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Tale of the Tape round two: Canucks vs. Predators

How do the Canucks and Predators measure up?

Wednesday, 27.04.2011 / 7:25 PM / Features
By Daniel Fung
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Tale of the Tape round two: Canucks vs. Predators

Team record: 54-19-9
Conf. seeding:
1st
Season series:
2-2-0
Last meeting:
3-1 W (MAR.29.11)
Team record: 44-27-11
Conf. seeding:
5th
Season series:
2-2-0
Last meeting:
1-3 L (MAR.29.11)

ROBERTO LUONGO

Roberto Luongo began the first round of the playoffs with a 32-save shutout and capped it off with a near-perfect performance stopping 31 of 32 shots in Game Seven against the Blackhawks. In between, a bunch of stuff happened. Okay, so admittedly that "stuff" nearly drove an entire province into depression, but whatever that was is now out of sight and out of mind for the 32-year-old as he gets set for his first-ever playoff encounter with the Predators. As nice as it was to finally shake the Blackhawks monkey off his back, there is another playoff speed bump that Luongo has yet to conquer and that is the second round. Luongo is 4-for-4 all-time in first round series but has come up short on every trip he has made to the second round.

The three-time Vezina Trophy finalist is hoping his personal statistics in this series are in line with what he managed to do against the Predators during the regular season. He posted a 2-2-0 record versus Nashville with a 1.77 GAA and a .929 save percentage. Following his first round series victory, Luongo now has an all-time record of 21-20 in post-season play with a 2.53 GAA and a .916 save percentage to go with two shutouts.

PEKKA RINNE

Pekka Rinne's statistics in Round One pale in comparison to what he managed to post in the regular season but as far as fans in Nashville are concerned, the only number that matters is four - as in four victories as Rinne became the first Predators netminder to lead the team to a playoff series win. But even the 28-year-old will admit that if he wants that magic number to become eight, he'll need to start getting back to the form that earned him his first-ever Vezina Trophy nomination this season. To say Rinne's regular season was outstanding is an understatement. He posted career-bests in wins (33), GAA (2.12) and save percentage (.930) but it was a much different story in the opening round as he saw his GAA balloon to 3.29 and his save percentage drop to .876.

As good as Rinne's regular season numbers were overall, they were even better when facing the Canucks. He posted a 2-2-0 record this year versus Vancouver with a 1.72 GAA and a .942 save percentage. He also blanked the Canucks on one occasion. Following his first round series victory, Rinne now has an all-time playoff record of 6-6 with a 2.98 GAA and a .895 save percentage.

OFFENCE

The Canucks' first round series with the Blackhawks featured two of the top offensive teams in the regular season but, as it turned out, goal scoring became much harder to come by once the playoffs started especially for the Canucks. Vancouver was out-scored 22-16 in their series and heads into the second round as one of the lowest scoring teams in the playoffs.

It was a completely opposite story for the Predators in their opening round series against the Ducks. Nashville went into the post-season with the third fewest goals in the league (averaging 2.60) among teams that qualified for the playoffs - only the Canadiens and Kings had fewer regular season goals - and were supposed to be out-gunned by an Anaheim squad that boasted one of the best top lines in the NHL (Getzlaf, Perry, Ryan) and a not-too-shabby second line either (Selanne, Koivu, Blake).

Nashville's only hope, or so many thought, was to ride their defence and netminder Pekka Rinne if they wanted to get past the Ducks but it ended up being their offence that carried them in the series. Nashville out-scored Anaheim 22-20 in the series and notched at least three goals in all six games of that series. They also out-shot Anaheim in five of the six games averaging 31.7 shots per game - close to three shots more per game than their regular season average of 28.8.

The Canucks relied almost solely on the Sedin twins for offensive production through the early portion of their first round series and found themselves struggling to get on the scoresheet when the twins' production dropped. It wasn't until Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows began carrying the team on their backs in the final two games of the series that the Canucks started getting some of their swagger back.

On paper, the Canucks boast a more talented group up front when compared to the Predators and they should match-up well with them if the teams decide to employ an offence-first mentality. Then again, the Ducks were probably thinking the same thing in the first round.

Goal-scoring by committee was a theme for the Predators in Round One with 12 different players registering at least one goal and seven recording multiple tallies. The Canucks, by comparison, had nine players find the back of the net in the first round but only three - Daniel Sedin, Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen - that did so more than once.

Nashville outscored Vancouver 8-6 in the regular season series.

DEFENCE

The Canucks were supposed to be a dominant team on the back-end after giving up the fewest goals during the regular season - 10 less than the Predators who finished with the third-lowest GAA in the regular season - and having all of their projected top-six defencemen back and healthy to open the first round.

Things didn't quite live up to expectations for the Canucks, however. Vancouver gave up 22 goals in the opening round - among the most for all playoff teams in Round One - and ended up dressing eight different defencemen which is perhaps more than they had thought they would have to utilize.

While it would be easy to blame much of the Canucks defensive woes on shaky netminding particularly in Games Four and Five, Vancouver's blue-liners have to take a share of the blame as well. Vancouver's top shutdown duo of Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis were solid finishing with a combined plus-five rating but their other six defencemen were a combined minus-11. Aside from Bieksa and Hamhuis, only Keith Ballard escaped from a minus-rating as he finished with an even plus-minus rating.

The Predators didn't exactly have a banner series defensively either giving up 20 goals in their series which lasted six games but, at least compared to the Canucks, their even-strength play was far superior. Shane O'Brien was the lone blue-liner to finish with a minus-rating in the series at minus-two.

The Sedin line can likely expect a steady dose of Ryan Suter (27:28 average ice-time per game in Round One) and Shea Weber (26:29 average ice-time per game in Round One), two players whom Coach Barry Trotz leans on more than anyone else on his roster.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Both the Canucks and Predators have some special team woes they'd like to sort out in this series.

The Canucks didn't get much power play practice in Round One - they had just 18 power plays in total during the first round - and while they did click at a respectable 22.2 percent overall (4-for-18), they were blanked in their final three games of the series going 0-for-8 in that stretch. Prior to this current funk, Vancouver had not gone three-plus games without a power play goal since February 24 to March 5. Their power play nearly cost them the series in Game Seven as well as Vancouver gave up a shorthanded goal while enjoying a man-advantage in the dying minutes of regulation - a goal which tied the game at 1-1 and sent the contest into overtime.

The Predators' power play was atrocious during the regular season clicking at only 15.2 percent efficiency - the worst among all teams that qualified for the playoffs - but they got into a groove in their first round series scoring six times on 27 opportunities (22.2 percent efficiency). They scored at least one power play goal in five of their six games in the opening round.

Nashville's strong power play, however, was offset by their brutal penalty killing which is a reversal of how they fared in the regular season when they finished with the fifth best PK success rate in the league at 84.9 percent. Nashville gave up a power play goal in all six of their first round games and killed off just 63.6 percent of the Ducks' man-advantages (8 goals allowed on 22 times shorthanded). The six-game streak with at least one power play goal allowed is Nashville's longest of the season (they twice had five-game streaks during the regular season).

Vancouver's penalty kill was solid for the most part in their series against Chicago with the exception of a three-game slip up from Games 3-5 which saw them surrender six power play goals on 18 times shorthanded. They finished the series with a 79.3 percent kill rate (six goals allowed on 29 times shorthanded).

Both teams were near perfect on the penalty kill in head-to-head meetings during their regular season series as they combined for just one power play goal in four games. Vancouver had the only man-advantage marker courtesy of Daniel Sedin which came in the Canucks 3-1 loss in Nashville on February 17. Vancouver finished the regular season series killing off all 14 of Nashville's power plays while the Preds killed off all-but-one of the 16 man-advantages that the Canucks had.

THE SET-UP

After finally managing to dispose of their longtime nemesis - the Chicago Blackhawks - in the opening round, the Vancouver Canucks (54-19-9) will start a brand-new playoff rivalry in the second round when they face the Nashville Predators (44-27-11) for the first time in franchise history.

This series features two teams with very different expectations both on the season and as a franchise. For the Presidents' Trophy winner Canucks, returning to the second round was supposed to be a given and their entire campaign has been about moving past the Conference Semifinal for the first time since 1994. The Predators, on the other hand, are into unchartered territory after knocking off the Anaheim Ducks in the opening round for their first-ever playoff series victory in franchise history.

Their work ethic, their defensive system is unparalleled with any other team in the league. If we can match their work ethic and make sure we play solid defensively we'll be in good shape. They have a really good team and we have to respect them. - Alex Burrows sizing up the Predators.

The respective teams finished with an 18-point differential in the regular season standings but the season series was a saw-off with each team winning twice - once at home and once on the road. The Canucks bookended their regular season series against the Preds with wins starting off with a 2-1 victory at Rogers Arena on January 26 and ending with a 3-1 victory at Bridgestone Arena on March 29. In between, the Predators got the better of the Canucks earning a 3-1 win in Music City on February 17 and blanking the Canucks 3-0 in Vancouver on March 3.

HISTORY LESSON

This series will mark the first time the Canucks and Predators have met in the post-season. For the Canucks, the Predators are the 18th different opponent they have had in the post-season. For the Predators, the Canucks are just the fifth different playoff opponent they have ever faced out of what will be seven all-time playoff series when the puck drops in Game One.

Nashville broke into the NHL during the 1998.99 season and in that time they've succeeded in building strong rivalries with divisional foes such as the Red Wings and Blackhawks thanks to previous playoff encounters but not so much with other non-divisional teams with perhaps the exception of the Sharks whom they've met twice in the post-season.

As far as the Preds' all-time series with the Canucks goes, including their four head-to-head meetings this season, the teams have faced one another just 49 times over the past 12 seasons with Vancouver holding the all-time series lead at 29-17-3.

MADE IN BC

Over the past three years with all their playoff battles, much has been made about the BC connections on the Blackhawks with Chicago boasting the likes of Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Troy Brouwer. It will be the same sort of scenario with several Predators facing a homecoming of sorts in this series.

Nashville boasts three BC-born players on their roster in team captain Shea Weber (Sicamous), Jerred Smithson (Vernon) and Cody Franson (Salmon Arm). Franson, in particular, will be very familiar to hockey fans in Vancouver after starring with the WHL Giants during his junior career leading them to a league championship in 2006 and a Memorial Cup championship in 2007. Franson's old teammate from the Giants - Jonathon Blum - also patrols the blue-line for the Predators.

As far as old Canucks connections go, there's one member of the Preds who needs no introduction (especially at The Roxy) and that's defenceman Shane O'Brien who spent the past two seasons in Vancouver before being shipped to Nashville just prior to the start of this season. The Preds also have several staff members with ties to the Canucks including GM David Poile and Director of Hockey Operations Brian Poile, who are the son and grandson, respectively, of the late Bud Poile, the Canucks' first-ever General Manager. Former Canucks players Martin Gelinas (Director of Player Development) and Brent Peterson (Associate Coach) are also with the Nashville organization.

There's a reason they won the Presidents' Trophy. They're really, really good. They have some guys who get under your skin. They play with an edge. They are just a solid team. - Predators head coach Barry Trotz on what he sees in the Canucks.

EXPERIENCE FACTOR

As noted when the playoffs began, the Canucks have 15 players returning from the team that made it to the second round last year only to be dispatched by the Blackhawks. Four Canucks - Keith Ballard, Victor Oreskovich, Cody Hodgson and Cory Schneider - made their NHL playoff debuts during the first round. On their current active roster, they have six players who have never been part of a team that has advanced to the second round - the aforementioned four who made their playoff debuts in Round One along with ex-Predator Dan Hamhuis and Jeff Tambellini. Tambellini was a healthy scratch for the entire opening round series versus Chicago.

The Predators' roster boasts just seven players who have been part of a team that has made it into the second round of the playoffs with most experienced - at least in terms of longest run - being Mike Fisher (advanced to 2007 Stanley Cup Final with Ottawa) and Matthew Lombardi (advanced to 2004 Stanley Cup Final with Calgary). Lombardi, however, has been ruled out for the remainder of the season with a concussion.

Nashville's other players with second round experience are JP Dumont, Shane O'Brien, Steve Sullivan, Francis Bouillon and Marcel Goc. Goc, however, is also expected to miss the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury while Bouillon is a question mark for the series with a concussion. He has not played since mid-January. Four Predators made their respective playoff debuts in round one: Matt Halischuk, Jonathon Blum, Blake Geoffrion, and back-up netminder Anders Lindback.

WATCH IT

All games in the second round series between the Canucks and the Predators can be seen by Canadian viewers coast-to-coast on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada. For viewers in the United States, please check local listings for games available on VERSUS and/or NBC. Visit Canucks.com or NHL.com for updated TV schedules as the playoffs progress. Listen to every Vancouver Canucks playoff game live on the TEAM 1040 Sports Radio or online at teamradio.ca.

Game Notes on Canucks.com are written by Daniel Fung. He is a regular contributor to Canucks.com and his writing has appeared in Canucks Magazine, BC Lions Magazine and TourismVancouver.com. Follow him on Twitter @daniel_fung or e-mail him at dfung_sports@hotmail.com.

CANUCKS LEADING SCORERS

2010.11 Regular Season vs. Predators

Player GP G A P +/-
Daniel Sedin
4 1 3 4 2
Alex Burrows
4 3 0 3 2
Henrik Sedin
4 0 3 3 2
Aaron Rome
3 1 0 1 -1
Lee Sweatt
1 1 0 1 2
PREDATORS LEADING SCORERS

2010.11 Regular Season vs. Canucks

Player GP G A P +/-
Martin Erat
4 1 3 4 2
Mike Fisher
3 2 0 2 1
Patric Hornqvist
4 1 1 2 2
David Legwand
4 1 1 2 0
Shea Weber
4 1 1 2 0
IN THE INFIRMARY

For the Canucks...

D Sami Salo (undisclosed) is day-to-day to begin the series. F Manny Malhotra (left eye surgery) is out for the season.

For the Predators...

F Martin Erat (upper body) is day-to-day to begin the series. F Cal O'Reilly (broken right fibula) could make his return in this series. F Marcel Goc (shoulder surgery) and F Matthew Lombardi are out for the season.

BY THE NUMBERS

1st – Playoff series meeting between the Canucks and Predators.

1st – Second round appearance for the Predators in franchise history.

2 – Stanley Cup Final appearances for the Canucks in franchise history (1982 and 1994).

2 – Players in this series who will be going up against their former team: Dan Hamhuis and Shane O'Brien.

7th – All-time playoff series the Predators have been involved in. Nashville has a 1-6 all-time record in playoff series.

17 – Career playoff points for Shea Weber (8-9-17) and David Legwand (6-11-17) entering this series, tied for the Predators franchise lead among all players (active or otherwise).

38th – All-time playoff series the Canucks have been involved in. Vancouver has a 14-23 all-time record in playoff series.

49 – Career playoff points for Daniel (19-30-49) and Henrik Sedin (17-32-49) entering this series, tied for the most among all active Canucks.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Canucks making it to the second round comes as no huge surprise but the fact they had to narrowly avert disaster to do so probably was a bit of a shocker.

Counting the opening round of this year's playoffs, NHL teams have led a playoff series 3-0 on 165 occasions. With both the Red Wings and the Canucks winning their respective opening round series, 162 of those teams leading 3-0 has gone on to win the series.

The Blackhawks were the seventh team in NHL history to force a Game 7 after falling behind 3-0 in a series but, thanks to Alex Burrows' overtime heroics, they had to settle for being the fourth of those seven teams to storm all the way back only to lose in the decisive game.

The last team that had to suffer through that heartbreak was the 1975 Islanders - the same Islanders squad that overcame a 3-0 deficit to beat Pittsburgh in the Quarterfinals but then would drop the first three games in the Semifinals to Philadelphia before coming all the way back to force a seventh game only to finally run out of magic in the final game.