Apr 27, 2011, 2:02 PM EDT
The Western Conference semifinals will kick off at the end of the week, but thanks to everyone all done and the pairings set, we’ll break down how things look. With the Vancouver Canucks finally figuring out a way to beat the Chicago Blackhawks in the playoffs, now their next mission sits in front of them: Getting out of the second round. To do that they’ll have yet another Central Division team and one that should look eerily familiar to them in the Nashville Predators.
I say that because like Vancouver, Nashville is a tough defensive team with an all-world goalie. Say what you will about Roberto Luongo, and we know there’s plenty, but he was able to overcome an absolute circus of hysteria in the first round to show up huge in Game 7. His opposing goalie this round, Pekka Rinne, is a fellow Vezina Trophy finalist who didn’t quite look like a Vezina finalist in the opening round. With offensive chances figuring to be at a minimum, we could see a goalie battle for the ages in this round.
The interesting part of this match-up is how each team responds to this round. Nashville’s never been to the second round of the playoffs before in team history, meanwhile the Canucks haven’t been able to get past Chicago the previous two seasons. The Canucks haven’t been able to get past the second round of the playoffs thanks to Chicago the last two years so we’re left to wonder who uses the momentum gained from the first round the right way.
With the likes of Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Ryan Kesler, and Alex Burrows the Canucks certainly have plenty of offense to burn. Nashville doesn’t seem to be as loaded up with Mike Fisher, Patric Hornqvist, and Shea Weber. One person we’re hoping continues to be a force is Jordin Tootoo as his spectacular play against Anaheim helped the Predators to be a much deeper team getting production from their third line.
With Alain Vigneault and Barry Trotz coaching these sides, expect things be a battle of tacticians. Vigneault’s decisions in the first round certainly gave us all pause to wonder just what he was doing while Trotz keeps steering the Predators ship ahead.
How do you see things playing out between these two teams? Which team grabs momentum and sprints ahead to the Western Conference finals? Let us know in our poll.
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