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Disarming the RPG: can Shea Weber and Ryan Suter stop the Ducks' top line?

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Hockey is a team game, and it's extremely rare that one or two skaters legitimately tilt the ice in one direction or the other. While it's certainly true that a goaltender can have a massive effect on the outcome of a game, teams typically rise and fall as just that - a team. 

In the case of the Nashville Predators and Anaheim Ducks Western Conference quarterfinal series, though, the battle could be narrowed down to five players. For Anaheim, Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf, and Corey Perry have perhaps been the best line in hockey this year, with Perry the Rocket Richard winner and almost surefire Hart Trophy nominee - and he might not even be the best player on his line. Getzlaf missed 15 games due to injury, but still finished with nearly 80 points. Ryan, the lesser of the three, chipped in a measly 34 goals. 

Normally, the prospect of facing the most effective three-man unit in the NHL would be one of dread, and it is - but only one team has the best defensive pairing in the league, and that's the Nashville Predators. 

First, here are the "RPG"'s numbers on the year, as a whole, and against the Preds: 


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT

2010 - Corey Perry

against Nashville

2010 - Ryan Getzlaf

against Nashville: 

2010 - Bobby Ryan

against Nashville:

82

4

67

3

82

4

50

2

19

0

34

0

48

2

57

3

37

3

98

4

76

3

71

3

9

-4

14

0

1

0

104

2

35

0

61

2

14

0

7

0

5

0

4

0

0

0

1

0

11

0

4

0

5

0

290

18

117

7

270

17


In total, the line has combined for 10 points in 4 games against the Preds, with Getzlaf missing one of the tilts. While you'd certainly like to get that number down, it's not gaudy, and actually off the line's pace for the season.

The Preds and Ducks have played four games this year, with Nashville winning three. In those three wins, Shea Weber and Ryan Suter were the personnel that Barry Trotz entrusted with keeping the RPG line off the scoreboard. In the lone loss? Yep, Kevin Klein and Francis Bouillon saw the most time against Ryan, Getzlaf, and Perry. While there's a chance that's coincidence, it is most likely not - the fact is that Weber and Suter are best suit for matching up against the Ducks' best players. 

In some ways, the RPG can't be completely neutralized. The trio will get points (although they have only registered 3 power play points against the Preds, all in the teams' last game and all on two man advantages), it's just a matter of a) when and b) how many. On the other hand, Getzlaf, Ryan, and Perry aren't used to facing world-class defensemen every time they take the ice. Here's Perry on the subject

I know Shea personally. We've played together a few times. He's a great player. He's got a hell of a shot. We've got to be careful. He's dangerous.

Ryan Suter, he's a guy that's a shutdown guy. He's got offensive skills. We've got to be careful. They have a potent game. Those two guys on the back end, we're going to see a lot of them.

I think it's safe to say that when a leading Hart Trophy says "we've got to be careful", not once, but twice, it's a telltale sign of just how good Shea Weber and Ryan Suter are. 

It remains to be seen which of David Legwand or Mike Fisher Barry Trotz will roll out against the RPG line, but if 6 and 20 can stay out of the box and Pekka Rinne is on his game, the Preds have an excellent chance to "stop" what many consider to be the NHL's best line, and in doing so take away the Ducks' best chance at winning the series. 

You can examine further the head-to-head numbers from the Anaheim/Nashville season series by going to TimeOnIce.com and entering the 5 digit game IDs 20020, 20202, 20596, and 21107.