Western Conference Semi-Finals: #4 Nashville Predators (4-1-0) vs #3 Phoenix Coyotes (4-0-2)
Two very similar teams will be playing each other in the Western Conference Semi-Finals, Predators against Coyotes. Gold vs White. Pekka Rinne vs Mike Smith. Shea Weber and Ryan Suter vs Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Barry Trotz vs Dave Tippet. This series all too similar.
With it being a goalie duel going into this series, scoring could be at a premium. But could we get that weird opposite where goals will be easy to get? No I highly doubt it, but if it does happen, it might be safe to say I "jinxed" it.
A huge plus for the Nashville Predators is having Raffi Torres suspended throughout the entire series for his illegal hit on Marian Hossa. Brendan Shanahan gave him a hefty, 25 game suspension for the hit. Now the Predators won't have to worry about a goon trying to "intentionally hurt" one of the players in the locker room. Nashville can completely focus on the task at hand.
Here is your Series Schedule, as of 8:02 PM CT Thursday.
|Game #||Date||Away||Home||Time||TV Network|
|Game 1||4/27 Fri.||Predators||Coyotes||8 PM||NBC Sports Network|
|Game 2||4/29 Sun.||Predators||Coyotes||7 PM||NBC Sports Network|
|Game 3||5/2 Wed.||Coyotes||Predators||8 PM||CNBC|
|Game 4||5/4 Fri.||Coyotes||Predators||6:30 PM||NBC Sports Network|
|*Game 5||5/7 Mon.||Predators||Coyotes||9 PM||NBC Sports Network|
|*Game 6||5/9 Wed.||Coyotes||Predators||TBD||TBD|
|*Game 7||5/11 Fri.||Predators||Coyotes||TBD||TBD|
* - If Necessary
TBD - To Be Determined
Regular Season Series Highlights
|03/12||NSH||PHX||5-4 NSH (SO)|
Top 3 Predators vs Phoenix Coyotes in Points
|#10 Martin Erat||3||1||4||+3|
|#15 Craig Smith||4||1||2||0|
|#11 David Legwand||4||0||3||-5|
Top 3 Coyotes vs Nashville Predators in Points
|#19 Shane Doan||4||1||3||+2|
|#3 Keith Yandle||4||2||1||-2|
|#13 Ray Whitney||4||2||1||+2|
Predators Goalies Stats vs Phoenix Coyotes
|#35 Pekka Rinne||4||2||2||0||.919||2.71|
Coyotes Goalies Stats vs Nashville Predators
|#1 Jason LaBarbera||3||2||1||0||.931||2.01|
|#41 Mike Smith||1||0||0||1||.886||3.69|
Who's Better Offensively? Phoenix Coyotes
The Phoenix Coyotes had a lot of scoring depth in their last series against the Chicago Blackhawks. Recently acquired, Antoine Vermette from the Columbus Blue Jackets, had four goals and an assist through six games of the series. Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson are absolutely stellar on the blue-line during an offensive cycle. Of course you have to worry about Shane Doan, Ray Whitney and Mikkel Boedker.
The Nashville Predators have a good offense as well. I just think the depth of the Coyotes in scoring is a bit better than Nashville. Trust me, the choice was tough.
Alexander Radulov had an impressive first round, stat wise. Radulov had a team-leading, five points (goal and four assists.) There are a few faults in his game though. I can't stand how Radulov tries to go one on one or even, one on two. He needs to realize this isn't the KHL where you can do that. Other than that, he has been good.
Who is Better Defensively? Nashville Predators
The Nashville Predators are fairly better than the Phoenix Coyotes at defense. Shea Weber and Ryan Suter were able to shut down Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg in five games, very well. Even without Hal Gill. We also saw Kevin Klein play his best series ever. So, if Weber, Suter, Gill, Klein and Josi play well, the Predators will have this series in the bag.
Also, if the Mike Fisher-Sergei Kostitsyn-Martin Erat line are able to shut down the Coyotes' top line just as well as Detroit's, Phoenix will have a tough time scoring goals. The Coyotes are going to have to rely on potentially, their third and fourth lines for scoring. But how possible is that?
Who is Better in Net? Even
This was a VERY hard decision to make on who is better. Throughout the playoffs, Mike Smith has been a bit better and led his team to the next round. Although, Pekka Rinne has stood on his head and kept the Predators in the game. A very tough decision so I just was going even.
Both goalies are very strong glove side and are tall. Rinne is 6'5" while Mike Smith is 6'4". So both cover the net very well. It should be interesting how the goalie duel goes down. See more of the breakdown of Mike Smith here.
The Key Players
The Nashville Predators are going to have to play well defensively because we really don't know what is going to happen against Mike Smith, offensively. So Hal Gill is going to one of the key players. Gill should be returning in Game 1 of this series off a foot injury, suffered earlier this month against the Dallas Stars. It is going to important that Gill slides into the lineup without any slumps.
Another key player will be Patric Hornqvist. He will be super important in getting in front of Mike Smith, screening or deflecting shots. His physical play is going to be important as well because the Phoenix bodies can't be 100% going into this series. Hornqvist is going to have to wear them down.
The third key player is Mike Fisher. He is going to have a tough job ahead of him trying to shut down Martin Hanzal, Ray Whitney and Radim Vrbata. If Fisher and his linemates were able to shut down the top line of the Red Wings, it should and better happen to this line.
The Phoenix Coyotes are going to be leaning on Mike Smith, just as the Predators will be leaning on Pekka Rinne. Smith is a key player to the Coyotes this series. He is going to held responsible and will be disappointing if he allows some fluky goals, just as Jimmy Howard did.
Shane Doan is also a key player to the 'Yotes. Doan didn't have a great series against the Chicago Blackhawks. He had a goal and an assist. Shane Doan is going to have to improve his game against a team he does well against, the Nashville Predators. In 51 games against Nashville, Doan has scored 16 goals and 17 assists, but has a brutal +/- at -14.
The third key for them is Oliver Ekman-Larsson. You are probably asking yourself, why not Keith Yandle? Well, Yandle is going to be a marked guy to watch for on every team because he is so skilled in both aspects of the game. But Ekman-Larsson is the key to the power play. OEL has an awesome shot from the point that is accurate.