NHL Stanley Cup Round 2 Western Conference Preview: Nashville Predators vs St Louis Blues

Well, that didn’t exactly go to script did it?

Neither team was expected to be here. Chicago and Minnesota were supposed to ease into the second round, and the top two in the Central would do battle.

Except, nah. Nashville dominated the Blackhawks and swept them, while St Louis took five games and rode Jake Allen like a mule in beating the Wild.

And so it came to pass that the Preds and the Blues are potentially eight games from a cup final.

Western Conference Round Two
Nashville Predators Vs St Louis Blues
Standings
16th League 10th
8th Conference 5th
4th Division 3rd
2nd Wildcard Seeding 3rd Central
Season Record
41-29-12 94pts Overall 99pts 46-29-7
240 Goals For 235
224 Goals Against 218
Record versus opponent
49 52 4 All-time 52 49 4
0 0 0 Playoffs 0 0 0
3 2 0 2016/17 2 3 0

The Blues have a narrow advantage historically, but the Preds did take this season’s series. The two have never met in the playoffs, so we’re breaking ground here too.

Scoring Leaders
Goals
Viktor Arvidsson
Filip Forsberg
31 Regular Season 39 Vladimir Tarasenko
Colton Sissons
Roman Josi
Kevin Fiala
Filip Forsberg
Viktor Arvidsson
2 Playoffs 2 Joel Edmundson
Jaden Schwartz
Alex Steen
Assists
Ryan Johansen 47 Regular Season 36 Vladimir Tarasenko
Jaden Schwartz
Ryan Johansen 5 Playoffs 3 Patrik Berglund
Jaden Schwartz
Points
Viktor Arvidsson
Ryan Johansen
61 Regular Season 75 Vladimir Tarasenko
Ryan Johansen 6 Playoffs 5 Jaden Schwartz
Shots
Viktor Arvidsson 246 Regular Season 286 Vladimir Tarasenko
Roman Josi 13 Playoffs 21 Vladimir Tarasenko
Shot Percentage
Cody McLeod 22.2 Regular Season 25 Ivan Barbashev
Ryan Johansen 50 Playoffs 40 Joel Edmundson

The Blues only scored five less goals than the Predators throughout the season, but while the Preds’ offence is very much spread out, the Blues have the god-tier Vladimir Tarasenko. He seemed to wake up a bit in game five, and if that’s him alive, the Preds should fear him.

Meanwhile, the key seems to be shutting down Ryan Johansen’s passing lanes. He took two shots in the first round, but is insanely good at assisting.

Playoff Even Strength Team Possession (via corsica.hockey)
Unadjusted SZV Adjusted
CF% FF% CF% FF%
Nashville 50.48 50.17 54.65 53.33
St Louis 39.14 39.76 42.23 42.52
Unadjusted Possession Leaders (ES, min 200 minutes)
CF% FF%
D F D F
Nashville PK Subban
(60.74)
Ryan Johansen
(57.24)
PK Subban
(60.70)
Viktor Arvidsson
(61.94)
St Louis Carl Gunnarsson
(50.88)
Vladimir Tarasenko
(46.40)
Carl Gunnarsson
(53.35)
David Perron
(47.48)

Now, in the regular season, both teams were positive possession sides, but that changed immensely in round one. The Wild swamped the Blues. They won’t even try to hide it – without the insane performance of Jake Allen, the Blues wouldn’t be here.

The Blues need to break out of their shells. They only had two players who were positive Corsi players in round one. If they try this trick again in round two, it’s probably not going to work.

Playoff Special Teams
Power Play Penalty Kill
% Rank % Rank
Nashville 12.5 12th 77.8 12th
St Louis 6.7 =15th 83.3 =6th
PPG For SHG Against PPG Against SHG For
Nashville 1 0 2 0
St Louis 1 0 3 0

Nashville had eight power play opportunities and scored once. The Blues had 15. Yup. They also had more penalties to kill, with Nashville conceding twice from nine Blackhawk power plays.

Special teams aren’t either of these two sides’ specialities.

Goaltending
Nashville St Louis
Pekka Rinne Jake Allen
5v5 Sv% 99.1 97.28
5v5 HDSv% 93.33 95.83
All Sits Sv% 97.62 95.60
All Sits HDSv% 90.00 85.71

Had Jake Allen not looked somewhat lost in game five, his numbers would have been right up there with Rinne’s. I mean, you can’t exactly scoff at a .956 all situations, but compare it to his rival in the other net.

Goaltending performance is going to be key. If Allen continues his dip, the Preds could be facing Carter Hutton, who also is not Pekka Rinne.

Prediction

It’s hard to make a prediction for this series until you see if Jake Allen can recover from his game five dip. If he’s good to go again after a couple of nights off, this is going to be close to call – ignore the difference in possession numbers for a while, the Blues won in five after barely touching the puck.

I’m going to boldly say Nashville, but I don’t think it’ll be a sweep.

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