Battle of the Goalies: Rinne vs. Smith

The Phoenix/Nashville series will come down between goalies.

Tomorrow starts Round 2 of the 2012 NHL Playoffs, starting with the Nashville/Phoenix series at 8PM CST. Nashville was the first of all sixteen teams in the playoffs to advance to the Semifinals and waited patiently for their next opponent who was announced as Phoenix after the Coyotes knocked off the Chicago Blackhawks with a series win of 4-2.

Although both in the Western Conference, both Phoenix and Nashville aren’t bitter rivals by any means. With Nashville contending in the ever-difficult Central Division and Phoenix powering through the Pacific Division, these two very similar teams only saw each other four times this past season, with a record of 1-2-1 in favor of the Coyotes. Don’t let that deter you from siding with Nashville, though; the Predators have grown through this season, with the perfect pairings of Roman Josi and Hal Gill, and the sudden leadership of players like Kevin Klein.

However, what will come down between who ultimately takes the series and moves on to Round 3 will be all on the two elite goaltenders, Nashville’s Pekka Rinne and Phoenix’s Mike Smith.

Although Pekka Rinne leads the NHL in wins, games played and is a finalist for the 2012 Vezina Trophy, Mike Smith blocked 229 of 241 shots during Round 1 against the Blackhawks and even more impressive, Smith went 11-0 in February alone, snagging NHL Player of the Month. Both goalies have made some impressive strives this past and post seasons, so in a nutshell, the successor will come down to which goal makes a mistake first.

Unlike Nashville, who has Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, and Mike Fisher, Phoenix does not have big names like the Predators necessarily. Captain of the Coyotes, Shane Doan, was drafted in the 1995 NHL Draft by the former Winnipeg Jets, who ultimately moved to Phoenix in 1997. Doan is just about nine years Predators captain Shea Weber’s senior and, although experience and wisdom comes along with age, Weber’s physique and youth may overpower Doan in the long run.

One thing is for sure between these two contenders, however; both teams are more alike than different. Both were threatened with relocation (and Phoenix is still fighting it off) to Hamilton, Ontario from now former Co-CEO of Research in Motion, Jim Balsillie. Nashville almost met the fate of Canada back in 2007, but luckily, loyal Predators fans were able to nip that decision quickly in the bud. The Coyotes, who are a currently owned by the NHL, are purely at the mercy of the City of Phoenix, who currently pays to keep the team in near by Glendale, Arizona.

Also, both teams play in very eerily similar ways, which will ultimately make for one interesting match up. No matter which team that ultimately advances to Round 3, both Nashville and Phoenix have the potential of going far, if not all the way to the finals.

You won’t see many goals during these series, not with these two extraordinary goalies in net. Again, it will all come down to which goalie makes the first mistake. May it not be Pekka Rinne.

Until then,
GO PREDS.

 

L.A. Kings take advantage in 3rd, Predators fall 4-2

Kevin Klein returns to the lineup on Saturday to take on the L.A. Kings

The Predators left San Jose with a shootout loss against the Sharks and came into Los Angeles, hoping to knock out the Kings, who are currently sitting in fourth place in the Pacific Division. Unfortunately for the Predators, like the Sharks, the Kings are desperate and hungry for a playoff spot. With Colorado, San Jose, and L.A. all bouncing around the last playoff spot, the Predators would have to come out strong and physical against the Kings to knock them down a notch. However, the Kings weren’t backing down. Here are the highlights from Saturday night’s game in Los Angeles:

KEY POINTS:

  • As expected, Kevin Klein returned to the lineup after sitting on the scratched list for a few weeks due to an upper body injury. Colin Wilson, Roman Josi, Brian McGrattan, Jack Maclellan, and (unfortunately) Paul Gaustad rounded out the scratched list.
  • The Kings took a bite out the Predators at 7:53 in the first with a snap shot past Pekka Rinne from Anze Kopitar (his 23rd goal of the season). Kopitar’s goal would be the only goal during the 1st Period, with L.A. cranking out 10 shots on goal and Nashville only taking 5.
  • The Predators would tie it at one with a power play goal from Martin Erat at 13:43 in the 2nd for his 18th goal of the season. Marty’s slap shot past Jonathan Bernier was assisted by Ryan Suter (35th assist) and Shea Weber (28th assist).
  • The Kings came out on fire during the 3rd Period, pressuring Pekka and the net with three goals at 8:04, 13:02, and 16:19. L.A.’s first goal was a tip-in by Dustin Penner for his 6th goal of the season. The second goal was snared by Dwight King, his 4th goal of the season. The third goal was sealed by Kyle Clifford for his 5th goal of the season.
  • Mike Fisher would attempt to regain composure for the Predators at 17:18 with a backhanded goal for his 22nd goal of the season, but it just wasn’t enough to derail the Kings’ momentum. Fisher’s goal was assisted by Kevin Klein (12th assist) and Martin Erat (37th assist).
  • Pekka Rinne took a beating Saturday night, although he did block 23 of 27 shots taken at him and the net. It was cracks in the Predators defense that the Kings took advantage of, knocking the Nashville team on their butts during the third period. The Predators were able to snag a power play goal and managed to stay away from the penalty box, minus three times. Here are the three culprits:
  1. Jordin Tootoo – 15:01 2nd Period – Interference
  2. Jack Hillen – 2:02 3rd Period – Hi-Sticking
  3. Brandon Yip – 18:21 3rd Period – Holding

It was clear the Predators did not expect the L.A. Kings to come tearing onto the ice as maniacally as they did during the third period, thus resulting in the 4-2 loss in regulation. The Predators have no time to sulk in misery, though; They will cross the street (basically) into Anaheim to face the Ducks on Sunday. The Predators have muscled-over the Ducks all season, so a final win would boost the team as they return to Nashville on Tuesday. After a nasty loss like tonight, the Predators will have to put forth an effort that, although the Ducks aren’t contenders, they can’t be overlooked.

The puck drops in Anaheim at 7PM.

Until then,
GO PREDS.

(Photo credit of: Noah Graham/NHLI via Getty Images)