Series breakdown: Ducks (4) vs. Predators (5)
Regular season series: Predators won, 3-1
Oct. 9: Ducks 1 at Predators 4
Nov. 7: Predators 4 and Ducks 5
Jan. 5: Predators 4 at Ducks 1
March 24: Ducks 4 at Predators 5
Snapshot: For hardcore hockey people, this is a fascinating series. There are subplots galore. The hottest offensive player in the league (Corey Perry of Anaheim) and arguably the its best line combination (Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan) meet the stingy, star-studded -- okay, only on the blue line -- Predators. Ponce De Leon, otherwise known as Teemu Selanne, matches up against the series' other Fantastic Finn: Predators goalie Pekka Rinne. Ducks goalie Dan Ellis faces the team that traded him to Tampa Bay last summer in order to make room for Rinne. Two of the league's most resourceful coaches (Barry Trotz in Nashville and Randy Carlyle in Anaheim) test wits against each other for the first time in the postseason...
The Predators may be the lower seed, but they arguably have more pressure on them to win a playoff series than the Ducks, who seemed to come from nowhere in the second half. Despite losing starting goalie Jonas Hiller to vertigo, Anaheim made a successful playoff run, thanks in large part to the terrific play of Perry (50 goals) and Selanne, who doubled his age (40) in points (80).
Nashville is 0-5 in franchise playoff appearances, and fans in the Music City are hungry for the team theme song to be something other than "Heartbreak Hotel" this time of year. The Preds have a top goalie and a stifling defense, but the Ducks have the hottest sticks in the game at the moment. Let the fun begin.
Spotlight's on: Mike Fisher. The Predators gave up their first-round draft pick this summer to have a guy like Fisher on the roster at this time of year. The 2006 Selke Trophy finalist will be asked to help their formidable defense, led by Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, shut down Anaheim's torrid top-four forwards. Fisher's numbers were somewhat ordinary after coming over from Ottawa (five goals, 12 points, plus-2 in 27 games), but he did add nicely to a penalty-killing unit that finished fifth in the league (84.9 percent).
X-Factor for Ducks: Lubomir Visnovsky. What about this guy for the Norris Trophy? He gets no ink, but all he did was put up 68 points (18 goals) in 81 games, at plus-18. He's got a big slap shot from the point and is a terrific passer. He has done a nice job of helping people in Orange County stop mourning the departure of Scott Niedermayer.
X-Factor for Predators: David Legwand. The only original Pred still left on the roster, Legwand's career hasn't quite fulfilled the expectations that made him the second overall pick in the 1998 draft. But he's still capable of putting the puck in the net once in a while, and the Preds are going to need guys like him to light the lamp because this team relies so heavily on defense and goaltending. You can't win if you don't score, as they say in the biz.
The pick: Predators in seven.
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