Corey Perry is an obvious cause for concern.
He is not Barry Trotz’s biggest worry, though.
The Nashville Predators coach is unable to say which of the Anaheim Ducks might emerge as a star when the teams meet in the first round of the NHL playoffs. That’s the problem.
“The playoffs are about adjustments and they’re not big adjustments. Sometimes they’re subtle adjustments,” Trotz said. “They’re matchups. They’re changes in reads through the neutral zone, on the forecheck, how you’re dumping the puck in and how teams are breaking out — those things can make a big difference sometimes.”
Nashville and Anaheim begin their series 9:30 p.m. (CDT) Wednesday at Anaheim. The second game is 9:30 p.m. Friday with the first Predators' home game at 5 p.m. Sunday.
For the complete Predators-Ducks playoff schedule, click here.
Perry finished the season as the NHL’s top goal scorer with 50, and he and linemates Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan all racked up at least 71 points. By comparison, the Predators’ top scorers, Sergei Kostitsyn and Martin Erat, each finished with 50.
That group, obviously, will attract the attention of Nashville’s top defense pair, Ryan Suter and Shea Weber.
“Most teams, when you play them you know the major threats,” Trotz said. “In every series, there’s always a new twist, a guy who steps up.”
One of the reasons the Predators have failed to get out of the first round in their four playoff appearances is that they have not had such a guy. Only once has more than one player scored three goals or more in a playoff series. J-P Dumont had four and Erat had three in 2007 against San Jose, which won in five games.
Beyond Perry and his linemates, the Ducks do have other offensive options.
Veteran Teemu Selanne was their second-leading scorer with 80 points and has extensive playoff experience (72 points in 105 games). Veteran center Saku Koivu finished with 45 points and as recently as 2007-08 put up nine points in seven playoff games for Montreal. Defensemen Lubomir Visnovsky and Cam Fowler had more than 40 points.
The difference is not always in the numbers, though.
Trotz said Andrew Ladd was a major factor last season for Chicago when it eliminated the Predators in six games. Ladd had just one goal, no assists and a minus-3 rating for the series.
“When they moved him from the third line to the first line that made a big adjustment to us to have to handle that line and move people around,” Trotz said.. “Subtle things like that sometimes can really have a major impact on how you look at teams.”
• The Predators won three of four from the Ducks during the regular season. The teams split a pair of 5-4 games, and the Predators won the other two 4-1.
The 17 goals matched Nashville’s highest total of the season against an opponent outside the division. It also had 17 in four games against Colorado.
The Predators scored 18 in the six games with Detroit.
“I think the playoffs are sometimes a little different than the regular season,” Trotz said. “… It’ll be an interesting matchup. I think we’ve played them pretty well and they’ve played us pretty well the last couple of years.”
• Nashville missed the opportunity to finish fourth in the Western Conference when it lost 2-0 Saturday at St. Louis. Consequently, it lost out on the opportunity to have home-ice advantage for the first-round series, which would have meant the first two games would be played at Bridgestone Arena.
“We’re going to have to start there, so that’s fine,” Trotz said. “We’ve been home for a long time. From a standpoint of road-weary, we were road-weary back in January and February. Right now we’re not road-weary. We haven’t done much travel.”
The Predators played 12 of their final 15 at home.
• Erat, who sat out the final two games of the regular season in order to rest an injury, is expected to be available for the start of the series with the Ducks.
“Hopefully we go in and Marty is ready to go,” Trotz said. “That’s a big hole for us right there [if he can’t]. Marty was playing so well and then we’ve missed him the last couple of games. … He’s one of the guys who can break things open for you a little bit with his speed and he’s got a great work ethic.”
Erat has 13 career playoff points (six goals, seven assists), tied with David Legwand for the most in franchise history.