Nashville Predators (+140) at Anaheim Ducks (-160, 5 o/u)
The NHL Playoffs have not been kind to the Nashville Predators (41-27-14, 96 pts) over the years. Despite mastering the defensive-oriented style of hockey that is supposed to win in the playoffs, “Smashville” has never been able to advance beyond the second round in eight previous tries. And they appear headed for another abbreviated postseason stay as they’ll take on the Pacific Division champion Anaheim Ducks (46-25-11, 103 pts) tonight at the Honda Center (10:30 PM Eastern).
The Preds have mostly fond memories of the Ducks; they won their first-ever playoff series over Anaheim in 2011, and took two of three games against them this season. But the last time they met was back on November 17; their memory of Anaheim might be a tad out of date.
Entering 2016, Anaheim was an underachieving, .500 team. But in the new year, the Ducks went 31-10-5 and climbed to the top of most of the NHL’s significant statistical categories, including goals allowed (2.29 per game), powerplay (23-percent), and penalty kill (87.2-percent).
At first glance, this would figure to be a defensive struggle of a series. But there’s actually a decent chance this turns into a shootout. For starters, Pekka Rinne has not been his usual self this season. Despite Nashville allowing a league-low in shots per game, Rinne has just a .908 save percentage and the team ranks 14th in goals allowed.
And the Ducks have a few guys who can put the puck in the net, none more clutch than Corey Perry, who has tallied 32 playoff goals in his career.
On the other end, it’s anyone’s guess who will be in net, not only for tonight, but for every game. Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau seems split down the middle on who will be their starting netminder. At the moment, he’s entertaining the thought of rotating goalies. Whoever he tabs between Frederik Anderson (2.54 GAA in the playoffs) and John Gibson (2.69 GAA in playoffs), it’s sure to be the wrong decision given the history of Boudreau’s teams choking.
Anaheim is undeniably hot coming into this series and they also have a history of getting out to quick starts in the playoffs: the Ducks have taken Game 1 in five of their last six series. Couple that with a 25-10-6 record at home this season, and it’s clear why Anaheim is the prohibitive favorite tonight.
However, the sharp-shooting Predators have hit the over in 12 of their last 20 games (12-4-4), so expect some fireworks in this one.
Pick: Anaheim (-150) and OVER (5).
(Photo credit: mark6mauno (Originally uploaded to Flickr)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/].)