Game 1: Nashville @ Vancouver (Versus) – 9 p.m. ET
There are a lot of reasons why the Vancouver Canucks should steamroll the Nashville Predators in their second round series. On paper, at least.
The biggest ones revolve around the Canucks’ superior firepower on offense. Chew on this nugget: Daniel Sedin has more points (104) than the Predators’ top two offensive scorers combined (Sergei Kostitsyn and Martin Erat were tied for the team lead with 50 each).
Naturally, the Predators’ greatest strengths lie in their own end. Shea Weber would get my vote for the Norris Trophy (if I had one), Ryan Suter receives enough Nicklas Lidstrom comparisons that he must be doing something/a lot of things right and Pekka Rinne is quickly developing a reputation as one of the best goalies in the NHL. Combine those standouts with forwards who know their roles (usually checking) and Barry Trotz’s system and the series starts to look a lot less breezy for Vancouver.
When it comes to Game 1, the biggest question might not be about matchups or strategies but rather a simple question of fatigue. The Canucks won’t be a full 48 hours removed from their dramatic, high-tension Game 7 win against the Chicago Blackhawks. On the bright side, they didn’t have to travel, but one must worry about players a) being tired b) still having their heads in the clouds about a big win or c) both.
“We’re fresh to go,” declared Canuck left winger and Hart Trophy finalist Daniel Sedin. “I think our goal has not been winning one playoff round, it’s been going the whole way. For us, it’s a new series with new challenges and we’ll be up for it.”
Canuck overtime hero Alex Burrows could be more emotionally spent than the rest of his teammates after he became a first-time father Wednesday. His wife Nancy gave birth to a baby girl named Victoria. He also took time to answer 90 messages congratulating him on netting the Game 7 winner against the Blackhawks.
“I’m ready to go,” Burrows said. “It was nice to get by Chicago but now we have another fierce team playing against us. Nashville is a great defensive team with a balanced offence and a great goalie in Pekka Rinne.”
If there’s one lesson that comes from the NHL playoffs, it’s that a team must turn the page rather than bask in recently-earned glories. Both the Canucks and Predators will need to do exactly that starting tonight. Vancouver finally slayed that Chicago Blackhawks dragon while Nashville must avoid being wide-eyed at the notion of their first-ever second round series.
Considering the forechecking power of the Canucks and the rugged defensive mastery displayed by the Predators, this series could be a series hockey turf war. Will Vancouver have enough energy to engage in that battle?
Tonight might be Nashville’s best chance to land the first blow.