2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Western Conference Semifinals Prospectus: Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues
Nashville Predators (WC2) vs. St. Louis Blues (C3)
This series won’t garner the national coverage that Pens vs. Caps will, but if you are a hockey purist, you will enjoy it. Two teams who play similar styles of game and have hit their respective strides. Both of these teams looked like they would be on the outside looking in on the playoffs before the trade deadline. Then the Kings dropped back and the Blues really took off (ironically) following the trade of Kevin Shattenkirk to Washington.
Which team can figure out the other team’s goalie? Jake Allen was on the money putting up ridiculous goals against and save percentage numbers against the Minnesota Wild. Pekka Rinne shut out the Chicago Blackhawks twice in a four-game sweep, while out-pointing any individual player on the Hawks by himself. The Preds were utterly dominant in every facet of the game. They clogged the neutral zone, they pressured all over the offensive zone both while in their offensive zone and defending their own. It was a masterful effort and fewer people are talking about this instead of expressing shock of the Hawks both losing, and getting swept. You shouldn’t be surprised about Chicago losing. The Preds got healthy and they’ve gotten their Forsberg-Johansen-Arvidsson line going. Players like James Neal, Kevin Fiala, Mike Fisher, Colin Wilson and blue line stars P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis are all rolling right now. It is a collective effort. The layoff may be a concern. The Preds haven’t played in a week.
For St. Louis, they will need to generate scoring. They did enough against Minnesota, largely due to the brick wall efforts of Allen. The Preds will test him (mind you, Minnesota outshot and out-chanced the Blues all series) and with more precision than the Wild did. Vladimir Tarasenko was active, although his numbers were not eye-popping (goal, 2 assists in 6 games). However, St. Louis gotten contributions from young players such as Ivan Barbashev and Vlad Sobotka, and the return of Paul Stastny (in Game 6, in which he immediately scored). They even got two goals from depth blue liner Joel Edmundson. If they can continue to get that, along with the consistently stellar efforts from Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko on the back end, they can get to Rinne. Will the Blues get something from David Perron and Jaden Schwartz (who was noticeable in every game (2 goals, 3 assists). The Blues will need it.
This is a series that will be too close and too tough to call. Jake Allen’s track record isn’t as established as Rinne’s. Meanwhile, it was thought that Rinne was on the decline the past two seasons. It may or may not be true, but his performance in the first round isn’t indicative of such. Jake Allen can’t possibly play any better than he did in the first round. However, can he sustain even what he did against the Wild?
It just feels like the Preds have more overall talent and their style of play can dictate affairs on the ice more than the Blues. But we’ll see.
Call: NASHVILLE IN 6.