For much of the season, many Predators fans wanted to see their team in the Pacific bracket. Reasoning: for much of the season, the Pacific teams had fewer points. But by the end of the year, the Kings and the Ducks both spent time on tears and swapped the division lead back and forth. And once again, the Ducks won the division.
That's what Bruce Boudreau does. He wins the division.
Nashville will be facing an opponent that collected skulls for most of the spring, and it's an opponent with some very familiar names; Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, and Kevin Bieksa. It's a veteran group at the top end of their lineup, but they've drafted and traded well. There is a fair amount of youth blended into this group, as well as some cagey veterans like Shawn Horcoff and Chris Stewart.
Are the Ducks the lesser of the two evils? And are you happy with this matchup? The staff was asked one question:
What are your initial thoughts on facing the Anaheim Ducks in the first round?
Here are the responses. Enjoy.
It'll sure be different this go round than the last. No Bobby Ryan, who juked Legwand so bad his jock is still in the rafters, no bionic hip Ray Emery in net. But the Ducks are still a force with Perry, Getzlaf, Kesler and if Andersen gets hot, that is no bueno. But the last time the Preds played the Ducks was before Thanksgiving. This was slumping Forsberg and pre-Ryan Johansen Predators. We are a much different team now with loads of chemistry due to Poile pulling the trigger early on the Jones/Johansen trade. It'll be a good match-up and one the Predators can win, but they can't slouch one little bit in this series lest we end up with a repeat of last year.
The Ducks are good. So are the Kings, Sharks, Hawks, Blues and Stars (Sorry, Wild). In that respect, I don't really care who we play...there's no "easy" matchup. As someone who's going to the games though, I suppose I'm happy about being in the Pacific bracket just because there will be somewhere between 10 and 40 opposing fans at Bridgestone. The Preds will be able to holster that "Keep the ____ Out" policy until much later in the playoffs for sure.
I'm excited about the opportunity the Preds have been given in this first round. They avoid the other 4 Central Division opponents and jump over to the Pacific to face a Ducks team that they matchup well against. And a team they've had post-season success against in the past. However... these are not the same Ducks that the Preds defeated back in 2011. These aren't even the same Ducks the Preds defeated earlier this season. They've got a strong defense, top notch special teams, and loads of momentum. My nerves are already on edge.
I'm not a fan of this series. I've had some time to think about it and, as much as Los Angeles posed a threat, I don't know if Nashville has what it takes to get through the Ducks in the first round. That number one power play, number one penalty kill, and 30-plus wins since Christmas to lead the NHL is just frightening. Plus, these two teams haven't seen each other since they were both awful back in November. It's going to be an exciting series, but I just don't feel confident in a Nashville win.
My initial thought was Ryan Kesler. The last time the Preds faced him in the playoffs, albeit with Vancouver, he posted a smooth 11 points in just six games. The next thought was that this is a very close matchup. The Preds took the regular season series with a record of 2-1-0 and out scored the Ducks 10-7. Among the other three Western Conference playoff series, I don’t think there is another that is more of a toss up. Pekka Rinne will have to be on his game, but that’s the playoffs. Offense from the familiar faces of Filip Forsberg, James Neal and the blue liners has to be there for Nashville to snag this series just like if they were playing anyone else. The Preds’ game vs the Ducks’ game should be a tight battle.
We already know their strategy, thanks to Ryan "No Human" Kesler*. We just have to make sure we kill their goalie's will to live before they get to ours. This is going to be a tough, physical series against a team that makes half of our lineup look like Lilliputians, but if we can keep our cool and win the 5v5 battle, I like our chances.
Ryan Kesler on the Ducks' physical play: "It's going to wear them down. No human can withstand that many hits." http://t.co/a8a6rpbjpc— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) May 24, 2015
Matchups. It's all about matchups. The Ducks rely on Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg to do the heavy lifting in the defensive zone, while Nashville relies on two main scoring lines. Either the Johansen/Neal or Ribeiro/Forsberg line will need to catch fire in order to win this series. We don't know for sure who the Ducks will put in net (much like the situations in Dallas, San Jose, St. Louis and even Chicago). Also, Pekka Rinne will need to show us something. Last year he was out-dueled by Scott Darling for 3 games, and if he is the lesser goaltender in this series... we may need to start asking even more questions about his future.