NHL Western Conference Semifinals: Canucks-Predators series preview

2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs
Western Conference Semifinals
Thursday, April 28, 2011- Wednesday, May 11, 2011
#1 Vancouver Canucks vs #5 Nashville Predators
Series Price: Canucks -245 / Predators +195 (courtesy of Bookmaker)
Best of Seven Series Format: 2-2-1-1-1
Series Schedule (All times Eastern)

Thursday, April 28 at Vancouver, 9:00 p.m. CBC, VERSUS
Saturday, April 30 at Vancouver, 9:00 p.m. CBC, VERSUS
Tuesday, May 3 at Nashville, TBD CBC, VERSUS
Thursday, May 5 at Nashville, TBD CBC, VERSUS
*Saturday, May 7 at Vancouver, 8:00 p.m. CBC, VERSUS
*Monday, May 9 at Nashville, TBD CBC, VERSUS
*Wednesday, May 11 at Vancouver, TBD CBC, VERSUS
The Nashville Predators and Vancouver Canucks meet in the Stanley Cup playoffs in the Western Conference semi-finals.

These two teams had to work hard to get to this point. Vancouver won the President’s Cup for having the best regular season record in the NHL. They did not get an easy first round match-up as they drew the defending Stanley Cup Champions the Chicago Blackhawks. Vancouver won the first three games in the series and it looked like they were going to cruise into the second round. However, the Blackhawks would not quit, and won the next 3 games to force a game 7 Tuesday night. Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo had struggled during the series getting pulled in two games and even benched for game 6. However, he had a heroic performance in game 7 with 31 saves. The Canucks were nursing a 1-0 lead late in the third, and went on the power play. However, Blackhawks Captain Jonathan Toews scored a short handed goal after being knocked down on the ice to send the game into overtime. Canucks left wing Alex Burrows scored his second goal of the game on a turnover deep in the Blackhawks zone at 5:22 of the first overtime to win the game and send the Canucks into the second round. Chicago had eliminated Vancouver the last 2 seasons so it was pretty sweet revenge for the Canucks. Luongo even said it was been bigger than when he was the winning goaltender for Canada in the gold medal game of the 2010 Winter Olympics against Team USA, also in Vancouver.

Nashville was the five seed in the West and was matched-up against the Anaheim Ducks in the first round. The Predators had never advanced past the first round in franchise history until this year. They won in 6 hard-fought games against a Ducks team that was one of the hottest teams down the stretch heading into the playoffs. Despite the fact that both teams had good defenders, there was a lot of scoring. At least 5 goals were scored in every game in the series. The two teams alternated wins and losses for the first 4 games. Nashville won game 5 when they were down 3-2 with less than a minute left. Nashville Captain Shea Weber scored on a slap-shot with 38 seconds to go to send it into overtime. They won the game in overtime 4-3. Game 6 was tied in Nashville after the second period, but the Predators scored two goals in the 3rd period to win 4-2 and clinch the series.

The Canucks scored 17 goals in the series against Chicago and gave up 22 goals. Luongo struggled during the series with a 2.97 GAA and a save percentage of .903. Offensively the Canucks were led by the Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik. Daniel is a finalist for the Hart Trophy, which is given to the NHL MVP. During the playoffs Daniel has 7 points including 5 goals. Henrik has 5 assists to lead the team  but did not score a goal in the Blackhawks series. Burrows has 6 points including 3 goals. Center Ryan Kesler also had 4 assists in the Blackhawks’ series. The Canucks have 4 power play goals during the playoffs for a percentage of 22.2%. They have allowed 6 power play goals for an 80%  penalty kill percentage. The Canucks are scoring 2.29 goals a game and giving up 3.14 a game.

Nashville Goalie Pekka Rinne  struggled against the Ducks with a 3.29 goals against average and an .876 save percentage. He allowed 19 goals in the 6 games. Eight Predators had at least 4 points in the series against the Ducks. Center Mike Fisher has 6 points and 3 goals. Jordin Tootoo has 5 points and 4 assists to lead the team. Joel ward and Shea Weber also have 5 points. Four Predators have 4 points, and 5 have 3 points. Nashville is scoring 3.67 goals a game and are giving up 3.33 a game. They have 6 power play goals for a 22.2% power play percentage. The Predators have allowed 8 power play goals for a 63.6% penalty kill percentage.

These two teams split the regular season series 2-2 and all were close low scoring games. Both Vancouver and Nashville might be in for a little bit of an emotional let down after tough first round series, especially Vancouver. Don’t be surprised if Nashville steals a game in Vancouver. Both Rinne and Luongo are finalists for the Vezina trophy for the league’s best goaltender. Despite their struggles during round one, both goalies are capable of being dominant on any given night. It will be a tough series, but in tHe end I think Vancouver has too much fire power.


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