Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
It's difficult to imagine that anyone out there who picked Nashville to win its series with Anaheim who actually, fully believed it would happen.
But after two wins from the first three games, one of which came on the road (that only happened once in the franchise's history), it's starting to look like it can pull off an actual NHL playoff series win.
After all, Nashville has never even forced a Game 7 by winning three times in a series (and in theory, I guess, that still holds up if Anaheim wins the next three). But when you look at the two teams, there are a couple reasons why Nashville can very easily advance to the second round for the first time ever.
One is that they say superstar players will help you win more than anything else. We've seen so-called system teams somewhat dispel that in recent years, but if you're comparing the Ducks' best players — Bobby Ryan(notes), Corey Perry(notes), Teemu Selanne(notes) and Ryan Getzlaf(notes) — to the Predators' — Pekka Rinne(notes), Shea Weber(notes) and… Mike Fisher(notes), I guess? — the teams aren't even close.
And yet, the Predators are doing something terribly interesting: They're letting the superstars run roughshod over them and completely shutting down the rest of the lineup.
(Coming Up: Doan's hit on the Mule; Blackhawks stars struggle; Zdeno Chara's(notes) illness; Big Buff's bad idea; Avalanche show a little sanity with coaching decision; Edmonton sour on Dustin Penner(notes); Devils signing goalie prospect out of NCAA; Wild deserve better; Doughty's ESPN snub; James Reimer's(notes) pay day; Stamkos called out in Pittsburgh; the Bruins are terrible; and a rather extravagant trade proposal involving Linus Omark(notes) and Paul Stastny(notes).)
The four Anaheim players listed above have compiled a jaw-dropping 8-7-15 in just three games; and apart from Saku Koivu's(notes) three assists, only two other guys have multiple points. The back 13 guys on the roster have a combined two points between them. Meanwhile, only three Preds are without a point through the first three games, and one of them is Matt Halischuk(notes), who gets about as much TOI as you do.
Sure, Mike Fisher's really carried the water with three goals and five points, but goals are coming from all over the lineup. So too are shots, which says that the Ducks are also getting pretty well outpossessed in these games. Case in point: Sunday's game in Nashville saw the Preds outshoot the Ducks 37-16.
Nashville, which was 24th in the league during the regular season with just 28.8 shots per game (and 15th in shots allowed with 30.6 a night), has allowed no more than 28 and poured on no less than 30. They're playing like a completely different team.
And besides, which would you rather be? The Predators, who took the fifth spot in the West by steadily winning throughout the year, or the Ducks, who had to rip through the backend of their season at a white-hot pace to finish fourth with the same number of points? The argument could certainly be made that Anaheim, in just qualifying for the playoffs with a superhuman surge to nudge past the likes of lowly Dallas and Calgary, burned itself out.
Of course, that's not to discount the Ducks' most obvious problem: Their All-Star goaltender can't play.
If Jonas Hiller(notes) were between the pipes, rather than (oh God!) Ray Emery(notes) and Dan Ellis(notes), we might be looking at a 3-0 Ducks advantage. But he's not, and that's a huge problem. How can any team be confident in a goaltending tandem of a guy whose hips are held together with the adhesive from the back of Post-It notes, and one who is Dan Ellis?
Not only that, but Rinne has been playing classic "goaltender stealing a series" hockey. Even as the Preds' defense runs around in its own zone and affords far too many beautiful scoring chances to players that are far too dangerous to not score on them, Rinne has been spectacular, and it's unlikely that he just stops doing so for three more games from the next five.
None of this, obviously, is to say that the series is wrapped up. There's still time for the Predators to realize they're coached by Barry Trotz, after all.
But for now it really seems like the Predators are headed for uncharted territory: the second round.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: Fights in the playoffs are the best kinds of fights. Especially when they include one of the best players on your team.
Boston Bruins: So Zdeno Chara's dehydration was caused by an undisclosed virus and not, as I originally suspected, his having eaten one of those 50-pound bags of sand you get at Toys R Us, all by himself.
Carolina Hurricanes: To the surprise of absolutely no one who watched one second of the NCAA tournament, now-former Minnesota Duluth freshman defenseman Justin Faulk signed a pro contract and has been assigned to the AHL. Kid's a really good offensive d-man.
Chicago Blackhawks: What a performance from a true leader! When the Blackhawks were at their lowest point, noted National Hockey League megastar Ben Smith(notes) rose to the occasion and scored twice on Friday night. It's too bad that only one guy anyone has ever heard of popped one in for Chicago though, eh?
Colorado Avalanche: Some sanity: The Avalanche didn't fire their coach just because he had a bad season. Apparently unlike most terrible teams, the Avs realize he is not solely responsible for their terribleness.
Columbus Blue Jackets: The Jackets are talking about their need to hire a coach specifically for the defensemen. "They did not have such a coach this season, which may have been a mistake," writes Aaron Portzline. It may have been a mistake in the same way that the sinking of the Titanic might have been a boat accident.
Dallas Stars: Kari Lehtonen(notes) says he's lost 20 pounds since the end of last season. I'm assuming most of that is the result of him no longer having to carry the subpar Stars around now that the season is over.
How do I know it was clean? Mike Babcock said so.
Los Angeles Kings: Pierre LeBrun says Jonathan Quick(notes) was the difference in L.A.'s Game 2 shutout over San Jose. That must have come as quite the shock to No. 1 star Drew Doughty(notes), who had a hand in every goal and blocked four shots.
Minnesota Wild: Craig Leipold says Minnesota fans "deserve better" than a fairly bad team that turns in fairly bad performances every year. That's interesting. Because it fired its coach, right? But no one, I think, would say that the roster is good enough to get the Wild into the playoffs. And yet they spend to the cap every year. Know what that tells you? It's not the coach's fault, it's the GM's. Terrible money management. What the fans "deserve" is a competent front office. Might wanna get on that.
Montreal Canadiens: What a frickin' call by Glenn Healy.
Nashville Predators: The Preds are lovin' their power play. It's gone 4 for 16 through the first three games, which is a bit of a turnaround from that whole 0-for-22 fiasco in the first round last year.
New Jersey Devils: At some point Monday, the Devs are expected to announce they've signed undrafted 21-year-old goalie Keith Kinkaid from Union College. He will forego his final two years of NCAA eligibility. Kinkaid led Union to its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance with a 1.99 GAA and .920 save percentage.
New York Rangers: I'm so glad the Rangers won Sunday. Otherwise their crybaby fans would have been moaning about a conspiracy for the next year.
Ottawa Senators: Here's a thing: "The 2010-11 season marked the first time in team history that all 82 Senators games were broadcast on live television." Isn't that strange? Doesn't it seem like that couldn't be possible?
San Jose Sharks: Todd McLellan on Saturday night's effort: "I was actually hoping that as we watched it, I could find a few more positives as far as battles and competitive situations. But I didn't find that."
Tampa Bay Lightning: Steven Stamkos(notes) you are terrible, writes a Pittsburgh reporter. Might as well retire now and save yourself the embarrassment, kid. Take your Rocket Richard as a 19-year-old and beat it.
Vancouver Canucks: Raffi Torres(notes) on Patrick Kane(notes): "It almost looks like he doesn't want the puck at some points." Well that only makes sense. If he gets it, Torres might try to take his damn head off his shoulders. (And hey, I wrote that even before the blindside hit on Brent Seabrook(notes)! Prescient stuff, Lambert. Prescient stuff.)
Washington Capitals: The Caps are going to be devastated by this AP headline: "Dubinsky's goal gets Rangers lead back." So now they head into Game 4 down 3-2 in the series. What an unfortunate turn of events.
Gold Star Award
Drew Doughty had two goals and two assists in one game, in which his team only scored four times. In the playoffs. He is a defenseman. That's pretty much the best you can do.
Minus of the Weekend
The Bruins might wanna pull their heads outta their asses before this series is over. Just sayin'.
Play of the Weekend
Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week
User "NGARV" is wheelin' and dealin'.
Hemsky or Omark
He helpfully adds, "I know huge value trades rarely work, but I figured why not."
Have the Rolling Stones killed.