NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 24: Ryan Suter #20 of the Nashville Predators tries to break up a pass from Ryan Getzlaf #10 to Teemu Selanne #8 of the Anaheim Ducks on March 24, 2011 at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Anaheim calling to the hockey world...
The rumblings about this series have already started. It's easy to say it's going to come down to the Ducks' top line against the Predators' top pair. In situations like that, it is much more likely that it'll be a wash. As such, I've come up with some other factors that will determine the outcome of the series. Some are more obvious than others...sorry.
Goaltending: Looks like Ellis is going to be the Ducks starter. Improvements on D means he won't have to be spectacular, but he needs to make sure the Ducks don't fall behind. Pekka Rinne is going to be tough to beat early in the series. Ellis has to be just frustrating enough to frustrate the Predators. If he can keep their offense from gaining any serious momentum, then it would go a long way towards helping the Ducks be on the right end of the 3-2 and 2-1 games that are going to dominate this series.
The Third Line: Everyone wants to focus on the top line/big pair match up, but that's not the most important match up of the series. With home ice advantage, Carlyle needs to focus on wearing down Weber and Suter as much as possible, so that the top line can seal the deal come games 5,6, and 7. If Carlyle is going to insist on keeping Dan Sexton out of the line up, then he needs to make sure that he gets the appropriate mileage out of Winchester.
Brad is a big guy who needs to lay the body on Weber and Suter every chance he gets. Moreover, if he puts Ryan on the third line to spread the scoring, then Bobby is going to have to find the back of the net a few times, as well as contribute to the physical play. The Ducks will need this third line to help wear down the Preds, and chip in on the score sheet. Otherwise, Nashville is going to counter attack us to death.
Saku Koivu: Koivu is the top playmaker on the second PP unit, and he's one of our top PK forwards. He distributes the puck on the second line. Plus, as was noted by Matt Barr in a stat nerd column at Yahoo! sports, Koivu is one of the top 5 players in this year's playoffs in terms of increased points per game. Koivu scores .104 more points per game in the playoffs than he does in the regular season. The Ducks are going to need that extra secondary production in order to give the top line the time it will need to break through in this series.