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|
|2nd Wildcard||Seeding||3rd Central|
|Record versus opponent|
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.
|31||Regular Season||39||Vladimir Tarasenko|
|Ryan Johansen||47||Regular Season||36||Vladimir Tarasenko
|Ryan Johansen||5||Playoffs||3||Patrik Berglund
|61||Regular Season||75||Vladimir Tarasenko|
|Ryan Johansen||6||Playoffs||5||Jaden Schwartz|
|Viktor Arvidsson||246||Regular Season||286||Vladimir Tarasenko|
|Roman Josi||13||Playoffs||21||Vladimir Tarasenko|
|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 Possession Leaders (ES, min 200 minutes)|
|St Louis||Carl Gunnarsson
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|
|PPG For||SHG Against||PPG Against||SHG For|
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.
|Pekka Rinne||Jake Allen|
|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.
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.