The Nashville Predators look to take their first lead in the second round playoff series. In order to win, these five areas will be key.
It is party time in Nashville! No, not because it is Cinco de Mayo, though I would not be surprised if part of the crowds we will see downtown are out for that reason. While it is a rainy day here in Nashville, spirits will be high and the streets will be flooded with Nashville Predators fans. There is an energy and vibe around this city when the Predators play and it is like nothing else.
Control of this series lays at the feet of the Predators. After a strong victory in Game 4, Nashville has the opportunity to take their first series lead and on home ice. If they want to win, they must do the following.
Five keys to the game
1. Rinne must keep things simple
Pekka Rinne is at this best when he plays a simple game. While listening to 102.5 The Game yesterday, Predators analyst and former goalie Chris Mason said Rinne tried to do more than needed early in the series. It put him out of position and on his back, letting in pucks which normally do not pass. It was noticeable in Game 1. In Game 5, he played a far simpler game. He stayed between the posts, kept his posture, and followed the puck at all times. It took a goal during 6v4 play for the former Atlanta Thrashers to score.
2. Fiala cannot be Hartnell
Scott Hartnell was placed in Kevin Fiala’s spot in the lineup for Game 4. It was a questionable move but proved important. Hartnell’s presence on the ice was part of the reason the Predators won. Tonight, Fiala will be back on the ice. The Game 2 hero must play his game, not Hartnell’s. If Fiala can control the puck on his stick and make great decisions, his scoring threat will gain attention. It should open the ice for Kyle Turris and Craig Smith. If the second line can score, the Predators can push the action in their favor.
3. Keep the crowd in the game
Fact: The crowds of Smashville are the best in the league. Your argument is not valid. If the Predators can keep the crowd in the game, the energy and momentum will stay on their side. It does not have to be a goal. A big hit, strong defensive play, or important saves by Rinne can do wonders.
4. Don’t fall for the games
We know the Predators’ opponent will try to push the physical play, trying to get under their skin. It worked in Game 3. One call frustrated the Predators and the game fell apart. In Game 4, Nashville kept their cool and won.
5. Defense plays both sides of the ice.
I am all for the Nashville Predators’ defensemen pushing the offense when possible. However, when play is in front of Rinne, Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis need to keep the net clear. The team did a great job of that in Game 4, clogging passing lanes and blocking shots. A repeat tonight means a win.
The puck drops in a couple hours. If they do these things, the Predators’ chances for winning are high.