By Amanda DiPaolo
Of all the first round match-ups, the Nashville Predators and Anaheim Ducks have received the least amount of national attention when it comes to airtime for games. TSN in Canada has shown the series in its entirety, but Friday night’s Game 5 will be the first nationally televised game in the United States.
While there may be a lack of on-ice coverage, the series has been getting plenty of off-ice attention.
After Sunday’s Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarter Finals, David Legwand was not shy in his assessment of what could be a pivotal Game 4.
“Wednesday night is a huge hockey game. We have a chance to put our foot down and give them a little stomp there. If we can make that happen that’s a huge thing,” he said.
Give them a little stomp? A reference maybe to Bobby Ryan using his skate to stomp on Jon Blum’s foot? Ryan was suspended by the NHL for two games and his absence in Game 3 was noted as the Predators won by a 4-3 score.
If the play on words wouldn’t fire up the Ducks for Game 4, maybe teammate Teemu Selanne could.
“We had no business in this _____ game. They wanted it more. They won the battles. We were lucky to even be in the game. I’m very disappointed,” Selanne said after the loss, adding “That’s not the way we should play. That’s embarrassing.”
Selanne also met with the team to talk about the game Wednesday night.
If suspensions and heated players were not enough, yesterday, General Manager Bob Murray instructed his team to start diving for penalties.
While it is common place for fans of both sides to complain about the officiating, and maybe even have coaches or players lament the lack of calls for their team, it is less common for a General Manager to advise his team to dive in order to get more power plays.
Murray, told Eric Stephens of The Orange County Register that Anaheim needs to start diving because, supposedly, that is what the Predators have been doing:
“We have too many passengers right now. But when you’re playing a game and [there's] a constant stream to the penalty box because these guys are diving left and right … we have to start diving.
“I’d never thought I’d say this to my hockey team. We’ve got to start diving because it’s working. It is working. They’re getting power plays because of the diving. I can go through the list of players. You already know who they are. You’ve seen them. It’s ridiculous.”
A constant stream to the penalty box could, of course, be the result of the Ducks being one of the most penalized teams in the League, fifth most this season. The Predators, in stark contrast, were one of the least penalized teams. Is it such a stretch then that Nashville might get four more power play opportunities in three games over the Ducks?
While the two specific calls that Murray takes issue with, the high stick on Jerred Smithson and the hook on Blum to end the Game 3 were maybe weak penalties, is the solution to ask your players to do what it takes to get penalty calls?
After all, the Ducks have had some pretty glaring non-calls go their way too. Remember when Corey Perry speared Pekka Rinne in Game 1? How about that stick that knocked out four of Martin Erat’s teeth in Game 2? The foot stomp in Game 2? The slew foot on Joel Ward in Game 3 (which did, of course, result in Legwand’s goal)? Again, non-calls and thus power play opportunities lost for Nashville.
Now the Predators have gotten away with their fair share of indiscretions too, so maybe the officiating hasn’t been all that bad. To tell your players to dive to get more calls is potentially dangerous and disrespectful to the officials who do not have an easy job.
Murray, like his team no doubt, is frustrated by the Predators system of play. Venting his concern is a great way to take the pressure off his team. But will it backfire?
Now the League’s officials will be looking for dives and if the Ducks try it, will probably be the ones sent to the box. Bonus for Nashville.
Alternatively, as Paul McCann points out, maybe the refs will put the whistles away. While this will be bad for Nashville in regards to the bumps and bruises the team will suffer at the hands of a frustrated Ducks squad, Nashville likes its chances on the 5-on-5 play.
Murray may not have actually taken any pressure off of the Ducks and he may not fired up his squad with his outburst, but he probably did fire up the Nashville Predators, a team that already holds a 2-1 series lead, is playing their next game on home ice and has an opportunity to go up 3-1. It would be the first time in franchise history that Nashville would be on the brink of eliminating an opponent, thus advancing to the second round of the playoffs.
There are some tickets left for Game 4 Wednesday night. Game time is 7:30 CT and Bridgestone Arena.
Photo credit: Getty Images
Follow Predlines on Twitter @Predlines