NHL Playoff Series Preview: Carolina Hurricanes (1) vs. Nashville Predators (4)
Nashville Predators Analysis: Is Goaltending Enough?
The Nashville Predators aren’t an offensively gifted team. The Preds scored the fewest goals of any playoff-bound team whose top scorer is a defenseman who recorded 33 points in 48 games. Now, Nashville will have to try and keep pace with a Carolina Hurricanes team that ranked near the top of every offensive production category. This series could be a train wreck.
Granted, Nashville’s strength has always been their defensive structure, but even that has been lacking in 2021. The Predators finished middle of the pack in high-danger and scoring chances allowed at five-on-five, ranking 13th in both categories. Nashville also gave up a concerning amount of shots, allowing the sixth-most shots at five-on-five this season.
The Predators’ production metrics were also unimpressive. Nashville attempted the 16th-most scoring chances, 11th-most high-danger chances, and ninth most shots this season, leaving the Preds with relative metrics all hovering around 50.0%. So if the Preds at a sub-par offensive and middling defense, how exactly did they sneak into the playoffs?
The answer is goaltending. Juuse Saros finished the season with a 92.7% save percentage and 20.6 goals saved above average, as calculated by Hockey-Reference, ranked fourth and third, respectively, among qualified goaltenders. A hot goaltender can carry a team further than it deserves to go in the playoffs. Unless Saros plans on potting a few goals, he can’t be expected to carry the Preds past the Canes single-handedly.
Carolina Hurricanes Analysis: Lethal Offense A Game Changer
Offense came naturally to the Hurricanes this season. Carolina attempted the fourth-most shots, fifth-most scoring chances, and most high-danger chances of any team at five-on-five this season. Their relative metrics also placed the Canes among the league’s elite. Carolina finished the season with the sixth-best high-danger chances-for percentage and seventh-ranked scoring chances-for percentage, which illustrates that their offensive prowess didn’t come at the expense of their defensive integrity.
Scoring depth is one of the more critical factors to playoff success. That will be the biggest difference in this series, and the key to a deep playoff run for the Canes. Carolina has seven players who outscored the Preds top point-getter, all of whom have at least 10 goals, and can expect production from all four lines.
Carolina can beat the Preds at their own game by playing a tidier brand of defensive hockey, but at the same time forcing the issue offensively. Saros will prevent the Canes from running away with the series and should steal a game, or maybe two, but it won’t be enough to steal the series. The Hurricanes can finish this series up early and rest up for the second round. Carolina is the side to be on.
The Bets: Hurricanes To Win Series -245, Series Total Games: 5 +240