NASHVILLE VS VANCOUVER
I wrote in my preview of round one of the playoffs, that for the Canucks to beat the Blackhawks, it would require that Roberto Luongo overcome his past poor performances, and that of his teammates, against last season’s Stanley Cup champions. He and most of the Vancouver roster struggled horribly after gaining a 3-0 lead in the series, with Luongo being pulled during games 4 and 5, as well as being benched at the start of game 6. With all the pressure of a seventh game, at Rogers Arena, the former Florida Panther puck-stopper, did just that. He was simply brilliant, and the work ethic of the entire Canucks crew was inspiring. Even after surrendering a late third period goal to the Hawks, the “Nucks” never waivered, and prevailed with sheer determination, and a bit of luck in the overtime period.
In facing the Nashville Predators, Vancouver is dealing with the Barry Trotz coached club, that thrives on tenacity. They are not a star studded team, beyond defenseman Shea Weber, and goalkeeper Pekka Rinne, who like Luongo, is also a nominee for the Vezina Trophy. The Blackhawks had as tough a series with the Predators, on the way to their 2010 Cup win, as they did with San Jose, Vancouver, or even the Flyers in the final.
The Canucks will have their hands full with plucky Predators. Vancouver has more skill, but Nashville never quits on anything under any circumstances.
Coach Alain Vigneault and Vancouver, managed to overcome the Blackhawks after two troubling postseasons of disappointments, but now they are facing a team that might be just as frustrating to play against, in a best of seven series.
The Canuck will need the same solid and smart hockey that got them past Chicago, and a parallel of their previous persistence, to put away the Predators.
Vancouver will win in seven games.