The Western Conference match-ups are set for the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Nashville Predators will face the Phoenix Coyotes and the St. Louis Blues will take on the Los Angeles Kings.
Both Nashville and Phoenix won twice in their four-game season series, but the Coyotes came out on top because one of the contests that the Predators won was decided in a shootout. Phoenix picked up an extra point for the shootout loss. While the series was split 2-2, the teams met only once after the trade deadline, on March 12th, when the Predators edged the Coyotes by a 5-4 score in the shootout.
The first three contests were decided before the new year. On October 13th, the Coyotes beat the Predators fairly convincingly by a 5-2 score. On November 3rd, the Predators then shutout the Coyotes 3-0. The final meeting before 2012 was on December 6th when the Coyotes edged the Predators 3-2.
The Nashville roster is considerably different since those first three games. Just 10 days before the trade deadline, the Predators picked up Hal Gill from Montreal. On the trade deadline, the Predators traded for Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad. Of course, the return of Alexander Radulov also added to the depth of the Nashville roster. Furthermore, first-round standout Gabriel Bourque started the season in Milwaukee.
Phoenix is a different looking team too. The Predators only faced Mike Smith in goal once, when they beat the Coyotes in March. Gilbert Brule was only claimed off waivers from Edmonton in January. Antoine Vermette was also picked up from Columbus at the trade deadline. In 7 games against Nashville this season, Vermette had 1 goal and 3 assists. During the Chicago series, Vermette had 5 points in 6 games with 4 goals and 1 assist.
With the win over the Chicago Blackhawks in six games, the Coyotes won their first playoff series since the franchise was stationed in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It is the first time Captain Shane Doan, who has been with the franchise his entire career, has made it to the second round of the postseason.
The hero for Phoenix was, without a doubt, goaltender Mike Smith. Heading into Monday night’s action, Smith had a 2.13 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage. The netminder recorded a shutout in game six to close out the series with the Coyotes 4-0 win over Chicago.
Pekka Rinne is up to the challenge. In five games against Detroit, the Predators goaltender posted an impressive 1.81 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage.
Phoenix ended the regular season as the third seed because the Coyotes led the Pacific Division. As the fourth seed, Nashville will start the series against the Coyotes on the road. The second-round series is likely to begin on either Friday or Saturday night at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Arizona.