The Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues will meet in the Second Round with a battle between the pipes looming. Nashville made it here with a dominating sweep over the Chicago Blackhawks, while St. Louis squeaked out a series win in five games against the Minnesota Wild.
The Predators outscored the Blackhawks 13-3 and averaged 31 shots on goal per game. The Blues won three of their four games by a single goal, two in overtime, but managed to only get 26.8 shots on net while giving up 36.4. On paper the Predators are a better team and could ride the momentum they’ve created towards the Conference Final. If Vladimir Tarasenko heats up though and Jake Allen continues his stellar play in net, the Blues can pull off an upset.
St. Louis Blues vs Nashville Predators Second Round Series Preview
Pekka Rinne is Pretty Remarkable
When a team manages to sweep their opponents in the First Round, much less the Blackhawks, there is certainly something to say about their goalie. Pekka Rinne started the First Round with back-to-back shutouts and kept the Hawks to three total goals. His 0.70 goals-against average and .976 save percentage speak for themselves. What’s even more impressive is that he managed to record those numbers while facing over 30 shots on goal a game. Rinne is the epitome of a player who rises to the challenge, after being drafted 258th overall by Nashville in 2004. His career playoff numbers of 26-26 record, 2.37 GAA and .917 SV%, don’t jump off the page, but he has certainly put his team in a winning position before this season. He has played in over 500 career games and his veteran presence is invaluable to his franchise.
Jake Allen has Stepped Up Too
The 34th overall pick of the 2008 draft has certainly taken his game to a new level. Despite having to deal with 36.4 shots a night, Allen withered the onslaught by the Wild and single-handedly brought his team to the Second Round. The Blues struggled to score past Devan Dubnyk, and if not for Allen’s 1.47 goals-against average and .956 save percentage the story would have ended much differently for his team. Before this previous series Allen had 12 playoff games to his resume, but he played like a savvy-veteran and will need to continue that into May.
The Blue Line Battle
P.K. Subban and Roman Josi are two of the best defensemen in the league. Even better for Nashville that their talent is spread across the top-two pairings. Add in Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm and their blue line is looking great. These four combined for 10 points against the Blackhawks and give their team a much-garnered offensive boost from the blue line.
The Blues counter with a more-than-respectable duo in Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko. These two will be the cornerstones of the defense in St. Louis for the foreseeable future, and key components to success their franchise will find. Joel Edmundson, Carl Gunnarsson, and Jay Bouwmeester are a more-than-capable group to compete with the forward core of Nashville. But they will not be an offensive spark, unlike their counterparts, having combined for a mere five points in the First Round.
Forward Depth and Discipline
The Predators also stayed out of the penalty box, having only 20 penalty minutes the whole series.
Unlike Nashville, the Blues lack a trio with vast scoring potential. They have one of the league’s more prolific players in Tarasenko, but he got cold against the Wild, and needs to return to the 39-goal player we saw in the regular season. He managed to put a mere single puck in the net, and it didn’t come until Game Five. Jaden Schwartz and Alex Steen can provide offense but not at the same level as their opponent’s top line. The Blues were also spending too much time in the penalty box, with 44 penalty minutes over five games. If they have over eight minutes a game in this series, the Preds will capitalize greatly.
These two teams have the best goalies in the league at this moment, and both with momentum. This will be a low-scoring series where the first goal could very well also be the winning goal.
Graham Anderson – Nashville in 5
Ben Beaker – Nashville in 5
Hunter Hodies – Nashville in 6
Matt Vocino – Nashville in 5
Markus Meyer – Nashville in 6
Brandon Piller – Nashville in 6
Kenneth Stapon – Nashville in 6
Noah Cirisoli – Nashville in 6
Spencer Lussier – Nashville in 6
David Elisio – Nashville in 6
Kyle Cushman – Nashville in 5
Patrick Alan Dejbjerg – Nashville in 6
Nic Hendrickson – Nashville in 6
Rachel Halliwell – Nashville in 6
Jake Howorth – St. Louis in 7
Nicholas Di Giovanni – St. Louis in 7