The Nashville Predators officially hit the ice for Game 1 of the Western Conference Qualifying Round against the Arizona Coyotes.
There was a lot of action throughout this one, with the Nashville Predators having to make a rigorous comeback only to come up short in the end by a final score of 4-3 to the Arizona Coyotes.
With it being a best-of-five series, the Predators now have their backs up against the wall heading into Tuesday’s Game 2. There are some positives to take away from the Game 1 loss, but also some things to correct if they’re going to even this series up with a disciplined Arizona Coyotes team.
Filip Forsberg tallied two goals for Nashville, including one that got the deficit down to one goal with around 11 minutes remaining in regulation. The Predators had the momentum in their favor, but the Coyotes clamped down defensively after that.
Takeaways from the loss
The initial goal that opened up the scoring by the Coyotes you can say was somewhat of a fluky goal. It ended up being the difference-maker.
An odd deflection tricked
in net and went over his shoulder for the first goal of the game as
got the goal:
The Predators looked shell-shocked after that. The momentum swung in Arizona’s favor, and the Predators got buried with two more goals being quickly scored to make it a 3-0 game.
In this regard, the Predators have to handle adversity better. The first goal was unlucky, but you can’t let that throw you off. The Predators got sloppy on defense for much of the game after initially coming out sharp.
This is a trend we saw the Predators show in the regular season far too often, and it reared its ugly head again yesterday. Things just snowballed out of control in the first period, which dug the Predators into a hole the rest of the way.
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If there’s one area to really focus on going into Game 2, it’s being more disciplined on defense. They made things way too easy on the Coyotes giving up high-quality chances on Saros.
Another area to really improve upon is spending too much in the penalty box. Even though the Predators killed off five of their six penalties, it still disrupts your momentum badly when you’re constantly having to kill off penalties.
Not only does it kill your momentum, but it also wears your players out as they’re constantly on the defense. You can take some confidence out of Game 1 for the fact that the Predators killed off some big penalties to keep it close, but they have to be better about taking penalties in the first place.
Confidence level for Game 2
My confidence remains high in the Predators for Game 2 despite the loss. A lot of things didn’t go their way and yet they still had a great chance to win the game after Forsberg’s second goal.
Forsberg looked rejuvenated in this game and ready to being the main catalyst for the Predators in this series, and hopefully beyond. He can be an elite player at times, and he showed it by getting two big goals as the Predators were trying to make a comeback.
All of the qualifying round numbers go down as playoff statistics. Forsberg’s two goals yesterday brings him to 25 career playoff goals.
Ryan Ellis tallied the other goal for the Predators, with the assists coming from Johansen and Josi.
You can pull confidence from this game to the tune of 40 shots on goal and making Darcy Kuemper work for it in net. He delivered for the Coyotes and continued is strong regular season into Game 1 yesterday.
Despite giving up the four goals, I think the Predators need to stick with Saros as the starter. The first goal was fluky, and the back-breaker was the shorthanded goal on a breakway scored by Michael Grabner.
Saros got fooled on the backhand, but the Predators had absolute horrendous special teams coverage to give up this breakaway to Keller while they were on the power play. It instantly went from possibly making it 3-2 and anybody’s game, to a three-goal deficit once again.
I’ll put two of the four goals on Saros, but that’s not enough to pull him from starting Game 2. If he’s pulled that quickly, then you never had that much confidence in him to begin with and that would send a horrible message to your team.
If the Predators clean up their game and match the discipline that the Coyotes brought, I’m confident they even this series up on Tuesday. That should set up a massive Game 3 that will probably decide the series winner.
If Saros struggled in the next game, win or lose, then you highly entertain the idea of starting Pekka Rinne for Game 3 on the back end of a back-to-back. The Predators are going to need one of their goaltenders to steal a game or two in this series.
Game 2 is scheduled for 1:30 P.M. CDT tomorrow and will be televised on NHL Network and locally on Fox Sports Tennessee.