ESPN’s John Buccigross joined Braden & Fitz Wednesday morning to discuss the Nashville Predators incredible run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, highlighting how the Preds have found success through the exceptional play of Pekka Rinne, and who Nashville will want to face between the Edmonton Oilers and Anaheim Ducks.
“It’s either experience or speed,” Buccigross said. “Edmonton’s faster, they have the higher-end talent in Connor McDavid and those guys keep getting better. I’d probably opt for Anaheim instead of Edmonton, just because of that high-end stuff. You don’t know how high it can go.”
The question of who the Preds will face in the Western Conference Final will be answered Wednesday night as the Oilers and Ducks square off in Game 7 of the second round. Edmonton will be coming in with momentum after a 7-1 win in Game 6 on Sunday.
Buccigross noted the exceptional performances of Rinne and how he was personally surprised that he is performing at such a high level considering his lackluster World Cup this past fall.
“Pekka Rinne is playing out of his mind,” Buccigross said. “When you get that save percentage to .950, that’s when a guy can win a cup for a team. He was not real impressive back in the World Cup, when I did the World Cup games on ESPN back in September. He did not look good at all.”
While Buccigross cannot explain Rinne’s spike in form — his .951 save percentage leads all playoff goaltenders — he does feel that he has been undoubtedly crucial for Nashville’s playoff run.
“For whatever reason, he’s kind of revitalized here during the postseason. He’s got a real good defensive core in front of him, maybe the best defensive group left in the Stanley Cup playoffs plays for Nashville.”
The Preds have conceded just 14 goals in the playoffs, the best among teams still alive with the next best defense being the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have conceded 31.
However, Buccigross said that Nashville’s stellar run will only get more difficult and that there is responsibility on Nashville’s forwards to match the defensive efforts.
“It’s just up for the forwards,” Buccigross said. “The guys who are supposed to score need to score. They’re getting some good ham-and-egg stuff from guys you don’t expect to pump one in, but it’s going to get tougher now, the competition is going to get tougher.”
To hear Braden & Fitz’s interview with Buccigross in its entirety, listen here: