Western Conference Finals
The Nashville Predators have been a force to be reckoned with in the postseason. After sweeping the first-place Chicago Blackhawks in four games, the Preds went on to defeat the St. Louis Blues in a smooth six-game series.
This is the first time in NHL History that the Nashville Predators will face-off in the Western Conference Finals, but their competition will be fierce. Fresh from a hard-fought seven game series against the Edmonton Oilers, the Anaheim Ducks look determined to take the cup for the first time since 2007.
In the regular season, the Ducks and Preds have only played each other three times, each time with a different outcome. Ducks won the first matchup, on Oct. 26, putting six goals past Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne. The second matchup was all about Nashville. The Predators forwards came back with a vengeance, putting four goals past Anaheim goalie John Gibson, before he was pulled in the third for Jonathan Bernier, who gave up a goal on nine shots.
Anaheim would go on to win their final match with Nashville of the regular season, on March 7, in a post-regulation shootout.
Although will only be the fourth time these two teams have met in the 2016-17 season, the Ducks and the Preds have a history of playing in the postseason, having gone head-to-head in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs a year before.
The heated seven-game series came to a crushing end for the Ducks in the 2015-16 postseason, who lost game seven 2-1, thanks to the game-winning goal by Preds forward, Paul Gaustad, late in the first period. Although the Ducks were able to rally back from a two-goal deficit, with a power-play goal in the first few minutes of the third period, the Preds netminder, Pekka Rinne, shut them down, staving off 36 of the total 37 shots he faced.
Nashville went on to the next round where they were defeated, in yet another seven game series against 2016 Western Conference winners, the San Jose Sharks.
Bad blood between the two teams still lingers after last season. Nashville looks more determined than they have ever been before and that is partially due to Ryan Ellis, who will certainly be one to watch in the upcoming series.
But, the Ducks are just heating up, after recovering from a brutal game six loss against Edmonton, they went on to defeat the Oilers 2-1, in a low-scoring nailbiter on May 10.
Nashville may be the hottest team in the NHL right now, but they’ve been taking it easy since defeating the St. Louis Blues. We’ll have to wait and see if they keep the firing going or if the Ducks will snuff them out.
Game one of the Western Conference Finals begins tonight, Friday, May 12, at 9 p.m. on NBCSN.