Nashville Predators vs. Vancouver Canucks playoff preview - By The Numbers

We all know that the Vancouver Canucks present a much more robust, well-rounded challenge to the Nashville Predators than the top-heavy Anaheim Ducks did, but how do these two teams match up against one another? They split their seasons series 2-2, so neither team has demonstrated a particular dominance, but is it as easy as looking at the overall standings, with Vancouver at the top, and give up hope for the Preds?

Follow after the jump as we look at the main components of team play and try to forecast where this series will go...

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5-on-5 Play

5-on-5 represents the largest portion of play by far, and the Canucks appear to hold a slim but consistent edge across the board:

Nashville  Vancouver 
  Goals For / 60 Min. 2.5 (12th) 2.7 (3rd)
Shots For / 60 Min.  28.9 (22nd)  31.3 (9th)
Shoot % 8.6% (8th)  8.7% (7th) 
GA/60 Min. 2.1 (4th) 2.0 (1st)
SA/60 Min. 30.5 (19th) 29.3 (12th)
Save % .931 (3rd) .932 (2nd)

Data from Behind the Net & NHL.com

Over the course of the season, the Canucks created more shots, gave up fewer to their opponents, and got equally solid goaltending compared to Nashville. 

Nashville PP vs. Vancouver PK

The Preds' ability to cash in with the man-advantage (6-for-27, 22% against Anaheim) helped them keep pace in a high-scoring series, but the Canucks boast a much stronger penalty killing group than the Ducks. With forwards like Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows getting most of the work there, Nashville will also need to beware the danger of giving up a shorthanded chance.

Nashville  Vancouver 
GF/60 Min. 5.0 (26th) 4.7 (5th) GA/60 Min.
SF/60 Min. 46.6 (24th) 50.2 (15th) SA/60 Min.
Shoot %  10.8% (24th)  .906 (3rd) Save %
 PP's/Game  3.2 (24th) 3.8 (24th)  # of PK's / Game 

The lone piece of good news here is that at least the Canucks take a relatively high number of penalties, which, regardless of the relative merits of their special teams, could prove a bonus for Nashville.

Vancouver PP vs. Nashville PK

Here's a real battle of strength-against-strength, and a storyline to watch here will be how often Shane O`Brien is left sitting in the box rather than out on the ice working the PK. He's a critical component of that unit (2nd in shorthanded TOI per game behind Kevin Klein)

Nashville  Vancouver 
GA/60 Min. 4.8 (7th) 9.3 (1st) GF/60 Min.
SA/60 Min.  47.5 (7th)  56.0 (5th) SF/60 Min.
Save % .898 (8th) 16.6% (1st) Shoot %
 # of PK's / Game  3.3 (6th) 3.6 (11th)  PP's/Game 

 

Goaltending

This has the potential to be a titanic battle in goal, with two Vezina Trophy finalists suiting up in Pekka Rinne and Roberto Luongo. Both, however, have yet to prove themselves in the playoffs, so there are no guarantees here:


Pekka Rinne

#35 / Goalie / Nashville Predators

6-5

207

Nov 03, 1982



GP MIN W L OTL GA GAA SA SV SV% SO

Regular Season

Playoffs

64

6

3789

346

33

4

22

2

9

134

19

2.12

3.29

1905

153

1771

134

.930

.876

6

0


The fact that the Preds triumphed over Anaheim without Pekka even being in the conversation for the team's MVP was remarkable, but he'll have to return to form against Vancouver.


Roberto Luongo

#1 / Goalie / Vancouver Canucks

6-3

217

Apr 04, 1979



GP MIN W L OTL GA GAA SA SV SV% SO

Regular season

Playoffs

60

7

3590

343

38

4

15

3

7

126

17

2.11

2.97

1753

175

1627

158

.928

.903

4

1


How will Luongo handle the escalating pressure of playoff competition? He doesn't exactly have a glowing post-season resume, and was quoted last night as saying that beating the Blackhawks in the first round "might be bigger" than when he won Olympic gold for Team Canada. To which I say, WTF? I can understand being relieved that your team barely avoided one of the biggest choke jobs in NHL history, but this tells me that Luongo was really feeling the heat... and it'll only get worse from here, Bobby Lou.

Intangibles

These 82-game results could be summed up by saying that the Canucks enjoy a slim advantage in 5-on-5 play, and should be able to lock down Nashville's power play. The Predators will come in as a decided underdog, but there are factors at play here which could close that gap and/or tilt things in favor of the Preds:

  • Nashville is healthier than they have been for most of the season, meaning their current ability as a team may be significantly greater than what is reflected in their season totals. Mike Fisher's acquisition has also bolstered the center position, which was decimated for weeks at a time earlier.
  • The Canucks are coming off an emotional Game 7 against their personal bogeyman, the Chicago Blackhawks, and aren't getting much rest ahead of Game 1 of this series. In the race to four victories, the Preds have a prime opportunity here to take the early lead.
  • Vancouver was the top faceoff team in the league during the regular season, but are without Manny Malhotrawho was #2 overall individually.

Prediction

The Predators gain at least a split this weekend in Vancouver, press the advantage on home ice, and pull off the upset in six games.

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