Two of the best goaltenders in the NHL will meet up in this second round series when Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators take on Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks. Vancouver just finished an exhilarating seven game series against the Chicago Blackhawks which was decided in overtime in Game 7, while Nashville suddenly discovered some offense in getting by the Anaheim Ducks 4-2. Read on to find out who we like in this Stanley Cup playoffs series.
#5 Nashville Predators
How They Got Here: The Predators got it done in the regular season with a solid defense and good goaltending, but it was their offense that carried them to their first ever second round appearance. Nashville scored at least three goals in all six games and averaged 3.66 goals per game, one of the best per game averages of any team in the playoffs.
Player to Watch: C Mike Fisher showed why Nashville paid a steep price to get him from the Ottawa Senators at the trade deadline. Fisher is generally regarded as one of the best two-way centers in the game and his offensive skills were on displayed against the Ducks. In their six game NHL playoffs series, Fisher led the team with six points and lit the lamp three times. He will need to keep up his solid play if the Predators hope to get passed the Canucks.
Goalie Outlook: While Rinne had a fantastic regular season, he posted one of the worst save percentages of any goaltender in the first round of the playoffs (.876). His GAA was poor as well, after letting in 19 goals in the series against the Ducks (3.29 GAA). Rinne will be glad to not see Teemu Selanne anymore, who burned him for six goals during the series but is not looking forward to the Sedin twins.
Key to Victory: To get past the NHL’s best team in the regular season, the Predators need a complete effort from their team. Rinne can’t repeat his performance last series, while the offense will need to come close to matching their impressive numbers against the Ducks. Nashville’s best chance though might be if Canucks G Roberto Luongo is legitimately injured.
#1 Vancouver Canucks
How They Got Here: After posting the NHL’s best record during the regular season and jumping out to a 3-0 lead, it looked like the Canucks were going to make short work of the Blackhawks and have some time to rest before their second round series. However, Chicago showed the heart of a champion and won three straight games to force a Game 7. Then, down 1-0 late in the third, Jonathan Toews scored a short-handed goal to force overtime. The Canucks were able to pull it out though thanks to an Alex Burrows laser into the top left corner off of a turnover.
Player to Watch: Although the Sedin brothers get most of the love, it was LW Alex Burrows that keyed the Game 7 victory over the Blackhawks. Burrows scored both goals for the Canucks in the 2-1 win and wreaked havoc at Chicago’s end of the ice. In Vancouver’s last two games, Burrows has been on fire, recording three goals and two assists. He is the hot hand for the Canucks right now and Nashville has to keep an eye on him.
Goalie Outlook: G Roberto Luongo allowed only five goals in the Canucks first three games, all Canucks victories. Over the next three games, Luongo collapsed however. After giving up 10 goals in two blowout losses in Games 4 and 5, Luongo was benched for the start of Game 6 due to a mysterious back injury and only played after back-up Corey Schneider was injured. Luongo only gave up one goal in 31 minutes but looked skiddish most of the time in net. In Game 7 Luongo returned to regular season form, stopping 31 of 32 shots to give the Canucks the win.
Key to Victory: Which Luongo is going to show up? The one we saw in Game 7 that looked dominant, or the one we saw during the Blackhawks’ blowouts. We won’t know until after the season whether or not Luongo was really injured, but either way his performance has been cause for concern. Vancouver’s offense has been there throughout the regular season and their first round series and should lead them past the Predators providing Luongo is fine mentally and physically.
2010-11 Regular Season Meetings
March 29th – Vancouver 3 – Nashville 1
March 3rd – Nashville 3 – Vancouver 0
February 17th – Vancouver 1 – Nashville 3
January 26th – Nashville 1 – Vancouver 2
Season Series Notes: The two teams split the season series 2-2 and the home team went 2-2 in their four games as well. However, as you might expect from two great goaltenders, every game between the two teams was low scoring and went under the total per the NHL betting odds.
The Final Word: Vancouver and Nashville both have solid goaltenders who struggled in the first round, but the Canucks offense is miles better than the Predators offense and that should be enough in this series. The Canucks have the shortest odds to win the Stanley Cup of the eight remaining teams and should advance rather easily.
Stanley Cup Free Picks: Vancouver in 5
Andrew Ryan has been in the sportswriting biz since the late-90s, and he has worked side by side with some of the best and brightest in sports gambling. Always searching for the best trends in sports, Andrew uses his brilliant math mind to his advantage to beat the books.