks advance.
What’s your take? Leave your prediction in the comments below.