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Positional Preview: Dynamic Forward Duos

by Thomas Willis / Nashville Predators

The positional preview of the Nashville Predators and Anaheim Ducks Western Conference Quarterfinal concludes with part three: forwards.

Part one: Goaltenders; Part two: Defensemen

Ducks Forward Point Leaders:

Forwards Goals Assists Points
Ryan Getzlaf 13 50 63
Corey Perry 34 28 62
Ryan Kesler 21 32 53
Rickard Rakell 20 23 43
Jakob Silfverberg 20 19 39
Andrew Cogliano 9 23 32

D

Predators Forward Point Leaders:

Forwards Goals Assists Points
Filip Forsberg 33 31 64
James Neal 31 27 58
Mike Ribeiro 7 43 50
Craig Smith 21 16 37
Ryan Johansen 8 26 34*
Calle Jarnkrok 16 14 30

L

*Overall Johansen tallied (14g, 46a) 60 points between Columbus and Nashville

Dynamic Duos: Anaheim’s time-tested duo has set up shop in Southern California for well over a decade. During 2015-16, forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry ranked first and second on the Ducks scoring list for the fourth consecutive season. Getzlaf and Perry won a Stanley Cup together in 2007 and have molded Anaheim into a consistent contender in the latter half of the franchise’s existence since their inaugural season in 1993.

“They are two highly skilled guys that have played together for such a long time they know where the other is going,” Preds center Mike Fisher said of Getzlaf and Perry, a pair that defeated Fisher and the Ottawa Senators in the 2007 Stanley Cup Final. “They have been one of the best combos in the League for a long time, and they’ve had a lot of success and have won before. That’s what makes this really tough.”

Mike Ribeiro, the only current NHLer with 12-straight, 45-point seasons, has faced Getzlaf and Perry across the course of his entire 16-year career, including six seasons within the Pacific Division with the Stars and Coyotes.

“Playing together for so long, I think that helps,” Ribeiro said. “Plus, the high level of skills they have, they have experience now too, they’re the ones that won the cup there. I think playing together so long, they know each other well, they’re a big powerhouse, but we have some really good defense that can play against those guys.”

The Predators discovered their own elite pair of forwards in 2015-16, as Filip Forsberg and James Neal both notched 30-goal seasons, only the second time Nashville has seen two players top 30 scores in a campaign in franchise history. Head Coach Peter Laviolette has kept Forsberg and Neal on separate lines for most of the season, giving the Predators two dynamic threats on each of their top-six forward lines. Anaheim and bench boss Bruce Boudreau have adopted a similar mentality, keeping Getzlaf and Perry apart for most of this campaign.

“[He’s] a huge reason that I’ve had some success since I’ve been here with him being on my line,” center Ryan Johansen said of skating with James Neal. “He’s a great power forward in this League and a huge part of this hockey club.”

“Filip is strong on the puck, he has the puck on his stick a lot trying to make plays, moving his feet in the offensive zone,” Laviolette said of Forsberg earlier in the season. “There’s a lot of good things that he does every night.”

Secondary Scoring: The Stanley Cup Playoffs are revered for making household names out of third liners. Just as a team needs a bounce here or there to advance to the next round, usually a timely goal from a player, who only recorded a handful during the regular season, is a required element in the playoff success recipe.

Outside of the usual cast of characters, a few names for both teams come to mind as potential series breakers if some of them happen to heat up at the right time. For Nashville, Colin Wilson set the franchise mark for goals in a playoff series with five last postseason, but found the back of the net on just six occasions during 2015-16. Viktor Arvidsson, a 2015 fourth-round selection, was a surprise name included on the Predators roster out of training camp and totaled 16 points during his first full season in the NHL.

“It was a slow start for sure, but as the year went on our lines gelled together,” Ribeiro said. “After the trade deadline, I think everyone knows their role now. Our scorers have been scoring goals and our defense has been awesome, including finishing top in the League in scoring. Our offense originates a lot from our defense, so I think it’s a collective effort and that’s what brings offense first.”

Jakob Silfverberg set a career best by tallying 20 times during the 2015-16 campaign, while skating on the Ducks shutdown third line alongside Ryan Kesler, and gives Anaheim some offensive punch in their bottom-six group. Yet to miss a regular-season game in his career, ironman Andrew Cogliano is another unsung hero that comes to mind for the Ducks. The forward nearly tallied on a breakaway during the teams’ 2015-16 slate, but was denied by a sprawling glove save from Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne.

“It’s a new season. I think you have to look at it like that,” Ribeiro said. “Come playoff time, this is a new season, a different time of the year. A lot of times when you’re just getting into the playoffs you say, ‘Well what happened in the season?’ but a lot of times it’s best to put that behind you. I think they’re doing the same thing, and I think we need to focus on what it will take for us to win games and to take it one day at a time.”


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