Season Series: NSH 3-1-0
Well... as little as one week ago, who could have imagined the Ducks would not only be in the playoffs, but at the last second stealing the fourth and final home-ice slot right out from under the collective noses of the Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Nashville.
This result is no doubt a stunner as many people at the outset of the season figured they would be battling to stay off the bottom of the Pacific division well out of the playoffs.
Instead, the Ducks have fought their way back from an abysmal start on the back of their top line, led by Rocket Richard Trophy winner Corey Perry.
Outside of this top line who some have called the most lethal line in the NHL at this moment, the Ducks have some significant strength in the play of Lubomir Visnovsky, who could very likely be a finalist for the Norris Trophy, and Jonas Hiller, who up until his long bout with vertigo, was in the early talks for the Vezina trophy.
Additionally, Anaheim has developed a deadly power play that finished the season tied for second-best in the league. This extra-man unit will need to stay hot if they want to have any hope against Nashville's brilliant fifth-ranked penalty kill.
And after all this hard work to overcome the odds and take the final playoff spot, what are they rewarded with? A first-round series with the team absolutely nobody wants to play: The Nashville Predators.
The Predators have quietly made their sixth playoffs in the last seven years, and this time they're determined to finally get their first series win. This very likely might be the year.
The Preds have dominated this season series, with their only loss coming on November 7, when Paul Mara scored the game winning goal with two seconds remaining in regulation.
Their biggest strength this season has unquestionably been in net with the duo of Pekka Rinne and Anders Lindback frustrating opponents night after night. These two, specifically Rinne, have carried the Preds to the playoffs with one of the best second-half records in the NHL.
Their big weapon on offense is Sergei Kostitsyn, who boasts 23 goals and 50 points. When this is compared to Corey Perry's 50 goals and 98 points, it's easy to see the difference between these two clubs: Anaheim's high-power offense vs. Nashville's stifling defense.
For some time now, Nashville has been labeled as the team absolutely nobody wants to play. Between their recent form and the Ducks' record against them this season, you can bet Anaheim is less than thrilled to be the one stuck facing them in the first round.
It's horribly painful for me to have to write this, particularly with Perry and the Ducks playing such great hockey at the moment, but after watching the season series between these two it's clear how badly Anaheim struggles with this Nashville team, and I'm not so sure they can adapt to overcome these struggles on such a short notice.
Prediction: Predators in 6
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