Phoenix vs Nashville Playoff Preview
Written by: Miranda Martin
Monday night, the Nashville Predators learned of their opponent for the Western Conference Semifinals as the Phoenix Coyotes beat the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 6, taking the series 4-2.
The Nashville Predators clinched their second round berth after a decisive 4-1 series against Central Division rival Detroit Red Wings last Friday. This is the second consecutive year that the Nashville Predators have advanced to the Conference Semifinals.
As for the Phoenix Coyotes, this is the first time as the Phoenix franchise that the team has advanced to the Conference Semifinals. The last time the franchise advanced was in 1987, when they were still the Winnipeg Jets. The franchise moved to Phoenix in 1996, two years before the Predators even came into existence.
There are striking similarities between the two franchises, both on and off the ice. Both teams have made 8 playoff appearances in their history. Both teams The Coyotes currently have been facing scrutiny for ownership and attendance. Phoenix almost found their fate of relocation with an attempt of purchase by Jim Balsillie, something fans of the Nashville Predators painfully remember from the Summer of 2007.
On-ice, the Phoenix Coyotes are strikingly similar to the Nashville Predators, as well. Nashville Predators head coach Barry Trotz and Coyotes head coach Dave Tippet have very similar, defensive-minded strategies. Both teams are hard-working, grit oriented and not known for being very fancy when it comes to offense. Expect a very low-scoring game, with many show-stopping saves by goalies Pekka Rinne and Mike Smith.
With the Coyotes being Pacific Division champions, the Nashville Predators will forfeit their home ice advantage. Game 1 in Phoenix is set for Friday at 8 PM CST on NBC Sports Network. Game 2 in Phoenix set for Sunday. Games 3 and 4 will be played next Wednesday and Friday, respectively. All second round games will be televised nationally on NBC and their affiliated channels.
42-27-13, 97 points (3rd Place, 1st in Pacific Division)
48-26-8, 104 points (4th Place, 2nd in Central Division)
Regular Season Series Record
Series Tied 2-2
What to expect in the series:
Goaltender Showdown: With the announcement of Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne’s second consecutive Vezina nomination Wednesday, goaltending will be the main story of this series. Though not a finalist, Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith was definitely in the race for the Vezina, posting career high totals and essentially carrying the Coyotes into the top of the Pacific Division.
“Happy to Be Here” mentality: Advancing to the second round is the silver lining for the Phoenix Coyotes organization, whose off-ice organization has been facing scrutiny since ownership has been taken over by the NHL. It is the first time the Phoenix franchise has gone to the semifinals, which Predators fans experienced last season. On the flipside, the Nashville Predators finally beat the Detroit Red Wings in a series, after the tries in 2004 and 2008 were unsuccessful. The Predators have always been compared to Detroit, and the proverbial monkey is off of their back. Both teams will have to watch and make sure not to get too confident or starstruck.
Get the coffee: When the Phoenix Coyotes played the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round, the series went to 5 overtimes. To put this into perspective—the Nashville Predators have only witnessed 5 games go into overtime (7 overtimes total) in franchise playoff history. With the combination of the goalie showdown and past low-scoring games, don’t be surprised to see a few games go into overtime this series.
History Will Be Made: Neither team has ever made it past the Conference Semifinals, so no matter who wins, one team is going to go farther than they ever have before. More than that, the four Western Conference teams in the run for the Stanley Cup (St. Louis, LA, Nashville, and Phoenix) have never won a Stanley Cup in history, either.
Predneck Nation Playoff Prediction: Predators in 6.