Alright, so you knew that Phoenix and Nashville would be meeting in the second round of the Playoffs right? The surprise Coyotes may be should not be a surprise. They won their division despite being dogged by the Kings and Sharks. Now they take on the stingy Nashville Predators who shut down the Detroit Red Wings in the first round. This will be a great goaltender battle between Pekka Rinne and Mike Smith.
For Nashville this is the second time in two years they made the second round. Are they ready to take the next step? The Preds play a strong team game and get great goaltending from Pekka Rinne seemingly every time out. When I watch the Predators I see a very confident team that believes it not only belongs in the second round but that they will be going even deeper in the playoffs. If the Predators can score enough against the hot Mike Smith they will be at a big advantage because Rinne is not going to give much up. Moreover, having Weber and Suter on the backline is a huge advantage. They are two of the best defenders in the game and can steady the Predators when things are not going well.
Phoenix has been impressively resilient against the Hawks and in a Game 1 OT win versus the Preds. Consistently they give up the lead but go on to win anyway. These results have convinced me that the Coyotes believe in themselves even if nobody else does. They play an excellent team game and do not rely on one or two guys to do the scoring. Of concern was how badly Phoenix was outshot by Chicago. Nashville also has the ability to take over the game and possess the puck. In my opinion the Coyotes need to continue to get the first goal, they do not want to play from behind against the Preds. Ultimately, Mike Smith will be the key for Phoenix. If he continues to stand on his head they will win this series. If Nashville can get on top early it will be real trouble for the Coyotes.
This series will be close, low scoring, and be characterized by strong defense and goaltending. The team that composes themselves and stays out of the penalty box has the advantage. Furthermore, both teams have played well in one-goal games. The team that can get the lead will have a big edge in this series.