NHL playoffs: Detroit Red Wings at Nashville Predators preview
Expectations have never been higher for the Nashville Predators franchise, but the challenge is immediate for the up-and-coming Preds as the most experienced and perhaps deepest team in the NHL, the Detroit Red Wings, await in Round 1 starting Wednesday night.
For the first time in the Predators’ history, they will have home-ice advantage for a postseason series. The Preds were good on home ice this season, going 26-10-6, but the Wings were better than any team in the league. Remember that 23-game win streak at home? That propelled them to a 31-7-3 mark. So you can see why it was so important to get that edge.
The fourth-seeded Predators don’t have a ton of postseason history, but a good portion of it has come against the No. 5 Red Wings. This is Nashville’s eighth trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the third time it will face Detroit. The Predators lost each of those two previous matchups in six games (2004 and 2008), but this is the first time Nashville has finished ahead of the Red Wings in the standings and will, as a result, hold home-ice advantage.
Little separated these teams in the regular season this campaign, as well. The Central Division rivals split their six-game series with each team going 2-1 on home ice. Detroit owns a 17-13 advantage in goals, but the Predators have won the two most recent meetings.
Nashville comes in hot, winning its final three. The NHL’s winningest netminder this season, Pekka Rinne, needs to be on his game for the Preds to succeed. The lower-scoring the games, the better. Yes, Nashville boasts underrated weapons in Martin Erat, Patric Hornqvist and Mike Fisher, but these guys are not going to outshoot Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg if the play loosens up too much. The Wings will try to hog the puck and dictate the pace; the Preds can’t let that happen.
The Predators stocked up for a Cup run while impending free-agent defensemen Ryan Suter and Shea Weber are under contract. Their biggest addition was game-breaking winger Alexander Radulov, back after bolting to Russia. In his nine regular-season games, Radulov proved himself a threat with three goals, four assists and a shootout winner.
Although Wings coach Mike Babcock has downplayed the loss of home-ice advantage (“It’s great. We don’t have to travel across the country, which for me is the biggest thing”), everyone knows Detroit prefers to play at The Joe. The consistent Red Wings (12 straight 100-point seasons, 21 straight playoff berths) will rely on veteran wiles and perennial playoff performers like Tomas Holmstrom and Johan Franzen to find that extra edge. But they cannot play their age.
WagerWeb.com series line: Predators -120
WagerWeb.com Game 1 line: Predators -130