Nashville Predators vs. Arizona Coyotes: Game 2 is Make-or-Break

Mattias Ekholm #14 of the Nashville Predators (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)
Mattias Ekholm #14 of the Nashville Predators (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images) /

After a tough loss against the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday, the Nashville Predators find themselves on the brink of a must-win situation in Game 2.

Precisely what the Nashville Predators didn’t need to happen on Sunday happened. Now they find themselves in a place that doesn’t bode well if you look historically at best-of-five series.

The NHL once had best-of-five series, but no since the 1980’s.  If you drop down to a 2-0 deficit in this format, history would suggest you’re pretty much done:

We might focus on that, but the Predators just have to focus on not being their own worst enemy. That means eliminating the penalties for starters.

Here’s a look a the projected lineup for Game 2. No changes to the forwards or defensemen, but the starting goaltender hasn’t been announced yet.

Quick Recap

The Predators looked stunned in the first period of Game 1. After a fluke goal that looked more like a pinball than a puck, the Predators lost their composure. They quickly found themselves in a 3-0 hole, but ended the first with a power play goal by Filip Forsberg, making it 3-1.

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They started to show some life in the middle frame. However, momentum shifted once again when a bad pass on a Predators power play led to a shorthanded, breakaway goal by Arizona, making the score 4-1.

The Predators started the third period strong with Ryan Ellis scoring just 30 seconds into the period.

The comeback was on, and the Predators scored again on another Forsberg power play goal making the score 4-3.

They pulled Juuse Saros in the waning minutes but couldn’t equalize the score. Sloppy loss with clear areas of weakness that need to be corrected.

Game 2 Matchup

The Predators have some work to do in practice before Game 2 later today. Playing a more disciplined type of game that keeps it at 5-on-5 seems paramount. Make the Coyotes work harder for the goals.

In playoff games that have seen several penalties already, the Predators committed seven, and most of them were foolish.

Fortunately, the Coyotes were only able to capitalize on one of those power play attempts, but the penalty kills took their toll on Nashville. It disrupts your offensive momentum, and a lot of times puts some of your best players off the ice.

Important players like Matt Duchene, Nick Bonino, Mikael Granlund and Ryan Johansen all spent time in the penalty box. It’s one thing when a defender takes a necessary penalty, but another when it’s one of your key players offensively.

Staying out of the penalty box needs to be a priority for the Predators. Another priority is intensity.

Intensity-wise, the first period was a total disaster. After the fluke goal, the Predators responded to adversity poorly like they have much of the regular season. This time that lack of fortitude cost them in the end as the comeback attempt came up just short.

If they are to be successful in this series, they have to play with the intensity for all 60 minutes and try to build an early lead. Whenever they let up, the Coyotes capitalized, but there’s certainly something to build off of based on the third period showing from the Predators.

Special teams did bail the Predators out form getting dominated completely on the scoreboard. Both the penalty kill and power play were successful.

All things considered, Saros played a pretty solid game in net. The resulting goals against him weren’t all his fault, but could be blamed on the team’s lack of defense in front of him.

It’s still undetermined on who will get the start later today, but we’ll update you as it’s announced.

The starting goaltender decision is a huge one, probably more important than the Game 1 decision.

Do you give Saros another shot since the loss mostly wasn’t his fault, or do you call on the veteran Pekka Rinne?

The Predators can’t afford to go down two games in this series. Historically, their game one losses have spelled disaster. They will need to re-write history and erase this statistic.

For the Coyotes, they have to be feeling pretty good about their play on Sunday. They took the Predators out of their game early and took advantage of Nashville’s mistakes.

Darcy Kuemper was a wall in goal. The Predators had to work hard for everything they got.

Balanced scoring helped the Coyotes. Four different players scored the Coyotes’ goals. They’re going to rely on a full effort up and down their roster, with the electric Taylor Hall leading the way for them.

One thing to watch for would be the return of Nick Schmaltz. He didn’t play on Sunday after being injured in their exhibition game. So far, there is no word on whether he’ll be available.

Related Story. Takeaways from Predators' Game 1 Loss to Coyotes. light

Puck drop is scheduled for 1:30 P.M. CDT today and will be televised on NHL Network and locally on Fox Sports Tennessee.