NHL

Western Conference Match-Up for the Ages

Western Conference Match-Up for the Ages

For the second straight year, the two top seeds in the National Hockey League will battle in the Semi-Finals of the Stanley Cup. Last year, the number one seeded Washington Capitals faced the two seeded Pittsburgh Penguins. Pittsburgh won the series four games to two before eventually claiming Lord’s Stanley Cup over the Nashville Predators.

Nashville took the series over the Colorado Avalanche 4 games to 2. In a matchup, that was more highly anticipated then originally thought by many that the Preds were going to take care of the Avalanche easy. Colorado did everything they could but injuries and Preds firepower were too hard to overcome.

Nashville’s next opponent will be none other than central division foe, the Winnipeg Jets. Winnipeg comes in after defeating the Minnesota Wild 4 games to 1. Goalie Connor Hellebuyck helped seal the deal for the Jets by earning two shutout victories in Games 4 and 5.

Photo courtesy of bridgestonearena.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winnipeg and Nashville, a fight that many people would’ve liked to see in the Western Conference Finals come a little early. Nashville holds the head to head record in the 2018 year going 3-1-1 while Winnipeg went 2-3-0.

Winnipeg is coming into the second round without five of their typical starters due to injuries. Forwards Nikolaj Ehlers, Mathieu Perreault and Joel Armia and defenseman Toby Enstrom and Dmitry Kulikov are all uncertain for Game 1 of the series. Nashville has no injuries. Last year, Ryan Johansen and Kevin Fiala’s injuries hurt the Preds from winning the cup. Nashville has added some additions this year to help cure some injuries to help secure a potential Stanley Cup.

When all players are healthy for Winnipeg, they rank fifth among teams in power play percentage at 23.4%, and 9th among teams in the penalty kill at 81.8%. Respectively, Nashville ranks 14th in power play with 21.2% and sixth in penalty kill at 81.9%. Nashville took 29 minor penalties against Colorado and against Winnipeg that could end up hurting Nashville. Look for Nashville to count down on the penalties against the Jets.

You could make a case that this will be more of a low scoring game based on the two goalies that are both Vezina Trophy Finalists. A save percentage of .924% is something to be proud of for Hellebuyck and the Jets, however, Pekka Rinne and the Preds had a .927% save percentage. Rinne’s save percentage while on the penalty kill is astonishing .948%. Also, something to note, Rinne has 8 shutout victories compared to Hellebuyck’s 6. Hellybuyck had also started 67 games this year with Rinne only starting 59.

If you were to ask me who’s going to win the series? I’d have to say Nashville but it’s definitely going to be a tough series. If Filip Forsberg can keep producing goals like this and Rinne keeps making saves, it’s safe to say Nashville will take this series.

 

 

It’s the Stanley Cup playoffs, you can never be too sure of anything. Stay tuned for more information as the dates and game times will be released later this week.

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Preston Bostain
Preston covers the Tennessee Titans and the AFC South for NGSC Sports. He also covers Nashville Predators hockey.
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