Nashville Predators vs Carolina Hurricanes NHL Playoff Series Predictions
Oh, how the tables have turned. The Nashville Predators had a great run of form from the 2016-17 season where they went to the Cup Finals only to lose to Pittsburgh in six games. They followed that up with back-to-back division titles, but since then it’s been nothing but misfortune for the Predators despite reaching the playoffs in both last year and this season. The Hurricanes have taken the league by “storm” (if you will) over the last couple of seasons, reaching the conference finals in the 2018-19 season and then bowing out in the first round last year. They are a fan favorite among neutral fans because of the win celebrations they came up with, and it’s about time we see some personality from a hockey team.
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So, how does Las Vegas see this series playing out? Well, Carolina is the odds-on favorite to get out of the series at -260. They are -190 in Game 1, with the total set at 5. If you think the Hurricanes can storm through the Eastern Conference and win the Cup, you can get a piece of them at +900. If you think the Preds can turn back the clock and regain some of their form from the last few years, you can grab them at +210 to advance and +4000 to lift Lord Stanley.
The goal for these preview pieces is to help inform you/remind you which team has the edge on both ends of the rink. If you still aren’t sure, I recommend signing up and joining Doc’s team as he released NHL plays daily.
Goaltending & Defence
For the most part, when I think of the Nashville Predators I think of superb defense and a solid goalie. Pekka Rinne was Nashville’s No. 1 goalie for quite some time, but the torch has finally been passed to Juuse Saros as Rinne is now 38 and this will likely be his last season in Nashville. Saros had himself quite the year, posting a 21-11-1 record with a 2.28 goals-against average and three shutouts. He’s the guy Nashville will rely on throughout the playoffs. And if the defense can continue playing well in front of him, the Preds have a shot at stealing the series. The Preds allow just 2.75 goals per game, but they give up 31.3 shots (24th) and their penalty kill is among the worst in the league – 75.4 percent, 28th overall. If they can find a way to fix those issues, the Preds could give Carolina fits.
As for the Hurricanes, they play a certain brand of hockey that is described as controlled chaos. They are among the league leaders in terms of offensive categories, but it’s their defensive game that has impressed me the most. The Hurricanes are T4 with 2.39 goals allowed per game, seventh in shots on goal allowed (28.2), third in penalty kill percentage (85.2) and 12th in penalty minutes per game with just 7.4. Not only do the forwards and defensemen do a great job of defending, but the Hurricanes also boasts two goalies who can mind the net with confidence. From what I understand, Petr Mrazek will get the start in net in Game 1, and he’s been good when he’s been in net but has missed a portion of the season, so it’ll be interesting to see how he responds. Backup, Alex Nedeljkovic is a great backup option and he’s posted solid numbers this year.
Offense & Special Teams
To say the Blue Jackets are offensively challenged would be an understatement. The team ranks 21st in goals per game at 2.7, 13th in shots on goal at 30, T23 in power-play percentage (17.6) and 20th in shooting percentage at just nine percent. The Predators rely on a very balanced scoring scheme as 12 of their skaters have contributed with at least 18 points. They are led by defensemen Roman Josi, who notched eight goals and 25 assists for 33 points in 48 games. Next on the list is Filip Forsberg, who chipped in with 12 goals and 20 assists for 32 points and then Calle Jarnkrok, who pitched in with 13 goals and 15 assists for 28 points. It really is a team effort when scoring goals for the Predators, and in the playoffs that scoring depth is something that goes a long way.
As for the Hurricanes, they have more pure talent up and down their roster, and it shows in the stats and team rankings. As a team, the Hurricanes rank 11th overall in goals per game with 3.13, fifth in shots on goal with 32 per game, second in power-play percentage, connecting at a 25.6 percent clip and 12th in shooting percentage at 9.8. The Hurricanes are led in scoring by Sebastian Aho, who notched 24 goals and 33 assists for 57 points. Behind him, Vincent Trocheck pitched in with 17 goals and 26 assists for 43 points. Dougie Hamilton and Andrei Svechnikov both contributed 42 points to the cause while Martin Necas pitched in with 41.
Some part of me wants to say the Predators have what it takes to pull off the upset, but I just can’t pull the trigger on that. The Hurricanes are a team that plays such a brand of hockey that is not only easy on the eyes but effective as well. The Hurricanes have more talent up and down the lineup; the only concern is the goaltending. However, I do believe this series will be won and lost on the powerplay, and the Hurricanes’ second-ranked PP should be able to feast on the 28th ranked PK for the Preds.
Pick: Carolina in five.
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