This wasn’t supposed to happen. Nobody would have guessed this. Coming off last year, where a postseason berth eluded them, The Anaheim Ducks needed to make changes. That is exactly what they did and will now face the Nashville Predators in the quarterfinals of the Western Conference Playoffs.
The Ducks finished the season with a respectable 47-30-5 record and 99 points, clinching fourth in the conference.
The season was not without its problems though. What was once the club’s saving grace, outstanding goaltending, has once again become their Achilles heal as Ray Emery is out with a lower body injury, leaving Dan Ellis with the starting spot come Wednesday. Jonas Hiller is still battling the vertigo that has kept him on the bench since Feb. 3.
Anaheim is entering the postseason in commanding fashion, winning six of its last eight games, outscoring their opponents by eight goals. Perry’s final goal of his hat trick in the Ducks 6-2 win over the San Jose Sharks on April 6 marked his league-leading 50th goal of the season.
The Ducks top line, consisting of Perry, Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf, is currently unstoppable and arguably the top line in the league. With 103 goals and 143 assists between them, Getzlaf’s line was powerful at the end of the regular season and will undoubtedly pose a problem for the Predators.
The Predators are strong team with a lot of confidence coming down the stretch. Just barely missing out on home-ice advantage, the Preds will have to overcome the Ducks’ faithful at Honda Center but they may have a trick up their sweater sleeves; Dan Ellis called Nashville home from 2007-2010. The Predators are well-versed in Ellis’ goaltending abilities, including the netminders first round playoff series with the Red Wings in 2007-2008.
The Ducks will host Nashville for the first two games in the best-of-seven series, beginning April 13. As for my prediction, the Ducks will take the series in six games, losing the first two on the road but coming back strong to clinch a spot in the semifinals.
Here’s how the two teams matched up in the regular season:
Oct. 9- Nashville wins, 4-1
Nov. 7- Anaheim wins, 5-4
Jan. 5- Nashville wins, 4-1
March 24- Nashville wins, 5-4
ANA: Corey Perry- 50
NSH: Sergei Kostitsyn- 23
ANA: Corey Perry- 98
NSH: Martin Erat- 50
ANA: Ryan Getzlaf- 57
NSH: Ryan Suter- 35
Goals against average:
NSH: Pekka Rinne- 2.12
ANA: Dan Ellis- 2.39
NSH: Pekka Rinne- .930
ANA: Dan Ellis- .917