Predators vs. Ducks Game 7: Preview, Prediction for NHL Playoff Series Finale

Adrian Dater@@adaterNHL National ColumnistApril 26, 2016

NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 25:  Anthony Bitetto of the Nashville Predators skates against Ryan Garbutt #16 of the Anaheim Ducks during the second period in Game Six of the Western Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena on April 25, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

This seems like the series nobody has seen to this point. Neither the Nashville Predators nor Anaheim Ducks are marquee teams when it comes to U.S. television ratings and buzz, and most every game in their first-round matchup to this point has started after 9 p.m. Eastern. (Can you hear Pat Foley's outrage if he had to broadcast this series?)

But for Wednesday night at least, the Ducks and Preds get much of the stage to themselves in a nationally televised, Game 7 Western Conference playoff game at Honda Center. It will be the second Game 7 of the playoffs to this point, with Monday's Chicago-St. Louis thriller the other.

This series might not be the sexiest, but Game 7s are always fun, so let's preview this thing with some storylines for each team and give a final prediction. The game's winner will move on to face the San Jose Sharks in a best-of-seven Western Conference Semifinal. If Anaheim wins, it will have home-ice advantage. If the Predators win, they will travel further north in California to start the series in San Jose.

 

Anaheim Ducks storylines

Is Bruce Boudreau's job still safe if the Ducks lose?

GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 03:  Head coach Bruce Boudreau of the Anaheim Ducks watches from the bench during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on March 3, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Ducks defeated the Coyotes 5-1.  (Photo by Chris
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It would seem like an injustice if Boudreau paid for a Ducks Game 7 home loss with his job, but hockey is a cruel business. And the fact is, if the Ducks lose Wednesday night, it will mark the fourth straight season they will have had their season end in a seventh game at home. The Ducks lost a conference quarterfinal to Detroit in a Game 7 at home in 2013, lost to the Kings in a second-round series in 2014 and blew a 3-2 Western Conference Final lead to Chicago last season before losing at Honda Center.

Boudreau was Anaheim's coach in all those games, so it's fair to ask whether the Ducks might need a change if they bow out again to Nashville after, again, having a 3-2 series lead. 

Boudreau is 1-6 in Game 7s as a coach. He needs this one.

 

Can Corey Perry finally get going at the right time?

Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

It's not like the Ducks' star has been totally silenced this series. He enters Game 7 with four points. But they've all been assists, and right now the Ducks really need some goals from their former Hart Trophy winner.

The last time Perry was shut out goal-wise in a full playoff series was in 2013 against Detroit, and Anaheim lost that one in the first round to the Red Wings. He needs a big Game 7 to better his team's chance of avoiding such an outcome again.

 

Nashville Predators storylines

Will big-game inexperience prove fatal?

Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

This will be the first Game 7 in Predators history, so it's fair to wonder how their longtime veterans will handle it, especially on the road.

For guys such as Shea Weber, Pekka Rinne and Roman Josi, this is their first time in a winner-take-all playoff game. But it isn't the first time for coach Peter Laviolette, who is 4-1 in Game 7s, including one that resulted in Carolina winning a Stanley Cup in 2006 against Edmonton.

"Our guys should be excited," Laviolette told NHL.com's Robby Stanley. "Our Game 7 is really no different than our Game 6. If we didn't win [Monday], then we were done. I think we've got that going for us. We've already taken on an elimination game as a young group and found success."

 

Will their special teams doom them?

Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

Nashville is 1-23 on the power play so far (4.3 percent). Anaheim's power-play percentage to this point is 14.3. If those numbers hold for another game, the Ducks will likely have the decided advantage. The Predators simply have to get something going on the power play, especially against a Ducks team that has been known to take a stupid penalty or two.

Overall, the Predators have just 12 goals in the series compared to 17 against. Top guys such as Filip Forsberg, Mike Ribeiro and Ryan Johansen have to be better. 

 

Prediction: Ducks 2, Predators 1 (OT)

 

Adrian Dater covers the NHL for Bleacher Report.

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