WCSF: Phoenix Coyotes vs Nashville Predators Series Preview: The Defensemen

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 06: Oliver Ekman-Larsson #23 of the Phoenix Coyotes skates against Shea Weber #6 of the Nashville Predators at the Bridgestone Arena on December 6, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

When the Phoenix Coyotes were set to play the Chicago Blackhawks one of the advantages that non-Chicago based people were saying that the Yotes had was defensive depth. This is definitely not going to be the case in this next series against the Nashville Predators, the general consensus seems to be that these two teams are evenly matched in defense, they both play a very defense-centric game paired with an amazing goalie. If anything you could say that the Predators have an advantage with regards to defense, especially with their top defensive pair. Beyond the top pair though there isn't going to be much wiggle room, none of the defensemen is a negative during the playoffs, even though the second and third pair wasn't that impressive during the regular season. It should also be noted that the third pair isn't set yet, Hal Gill was originally paired with Francis Bouillion and his place was filled by Jack Hillen during the first two games against the Detroit Red Wings while Ryan Ellis played in the last 3.

First Pair


Shea Weber

#6 / Defenseman / Nashville Predators

6-4

232

Aug 14, 1985



G A P +/- PIM
2011 - Shea Weber 19 30 49 21 46

AND


Ryan Suter

#20 / Defenseman / Nashville Predators

6-1

198

Jan 21, 1985



G A P +/- PIM
2011 - Ryan Suter 7 39 46 15 30

Nashville's top defensive pair is definitely going to be the one that is going to cause the most problems for the Coyotes.The pair posted very impressive numbers for the regular season. Against Detroit, Shea Weber scored the only points for the pair with 2 goals. Weber was a plus-1 during the series against the Red Wings, and Suter was even, but they did a good job shutting down the Red Wings offense. This pair is going to be the one you see on ice the most, they averaged around 27:45 minutes during the series against Detroit with their highest time being close to 31 minutes during Game 4.

Second Pair


Roman Josi

#59 / Defenseman / Nashville Predators

6-2

198

Jun 01, 1990



G A P +/- PIM
2011 - Roman Josi 5 11 16 1 14

AND


Kevin Klein

#8 / Defenseman / Nashville Predators

6-1

200

Dec 13, 1984



G A P +/- PIM
2011 - Kevin Klein 4 17 21 -8 4

With the second pair we come across the Predators' top scoring defenseman, Kevin Klein who registered 2 goals and an assist against the Red Wings including a game winning goal during Game 4. Klein, has been playing well in the post season, for defensemen he is third in ice time, and by the fifth game he was getting about 25 minutes. Roman Josi doesn't bring the offense like Klein, he hasn't gotten a goal or an assist, but he does lead the Nashville defensemen with most penalty minutes.

Third Pair


Francis Bouillon

#51 / Defenseman / Nashville Predators

5-8

198

Oct 17, 1975



G A P +/- PIM
2011 - Francis Bouillon 4 7 11 -4 33

AND


Ryan Ellis

#49 / Defenseman / Nashville Predators

5-10

179

Jan 03, 1991



G A P +/- PIM
2011 - Ryan Ellis 3 8 11 5 4

OR


Jack Hillen

#38 / Defenseman / Nashville Predators

5-10

190

Jan 24, 1986



G A P +/- PIM
2011 - Jack Hillen 2 4 6 6 20

This third pair is probably going to be the one that is the hardest to get a read on just because we aren't sure who Francis Bouillon is going to be playing with when this series starts. At this point we should assume that Ryan Ellis is going to be the sixth defenseman since he played the last three of the Detroit series, unless Hal Gill has recovered from his lower body injury. We can also assume that it is possible that Gill will be back even if he isn't 100% if the Predators are down in the series. Bouillon right now has an assist of his own and is a plus 6 during the series which ties him for the highest plus/minus of the playoffs. His great numbers could be contributed to his relatively low time on ice, he averages around 14 minutes during the series. Ellis is a plus 2, which is pretty good, but he doesn't spend a lot of time on the ice, so far the most he spent on ice was 7:50.

Final Thoughts

Looking at these defensemen there isn't really a weak pairing to be seen, you would want to assume the third is the weakest but they have a player with the best plus/minus. The top pair is definitely going to be dangerous though, I can imagine that they are going to be shutting down the Coyotes offense, which didn't really have that much of a showing against the Blackhawks.

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