Nashville Predators (+140) at Anaheim Ducks (-160, 5 o/u)
One team has zero Game 7 experience, the other has only bad memories. But one of them will be the final team to move on to the second round of the NHL Playoffs when the Nashville Predators (3-3, 2-1 road) visit the Anaheim Ducks (3-3, 1-2 home) tonight at the Honda Center (10:00 PM Eastern).
Despite being sizable favorites coming into this series, Anaheim has to be feeling pretty lucky that they get to play in a winner-take-all game after dropping the first two at home. Then again, given their history in this spot, they really should’ve finished off Nashville in Game 6; the Ducks have lost four-straight Game 7s, including three on home ice.
The Predators are completely green to this situation, but that ignorance to the pressure of a Game 7 could end up working in their favor. They’ll just need to follow the winning formula they’ve established this series: score three goals then let Pekka Rinne close it out.
Never that gifted an offensive team, getting to three goals hasn’t been easy for Nashville, especially given their ineptitude on the power play this series. The Predators have gone just 1 for 23 with the man advantage. While some of that has to be a nod towards Anaheim’s league-leading penalty kill, it’s still a huge deviation from the Preds’ roughly 20-percent regular season mark.
Of course, neither team should have that many chances with the extra attacker, since referees tend to “put the whistles away” in big games like this. Game 7 between Chicago and St. Louis saw just three minor penalties handed out. During the regular season, Nashville was slightly better at even-strength with 166 goals-for to Anaheim’s 152.
Both teams have gotten contributions from a wealth of players in the first six games. The Ducks’ Ryan Kesler is the only player boasting more than a pair of goals. But as nice as scoring depth is, Anaheim’s go-to sniper Corey Perry has yet to find the back of the net. Breaking that goose egg tonight would be a great omen for the Ducks.
As for Anaheim’s netminder, Frederik Andersen has only declined the more he continues to start. After replacing John Gibson in Game 3, Andersen’s save percentage has gone down steadily every game. The playoffs have never looked favorably on goalie committees; is tonight the night Andersen can establish himself as the goalie for the Ducks, not just now, but for the future?
Since 2012, road teams are 12-10 in Game 7s. Having already taken two at the Honda Center, “Smashville” has to be liking its chances. And given how crazy these playoffs have been already, so do I. Take the Preds.
Pick: Nashville (+140).
(Photo credit: Jason Mrachina (Originally uploaded to Flickr)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/].)