When the Nashville Predators take on the Anaheim Ducks in their Western Conference playoff matchup, much of the focus will be on the Predators ability to stop stop the Ducks scorers. Obviously, the Predators are going to have to stop Ryan, Perry, and Getzlaf, the RPG line or at least keep them contained to advance to the second round. And while this has rightfully drawn much of the focus, I want to take a look at some of the other key variables that could decide the outcome of this series.
Finish the Finn
Teemu Selanne, the ageless wonder, has the potential to be a very dangerous player, and when he gets his mojo going, he can light up an opposing team. The Predators will throw their best defensive effort at shutting down the Ducks potent top line, but for them to win this series, Selanne's line had to be shut down as well. The Predators did an excellent job of that in the regular season by being physical and taking away his room to maneuver. This will be even more important in this series.
Everybody Antes Up
During the course of the season, the Predators got timely scoring from their third and fourth lines. They will need it even more so in this series. The top two lines from each team will get their points, but if the Predators can get opportunistic scoring from their third and fourth lines, this series will swing the way of the Predators. It remains to be seen if Cal O'Reilly can contribute in this series, as it does for Steve Sullivan as they round back into shape from injury. The production of Jordin Tootoo, Blake Geoffrion, and Colin Wilson will be critical to the Predators success.
Park Your Karma
You know it's coming boys- a bad bounce of the puck, a guaranteed blown call by the officials. You have to do what you have done all season: power through that adversity and seize control of the game. This is where the leadership of Captain Shea Weber will be tested. I give him high marks in his first year as Captain. Just like play elevates in the playoffs, so must Shea's leadership. He must be the one to rally the troops when it gets tough and keep them focused in a hostile environment and in the face of adversity.
Read that header and figured that I had lost it for sure, dijint ya? Well, I haven't, and here is what I mean. Forget the fact that this team has not won a playoff series. Forget the fact that you SHOULD have won the Chicago series. There is no looking back. You got the monkey off your back last season with your first road playoff win. Now it is time to cast off that 800 pound gorilla that you have been carrying and win a playoff series. Yes, the vets have to take their experience in prior playoff series and learn from it. They have to let the young guys know what to expect. But there can absolutely be no looking back! No "here we go again" attitude. Eyes- and hearts and minds- facing forward boys. You make your own destiny.
Remember Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day
California- and Californians- are like a bowl of cereal. Once you get past all the fruits and nuts, it's a bunch of flakes. My experience is that the Honda Center can be a laid back place, and while the fans of the Ducks will be amped up to start the game, it is important that the Predators get off to a good start and take their fans out of the game. Do that, and they will once again turn their attention to tie dying t-shirts and making reservations at the latest trendy restaurant and the energy in the building will turn negative. Bummer.
It's Not Brain Surgery
Former Predator goalie Dan Ellis compared being an NHL netminder to being a brain surgeon. Uh...OK. For the Predators to win this series, they are going to have to create numerous Dan Ellis problems. How? Simple. Throw pucks at the net and crash the crease. Predator hockey personified. Make Dan's life absolutely miserable. He should by the end of the series know what kind of cologne Patric Hornqvist wears. He should have nightmares of Predators flying at his crease ready to fricassee his Duck butt. This is no time for pretty hockey. It's time to get down and dirty and foul the Duck's nest.
Open It Up
Boys, this was delivered to your locker room today. It's time to open it up on Anaheim.