The Nashville Predators will face the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference semifinals.
It took two days and a little bit of overtime but the Predators’ next opponent finally was determined when the Canucks defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 in overtime of Game 7 on Tuesday.
That made Nashville the only one of the Western Conference’s four lower seeds to get beyond the opening round. Vancouver was the No. 1 seed after having won the President’s Trophy for having the NHL’s best overall record in the regular season. San Jose, which was No. 2, and No. 3 Detroit also advanced.
The Canucks won the first three games of the series, lost the next three and then were forced to overtime when the Blackhawks scored shorthanded with 1:56 to play in regulation. They won on Alexandre Burrows’ goal 5:22 into the extra period.
“There’s a reason [the Canucks] won the President’s Trophy,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “They’re really good. [The Chicago series] really has tested their resiliency.
“I really think you’re going to see a team that has accomplished something from an internal standpoint.”
Nashville and Vancouver split their four-game series during the regular season. Each won once at home and once in the other’s arena.
The playoff matchup pits two of the three finalists for the Vezina Trophy, the Predators’ Pekka Rinne and the Canucks’ Roberto Luongo, against one another. Both played all four games in the regular season. They allowed a combined total of 14 goals in those four contests.
In addition to Luongo, Vancouver also has twin brothers Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who finished the regular season first and fourth, respectively, in points.
“Obviously there’s the Sedins and they have great depth up front in terms of their lines — the Sedins have the high skill level, and then they have some nasty people,” Trotz said. “[Ryan] Kesler plays a man’s game and they have some guys that do that. They have some guys that get under your skin.
“They’re just a solid team. The [Chicago] series will have really hardened them.”