Predators in the Stanley Cup Western Conference Finals will lead to a loud Nashville
May 16, 2017 3:06 AM
by Nick Pellegrino
Hockey history will transpire this week with the NHL’s first Trophy game to be held in the state of Tennessee, when the 8th-seeded Nashville Predators seek the Clarence Campbell Cup in the Western Conference final against Anaheim.
The Preds will be flying high after earning the home-ice advantage with a split on the Ducks’ pond in Southern California, seeking to join “my” Los Angeles Kings in becoming a Stanley Cup champion as the bottom seed.
Meanwhile, Anaheim survived in Game 7 against Edmonton – no, really, the Ducks actually won a double-elimination contest on home ice following four previous losses, including the past three seasons –then promptly dropped the third-round series opener to the Predators.
Frankly, Nashville should lead the series, 2-0, but Ducks goalie John Gibson registered a key second-period save that spurred Anaheim to eventually tie and win Game 2 by scoring four times over a 19-minute span.
Meanwhile in the East, clear favorite Pittsburgh also survived a seventh game with Washington, then stuck to historical statistical form and dropped its opener to Ottawa. (Yes, I told you to avoid wagering on the Penguins on my day-of-game, GamingToday VIP Betting Picks).
Nashville’s Pekke Rinne is the best goalie remaining in the playoffs, allowing just 16 goals in 11 Stanley Cup starts before a mild Game 2 meltdown. His play helps anchor a blue line that is quickly rising to among the best in the NHL.
When the big off-season trade that sent Shea Weber to Montreal for P.K. Subban occurred, people didn’t realize Subban may only be the third-or-fourth best Nashville defenseman. This allows him to skate freely on the ice – he’s simply a better player when a touch more undisciplined than the style he needed to play in Montreal.
With Subban tilting the ice, it allows Nashville to dictate tempo and keep opponents on their toes.
Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle, down a game and trailing 2-0 in Game 2, finally countered. He switched the lines, bringing Ondrej Kase to the top line with C Ryan Getzlaf and LW Nick Ritchie. Kase scored the tying goal and Ritchie collected go-ahead marker, so Anaheim salvages a home split.
Meanwhile, Anaheim’s P.R. department continues to feed the media on how the team would be playing better if Patrick Eaves was healthy. There’s no timetable for a return.
Bobby Ryan’s third game-winning goal of the playoffs and second in overtime gave heavy underdog Ottawa the jump in the East final for the Prince of Wales Trophy. By Tuesday we will know if the Senators are up 2-0 or tied 1-1.
The Senators’ 1-3-1 zone trap fore-checking style gave the Penguins fits. It’s a variation of the old left wing trap once utilized by New Jersey. In the opener, Ottawa took four penalties – all in the first period, yet the Penguins come nowhere close to scoring despite more than seven minutes with the man advantage. Horrible.
People forget, Ryan was once hampered by a finger injury (of all things) that nearly ended his career. His heart and experience showed, which leads to another mistaken point the public holds regarding the Senators.
This is not, by normal definition, a “young” roster. The Senators have skaters who have reached the Stanley Cup final, including RW Chris Neal and C Chris Kelly. Both are holdovers from the 2006-07 Cup finalist Senators.
In addition, D Dion Phaneuf is playing well with the old Toronto shadow lifted – he once scored an OT winner against Ottawa – while G Craig Anderson has previously won a playoff series to go along with two this spring.
Over the past six weeks, I kept mentioning the virtues of the Senators and they keep winning. Now, I am not saying the Sens will topple the Pens, but for all of you who selected Pittsburgh in five games or less, you need to be more selective on when to bet on them.
This isn’t the 1992 Penguins club that lost all four Game 1s en route to the Cup, yet they did get past Washington. And since Ottawa (and the Maple Leafs) play a similar style, PIT should prevail, but in six games, not four or five.
Should Anaheim and Pittsburgh advance, be aware that Ducks goalie John Gibson is a native of the Steel City.