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Western Conference Playoff Preview and Prediction: Vancouver Canucks vs. Nashville Predators

Vancouver Canucks
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Ryley Delaney
13 days ago
Might this series be primed for an upset?
Over the next couple of days, I’ll be previewing the four playoff series in the Western Conference. In this article, we’ll look at the series between the Vancouver Canucks and Nashville Predators, the winner of the Pacific Division and the top Wild Card team. 
We’ll look at several factors, comparing the two teams’ forwards, defence, goaltending, and playoff experience. Let’s start up front. 

Forwards

If there’s one area where Vancouver clears the Predators, it’s with their forward core. J.T. Miller led the team with 37 goals and 103 points, while Elias Pettersson scored 34 goals and 89 points. Brock Boeser led the team with 40 goals, while also putting up 73 points.
Filip Forsberg led the Predators with 48 goals and 94 points, but there’s a bit of a decline after that. Gustav Nyquist scored 23 goals and 75 points, while Ryan O’Reilly scored 26 goals and 69 points.
In terms of depth scorers for the Canucks, Conor Garland has 20 goals and 47 points, Nils Höglander has 24 goals and 36 points, Dakota Joshua has 18 goals and 32 points, Ilya Mikheyev has 11 goals and 31 points, Pius Suter has 14 goals and 29 points, Teddy Blueger has six goals and 28 points, Sam Lafferty has 13 goals and 24 points, while Elias Lindholm has six goals and 12 points in 26 games since the trade.
On the other hand, Thomas Novak has 18 goals and 45 points, Luke Evangelista has 16 goals and 39 points, Colton Sissons has 15 goals and 35 points, Kiefer Sherwood has 10 goals and 27 points, Cole Smith has nine goals and 23 points, Michael McCarron has 12 goals and 22 points, Philip Tomasino has seven goals and 20 points in 41 games, and Mark Jankowski has seven goals and 15 points in 32 games. The team also added Jason Zucker (five goals, seven points in 18 games) and Anthony Beauvillier (one goal, three points in 15 games) at the trade deadline.
With all that being said, the Canucks’ top guns are better, while they also have more secondary scoring.

Defence

Quinn Hughes will likely win the Norris Trophy this season, as his 92 points led all defencemen, and he had the puck on his stick a lot. However, the Predators also have one of the best defencemen in the league in Roman Josi, who led defencemen with 23 goals, along with 85 points, the third most.
Looking further down the two team’s defence, Nashville has Jeremy Luzon (six goals, 14 points), Ryan McDonagh (three goals, 32 points, and 185 playoff games), Alexandre Carrier (four goals, 20 points), Luke Schenn (one goal, seven points), and a mix of Dante Fabbro (three goals, 13 points) and Tyson Barrie (one goal, 15 points in 41 games).
Vancouver counters with Filip Hronek (five goals, 48 points), Tyler Myers (five goals, 29 points), Nikita Zadorov (six goals, 20 points), Ian Cole (two goals, 11 points), Noah Juulsen (one goal, seven points), and a mix of Carson Soucy and Mark Friedman. Overall, the defence is pretty similar, with Vancouver likely getting the slight edge.

Oct 19, 2023; New York, New York, USA; Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros (74) makes a save against the New York Rangers during the first period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Goaltending

Goaltending is also quite even. Predators’ netminder Juuse Saros had a rough season by his standards, posting a .906 save percentage and a 2.86 goals-against average in 64 games played. This is far below his career save percentage of .917, along with a career 2.63 goals-against average.
Thatcher Demko is very important to the Canucks, which was made very clear towards the end of the season when they nearly gave up the Pacific Division crown to the Oilers. Well, he’s returned and has a .918 save percentage and a 2.45 goals-against average in 51 games played this season.
Still, Demko has played just four playoff games compared to Saros’s 17, and Saros has a better track record despite the down year.

Wrapping up

It’s a hot take, and feel free to come back to this article and roast me, but I think the Nashville Predators are going to take this series. Why? Well, the lack of playoff experience for the Vancouver Canucks.
Toward the end of March, I looked at every single player on each Western Conference playoff team’s roster. The team with the least amount of playoff experience is the Vancouver Canucks, who have just 461 games played in the playoffs. For context, the team with the second-fewest games played is the Los Angeles Kings with 633 games played.
Their drafted core of Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, and Thatcher Demko have just one playoff run under their belt, and that came in the bubble without fans. Hughes, Pettersson, and Boeser have just 17 playoff games played, while Demko has only played in four games in playoff action.
Of course, there are still players on the team with playoff experience. J.T. Miller, who is also a part of the team’s core, has 78 playoff games. Defenceman Tyler Myers has playoff experience as well, playing in 49 games, similar to Nikita Zadorov’s 45 playoff games. Ian Cole’s 116 postseason games lead the team.
While the Predators’ top four point-getters aren’t as good as the Canucks’, they also have a lot more experience. Filip Forsberg and Ryan O’Reilly have 75 playoff games, Josi has 85, and Gustav Nyquist has 71 games played. Ryan McDonagh has an insane 185 games played in the playoffs, missing just two seasons in his 15-year career.
It’s not a perfect science, as the Edmonton Oilers had very little playoff experience heading into the 2017 playoffs but defeated the San Jose Sharks, who had a ton of playoff experience in the first round. Still, the Predators should not be underestimated, because they can very easily win this series.

If you enjoy my content, you can follow me on Twitter @Ryley_L_D.

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