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Home 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs Blogger roundtable: Will Nashville beat Detroit?
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Blogger roundtable: Will Nashville beat Detroit?

With Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals just over 24 hours away, we’ve decided to get some insight from the Smashville blogosphere on how this Predators-Red Wings series will play out.

The roundtable questions were simple: Who is going to win the series (and why?), and who is the most important player for the Predators? Let’s take a look at the responses…

Amanda DiPaolo (Inside Smashville)

Who is the most important player for the Predators?
For the Predators to beat Detroit, Pekka Rinne will have to be the best player on the ice. Everyone knows how dynamic Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg can be for the Red Wings. Tomas Holmstrom and Johan Franzen will also try to do some damage. A year ago, the Predators were able to get passed Anaheim in six games, but Rinne allowed an uncharacteristically high amount of goals, 20 in total.

Who is going to win this series?
If Detroit has a realistic chance at getting passed Nashville, the Red Wings will need to improve on special teams. Detroit was weak in special teams during the regular season ranking 22nd in the League on the man advantage and 18th on the penalty kill. Detroit will need to stay off the penalty kill against the NHL’s number one power play unit, the Predators. Working in Detroit’s favor is that only one team gave up fewer penalties in the League than Detroit so the team is disciplined. That one team that gave more fewer penalties? The Predators.

Like the Eastern Conference’s four/five match up, whichever team loses between the Predators and Detroit, a Cup contender will be making an early first round exit out of the playoffs. If there was ever a year the Predators were built to take out an aging Detroit team, this is the year to do it.

Patten Fuqua (Puck Scene)

Who is the most important player for the Predators?
Hands down, the most important player in this series will be Pekka Rinne.

Some may argue that Rinne alone was the reason that the Predators were able to push 6 games on Vancouver in the Conference Semifinal last year.

Last year, he showed that he knew how to rise to the occasion, he showed that he had the tenacity to handle the grind in the playoffs. This year, he played an absolutely absurd amount of games and stopped an even more absurd number of shots. Pekka Rinne has not found his limit yet.

Nashville has firepower that they have never had before. In fact, with a mediocre goaltender, they could probably still make it through a couple of rounds in the playoffs. However, Rinne is far from mediocre.

Every team dreams of finding the elite goaltender that will not wear down during the playoffs.

Nashville has that goaltender in Pekka Rinne.

Who is going to win this series?
Before the season, I said that I would continue picking Detroit until the Predators finally overcame them. As long as they were king of the mountain, I felt that there was no reason to knock them off. Time and again, the Red Wings have been “done” only to storm back late in the season and pass the Predators.

On Saturday, their time ran out. When the Blackhawks forced overtime (okay, technically, when the Blackhawks gave up a late 2-goal-lead and settled for overtime), the Nashville had finally beaten Detroit in the regular season standings.

That’s the first hurdle.

The second hurdle will be defeating them in the playoffs. The previous two times these teams have met in the playoffs, the Predators have been overmatched. In the first, it was the first playoff appearance in franchise history – not being swept was an accomplishment in and of itself. The second appearance required Dan Ellis standing on his head to get the series to six games.

This season, however, the Predators come in as the favorite. They finished ahead of the Red Wings in the regular season. They are hungrier. They are younger. The stigma of not being able to get out of the first round was broken last year.

They are not scared of that winged wheel anymore.

David Poile has spent his 14 years in Nashville building a championship-caliber team. This year, he finally has one that can go the distance. The first step, is overthrowing the king.

Thus, Predators in 6… because every series with the Wings has been 6.

Jeremy Gover (Section 303)

Who is the most important player for the Predators?
Pekka Rinne. He’ll have to withstand a barrage of shots coming from everywhere and Tomas Holmstrom’s rear in his face game in and game out. If he can do that, Preds should be able to use special teams to win the series.

Who is going to win this series?
The Predators will win this series because of one reason: they’re ready.

Sure, there are a lot of new faces but the leadership corps is home grown and they’ve been through all the necessary bumps and bruises of not making the playoffs (2009), losing in the first round when they should’ve won (2010) and getting to taste what it’s like to actually win a series (2011). This breeds pride. It’s not like a veteran from another organization has to lead, as it was in years past. Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Pekka Rinne, et al can bring the hockey club they have ownership in to new heights. And, with a top lines worth of 50-point scorers (Martin Erat, Mike Fisher, David Legwand) and three more lines that contribute offensively, the genuine belief that they’re going on a deep playoff run is there. And honestly, that was the biggest thing missing before.

The belief that they could do it was there. The belief they will was not.

Buddy Oakes (Preds On The Glass)

Who is the most important player for the Predators?
One player that has really taken on an important role as the season wound down was Paul Gaustad. The team has had trouble all season on faceoffs and Gaustad has really solidified the teams penalty kill efforts as well as putting up a good presence in non PK defensive zone draws. With him winning the majority of his faceoffs, it has taken pressure off the defense and resulted in fewer shots on goal off the faceoff. Against a team with explosive weapons like the Wings, having Gaustad could be a key factor.

Who is going to win this series?
I’m going to stick with my original thought that the Predators will surprise the hockey world and win in five games. They should win their home games and possibly the first one at “The Joe” on Sunday on national TV. As Barry Trotz said Sunday, “It just feels different.” I think the team has the urgency to play hard from the opening puck drop and this could be the year that the Wings seem less “Wing-like” in the playoffs. Other than a great record at home and their incredible win streak, they have been average for much of the rest of the season.

Robby Stanley (Hockey Night in Nashville)

Who is the most important player for the Predators?
I believe that the most important player in this series for the Predators is Pekka Rinne. Goaltending wins in the playoffs, and the Predators have the goaltending advantage on paper against Detroit. Rinne can put the team on his back and steal games for the Predators. He’s arguably the best goalie in the NHL when he’s on his game. If he’s on his game in this series, it’s bad news for Detroit.

Who is going to win this series?
Nashville in seven games. Now is the time for the Predators. They are better equipped than ever before to put together a deep run in the playoffs, and they have depth that can help them wear down the Red Wings in a seven-game series. Detroit is a very experienced postseason team, which is why I think this series will go seven games. The Red Wings have always taken their game to another level in the playoffs, and I don’t expect this season to be any different. However, the days of the Predators being afraid of Detroit are over. Nashville believes they can win, and they have something to prove.

The goal for the Predators is to win the Stanley Cup, and a first round victory over the Red Wings would be a fitting first step toward that goal.

Mark Willoughby (The View from 111)

Who is the most important player for the Predators?
That is a difficult question to answer, since the Predators are so balanced and built around a team concept. One can point to the usual suspects, like a Radulov, or a Shea Weber or Ryan Suter that will be called upon to shut down the potent forwards of the Wings.

I think the most important player in this series, however, will be Pekka Rinne. Rinne has been spectacular in the regular season, and in the playoffs, he will need to elevate his game. As difficult as it might seem, there is room for Rinne to bring his game up to another level. He will be called upon to make some big saves, and he must do so. His poise and his compete level are beyond question, but now he must step up and be the game changer. If he does that, the will of the Wings will be broken, and the Predators will capture this series.

I think he does just that.

Who is going to win this series?
The Predators win in 5 games. Some of you that read that will probably think that I have been concussed one too many times, but I believe that the Predators can win this series handily. Here is why:

Better top to bottom scoring depth

The balance that the Predators have in their lineup will be a decisive factor in this series. No longer are the Predators a one or two line team, but have the ability to roll 4 lines that can score. By contrast, offensive production falls off markedly for the Wings when their third and fourth lines are on the ice. Pivotal to this series will be the play of each team’s third line, and I believe the line of Spaling, Hornqvist, and Bourque can do some damage for the Predators.

Goaltending

Pekka Rinne led the NHL in wins, with 43. Jimmy Howard was plagued by injuries and played 57 games for the Wings, compared to 73 for Rinne. Both goaltenders are very similar in save % and GAA, but the edge goes to Rinne for his health and his athleticism. For the Predators, the task before them is to get shots on net and make Howard scramble. A sore groin bothered Howard at the end of the season, and if the Predators are able to make him work for saves, then he could be vulnerable.

The Wild Card

Alexander Radulov, who in his only game against the Wings since returning to the NHL had a goal and an assist. Radulov is the dynamic offensive presence that the Predators have lacked in the past, and when he is on the ice, he is drawing the attention of the opponents top D pairing. This opens up the ice for his line mates as well as other lines that the Predators will put on the ice, as they will face the second or third D pairings.

Ryan Porth (Smashville 24/7)

Who is the most important player for the Predators?
You could go a number of different directions here. As everyone has stated, Rinne will play a key role. I’m going to say the line of Mike Fisher, Martin Erat and Sergei Kostitsyn is collectively the most important player for the Predators. Everyone expects Alexander Radulov to do his thing, but having two lines clicking is crucial. Whenever the trio of Fisher, Erat and Kostitsyn has been productive this season, the offense has been that much better.

On a different note, we didn’t see Fisher and Kostitsyn at their best last spring as both played through injury in the playoffs. They will be important players and will be determined to make an impact in this first round series.

Who is going to win this series?
Predators in six. Yes, it is Detroit on the other side of the bench. But they aren’t the same Detroit. Nashville is primed and ready for a deep run, and it starts with knocking off their measuring stick since Day 1. A Predators series win elevates this rivalry to unseen heights.

 
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