(4) Nashville Predators vs (5) Detroit Red Wings
For Detroit and Nashville, making the playoffs has become a tradition. Detroit is playing in the post-season for the 21st straight campaign while Nashville has advanced to the first round for the sixth time in seven years. That’s where the similarities end, though. Detroit has won the Cup as recently as 2008 while the Predators won their first playoff series last year. Still, there’s plenty of reason to believe Nashville can advance to the second round for just the second time in their franchise’s history in 2012.
Nashville entered the season with a strong defense and great goaltender. They weren’t a threatening club offensively, but they did have some scoring depth. However, with Ryan Suter
scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this summer, the Predators decided to make a big push this season. With that in mind they acquired Hal Gill
, Paul Gaustad
, and Andrei Kostitsyn
in trades. On top of that, Alexander Radulov
finally rejoined the squad after bolting for the KHL in 2008-09. With those additions, Nashville looks like a very deep team and that will be a big strength going into this series.
By comparison, Detroit doesn’t have the same kind of depth, but they do have players who could prove to be game changers. Nicklas Lidstrom
should be a big threat playing in what might be his final campaign. They also have one of the best two-way players in the game in Pavel Datsyuk
and Henrik Zetterberg
, who has been superb since the All-Star break with 34 points in 32 games.
The X-factor is Jimmy Howard
, who has been playing recently, but missed a significant portion of the second half of the season due to groin problems. He also has been less impressive overall in the second half with a 2.42 GAA and .909 save percentage.
Howard could bounce back, but given how deep a team Nashville is, how good their defensive core is, and how dominant Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne
has been, I think the Predators will beat Detroit in seven games. Nashville Andrei Kostitsyn
-Alexander Radulov Sergei Kostitsyn
-Martin Erat Jordin Tootoo
-Brandon Yip Gabriel Bourque
-Patric Hornqvist Ryan Suter
-Shea Weber Roman Josi
-Hal Gill Francis Bouillon
-Kevin Klein Pekka Rinne Anders Lindback
WHO’S HOT Alexander Radulov
has three goals and seven points in nine contests since returning to the Nashville Predators. Andrei Kostitsyn
has four assists and a plus-five rating in his last five contests. WHO’S NOT
Unlike his brother, Sergei Kostitsyn
has struggled lately. Sergei is on a nine-game pointless streak going into the playoffs. Martin Erat
leads the Predators in points, but he has just one goal and no assists in his last six contests. NOTES
Although you might assume that a team with more gifted snipers like the Pittsburgh Penguins would be the league leader in power-play percentage, that honor actually belongs to the Nashville Predators. Nashville converted on 21.6% of their power-play opportunities in 2011-12.
Goaltender Anders Lindback
left Saturday's game after a collision with teammate Ryan Ellis
. The initial reports suggest that the injury is not serious. Brian McGrattan
is also out with an upper body injury.
Nashville has won their last two regular season meetings against the Detroit Red Wings. Overall, their 2011-12 series is tied at 3-3. Detroit Valtteri Filppula
-Jiri Hudler Johan Franzen
-Todd Bertuzzi Drew Miller
-Daniel Cleary Gustav Nyquist
-Tomas Holmstrom Nicklas Lidstrom
-Jonathan Ericsson Niklas Kronwall
-Brad Stuart Kyle Quincey
-Ian White Jimmy Howard Ty Conklin WHO’S HOT
Detroit has scored just 11 goals in their last six games, so they don't have much in the way of hot players right now. That being said, Pavel Datsyuk
has two goals and seven in his last seven contests. Tomas Holmstrom
has a goal and an assist in Detroit's last two contests. WHO’S NOT
has no goals and two assists in his last six contests. Ian White
got off to a great start this season, but he has just eight points and a minus-three rating in 31 games since the All-Star break. To make matters worse, White only seems to be getting colder. He has two points in his last 16 games. NOTES
We already mentioned that the Red Wings have made the playoffs for an NHL-leading 21 consecutive season. However, it's worth adding that they have also advanced past the first round in each of their previous five campaigns. Patrick Eaves
(concussion) is sidelined indefinitely. Joey MacDonald
(back) and Darren Helm
(knee) are both day-to-day. On a more positive note, Daniel Cleary
should be available for game one of Detroit's first round series.
This is the third time the Detroit has faced Nashville in the playoffs. Detroit won each of their previous two series in six games.