Game 2 Style Isn't Sustainable for Nashville Predators Rest of Series vs Canucks

Despite giving up over 70 shot attempts to the Canucks in Game 2, the Predators prevailed to even the series and send it back to Nashville for Games 3 & 4.
Apr 23, 2024; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi (59) and
Apr 23, 2024; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi (59) and / Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

It's not about how you win in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but if you win and for the Nashville Predators in Game 2, that couldn't be more accurate.

The Predators had to rally behind a gutsy shot blocking effort and timely goaltending from Juuse Saros to overcome Vancouver's offensive onslaught in the 3rd period on Tuesday. It felt inevtiable that they were going to eventually pot a couple goals and at least push it to overtime with Nashville.

However, it was the Predators who scored the goals in clutch moments while the Canucks often missed the net entirely, and when they did have a good look at the net to maybe force Saros to make a difficult save, Alexandre Carrier and the other Predators defenders were there to sacrifice their bodies.

Game 2 Isn't a Winning Formula for the Series

We're all happy about the win and can't get too picky at this time of year, but if we're being totally honest with outselves, this probably isn't a winning formula going into Game 3. Even Head Coach Andrew Brunette eluded to that feeling, and Filip Forsberg also expressed the need to get more offensive zone time.

The Predators went over a full period of game time between Coltons Sissons' goal to make it 3-0, and their next even strength goal. Aside from one shot while shorthanded by Michael McCarron, the Predators wouldn't record another shot on goal until Kiefer Sherwood's empty netter inside two minutes left in regulation.

To help you with the math, that's approximately 30 minutes of game clock that the Predators went while recording just one shot on goal, and no shots on goal at 5-on-5. And yet they still got the 4-1 win. Incredibly frustrating for Canucks fans as you can imagine, but also something to give you hope if you can replicate that formula again.

Do I expect Elias Pettersson to keep missing the net? No, I do not. Do I expect the Predators penalty kill to stay perfect in this series? Again I do not. Do I think the Predators can win four out of seven by going 20-plus minutes without a shot on goal? I think you see where I'm going with this.


The Game 3 Formula for Igniting Preds Offensive Chances

Apr 23, 2024; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Nashville Predators goalie Juuse Saros (74) and
Apr 23, 2024; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Nashville Predators goalie Juuse Saros (74) and / Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

If we're going head-to-head matchups between the pipes, anyone in their right mind including Canucks fans are taking Saros all day over DeSmith. But that means absolutely nothing if the Predators are launching everything they can to test DeSmith.

Even though Saros only faced 18 shots, the quality of shots he faced were enough to get him to a 2.16 Goals Saved Above Expected. Imagine if the Canucks could've found a way to not miss on so many of their shot attempts? It could've gotten bad real fast.

So what does Nashville have to focus on to get more shots on goal in Games 3 and 4? For one, their zone exits have to be much better. That starts with winning puck battles on the forecheck, which has been extremely difficult. The Predators have met their match when it comes to physicality.

Secondly, the Predators have to start throwing more pucks at the net. I know we want to see the flashy passes, but the Canucks are a very disciplined defensive team and they are sniffing out plays before they happen.

Rather than making the extra passes, the Predators need to start firing shots into traffic, looking for the goalie screens and forcing DeSmith to get uncomfortable in the crease. That's when you can find the loose pucks for rebound scoring chances.

I just don't think the Predators are going to out-finesse the Canucks defenders. They're too big and too smart as a unit to penetrate at a high rate.

Now this isn't to say that the Predators should change anything they did defensively because obviously that was their saving grace. Once they had the 3-0 lead, and especially after the Canucks finally got on the board, the Predators went conservative in protecting the lead and clearing pucks to stay back on defense.

I'm fully prepared to see the Canucks greatly increase their shots on goal output, take more chances on offense and that should lead to more open ice for the Predators to also counter attack.

The gutsy effort the Predators displayed in Game 2 is commendable and a testament to this group of players that they belong in this moment. They're not a fluke team and they have the will and determination to survive and advance. Even so, it doesn't take a hockey grand expert to realize that a repeat of Game 2 will likely see the Canucks cash in on a few more goals. Will the Predators be able to keep up.

Games 1 and 2 have been defensive slugfests for the most part. Shifting back to Nashville, I'm anticipating the offense opening up more for both teams. The Canucks have been blanked on six power play attempts so far, so it won't surprise me at all if they finally break through in that area.

I originally had the series going to seven games before the Thatcher Demko injury news. I still think it goes seven games unless the Predators hit a red hot offensive scoring streak, which won't be easy against this Canucks defensive front.