Nashville Predators: Five keys to winning Game 2 against the Jets

NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 27: Kevin Fiala
NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 27: Kevin Fiala /

The Nashville Predators dominated Game 1 in all areas but the scoreboard. If they want to win Game 2, five things must happen.

The Nashville Predators checked almost every box in their plan for Game 1 in their series against the Winnipeg Jets. They started fast, continually challenged the Jets defense, and avoided getting called for penalties. Everything was executed to near perfection. With the Bridgestone crowd energizing the team, the stage was set for a big opening win. The goals never game and the Predators lost Game 1.

Now, Nashville faces a challenge. If the objective is to stand victorious at the end of the series, winning tonight is imperative. A loss does not end the series, but it severely impedes all progress.

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The first game proved one thing: Connor Hellebuyck is putting up a serious case for the Conn Smythe trophy. In his last 180 minutes, Hellebuyck allowed a lone goal. He is 5-1 in the playoffs, allowing just four goals in the wins. The Predators laced 48 shots toward Hellebuyck, and he stood tall the entire game.

Now, the focus turns to winning Game 2. If the Predators want to win, they must do these five things.

Keys to the game

While the Predators accumulated 48 shots on goal, 20 of those shots came from between the blue-line and the circles. Fifteen shots were off the sticks of the Nashville defensemen. It is not just enough to shoot. The shots have to come from better quality areas.

Also, if the Predators are going to rely on shots from the point, they must get more traffic in front of Hellebuyck. He allowed several rebounds off Predators’ shot, but there was never a player in the area to take care of the open offering.

Third, the Predators need to set up a “no fly zone” around Pekka Rinne. Any Jets player than tries to get in Rinne’s area should be met with a solid check and challenged for every inch. This is firmly on the backs of the Nashville defensive unit, with support from the forwards when needed. Allow the Jets around the net gives them chances to score on rebounds or when a bouncing puck works its way to the net. Just like in Game 1.

While not allowing the Jets power play unit to find time on the ice is great, it cannot come from the Predators’ lack of grit. Stirring things up a bit is part of what makes the Predators so good. Not only can they create shots, the Predators excel at aggravating their opponents. As suggested in another post, the Predators must play with a bit more edge than before.

Next: Preds must win Game 2

Lastly, Rinne must be his Vezina-finalist self. This postseason, Rinne has a .904 save percentage, .680 on high-danger chances. These are far below his season averages, and he is the worst of all goalies in the playoffs. While he is not fully to blame, he can certainly be better.