clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Ranking Potential First Round Opponents (Pacific Division)

New, comments

What’s the Best Matchup for Nashville?

This is Part II of ranking potential first round opponents. If you missed Part I, click here.

* This was written on Thursday March 29th, so the Kings win over the Coyotes and the Predators win over the Sharks are not mentioned *

Once we know exactly who Nashville matches up with, we at On The Forecheck will offer an in-depth analysis of that team, but for now, I’ll break down the potential opponents by their strengths and weaknesses using the chart below. The I’ll look at how those strengths and weaknesses match up against Nashville and which first round opponent gives the team the best chance for a quick and painless series before a presumed war against Winnipeg in the second round. Damn you playoff format!

Los Angeles Kings

The teams bunched together in the race for the playoffs are so tight, the odds of which team the Predators will face is highly volatile, but for today that team looks like the Los Angeles Kings, so let’s start with them.

hockeyviz.com

Strengths

The Los Angeles Kings haven’t totally changed their stripes. They still rely on solid defense and goaltending. Their game is all about goal prevention. They are first in the NHL on the penalty kill and they have the fourth best mark for score adjusted goals allowed per 60 minutes at even strength.* They also have the best road record of these teams at 22-14-4, possibly negating some of the Bridgestone advantage.

Weaknesses

What plagued many of the late Sutter teams in L.A. was goal scoring. This year’s version of the Kings isn’t much different. Gone however are the days where they were Corsi monsters; they are just 18th in the league this year. They are in the bottom third of the league in score adjusted CF/60, even-strength expected goals/60 and score adjusted goals for/60. The chart above shows their lack of shot generation from the high danger areas.

Star Power

The Kings are led by Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty, both stalwarts of the team who’ve been lauded for their play, especially in the defensive end of the rink. Kopitar is a perennial Selke nominee, and Doughty is always in the Norris discussion. The former has a dark-horse chance at a Hart nomination this season.

Depth

The Kings Cup winning teams were built on depth. Much of that depth is still left on the roster with Dean Lombardi handing out legacy contracts like candy, but this team really hasn’t aged well. They’ve tried to infuse the lineup with some youth, but Doughty is second on the team in points with 55, tied with Dustin Brown who was hasn’t had a 50 point season in six years.

Goaltending

Jonathan Quick does have something in common with Pekka Rinne. Both of them have been polarizing figures in the goaltender community for a half decade or more. Quick is having a solid season though, currently in the upper tier in GAA and Sv%, and his delta save percentage** is 5th in the league among goalies with 40+ starts. We’ve seen playoff Jonathan Quick before, and he alone has the ability to win or lose a series on his own.

Momentum

For each of these teams I’ll include a chart from Sean Tierney, you can find him on twitter @ChartingHockey. He’s been keeping tabs on and creating visuals for every team in the league with their five game rolling average expected goal differential. The Kings had an awfully strong start to the season, but have dipped lately. They are unflattering in this perspective, and have been for quite some time. They’ve been alternating wins and losses since the beginning of March. If they fall any further in the standings they will miss the playoffs altogether. The Kings have four of their remaining five games at home. They have to be thinking seven points gets us in.

@ChartingHockey

Season Results

Nashville is 3-0 against the Kings this year, outscoring them 12-6

Should Nashville want to play them?

Although they’ve been trying to shed that image this year, the Kings would likely try to slow the game down. Whistles disappear in the playoffs, and with the strength of the Kings penalty kill, they will want to make the Predators earn it the hard way, by scoring goals at even strength. Drew Doughty will play north of 30 minutes a night, which isn’t something anyone looks forward to when facing the Kings.

On the other hand, they aren’t much of a threat to score. If the Preds can neutralize Anze Kopitar in the offensive zone, they shouldn’t have much trouble containing anyone else. I think the Preds would dispatch the Kings in five or six games.

Anaheim Ducks

hockeyviz.com

Strengths

The Ducks results so far this year, show them to be sort of a poor mans version of the Kings. They are 6th in the league in score adjusted goals allowed/60 and 4th on the penalty kill. Much of that can be laid at the feet of John Gibson, who’s shown this year that he’s worthy of a starters gig and a Vezina nomination.

Weaknesses

Yes the Ducks have been injured for good portions of the year, but they aren’t particularly good at many aspects of winning hockey games. Their Corsi numbers are below league average, their power-play isn’t all that good and they are a negative expected goals team at even strength.

Star Power

Rickard Rakell has had a breakout season with with 65 points and Ryan Getzlaf has 57 points in 51 games, but outside of Rakell this is a really aging forward group. They have one of the strongest defensive corps in the league, but no legitimate stars unless you want to make a fancy stats case for Hampus Lindholm.

Depth

They have plenty on defense, but not much on offense. Corey Perry will put up his points and Ondrej Kase is a useful player, but there is a reason this team is middling at best in scoring.

Goaltending

John Gibson is making a strong case for the Vezina, and he’s the reason Anaheim was able to keep it’s head above water all year as they battled injuries. If we’re considering Pekka Rinne as the favorite, Gibson is a strong #2. The analytics numbers are a bit more glowing than the traditional stats, but the team in front of him hasn’t done him many favors. Gibson is an outstanding goalie.

Momentum

You can almost see when the Ducks started to get healthy, which could prove problematic for Western Conference teams in the playoffs. They’ve settled in however at just below average in expected goal differential over the last month or so. The Ducks have the exact same remaining opponents as the Kings do with the Avs, Stars and Wild all facing the Ducks on the front end and the Kings on the backend of back to backs.

@ChartingHockey

Season Results

Nashville is 3-0 against the Ducks this year, outscoring them 11-7

Should Nashville want to play them?

I just don’t think there is enough fire power on this team to truly scare the Preds. They will play some quality defense and Gibson could steal a game or two, but I don’t really see them as formidable competition this time around. My only worry is the physicality of this series. We all know these two teams don’t like each other, and there isn’t really anything preventing Ryan Kesler or Corey Perry becoming a nuisance if the Preds are cruising to a series win. Playoff ending injuries are a concern.


For my money, give me the Avs or Blues. I’d rather not face the Ducks, sheerly for the fact i don’t want any injuries carrying over into round two. I think the Predators will win a series against any of these teams, and don’t think any of them would be particularly long. Now it’s your turn to weigh in. Answer the poll questions below and hit the comments. We’re almost there!

* Score Adjusted refers to the differences in game state and how teams have historically produced by specific score (IE down one goal, tied, up one goal)

** The difference between his actual save percentage and expected save percentage at even strength

Poll

Which Team Do You Want to Face in Round One?

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    Los Angeles Kings
    (21 votes)
  • 3%
    Anaheim Ducks
    (12 votes)
  • 48%
    St. Louis Blues
    (151 votes)
  • 40%
    Colorado Avalanche
    (126 votes)
310 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which Team Do You Not Want to Face in Round One

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Los Angeles Kings
    (51 votes)
  • 71%
    Anaheim Ducks
    (208 votes)
  • 6%
    St. Louis Blues
    (20 votes)
  • 3%
    Colorado Avalanche
    (11 votes)
290 votes total Vote Now