Continuing the preview of Nashville's first-round match-up with the Anaheim Ducks, we wanted to get an Anaheim perspective on the upcoming series. The good folks over at Anaheim Calling were kind enough to answer a few questions...
1) Coming into the season, the defense was a huge concern. How have the Ducks been able to do to remedy that, and who has stepped up on the blue line?
Arthur: They basically remedied it by bringing in Francois Beauchemin. Andreas Lilja was a good Band Aid for a while, but Beauchemin knows how to run Carlyle's system, knows how to be offensively productive in the system, so the amount of depth Anaheim has now comes from having Beauchemin back. Throughout the season, though, the kids really made the defense work. Cam Fowler was a mainstay on the power play, providing a much-needed shot in a crew lauded for its puck movement (read 'refusal to shoot'). And Luca Sbisa has been a physical force that you rarely expect from a second year player. Without them, this team would still be a one-pair D-corps relying on Andy Sutton and Bob Murray's dimestore filler.
2) Corey Perry finished a spectacular season with 50 goals and 48 assists, moving him to the forefront of the MVP conversation. Just how important has he been to Anaheim this season?
Arthur: If every season boils down to making the postseason, then Corey Perry has been the MVP of the Ducks, and frankly, the entire playoff race in the West. He willed this team into the playoffs.
He's been hot before, cashing every check Getzlaf wrote or being a right pest in front of the net, but he's been absolutely unstoppable of late. Line combinations and matchups have meant very little to his production. I said recently that he looks like Super Mario on a Starman power up. You can almost hear the music.
3) The goaltending situation looks to be up in the air. I know Preds fans would love to see Dan Ellis between the pipes. Who do you see getting most of the action in net?
Arthur: It looks like Preds fans will get their wish. Coach Carlyle prefers the hot hand, even in the playoffs (as he showed with Bryzgalov), and while Emery was arguably hotter, Emery was also just cleared to skate with the team Tuesday after taking shots in practice on Monday.
And Dan Ellis has been hot enough. I would be surprised if he didn't get the start for Game 1. Depending on how that goes, you could see Emery as early as Game 2. That's just conjecture, of course; Carlyle never confirms his starting netminder. Whoever plays better will get the most action, simple as that.
4) We all know about Perry/Getzlaf/Ryan/Selanne, but do you think we could see someone Nashville fans may not know much about making some noise offensively?
Arthur: I'm tempted to say that rookie Brandon McMillan will be a threat on the penalty kill, or that Matt Beleskey's shot on the top line (if he stays on the top line) will be a factor, and honestly, if speed is important against the Predators, sophomore Dan Sexton could see some ice time and make an impact. But honestly, I'd be wary of the defense.
There are a plethora of competent point shots on this defense. Luca Sbisa and Cam Fowler just don't know any better than to swing away, and Toni Lydman even pieced together a couple of goals when he first joined the corps. Add to that the fact that Francois Beauchemin and Lubomir Visnovsky could unload hollow point .45s from the blueline, and I think the offensive impact players you haven't listed may all be rear guards. Obviously, though, to get through a playoff series, you need your bottom six to light the lamp. If Ruutu and company have trouble even creating sustained pressure, Carlyle won't hesitate to swap them out for players who might.
5) What do you think the key is going to be for the Ducks to win this series?
Arthur: The heroics from Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne (especially on the power play) that brought the Ducks to the postseason will have to continue. They just will. I don't see a lot of blowouts against Pekka Rinne, so if games can stay close enough for Popeye to get to a can of spinach, then all we need is for the hero to open his mouth and chew.
Of course, to get through an entire series, those performances will have to ignite other players on the team, and the goaltending will have to keep everything going to script until then. Not the most astute analysis, but true nonetheless.
Check out Anaheim Calling for more.