Nashville Predators vs Anaheim Ducks: Best NHL Playoff Series So Far?

Scott WeldonCorrespondent IApril 18, 2011

Martin Erat skating past Ryan Getzlaf
Martin Erat skating past Ryan GetzlafFrederick Breedon/Getty Images

The NHL playoffs seemed to get off the mark with a whisper rather than a bang this year. There were two shutouts the first night and the only close game was a tightly played 2-1 victory by the Washington Capitals over the New York Rangers. There have been six shutouts already in only 19 playoff games.

The defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks are on the verge of being swept out of the playoffs by the Vancouver Canucks. The Northeast champion Bruins have scored one goal and have yet to hold a lead in two games versus the Montreal Canadiens.

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lighting each have one win in their series together but both those games were a walkover. In the first game Pittsburgh won a 3-0 shutout. In the second they were never in it as Tampa Bay waltzed over the Penguins 5-1. Now that the Lightning have their skates under them, the Penguins don't really look like they can win another game. 

Detroit-Phoenix looked to be over before it began. The Coyotes made a nice effort at a comeback after falling behind 4-0 on Saturday, but they needed to succeed to send the message that they are capable of winning a game, let alone a series against Detroit.  

San Jose won a tight game before LA trounced them 4-0 on Saturday night. That series is starting to generate some excitement and potential as LA looks like they still can compete even without Anze Kopitar. 

The Rangers-Capitals series has been evenly matched but dull. All the offensive fire power just seems to have been kept under wraps in that series.

Philadelphia vs Buffalo has been similar to the Washington vs New York series in that the games have all been close. The Sabres and Flyers though have been playing at a more exciting pace.

They played an extraordinary game on Saturday in which the Flyers hung on for a 5-4 victory. That was as fun a game to watch as you're likely to see. It featured three lead changes and a Buffalo comeback in the third. Throw in some supernatural Ryan Miller goaltending (especially in the 1-0 Buffalo victory on Thursday) and this series has the potential to be the best in the first round.

Right now however the best series in the first round has been the Nashville Predators versus the Anaheim Ducks. The games have been continuous up-tempo affairs. Bad goaltending from Dan Ellis made the first game a bit of a walk for the Predators as he gave up four goals on 20 shots. He got the hook 56 seconds into the third period when Mike Fisher scored his second goal of the game.

Since Emery replaced Ellis the games have been much more even. The speed on both teams has been exceptional and play has raced up and down the ice in the last two games.

On Friday night the Ducks had 2-0 and 4-1 leads but had to hold off a ferocious Nashville comeback. The Predators scored twice in the third period to climb within one goal. The game was only settled with a Duck empty net goal with less than a minute left in the game.  

Sunday saw the Predators build a 2-0 lead in the first period only to have the Ducks fight back to tie it after two.

The Predators carried the play to Anaheim. The Ducks seemed to miss winger Bobby Ryan who was serving a two-game suspension for stomping with his skate blade on another player's foot.  

Nashville scored again to take the lead early in the third period but Anaheim tied it up again. Finally Mike Fisher scored the game winning goal at 10:21 of the third period. The rest of the game was a series of frantic back and forth rushes as each team struggled to score.

The Ducks need to win the next game in Nashville to even up the series and regain home ice advantage for the rest of the series. They will have to play a much better game to do that.  

The Nashville crowd was excited and appreciative. They got to watch one of the more exciting games in the playoffs this year. If Nashville wins this series it will be the first playoff series win after playing 12 seasons in the league. It will represent a new high water mark for hockey in Tennessee.

If you haven't seen it yet, check out a game. This series is running at full speed all the time.