It took 85 minutes of hard work, but the Nashville Predators stood victorious in the end. What did we learn from the double-overtime victory?
This is becoming too common of a statement for me in the mornings, but I am still trying to process what I watched. The NHL playoffs provide so much drama that each game could be awarded an Emmy for best performance by guy missing teeth or most surprising game. Every Nashville Predators game this postseason has left me exhausted and reflective.
Game 1 of this series was shocking. How does a team gain so many chances to score and not find the back of the net? Last night, the game provided fans a roller coaster of emotions and left our refrigerators less full from the stress-eating. The Predators scored first, but then Pekka Rinne allowed two pucks by him which normally don’t get through. Nashville responded with great goals from Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson.
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Of course, Winnipeg battled through and earned a late game-tying goal from Mark Scheifele. Overtime was required and provided us some of the best hockey to watch all season. Both the Predators and Jets gained opportunities to score. Just when you thought it was over, Rinne and Connor Hellebuyck saved the day. Well, except for the winning goal from Kevin Fiala, assisted by Craig Smith.
So, what can we take away from this victory?
What we learned
Here comes another obvious statement: it is not the quantity of shots, but the quality. In Game 1, the Predators tallied 48 shots, but only one goal. Twenty-one of those shots were taken between the circles and the blueline. That game only last 60 minutes. Last night, the Predators took 41 shots in 85 minutes, 15 from the point. A greater percentage of their chances game at the net. Three of the four goals scored during 5v5 play came from high-danger areas. The only goal from beyond the circles was a laser blast from P.K. Subban during a power play. The Predators went to the net and were rewarded.
It was great to see the Predators play with a bit more grit last night than in Game 1. Sure, there were a few more penalties called, but the team used quality physical play to earn position and win the puck. Having Austin Watson for a full game certainly helped, as did the play of Ryan Hartman. It may not seem like much, but Hartman effected the game greatly. In just under 15 minutes on the ice, the Jets gained only seven shots and two high-danger chances when facing Hartman. The entire line of Mike Fisher, Calle Jarnkrok, and Hartman played well. And most of their minutes came against Dustin Byfuglien and Mark Scheifele.
Even with the win, the defense let the Predators down. On the second goal of the game for the Jets, Subban fails to react to a loose puck which then gets passed to Scheifele. Mattias Ekholm fails to clear the puck early in the third period, turning it over to the Jets. They score. Then, on Scheifele’s final goal, Subban losses position and drops to the ice. The Predators second pairing allowed three Jets goals.
Where the third line excelled during the first round they are struggling in round two. Facing the Jet’s top line most of the time, Nick Bonino, Colton Sissons, and Watson are getting dominated. Not only did they lose the shot-share battles, the Predators’ third line is allowed 6 high-dangers chances last night along with two goals.
All in all, it was a great battle between two really good teams. With the series even at one game each, the Predators look to steal at least one game on road ice. Let’s hope they do.