When the Nashville Predators acquired defenseman P.K. Subban from the Montreal Canadiens in a trade for defenseman Shea Weber on June 29, it was the kind of bold choice that either could have spelled disaster or been the final transformational move to building a Stanley Cup contender.
If the Predators can defeat the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Final, it will be safe to classify the decision as the latter. The series begins at Anaheim on Friday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).
[RELATED: Complete Ducks vs. Predators series coverage]
According to the numbers, Predators goalie Pekka Rinne's historic play could be the key to the series, which will include a showdown between two of the best top lines in the NHL, one of the League's best group of defensemen, and the Ducks' struggling penalty kill.
Here are five interesting stats about this series:
1. Pekka Rinne
It's hard to imagine Nashville enjoying this same level of success without Rinne playing in peak form.
Rinne has a .951 save percentage in 10 playoff games this season, which ranks second since the statistic was introduced in 1983-84 (among those who faced at least 150 shots). The single-season playoff record is held by Marty Turco of the Dallas Stars, who had a .952 save percentage in seven games in 2006-07.
Video: STL@NSH, Gm6: Rinne extends to snag Parayko's wrister
2. Front four
Some of the credit for Rinne's success should be given to one of the most effective sets of top-four defensemen in the NHL: Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and Subban.
Ellis and Josi lead the Predators with four goals each. Ellis is tied with center Ryan Johansen for their scoring lead with nine points (four goals, five assists) in 10 games, second among NHL defensemen behind Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators, who has 13 points in 12 games. Josi has eight points (four goals, four assists), tied with forward Filip Forsberg for third on the Predators. Subban is fifth among Nashville players with seven points (one goal, six assists).
Coach Peter Laviolette leans heavily on this top four, who average 24:53 of ice time per game, compared to 11:55 and 11:20 of ice time per game for the third pair of Matt Irwin and Yannick Weber.
Ducks defensemen Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen and Kevin Bieksa have missed a combined 15 playoff games because of injury. In their absence, Anaheim has received great performances from rookie defensemen Shea Theodore and Brendan Montour. Theodore leads Ducks defensemen with seven points (two goals, five assists) in 11 games, and they have outscored opponents 13-5 with Montour on the ice, according to Natural Stat Trick.
Video: STL@NSH, Gm6: Josi finishes Ekholm's pinpoint feed
3. Captain Clutch
The key for the Ducks during the postseason has been center Ryan Getzlaf.
With 263:03 of total ice time, Getzlaf is the only forward who leads his team, with Anaheim outscoring opponents 22-12 when he's on the ice (that's tied with Karlsson for second in the NHL). Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl has been on ice for 23 goals scored.
Getzlaf leads the Ducks with 15 points (eight goals, seven assists) in 11 games, which ranks third in the NHL playoffs behind Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (18 points) and Draisaitl (16 points). It's the fifth time Getzlaf has at least 15 points in the postseason, tied for second among active players with Malkin, Penguins center Sidney Crosby and Florida Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr. Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa has done it six times.
Video: EDM@ANA, Gm5: Getzlaf nets slapper from the point
4. Nashville's top line
Nashville's No. 1 line of Johansen, 24; Forsberg, 22; and Victor Arvidsson, 24, has been one of the League's most effective in the postseason.
Arvidsson and Johansen tied for the Predators lead during the regular season with 61 points each, followed by Forsberg with 58. Arvidsson and Forsberg tied for the lead with 31 goals each.
In the playoffs, the Predators have outscored opponents 11-2 with Forsberg on the ice at 5-on-5, according to Natural Stat Trick. They're also plus-40 (170-130) in shot attempts at 5-on-5 with Forsberg on the ice.
Video: NSH@STL, Gm1: Forsberg deflects in PPG off skate
5. Penalty killing
One potential weakness the Predators can exploit is the Ducks' penalty kill.
In the regular season, the Ducks were fourth in the NHL with an .847 penalty-killing percentage, but in the playoffs their 69.0 prcent ranks 15th among the 16 playoff teams; only the Columbus Blue Jackets were worse (66.7 percent).
Ducks goaltender John Gibson has an .807 save percentage when shorthanded; among goaltenders to play at least five games, he's 13th of 14 qualifying goaltenders, ahead of Frederik Andersen of the Toronto Maple Leafs (.773).
Video: EDM@ANA, Gm7: Gibson absorbs Draisaitl's backhand