The big debut: Predators arrive at the conference finals

The Predators celebrate after defenseman Ryan Ellis nets another goal Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome, Nashville Predators, to the Conference Finals ball.

They are the second Conference Finals debutante in the salary-cap era (since 2006), joining the 2012 Coyotes, who lost in five to the Kings. The last team to win in its Conference Finals debut was the 2004 Lightning, who then went on to win the Stanley Cup over the Flames.

The Predators have defeated the Ducks twice in the playoffs, the only team Nashville has beaten more than once in the postseason.

This postseason, the Predators’ defense has been their best offense. The trio of Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi and P.K. Subban has combined for 24 points, the highest-scoring defensive threesome in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

And it helps to have goalie Pekka Rinne backing up everyone. Rinne is riding a .951 save percentage, which, according to Elias Sports Bureau research, would be the highest in a single postseason in Stanley Cup playoff history. The current best is .950 by Hall-of-Famer Jacques Plante in 1969 for the Blues.

But have the Predators been a tad lucky and good? The PDO metric measures the sum a team’s 5-on-5 shooting percentage to their 5-on-5 save percentage. Teams normally regress to a sum of 100 over the course of a season. Anything above 100 might mean teams are playing over their heads, while those below might be more unlucky.

Nashville enters with a PDO of 104.72 this postseason. According to Corsica.Hockey, that would be the second-highest PDO of any playoff team since 2008. Only the 2011 Bruins were higher at 104.73 and they went on to win the Stanley Cup.

The Ducks, meanwhile, have struggled on the penalty kill this postseason, giving up 13 goals while shorthanded -- six more than any other team.

Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf had the most even-strength points of any player in the second round with eight. His 1.36 points per game this postseason trail only Evgeni Malkin (1.50) for most in the NHL.

But let’s face it: the drama might not kick in until just before the puck drop Tuesday during Game 3 in Nashville.

That’s because the Predators have arguably the biggest country music acts sing the national anthem at home this postseason. Carrie Underwood (Predators center Mike Fisher’s wife), Luke Bryan, Little Big Town, Vince Gill (with daughters Jenn and Corrina) and Lady Antebellum have all sung their own renditions of "The Star Spangled Banner" at home games.