It's April 15th, which means two things: One, your Nashville Predators are finally playing in a playoff game. And two, you probably owe money to the federal government and it's time to pay up. After paying your taxes today, tune in for some Predator playoff action tonight. Don't worry, the Preds won't liquidate your assets, only your emotions.
Only so much can prepare us, as fans, for the playoffs. We've all been through this before. We know how it feels when the Game 1 puck drops, when the first goal is scored, when the final horn sounds, when the final handshakes take place. But even past experience will not prepare us adequately for this playoff series, because it hasn't happened yet. We don't know what twists will occur, what heartbreak and what joy we will experience. Right now, there is only the ride ahead of us.
So let's go.
The Anaheim Ducks
The rest of the OTF crew has done a great job breaking down this Ducks team and the looming matchups, so to avoid duplication of effort, here are some links:
- The Forwards
- The Defense
- The Goaltending
- Jason's Practice Update
- Link's Playoff Preview (not presented by Subway)
There's no way to compete with that level of analysis and newsiness, so I won't. Great job, team.
Now, on to a harrowing tweet...
Psst...24 hours until puck drop! We can't wait to #PaintItOrange with all of you tomorrow night! Remember - Playoff Spot opens at 5:30 pm!— Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) April 15, 2016
The Ducks are bringing back their "Paint It Orange" campaign for Game 1. The Honda Center will be filled with exuberant highway workers, chanting and quacking, waving small orange hankies, sanctifying the ugliest color scheme in sports on national television. Here's a preview of what this will look like:
If you think i'm exaggerating, here, look at this staircase:
Really stare into that color. Soak it in. Match it's frequency with your own. Then, witness the end. Subject yourself to this, the bleakest hue, and glimpse the dismal, horrible end of it all. Experience "the color that God hates." Here, again:
That is an ancient, paralyzing ugliness.
It is a color meant for only three uses: middle school cafeterias, roller skate center bathrooms, and terrorist interrogation rooms. And tonight it will be plastered all over the stands of that arena and I just hope to goodness that the cameras refrain from panning around too much. Please... please don't show us the horror. Don't show us the end of the world.
The Nashville Predators
If the Predators can find consistent scoring from their top lines (like they did in the second half of the season), this series has a very good chance to go Nashville's way. Yes, the Predators still need to protect Pekka Rinne from certain disaster, but that's beside the point: you need to score goals to win. And I think the Predators can do that against this Ducks team. Here's a look at the career playoff numbers for the top two lines... look how much variance in playoff experience there is:
- Ryan Johansen: 6 points (2g, 4a) in 6 games
- James Neal: 27 points (15g, 12a) in 44 games
- Calle Jarnkrok: 2 points (0g, 2a) in 6 games
- Mike Ribeiro: 32 points (7g, 25a) in 55 games
- Craig Smith: 6 points (2g, 4a) in 8 games
- Filip Forsberg: 6 points (4g, 2a) in 6 games
- Mike Fisher: 40 points (18g, 22a) in 100 games
Even though Mike Fisher isn't a top line player at the moment, I threw him in to show the contrast. Guys like Forsberg, Jarnkrok and Johansen are green when it comes to the playoffs. But each line has some playoff experience with James Neal and Mike Ribeiro bringing the bulk of that experience to the top lines.
Mike Fisher brings a veteran presence to the bottom 6 that cannot be forgotten. The man has played in 100 playoff games... that means something. His playoff metrics don't. I think we all remember this incredible, incredible pass:
There is no way that he actually saw Forsberg on that play... that was pure hockey instinct in an emotional playoff moment. That kind of awareness will be essential in this game. I like the prospects of Fisher playing out there with Viktor Arvidsson and Colin Wilson against the lower level defense of the Ducks. That could be the key to the series, honestly. To add to the narrative we've heard all season long, if the Predators can get consistent scoring from the bottom 6, while getting their usual production from the top 6, the series is theirs.
So who will be the Game 1 hero? And who will be the goat? Which line will wreak havoc on the Ducks? And which one will fall apart? Can Pekka Rinne simply be an average goaltender again? Or will that even matter?
All these questions, and more, will be answered in a few hours...
The Important Details
NO REST FOR THE WICKED
9:30 PM puck drop for us non-West coasters. The game will be on both FS-TN and NBC Sports. Local radio: 102.5 The Game