With some much needed time off after an impressive sweep of their division rival, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Predators will ramp up round two against another Central Division foe in the St. Louis Blues. The Blues are coming off of a 4-1 series dismantling of the Minnesota Wild. St. Louis has come a long way from their struggles early in the season. They hired Mike Yeo on February 1st and changed their style to a more defensively-minded squad where goals are a premium against a stingy defensive corps led by Alex Pietrangelo. Since then, the Blues are only allowing 1.88 goals against per contest and have one of the best records during the second half of the season over the entire NHL. The expectation for this series will be a tight one, with multiple overtime contests, and both teams seem to be up for the challenge. It will be a defensive battle where the goaltenders will play a significant role in moving on to the Western Conference Finals. The Predators cannot be satisfied with moving on to the next round. It is time to take the next step for a franchise craving a title.
The St. Louis Blues have many weapons at their disposal, but none threatens like Vladimir Tarasenko. The Yaroslavl, Russa native is a big body, quick on his skates that can score from various parts of the ice. He led the Blues in goals (39), tied for first in assists (36), and overall points (75). Tarasenko is dangerous and when the Predators see him on the ice, you will see Josi, Subban, Ekholm, or Ellis to greet him. This goal-scorer will be a priority for the Preds defense. The Nashville defensive corps were able to shut down Kane, Toews, Panarin, and Hossa during the first round, therefore that type of defensive style must be used to shut down Tarasenko.
The two hottest goaltenders this post-season will be facing off in this series. Blues’ goaltender, Jake Allen, was phenomenal against the Wild stopping 174 of the 182 shots he faced, 4-1 in the first round with a 1.47 goals-against average, and a .956 save-percentage. Allen has traditionally played well against Nashville and don’t expect anything else during the first post-season matchup between these two franchises. At the other end of the spectrum, it is hard to deny the dominance of Pekka Rinne in round one with two shutouts, .976 save percentage, and a 0.70 goals-against average in the series against Chicago. Goals will come at a premium during this series. For the Predators, if they get an opportunity to score, they have to take it and bury those chances. If not, it could come back to bite them later in the series.
The Predators will be going into a very hostile Scottrade Center in St. Louis tonight to begin round two. With the return of #PlayoffColinWilson tonight, it will be interesting to see how the Predators come out and open their series up on the road. From this moment on, the television coverage will be nationally televised on NBCSN, but radio coverage will still be provided by 102.5 The Game. Puck drops at a 7:00 pm!