Second round series breakdown: Coyotes (3) vs. Predators (4)
Goaltending is the foundation for both teams, with the Preds' Pekka Rinne being one of the best in the game. The team in front of him is stout without the puck, but his crease presence is second to none. Meanwhile, counterpart Mike Smith has resurrected his journeyman's career with a stellar season and a revelatory turn against the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round. If both of these large-frame netminders play at their peak, eye-popping stops at both ends will replace goals on the highlight loops.
Another similarity between these teams is the excellence on the blueline. The Predators have Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, the Coyotes counter with Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. As with the goaltending, the pedigree is slightly higher for the Preds, with Weber a Norris Trophy nominee, and the experience level favors them as well, with Suter and Weber anchoring Nashville's backline together for the past four seasons. The organization has built around this tandem -- it's the best in the NHL.
Up front, the Coyotes need contributions from all hands, which they received while disposing of the Blackhawks. Antoine Vermette scored four times and Mikkel Boedker was the overtime hero twice. As proven veteran scorers, Shane Doan and Radim Vrbata will need to produce here because the Predators have depth of scoring like never before. Nashville's top line of Martin Erat, Mike Fisher and Sergei Kostitsyn scored once in their first round victory, yet the Preds prevailed in five games. Grinding for goals will be the theme of the series and both teams create well and defend well in those situations.