Before the Chicago-Phoenix series had reached its conclusion, the series already held the interest of the Nashville Predators, as their opponent would be the winner of that series.
With the Los Angeles Kings (No. 8 seed) upset of the Canucks (No. 1 seed) coupling with the St. Louis Blues (No. 2 seed) victory over the San Jose Sharks, the No. 4 seeded Predators would face off against either Chicago or Phoenix in Round 2. All that was left to be determined was who would have home ice.
In the end, the No. 3 seed Coyotes took down the Blackhawks in six games. Against Phoenix this season, the Preds went 2-2-0. Nashville likely would have rather seen the Hawks win the series, as not only would it give the Predators home ice, they were also a near perfect 4-0-1 against Chicago this season.
As it stands, the Predators will open up their second round in the desert, traveling to Phoenix for the first two games against the Pacific Division champs.
In many ways, this will be a team going up against itself. Both teams play a hard-hitting, defense-first style of play. Both have a handful of vets with extensive playoff experience and a great goaltender to pick up the team should the defense slip up.
For Phoenix, goalie Mike Smith finally put it all together this season, living up to his potential as a bona-fide starting NHL goalie. Opposing him will be Pekka Rinne, who has been established as a top-tier goalie for a few seasons now. Both goalies have plus-size to boot.
Beyond that, it'd seem that with both teams assembling their team on the same premises, Nashville did it better. Phoenix's scoring is a little more top heavy, though both teams have only three players with 50 or more points. However, Nashville has four guys with 40-49 points to Phoenix's one.
After the masterful performances he put up against the offensive juggernaut that is Chicago, it'd be hard to bet against Mike Smith. However, Pekka Rinne is equally as capable of stealing a game. Given the rest of the roster construction, I'll have to say Mike Smith doesn't get the Coyotes out of the second round.
My final prediction: Nashville in six games. No less than two games will go to overtime.
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