The Nashville Predators battled valiantly in Game 1 of their second-round series against the Winnipeg Jets. However, the scoreboard was not in their favor.
What can you say after a performance like we witnessed last night? For all intents and purposes, the Nashville Predators played the game they needed to play. From the moment the puck was dropped, the Predators took it to the Winnipeg Jets. All the slow starts we saw in the first-round were no longer a concern. The Predators dominated the action.
Except on the scoreboard, the only thing that matters.
It is difficult to understand. The Predators won the shot-share battle 67.5% to 32.5% during even-strength. They created 38 scoring chances including 14 high-danger opportunities. The Jets gained only 21 total chances, 10 high-danger chances. But, the Predators could not score on the Jets. The only goal came moments into the third period. When the game was done, the Jets won 4-1.
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To say it was a disappointing outcome is an understatement. When you look through the stats, you see plenty of good things, just not reflected in the score. Here are few things we can takeaway from Game 1.
First of all, the Predators played a penalty-free game. Typically, I would consider this a positive; however, I wonder if they were playing too careful. The Jets usually play a physical game, and you can tell the Predators were ready for that. Miikka Salomaki levied a few crushing blows, as did Austin Watson. But, nothing really affected the way the Jets played. There was no fear. Furthermore, other than Viktor Arvidsson, no Predators were drawn into extra activities after a whistle. It was a clean game and the team with a great power play never got to use it. My one reservation is it felt the Predators were trying too hard to play clean and lost their edge.
Speaking of Watson, he never saw the ice after the first period. After missing a couple days of practice for “maintenance,” Watson only played 4 minutes and 9 seconds. In that time, the team gained four great scoring chances and he provided a physical presence the team needed. There was no update as to why he left the game. What we do know is he was on the ice for practice today. That is good news.
Third, the Predator’s second line was fantastic. While they were almost invisible during round one, Kyle Turris, Kevin Fiala, and Craig Smith were the best line on the ice all night. They gained 15 shots and limited the Jets to four. Turris won 70% of his faceoffs and the line was constantly going to the net. It led to the Nashville Predators’ only goal of the game. The only issue was Turris being on the ice for three of the Jets’ goal.
Finally, the defensive has to be better around the net. The first goal of the game was allowed because the Predators couldn’t control a bouncing puck. It trickled in front of Pekka Rinne and the defense allowed Jets players in the area. Rinne had no chance. Similarly, the second goal came off a rebound. The Predators defense did little to effect positioning or shots around the net. This time, the rebound found the back of the net.
Game two will be played tomorrow. The Predators need to play with a greater edge and physical presence, especially around the net. If not, the series could be over sooner than we want.