The second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs begins tonight for the Nashville Predators. They’ll go up against a highly-skilled Winnipeg Jets team.
Here are four things to watch in this series.
Both goaltenders in this series are nominated for the Vezina Trophy, the NHL’s award given to the league’s best goalie. The funny thing is, though, that most of the regular season games between these teams were high-scoring affairs.
Both Pekka Rinne and Connor Hellebuyck play a similar style game and come from a similar background. Both were overlooked when they were younger and have turned into two of the best goalies in the NHL several years later.
Putting players in front of Hellebuyck and creating traffic will be crucial when it comes to getting bucks behind him. The Preds are at their best when their getting good looks from their defensemen and the forwards work hard in front of the net.
Pekka Rinne and his defenseman have an edge in this one, but it’s close.
Generating offense from the defense
Speaking of the defense, everyone knows the Predators have four of the best d-men in the NHL. For the last several years the Preds have been at the top of the league when it comes to getting points from their defensemen. That was not the case in the series against the Avalanche.
Mattias Ekholm was the only defenseman to score a goal and that didn’t happen until Game 5.
Players like Subban, Josi, and Ellis all need to contribute on the scoresheet this series in order for the Preds to win four games against the Jets.
Sissons-Bonino-Watson needs to continue being a thing
I wrote about it before Round 1, and boy was I right. Austin Watson is this team’s secret weapon. He led the team in points against the Avalanche, scoring 7 points in 6 games.
He and his linemates also did a fabulous job of shutting down Colorado’s top line. That’s great because Winnipeg’s top line is just as good if not better than Colorado’s.
Nashville’s third line will have to do a lot of heavy lifting against guys like Mark Schieflie, Patrick Laine, Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers and Blake Wheeler. I think they’re up to the task, and they’ve shown they can be, but this series will be won or lost because of the production of Winnipeg’s top line.
Go crazy, Smashville
The Preds wanted to win the President’s Trophy to show the league they were the real deal, but they also wanted home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. While Winnipeg is used to playing in front of raucous crowds, there’s truly nothing like Smashville when it gets going.
There’s a freaking plane parked on 5th and Broad, for Pete’s sake.
The plane will probably be destroyed by Sunday night, and let’s hope the Jets’ egos are, too.
The 17,000+ inside Bridgestone and the thousands outside can make a difference. Don’t forget that.
Hunter Patterson is a Social Media Marketer at WKRN and an avid Preds fan. His favorite Predator ever is Jerred Smithson and he realizes that’s a little weird. You can read Hunter’s Tweets at @hpatt15 and listen to his Preds-centric podcast, The GMDP, here.