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Friday Four: Predators keep winning

Kevin Weekes of NHL Network also discusses impressive showings by Penguins, Senators, Oilers

by Kevin Weekes @KevinWeekes / NHL Network Analyst

Each Friday throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Kevin Weekes will be bringing you his Friday Four. He will be blogging about four players, teams, plays or trends that have caught his eye.

 

Nashville Predators

Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne has been incredible. He allowed three goals in their four-game sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference First Round and followed that by making 27 saves in a 4-3 win in Game 1 against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday. He's also handling the puck extremely well, with two assists in the first round. Rinne is 5-0 with a 1.14 goals-against average and a .962 save percentage in five playoff games.

The Predators are playing a good brand of hockey. Forwards Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson have led the charge offensively. They use their defensemen to generate offense as well. P.K. Subban showed up in a big way in Game 1 with a goal and two assists. Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Subban rank in the Predators' top five in playoff scoring.

After beating the Blackhawks the way they did, people may have assumed the Predators would have a letdown. However, they took control against the Blues early and got a late goal when needed. Forward Vernon Fiddler was the latest hero, joining Kevin Fiala, who scored in overtime in Game 3 against the Blackhawks in the first round.

I also want to wish Fiala a speedy recovery after a scary injury in which he fractured the femur in his left leg and will miss the rest of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Video: Preview of the Preds and Blues Game 2 

 

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins have had the Washington Capitals' number in the playoffs over the years, winning eight of nine series, including last year in six games in the second round. They started their second-round series with a hard-fought 3-2 win in Game 1 on Thursday. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury continues to be superb filling in for the injured Matt Murray. Fleury made 33 saves, including some from point-blank range and when the Penguins were under siege in the third period to help them escape with a win.

The Penguins have had defensive issues, mainly because they're playing without defenseman Kris Letang, who is out after having surgery on a herniated disc in his neck. Credit defenseman Justin Schultz who was plus-27 during the regular season and has been great defensively in the playoffs. Olli Maatta and Trevor Daley have been good since returning from injury.

Center Evgeni Malkin, who has 11 points (two goals, nine assists), has been great although he didn't have a point Thursday. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby had two goals and Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin scored one goal. They seemed to elevate their games as they often do when it matters most. The Capitals can't afford to lose Game 2 and go down 2-0 to the defending champs.

Video: PIT@WSH, Gm1: Crosby scores two in 52 seconds

 

Ottawa Senators-New York Rangers

Forwards Mika Zibanejad and Derick Brassard were traded for each other in the offseason, with Zibanejad going to the Rangers and Brassard to the Senators in a trade July 18. After the first round, each led his respective team in scoring. But this series is about more than just those two.

Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was brilliant for the Rangers, with 41 saves, including 21 in the first period, keeping them in Game 1 on Thursday. It's a shame the winner by Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson in the third period was a fluky goal from a tough angle. Still, Lundqvist has kept the Rangers in every game this postseason. His counterpart on the other end, Senators goalie Craig Anderson, made 34 saves in a 2-1 win.

These teams have great goaltending and scoring depth, as the Senators showed with Bobby Ryan in the first round. It feels like this could be a chess match between Rangers coach Alain Vigneault and the Senators' Guy Boucher as to who gets the matchups he wants. I'll tell you one thing: If I were the Penguins or Capitals, I wouldn't want to face either of them in the conference final.

Video: OTT@BOS, Gm6: Ryan tips Brassard's blast past Rask

 

Anaheim Ducks-Edmonton Oilers

Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf has been great since the start of the playoffs. He's done it all for them offensively, defensively and in the faceoff circle. Getzlaf had a goal, an assist, three shots on goal, three hits, three blocked shots and won 53 percent of his faceoffs in Game 1 against the Oilers on Wednesday, although the Ducks lost 5-3. The Ducks hadn't lost in regulation since March 10, a span of 19 games. You can bet they'll be better in Game 2 after allowing four goals in the third period of Game 1.

Nothing seems to faze the Oilers. They lost Game 1 to the San Jose Sharks in the first round and came back with two straight shutouts. They lost 7-0 in Game 4 but rallied to win Game 5 and closed the series in Game 6 in a big way. The Oilers trailed 1-0 just 37 seconds into Game 1 against the Ducks but scored three straight goals to take the game over. Oilers captain Connor McDavid had one assist in Game 1 and has been held in check in the playoffs, but the Oilers still are finding ways to win. Forward Leon Draisaitl had four points (one goal, three assists) Wednesday, and defenseman Adam Larsson and center Mark Letestu scored two goals each.

Video: EDM@ANA, Gm1: Larsson snaps home quick wrister

 

HONORABLE MENTION

Bright future for Bruins

The Boston Bruins put up a good fight against the Senators in the first round, losing in six games. Goalie Tuukka Rask was great and the Bruins lost three games in overtime, games that could have gone either way. The injuries to their defense definitely hurt, as did the loss of center David Krejci. But the bright side is we saw what rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy, 19, can do. In the high-pressure situation of the playoffs, he played well. The future is bright for him and the Bruins.

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