Predators and Under holding up well during Stanley Cup Playoffs
May 02, 2017 3:00 AM
by Ian Cameron
We are right in the middle of the second round of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs and in this week’s column, I’ll be taking a look at how each series has played out to this point and what we can use moving forward to cash some playoff tickets on the ice.
The Nashville Predators pulled off one of the more surprising results of the opening round with a four-game series sweep over the Chicago Blackhawks and so far they are proving that performance was no fluke. The Predators lead the St. Louis Blues 2-1 in their Western Conference semifinal series, which they have done with a ton of offense from their defensemen, a solid defensive structure that has frustrated their playoff foes and solid, steady goaltending from Pekka Rinne in the playoffs despite an up and down regular season for him.
Nashville’s blue line is playing well at both ends of the ice. P.K. Subban, Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis have a combined 19 points in the playoffs from the blue line. Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen up front have combined for 13 points in Nashville’s first seven playoff games. St. Louis was held to just 23 shots in their Game 3 loss and it was a product of a “clog up the neutral zone” style of defense by the Predators when they have a lead, which they have repeatedly employed and been successful with throughout the playoffs.
For the Blues to come back and win this series they will need to play from ahead rather than behind to take Nashville out of that style of play. Nashville has scored the first goal in each game of this series and that might have to change for St. Louis to rally back. We’ve had one game go Over the total, one game stay Under and one game result in a push in the first three games of this series, but I would expect goals to be hard to come by for the rest of this series.
It’s worth noting the Under has a very strong long-term track record in games between the Blues and Predators, cashing in at a 53-23-9 70% clip in the last 85 head-to-head meetings.
The Edmonton Oilers took the first two games of their West Semifinal against the Anaheim Ducks on the road but the veteran laden Ducks responded with their strongest game of the series in Game 3 to claw back to a 2-1 series deficit. Edmonton has been outplayed by Anaheim in two straight games but the Oilers survived Game 2 with the win thanks to a spectacular effort in between the pipes from goaltender Cam Talbot, who essentially stole a win for the Oilers in that contest.
Anaheim has taken advantage of some Edmonton miscues, namely turnovers, and they’ve won the battle for loose pucks in the last two games. This has been a series filled with penalties much like Anaheim’s first round series against Calgary. Playoff games involving the Anaheim Ducks have had an average of over eight penalties per game, which has led to numerous power plays that in turn leads to more goal scoring opportunities.
The Over is 2-1 so far in this series but Game 2 staying Under should have an asterisk next to it with Talbot playing out of his mind in that game. With all the penalties being taken in this series, I would be hard pressed to bet games Under the total, especially with the totals of 5 offering very little wiggle room.
In the Eastern Conference, the Ottawa Senators, who have displayed plenty of resilience in these playoffs, came from behind in Game 2 to beat the New York Rangers 6-5 in a thrilling and entertaining OT affair. Ottawa’s blue line has outplayed New York’s with Erik Karlsson. Dion Phaneuf, Cody Ceci and Marc Methot have all played well and better than the New York Rangers defensemen.
New York has been subpar in their own end defensively in front of Henrik Lundqvist, and their inability to defend as well as Ottawa has them behind the eight ball and in a 2-0 hole in this second round series. Neither head coach was overly pleased with the sloppy defensive effort from their respective teams in Game 2 even though it was a highly entertaining game for the fans.
I would expect Game 3 and subsequent games in this series to be played much tighter defensively. New York may not be a particularly live underdog to come back to win this series from 2-0 down but maybe there is one team that can still pull it off.
The Washington Capitals currently trail their Eastern semifinal series 2-0 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, the Capitals have not played a terrible series nor have they been badly outplayed by the Penguins. If you look at Game 2 of this series, the 6-2 final score in Pittsburgh’s favor is very deceiving. The Penguins were outshot badly, 36-24.
Washington had the better chances and better of the play for the first two periods of the game but the familiar refrain set in where Pittsburgh was able to capitalize on their chances, thanks in part to a less than stellar performance from Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby, and Washington couldn’t solve Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Capitals held a players only meeting after the Game 2 loss that was reported to be very constructive and well received. Now the question is does it translate into better results moving forward in this series for the Presidents Trophy winners and the No. 1 overall seed here in the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs?
This is a Washington team that has not gotten past the second round in the playoffs at any point since 2008. Due to the fact this series has been more even than the current 2-0 series deficit for Washington would indicate, I see a hint of value at making a series wager on the Capitals at a very generous plus price tag. It’s worth noting Pittsburgh was outshot by Columbus in three playoff home games in the first round by a combined margin of 123-93 but won all three games because the Jackets couldn’t capitalize on their chances – they had struggled offensively dating back to the last month of the regular season.
The door is still open in my opinion for Washington to make a comeback in this series, but can they walk through that door?