Its starts pretty quickly again. With a far less cool uniform ( no offense Pred fans, but the Hawk's unis might be the best in the sport ), and a more defensive style. They gave up 10 more goals over 82 games , compared to our Jennings winners. With a newfound scoring prowess in the playoffs (3.67 for the Preds, #2 overall, compared to our 2nd to last 2.29 ) going up against the top scoring team in the NHL's regular season (258 for the Canucks, 213 for the 22nd overall Preds ).
Thanks again BTW Gary, super. Detroit couldn't take the Thur/Sat slot? They clinched when? I am sure the Preds were happy to wait until 1am before knowing where to go next, and fly right to Vancouver this afternoon.( No problem, give those veteran Wings time to get Zetterberg moved into the hyperbaric chamber. ) That's an advantage the Canucks should push, and jump on these guys right away in Game 1.
With all due respect to our Hawks friends, these guys finished 2nd in the division, so they got to be better then the 3rd place Hawks right? Just kidding. But the Predators have to commended for their season.
They might be the epitome of "team" play. Barry Trotz does a good Tikhonov impression. So it is going to be another stout challenge.
We saw in Game 7 that a line like Maxim Lapierre with Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen can help change a game and series. From what I understand, the Preds think they have a good one in their fairly newly formed trio of Smithson, Spaling and Tootoo.
Let's look at their stats , and keeping in mind the number of games played, makes some interesting comparisons. For instance, if hit stats mean anything, the Canuck three should win that matchup hands down, with 68 hits to the Nashville trio's 35. We know it won't be that easy though.
my journey man kicks your younger journeyman's ass ;
Jerred Smithson. I freely admit I did not know of this particular BCer's lineage. The 32 year old from Vernon. signed as a free agent with the Preds in the offseason 2004, has as a high water mark in 69 games last year (9 G/13 Pts/-4 and 54 PIM ), while shooting a pretty wacky 16.7 %. This year, in the full 82, he had 5 G/13 Pts/ a -6, and a more disciplined 34 PIM. In the 6 games of this year's playoffs, his 1 goal was a Game 5 GWG, he has an assist as well. 12 hits in 6 games, and a very respectable 26 of 45 for 57.6% in the playoffs.
Maxim Lapierre. Hi, my name is Daniel, and I was once a Lapierre hater. He was that diving,yapping player on the Habs that got Burrows off his game coming home to Montreal, and an all around pain in the tookus. Now he is OUR pain in the tookus, and I think I have seen the light. This is more the player AV confidently told everyone he knew how to get the most out of. Did I see him yapping in the Hawk player's faces at points in the just completed series? Damn skippy, but it was not all the time, and seemed like brief glimpses of that player. He packed a lot into his first few years since being a 2nd rd pick in '03 for the Habs. At 26, it seems the bulb has went off.
The numbers? Well, he leads his team in hits with 33 through 7 fun filled games. His 24 PIM dwarfs the Vernon native's 4 PIM. It was the Hawks though, and seemed to be in a game the ref's were handing out minutes for anything, so meh. His 29 of 57 for a 50.7 is buttressed by being 56.67 at home. Against mainly Toews and Sharp, and occasionally Bolland. It will be interesting to see if the 3rd line for the Canucks can score if these lines go head to head. Lappy's regular season? Well, his best season was 08/09 in Montreal, with 15 goals and 28 points, a +9 to go will 76 fun filled PIM. The following playoffs, he was one of Montreal's best players, had 3 goals (1 GWG ), 4 points, and drove other team's stars nuts.
Its close, da Que-becker versus the man from the Okanagan's Bible Belt. I'm going to give it to Maxim on potential. Look for both guys to see more of the stars when the stars are not on home ice.
the most famous athlete from Rankin Inlet NWT versus Herlev Denmark's favorite son ;
Jordin Tootoo. Damn, I just can't get a good hate up for this guy. It will come in Game 1, I am sure. His robust style almost guarantees it. But his personal story, and beating addiction that takes so many youth in the North and never lets go, is pretty compelling. He should serve as a powerful role model for Northern communities. His play had Shea Weber saying its the best he has seen him play. His goal and 4 assists has him tied for 2nd on his team in scoring. Averaging 3 shots in 6 games while sometimes seeing the Getzlaf line speaks to the Pred's new third line playing well. His 11 min average is all even strength though.
Jannik Hansen is the Canuck's unsung hero though. Got the trophy and everything that says so. Beaker is loved around here, but lets see. Well, he hits, but both have 15 in that stat, and Tootoo played a game less. Tootoo has yet to be credited with a blocked shot, and Beaker has two. He does get a bit more TOI (13:29/1:34 SH ) And Jannik also had two big goals early in the Hawk series as well. Rankin's son is a +3 as an all even strength player while Hansen was even through the 1st round.
It's close, and you have to love a player like Jannik almost as much as Burrows for his story. Its not the ECHL, but Beaker was the 287th player taken, in a round now extinct (9th), in 2004. Tootoo was a 4th rounder, 98th overall, in 2001, and is three years older at 28. By the slimmest of totally arbitrary, non scientific of lines, lets give this one to the Canadian Tootoo.
guile versus youth ;
Nick Spaling is obviously the latter in this match up. The 2nd rd (57th) pick in the 07 draft got in 28 games last year, but even though that makes him not a rookie this year, that is what he is. In his first playoff experience, he has 2 goals and 2 assists ( 1 a GWG ) on 7 shots ( 28.6% is pretty good shootin' cowboy! ) He tallied up 8 hits, 4 blocks and 2 takeaways in his 15:30 TOI in 6 playoff games. ( 3 minutes more than his season average ). He also takes more draws then the guy listed as his center, Smithson, going 33 of 58 at the dot. ( I get the feeling they get tossed a fair amount in Nashville as well! )
Chris Higgins makes a pretty good story too, however. The guy was picked 14th overall in '02 by Montreal, doing two years at Yale before joining the Habs in '04. He had 3 goals/5 points through 12 games with them in the '08 playoffs, and has 1 goal so far for the Canucks, the Game 1 GWG. The Professor has tallied up 20 hits over 7, to dominate that stat compared to Spaling's 8 through 6. Spaling blocked 3 more shots than Higgins' 1, and the veteran has double the rookie's takeaways with 4. Higgins has 16 :28 TOI, but plays both power play and penalty kill time.
To me, this is the most interesting match up of the three. The rookie is obviously one of the "it" players from the Predator/ Duck series. It could be said that Higgins showed the playoff experience that will tip the match up the Canucks' way in Game 7 though. He was one of the better forwards on a night that everyone's contributions were important. Let's give the nod to the rookie for the first round, but predict the veteran will be the one to win this one at the end of this series. Push.
There you go. Who knows how the coaches will play the match ups, and perhaps the Preds want to see Fisher's line on Kesler's, and these guys will draw the Sedins. Those things will change as the series goes along and the coaches see who is winning what match up. For all the Game 7 performance, past clutchiness, and contributing all over the ice the Canucks players have...
These young guys in Trotz's system were a big reason the Nashvillians ( Nashville-ites, Nashvillers, Nashvill-ans? ) won their first playoff series in team history. Looking forward to seeing what they have on Thursday at 6pm.