Published: Sun, May 14, 2017
Sport | By Gary Shelton

National Hockey League playoffs 2017: Ducks vs. Predators preview and prediction

National Hockey League playoffs 2017: Ducks vs. Predators preview and prediction

Anaheim's quick turnaround begins Friday night with Game 1 against their new opponent, the Nashville Predators, who have been waiting patiently for what seems like weeks.

The Penguins will likely start the series without defenseman Trevor Daley (lower body). But now that they're actually happening, let's talk about what to expect in both series, including players to watch and my prediction of who advances.

Anaheim will try to create the type of front of the net traffic that helped the Blues have some success against the Predators in round two and, unlike St. Louis, has the talent in the middle of the ice up and down their lines to force the action to the middle of the ice and make life hard on an opposing goaltender.

Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne, top left, blocks a shot by Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler during the second period of Game 1 in the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference finals, Friday, May 12, 2017, in Anaheim, .

Even in uncharted territory for this franchise, the Predators are still rolling through the Stanley Cup playoffs with their distinct combination of smash and flash. But if the series against the Blues was any indication, they'll be up to the challenge. They are undefeated (5-0) at Bridgestone Arena in these playoffs. If they can split the first two games like they did in St. Louis in the second round, they will have the advantage in the series. Nashville outshot Anaheim 39-27 through regulation time. Forsberg and Ryan Ellis are tied for second with nine points apiece, followed by defensemen Roman Josi and P.K. Subban with eight points each. In their 10 playoff games this year, the defensive trio has a combined 24 points.

They attacked the Ducks in waves, with their defence, which had entered Game 1 having contributed 32% of the team's goals, acting as fourth and fifth forwards. The team that looked drained while getting booed on home ice in a Game 6 loss to Washington zoomed past the Capitals in Game 7, a coolly efficient 2-0 victory that served as a three-period clinic on how to close out a series. If it wasn't for their unbelievable comeback in Game 5 against Edmonton, they might not be here.

The Penguins beat Washington for the ninth time in 10 playoff meetings behind the spectacular play of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

More good news for Anaheim is that captain Ryan Getzlaf is playing at a Conn Smythe level. For the final six games against Edmonton, Anaheim used a six-man group with nobody over 26 and averaging just 23.6 years old - the youngest group among the NHL's 16 playoff teams. "So I don't know how many choices they have".

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Notoriously slow starters throughout the regular season, the Predators have jumped on opponents in the playoffs, both in games and in the series. The Predators were certainly the underdogs past year.

Then again, so do the Penguins.

Pekka Rinne is well settled into his role as playoff hulk, posting a.932 SV% and a 1.86 GAA. How much of a role could the Ducks' revenge factor play with a Stanley Cup final appearance at stake?

Marc-Andre Fleury has returned to elite form at a flawless time.

Why Ottawa can win: The Senators have Lady Luck on their side.

Revenge best served cold: The Ducks had lost five consecutive Game 7s before they defeated the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday, tied for the longest Game 7 losing streak in National Hockey League history.

Ottawa at Pittsburgh, 6 p.m. Craig Anderson has been wonderful. Erik Karlsson is playing like the generational talent that he is. Tarasenko said he felt his team was too excited to go on the power play and thus overthinking their approach. His concussion enigma nearly certainly will be the story in the broadcasting booth the whole series.

While they do it more often than most, it can't be Neal or Forsberg scoring every goal at this time of the year. The Ducks won the Pacific Division this season with 105 points.

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