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Finally... an opponent.

April 24, 2012, 9:44 AM ET [86 Comments]
Paul McCann
Nashville Predators Blogger •Predators Radio Network • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The only thing missing is the schedule for the Western Conference semi-finals. St. Louis hosts the LA Kings and your Nashville Predators will be taking on the Phoenix Coyotes. The nicknames for this 3 vs. 4 series are already coming out… the Sunbelt Showdown, the Balsillie Bowl, the White-Out vs. the Gold-Out among the most creative that I have seen. The schedule should be out today. We do know that the series will start in the desert; my guess is Saturday night…

A first look at this series shows two teams that have posted outstanding goaltending in the first round. Pekka Rinne was outstanding in the first round, posting a .944 Save Percentage and a xxx goals against. Mike Smith for the Coyotes posted even better numbers, a GAA of 1.81 and a save percentage of .950 … think this series will be low scoring? Ummm… yup.

Defensively, Nashville has an edge, simply due to the top pair of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter and the offensive contributions that come from the blueline, but the teams are similar in defensive style. They both allowed lots of shots in their first round series but limited the quality scoring chances.

Offensively, the Predators have a definitive edge. Detroit had no answer for the team’s offensive depth, unable to match lines with a team that has consistent scoring threats on all four lines. Nashville’s scoring was led by Alexander Radulov and Gabriel Bourque in their five game win over Detroit. Phoenix does boast one of the top scorers in the league in Radim Vrbata, who led the team with 35 goals and their captain Shane Doan and veteran Ray Whitney adds to the team’s scoring punch and Antoine Vermette has risen up in the playoffs, scoring four in their series with Chicago.

Health and player availability may be a factor in this series. Phoenix is coming off a physically bruising series with the Blackhawks. While on one on either side is fully healthy at this point in the season, the Coyotes will be grateful for a couple days rest to heal up for what is sure to be a tight series with the Predators. The Preds may get as many as eight days rest before this series starts, great for players like Hal Gill who is still listed as day-to-day but is in full practices and appears to be ready to go for game one.

The intangibles in this one are hard to judge. Do the Coyotes show the same type of “glad to be here” attitude that the Predators showed last playoff season as they entered the second round? Are the Predators able to avoid the rust that a long layoff inevitably brings? Which goaltender elevates his game even more into the next round? Two of the best coaches in the league are going up against each other in Barry Trotz and Dave Tippett, who is able to make the in-series and more importantly, in-game adjustments for his team?

This is a nightmare series for the traditional media… two markets that are constantly looked down on, told they were unworthy, two markets that have shown a great deal of success on the ice over the past few seasons. One franchise that is desperately trying to beat the odds and make the transition from troubled team to success story and one that has proven, in no uncertain terms that hockey can work in new markets.

The teams split the season series, goal scoring was almost even… keep an eye out for the schedule coming later today…


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Playoff Look

NYR vs. OTT – Series tied 3-3 – Next game is Thursday
BOS vs. WSH – Series tied 3-3 – Next game is Wednesday
FLA vs. NJD – Panthers lead 3-2 – Next game is tonight
PIT vs. PHI – Flyers win 4-2 – Series complete

VAN vs. LAK – Kings win 4-1 – Series complete
STL vs. SJS – Blues win 4-1 – Series Complete
PHX vs. CHI – Coyotes win 4-2 – Series Complete
NSH vs. DET – Predators win 4-1 – Series complete

Closeout Opportunities Today

Only one game tonight…Florida can close out the New Jersey Devils tonight at the Rock in Newark. Game time is 6:30pm central and will be carried on NBC Sports Network.


Random Notes…

- Today is an off day for the team, no on-ice activity at all.

- Interesting… in the regular season Phoenix won two at Bridgestone Arena and Nashville won two at Jobing.com Arena.

- Chicago, San Jose, Pittsburgh and Detroit, all gone from the playoffs. Somebody keep the sharp objects away from NBC programmers…

- I know the Hossa injury was big… but it is hard to look at Chicago’s loss to Phoenix as anything less than an epic fail on the part of their big guns… and of the management for not securing a solid goaltender.

- Phoenix’s series win was the first for the franchise since 1987, when they were the Winnipeg Jets.

- Home teams are 16-28 so far in the first round of this year’s playoffs. So much for home ice advantage…

- Ottawa blew a golden opportunity last night… I can’t see the Rangers dropping a game 7 at MSG.

- What a tough video review in last night’s Sens / Rangers game. I truly could see that one going either way. If you are a Ranger fan, scream about the goaltender interference… If you are a Senators fan, scream about the five on three…

- Henrik Lundqvist needs to get his change purse out for his $2500 fine. His post-game comment was… “It’s a joke, somebody wanted them back in the game.” Really??? You think that there is some conspiracy theory to keep a small market team into a playoff where Detroit, Chicago, and Pittsburgh are gone? That one is beyond silly…


You are invited to follow me on Twitter. Search for @PredPAPaul… Not only will I be updating when I get news or updates, but we are having a bit of fun by getting your input on Gnash introductions, weigh in on Twitter and who knows, we may use your introduction for the best mascot in the NHL at the next Preds game!

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On the next SlapShot Radio

The guest list for Wednesday’s show is coming together… The Puck Daddy himself, Greg Wyshynski will join us to give his twisted take on the playoffs and we will get a look at the Eastern Conference from Camden Courier-Post sportswriter Kevin Callahan… We will also take a first look at the Coyotes series as well… Join us won’t you? 6pm on 102.5 the Game.

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