Coming into this series several people on Twitter were calling this the de facto Stanley Cup Final. People were saying this because of the caliber of both of these teams. They could very well be right, both teams are loaded with talent from top to bottom.
Both teams are coming off of convincing series wins over their opponents; with Nashville closing out Colorado in six games, and the Jets taking care of Minnesota in five.
The question isn’t do these teams match up well; but rather, how well do they match up? Let me examine that for you and provide the answers.
As you will see, the season series was pretty close, no game was decided by more than two goals. With Nashville winning three and Winnipeg winning two including the only game to get past regulation and eventually into a shootout.
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Winnipeg’s Offense versus Nashville’s Defense
This might seem easy to guess, but I do not mean it in the way many are thinking I mean it. Allow me to explain. The Predators defense will be able to put up some points this series, so the Winnipeg offense will have to try to exploit that with possible odd man rushes or breakaways.
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I do wonder just how aggressive the Nashville offense will try to be because Winnipeg has some finishers on that team. And putting Rinne in those spots could leave him exposed. Also, I wonder if that factors into the gameplan at all for the Predators.
Hellebuyck versus Rinne
This is another matchup to watch. Last year Hellebuyck was not all that great, but this year he is a candidate to possibly win the Vezina trophy which is something to behold. Granted he was considered the goalie of the future a few years back, it did seem that hype sort of slowed down after a disappointing showing in 2016-17. But let me give Hellebuyck credit where it is due, he has been superb this season.
Hellebuyck will be facing great competition this series; where he will go out against another Vezina finalist in Pekka Rinne. Rinne has been a top goalie for a long time now. Rinne has been as consistent as you could hope for if you are a Predators fan. The only time I have seen him raddled was in last years Stanley Cup in games in Pittsburgh versus the Penguins. Other than that, he is rock solid.
The key in this matchup could ultimately come down to experience. Because both goalies are supremely talented, and that should make this series set to see a fantastic goaltending matchup.
I think I may take a little heat for this, but I think the Jets may have more offensive talent in their top six than Nashville. Nashville up front features: Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele, Bryan Little and Nikolaj Ehlers. However, I do think Nashville has more depth overall. And if you factor in Nashville’s defenses’ ability to create offense then you can probably give the edge overall to the Predators in terms of offense.
Both teams are stacked on offense, so this should be a great series for goal scoring. Unless the goalies come in and steal the thunder. Because I do not see either defense stopping these high powered offenses; despite the fact that they are both good in their own end. However, I think the offensive firepower on both ends is just too good to contain for an extended period of time.
My prediction is Predators in six. I think the biggest difference between the two teams will be used appropriately. Nashville has the better defense and they are more likely to put goals in the net for their team. It was stunning to me that they didn’t versus Colorado.
I think this series is so close that it can easily end up as Jets in six or seven. So while I am predicting Nashville in six, the confidence in that pick is not very high. Which should ultimately show you how highly I think of the both of these teams.
I also expect this to be a very physical series. Both teams have some big players and it will be fun to see some of the hits dished out this series; because we all know playoff hockey brings out the best in teams and I don’t see that changing this series.
I hope everyone enjoys the series, I know I will. This series should be highly entertaining. And I would tell anyone that will listen to watch this series because it has potential to be a classic series. And it starts tonight, so lace up those skates tightly, because bodies are going to fly.