Nashville leads Anaheim 2-1
Wednesday night’s Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarter Finals betweenthe Nashville Predators and the Anaheim Ducks is going to be huge.
A Predators win would mean Nashville would take a commanding 3-1 series lead in the best of seven. It would be the first time in franchise history that an opponent of the Predators would be on the brink of elimination.
A year ago, the Predators held a 2-1 lead against the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. Nashville would lose the next three straight to be eliminated in six games. So this is familiar territory for Nashville, but now the team is looking for a different result– just one win from moving on to the next round.
If the Ducks win, however, Anaheim is back in the series with the teams going back to California for Game 5 on Friday night. The momentum swing could be enough to carry the Ducks through a home-ice win on Friday forcing Nashville to win Game 6 at home just to get to a Game 7, something the Predators have never done in the playoffs.
Right now, momentum is on Nashville’s side.
Game 4 is the second and final game of Bobby Ryan’s suspension. Ryan’s loss is evident. While Corey Perry has one goal and four assists and Teemu Selanne has four goals, the Predators have done a good job at shutting down the Ducks at even strength, an area where Ryan has actually been a rare Duck able to find success.
Where the overwhelming majority of the Ducks points have been coming from Perry, Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf as well as Selanne, the Predators have, in contrast, found more even contributions throughout the lineup, despite the three goals and two assists from Mike Fisher.
All but three skaters (Shane O’Brien, Nick Spaling, and Matt Halischuk) have recorded a point in the first three games, with 11 goals in three games.
Finding contributions from all lines is difficult to defend against, especially with the Predators out shooting the Ducks in each game. Controlling the defensive zone is not Anaheim’s strong suit and the goaltending problems of the Ducks makes Nashville’s balanced attack all the more dangerous.
Game 2 and 3 featured Ray Emery in goal for the Ducks. With a 3.02 goals against average as well as a .909 save percentage, Emery has not been putting up the same stellar numbers that he did coming down the stretch before suffering a lower body injury to end the regular season.
If Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle decides that Emery should not start Wednesday night, his go-to guy would be former Predator Dan Ellis.
Ellis was chased from the net in Game 1 in Anaheim in Nashville’s 4-1 win. While Ellis would no doubt love to have the opportunity to shine in goal for the Ducks against his former team, can Carlyle trust that Ellis would not crack under the pressure?
At the end of the day, Carlyle needs to choose between a goaltender that is still not 100%, but a goaltender who has led a team to the Stanley Cup Finals, or Ellis, a goalie, like Rinne, who has never won a single playoff series.
Goaltending issues continue to be an issue for the Ducks. On Tuesday, Jonas Hiller was sent back to California after suffering symptoms of vertigo, the ailment that has kept the Olympian out of the lineup.
For Nashville to make history and take a 3-1 series lead for the first time ever, the Predators will need to stay out of the penalty box. After Ducks GM Bob Murray accused Nashville players of diving to get penalty calls to go in their favor, it will be interesting to see how the officials react. If the Ducks get away with extra cheap shots because the referees are less inclined to make the calls, then Game 4 could shape up to be one heck of a war of attrition.
Game time is at 7:30 CT at Bridgestone Arena. There are some tickets still available and can be purchased online by going to Nashvillepredators.com
Photo Credit: AP
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