November 3rd NHL Picks – Anaheim vs Nashville Prediction
Friday night will be a bit of a lull in the NHL with only two games on the schedule. An incredibly hot Devils team will take on the Edmonton Oilers. Taylor Hall will return to Edmonton in a very interesting matchup. The other game on tap is the Anaheim Ducks vs. the Nashville Predators in a rematch of last year’s Western Conference Finals.
2017 has not been as kind to these former Stanley Cup contenders. The Ducks are 6-5-1 and the Predators have started out 5-5-2. This is hardly the start expected out of two teams that combined for 87 wins a year ago. It will be an interesting battle on Friday night when these two teams square off in Anaheim in an effort to stay above .500.
- Nashville (+100) at Anaheim (+110)
The Ducks will be looking to avenge their playoff loss to the Predators on their home ice Friday night. Anaheim has won the Pacific Division four years in a row and has no intention of letting it slip away this year. A perennial favorite, the Ducks will have to find answers to their issues on both sides of the puck if they are going to finally get their hands on the cup.
The Predators will be coming into the Honda Center ready to take the ducks out once again. This Predators team has a lot of different pieces than we saw in last year’s playoffs, so it will be interesting to see how the new matchups play out. Regardless of the outcome, this will be an interesting game given the animosity between the two sides.
The Ducks have picked up their scoring as of late, scoring 25 goals in their last six games after a very slow start. Rickard Rakell and Ondrej Kase are a big part of the jump in offensive production, netting five goals apiece. This could prove to be a breakout season for Kase, who showed bits of brilliance last season in his rookie campaign. He gave Ducks fans a bit of a scare with an early season injury, but he has looked better than ever since his return. Kase has played very well on the third line where he has benefitted from the puck distribution of center, Derek Grant. Grant has compiled a +/- of +6 thus far and will continue to be a vital piece to the Duck’s offensive depth.
The Ducks offense is plagued with injuries. Luckily, Kase was able to come back from his quickly, but that is not the case for veterans Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler. Getzlaf, the Ducks captain and one of the few remaining players in the NHL without a visor, was hit in the eye with a deflected puck during Sunday’s game against the Hurricanes. He has been placed on injured reserve until he is cleared to play. Kesler who has been greatly missed in the starting lineup after receiving off-season hip surgery, is not expected to return until at least December.
Without the top two points leaders from the Ducks 2016-17 season, the Anaheim offense will have to rely on other weapons to get past the Predators. Corey Perry, who has only managed two goals in his twelve games this season will have to find a way to be productive without Getzlaf and Kesler who he grown so comfortable playing with. Look for young and freshly recovered Kalle Kosilla to step up and push the pace with Perry and Rakell on the first line. The three should be a dangerous combination, as should a power play unit which features the streaking Kase.
The Nashville Predators are typically slow starters, but this year’s lack of offense could be a cause for concern. They are averaging just 2.33 goals per game to kick off the season. Filip Forsberg is responsible for eight of those goals. Forsberg is currently converting on 25% of his shot attempts which is great, but will not last for long. The Predators simply need to find a way to get the test the goalie more often. They take 29.3 shots per game, an average that is lower than all teams with the exception of the Winnipeg Jets.
The Predators are feeling the loss of James Neal who is now a member of the Vegas Knights thanks to the expansion draft. Former captain, Mike Fisher has also retired. Both men eclipsed the 40 point mark last season and were a large part of the offense. For the Predators to have any chance against the Ducks, they will have to find their goals elsewhere.
The clear offensive edge in this game goes to the Ducks. Although the Ducks do not have a particularly impressive offense thus far, slightly-above-average seems like plenty to best the struggling Predators attack. Even in the absence of Getzlaf and Kesler, the Ducks have adapted. Young players will step up to fill their roles and find the back of the net.
The Ducks defense has closely resembled their offense this season. Average. Their offense which averages an even 3.00 goals per game is matched by a defense that allows 3.00 goals per game. If that is not a recipe for mediocrity, nothing is. The Anaheim defense will likely have an easier time than usual against a Nashville offense that can’t seem to find its stride, but they will have to improve on the usual 34.3 shots per game that they allow.
Unfortunately for the Ducks, their injury issue isn’t limited to the offense. Cam Fowler will be out three to seven weeks with a knee injury. Fowler has consistently been the Ducks best defensive player and led the team in ice time each of the past two seasons. Hampus Lindholm will get a crack at replacing Fowler while he is injured.
The Nashville Predators defense is nothing to behold either. They have allowed only one less goal than the Ducks. It is nothing short of a miracle that they have managed five wins with a -7 goal differential. Viktor Arvidsson has been a big help with a +/- of +5 which is best on the team by four. He has also been stellar on the power play thus far.
The Predators are facing some health issues as well with Ryan Ellis still out after receiving knee surgery in the off season. With Ellis out, the Predators defense has seemed easier to exploit than it did a year ago. Look for Arvidsson and P.K. Subban to get involved on the attack, especially on the power play, in an effort to catalyze a slow Predators offense.
The Ducks have a very interesting goaltending situation at the moment. They have recently brought in Ryan Miller, who performed excellent in his Ducks debut, earning a victory over the Hurricanes. Miller is the backup to John Gibson at the moment but the coaching staff has made it clear that they want a competition for the starting spot. Gibson, who will most likely start Friday night, will go out with something to prove. Look for Gibson to have a big game, playing with a chip on his shoulder.
The Predators’ goalie situation is much simpler. Pekke Rinne is the man. If Rinne gets the start, the chances for a Nashville win exponentially improve. In fact, three of the Predators’ five regulation losses have come in games where backup, Juuse Sarros has played.
Corey Perry vs. Pekka Rinne
Quite simply, if the Predators can shut down Corey Perry, they have a great chance to win. Although Perry has not been the main goal scorer this year, he is still an offensive catalyst and a playmaker. If Perry is allowed to much space to distribute the puck, the Predators are in for a long day.
It is very hard to have any faith in this Predators’ offense to score goals. Even with the Ducks’ average defense, Nashville may not be able to get off enough shots to challenge Gibson. Gibson will be fired up because of the addition of Miller and look to set the bar high in the goalie competition. It is very hard to bet against Anaheim at home, especially given the circumstances.