In the movie, “Major League,” when it is revealed to the team that the owner purposely formed a horrific team so she could move the team to Florida, the grizzled veteran catcher, Jake Taylor (played by Tom Berenger) said there was only one thing left for the team to do.
“Win the whole <explicative> thing.”
The 2016-2017 Predators were built with precision and extra attention to detail, and there is absolutely no intention of moving the team, but the end goal is the same. After Nashville dispatched the St. Louis Blues, 4 games to 2 in their semi-final series, the team and their fans now sit back, pop some popcorn and get ready for game 7 between the Anaheim Ducks and Edmonton Oilers. Regardless of the outcome, games 1 and 2 will be played on the road for the Predators, so make sure you got the caffeinated beverages ready to go. So, the question becomes, “Who do you want in the Western Conference Final?”
The two teams match up pretty evenly. Anaheim had 2,146 hits during the regular season compared to Edmonton’s 2073. Why do I start with hits? With all the people in the office coming up to me today asking who matches up better, I think it’s best to start with the first two series. Chicago is a far more skillful team that relied on speed and puck possession where the Blues are similar to the Flyers teams from the 70’s where if you touched the puck, you’re getting your head bashed in. Edmonton was 7th in the league in blocked shots where the Ducks were middle of the pack at 16th. St. Louis started to show substantial success when they started crowding around Jake Allen and blocking shots and bodies. Chicago was perfectly content on letting Corey Crawford seeing everything shot his way and trusting he’d stop the puck. Anaheim is similar to St. Louis, where Edmonton uses their speed similar to how Chicago skates.
Anaheim was the best team in the regular season on faceoff percentage at 54.7% and Edmonton was dead last at 47.0%. Nashville was 8th at 51.4%, and that has carried over into the playoffs where the Ducks are tops with 57.4% and the Oilers are at the bottom with 44.5%.
From there, there’s one more similarity that Anaheim and Edmonton both share.
Neither can play defense if their lives depended on it.
For that, I believe Edmonton would be the better team to face in the next round. If Nashville can start off with the puck on their stick, then they can set up their offense, which when given time to put skaters where they need to be, the Preds have shown they’ll put the puck where it needs to. If Edmonton is going to give Nashville the puck to start 60% of the time after faceoffs, then the Preds should have plenty of opportunity to run their offense.
Whomever the Preds draw in the West Final, they cannot get into an offensive shootout. Nashville has made it this far on the shoulders of Pekka Rinne who has an astounding 0.951% save percentage. Defense wins championships. We’ve all heard it.
So, let me know who YOU want to see match up again Nashville. Numbers-wise, Anaheim and Edmonton are pretty similar, but they go about reaching those numbers different. Their defenses are non-existent. One game Edmonton blows a 3-0 lead with 3 minutes remaining and the next game, they hang a touchdown on the Ducks.
So, here’s to you, Jobu. If Edmonton, I’m taking the Preds in 5. If it’s sunny California dreamin’ for Nashville, I’ve got them beating the Ducks in 6.