Anaheim/Nashville - Game One: What To Watch For

It's time! Nashville's quest for Lord Stanley's Cup begins this evening at the Honda Center. Here's the three storylines to keep an eye on after you brew your first cup of coffee.

Hot Start

The Predators have plenty of bulletin board material from this past week as not many in the media have given them a chance to proceed past the first round. As Anaheim's home ice advantage provides them a significant boost, Nashville will have to turn on its afterburners from the opening face-off if it expects to level the playing field.

The Ducks aren't entirely healthy, either, with Rickard Rakell, David Perron and Kevin Bieksa only probable for game one. Combine that with a quick-strike Predators team out of the gates and it could lead to a split or sweep in Southern California.

Great Goaltending

Pekka Rinne needs to be great. Every game. There's no easier way to say that.

Rinne's career playoff performance leaves room for improvement: 15 wins, 19 losses, only one shutout, a 0.914 save percentage and a 2.47 goals-against-average.

That screams mediocre. To win a Stanley Cup, inconsistent and mediocre goaltending play won't get a team there.

Luckily for Nashville, Anaheim has less playoff experience between the pipes and the statistics aren't anything to write home about.

As long as the Predators have goal-support in front of Rinne, he won't have to be elite to win against the Ducks -- just good enough. If Rinne reverts back to his earlier season form, it could be a very quick series and a long summer for Nashville.

Forward Depth

Unlike five years ago, the Predators have scoring depth across all four lines.

Nashville's roster no longer contains a mish-mash of grit-and-grind players that tough out wins with garbage goals. Skill and finesse are now a huge factor, something that could have pushed the Predators into further rounds years before.

While Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg and James Neal should undoubtedly contribute to Nashville's offense this postseason, they'll need the third and fourth lines to be just as active. Having Mike Fisher anchoring the third line and face off-specialist Paul Gaustad on the fourth, it should be a start.

If Colin Wilson, Viktor Arvidsson and Miikka Salomaki find their way onto the scoresheet, then Nashville becomes a very dangerous team very quickly.

Anaheim will already have its hands full trying to match-up against both the Johansen and Ribeiro lines, but all four lines factoring in? It'll easily push the series into Nashville's favor.