Three X-Factors that allowed Nashville Predators to Hold Off Elimination vs Canucks

The Predators went into Vancouver in do-or-die mode, and it took another gritty defensive performance to pull out the win.
Nashville Predators v Vancouver Canucks - Game Five
Nashville Predators v Vancouver Canucks - Game Five / Derek Cain/GettyImages
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After completely choking away Game 4 to tie the series at home, the Nashville Predators had no more mulligans left in their first round series against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday. Much like in Game 2 when they blocked 30 shots in the win, the Predators had to be relentless in their own end.

For just the second time in Predators franchise history the team was able to make a comeback in the third period while facing elimination per NHL PR. The Canucks had taken the 1-0 lead at 3:11 of the third period on a goal by Nikita Zadarov in a game that felt like one goal just might be enough to secure the victory, and for the Canucks to advance to the second round.

In commemdable fashion, the Predators didn't back down. They didn't fold under the enormous pressure on the road with goals from Roman Josi and Alexandre Carrier. It's Josi's 12th career playoff goal, and Carrier's first.

Time to break down my three leading x-factors for why the Predators avoiding elimination and are heading back to Smashville on Friday for Game 6.

Preds match the Canucks' physicality

This has been talked about a lot in the five games of this sereis so far. All season the Predators were the team on a majority of nights roughing up their opponent with the hits and forechecking, but the Canucks have imposed their will in this area as well.

The Predators managed to pull even with the Canucks in the hits department in Game 5, with each team racking up 36. In the last three games of the series the Predators have been right there with the Canucks in hits after opening the series in Game 1 with a 47-31 hit disadvantage.

It's very clear that the Canucks' strategy is to give the Predators a taste of their own motto, which is being relentless in puck battles and battles on the boards. The Predators responded in a big way in the third period and started getting some offensive zone time to tilt the ice.

And yes to the chagrin of Canucks nation, the Predators were very disciplined in avoiding costly penalties. They only took four penalty minutes, and killed off both Cancuks power plays that came nearly back-to-back to each other in the second period. A turning point in the game where the Predators could've fell behind by multiple goals.

Both teams have seen their penalty kills answer the bell in this series, while the Predators are probably the bigger surprise of the two considering their penalty kill ranked 22nd in the regular season while the Canucks power play was tied for 10th.

Next man up mentality

To win games like this, you need everyone pulling the rope in the same direction, We've heard Head Coach Andrew Brunette use that analogy before during the regular season while the 18-game point streak was going on. We saw that in Game 5.

Let's start with a player that has had no shortage of criticism and tribulations this season, and that's Tyson Barrie. A player the front office really wanted to trade but couldn't find a partner, and instead the accomplished NHL veteran rode the pine as a healthy scratch for the majority of the second half of the season.

With Luke Schenn being sidelines with an illness, Barrie stepped in and I have to admit I was very pessimistic about how this was going to go. I mean, how can you expect Barrie to just come in and perform at a playoff level, but my fears were put to rest as the game wore on.

Barrie brings a much different element to his game than Schenn. In a series that has seen the Predators power play struggle in epic fashion, Barrie was able to log a secondary assist on Josi's power play goal. Filip Forsberg logged the primary assist on a goal where the puck barely squeeked over the line past third-string goalie Arturs Silovs.

The Predators have struggled to even exit the zone on their power plays in this series, but on this one you see Barrie make the easy set up pass to a streaking Josi who was able to cruise into the zone and crash the net from Forsberg's pass.

The way the play starts off with Barrie seems pretty ordinary, but if Barrie isn't in the game for Schenn, then a play like that probably doesn't happen. The offensive makeup for this team changes with Barrie in over Schenn.

And then to see of all people, Alexandre Carrier score his first career playoff goal to put the Predators ahead on an absolute rip from the blueline was just incredible stuff. A guy that was at the top of trade lists, but General Manager Barry Trotz decided to roll the dice on the pending free agent and retain him for the playoff run.

I also loved what I saw from the fourth line that has been so vital all season. Kiefer Sherwood dinged a post midway through the second period while the Predators were shorthanded. Sherwood also added nine hits, while Michael McCarron was crucial in the faceoff circle winning seven of his 12 faceoffs.

Brunette has held steadfast with not changing up his forward lines. All of the forwards have played in all five games, with Cody Glass being the one player fans have wanted to see get a shot. Also, Juuso Parssinen was called up to the playoff roster but is likely just there to get extra practice time on the NHL level to gear up for the Calder Cup Playoffs in the AHL which start this week for the Milwaukee Admirals.

To win this series, it's going to take all four lines and the defensive depth to show up. This isn't the type of series where the top line can take over on their own.

Saros answers the call in potential last game with Preds

After the Game 4 meltdown, possibly one of the worst playoffs losses in Predators history, I hinted at the possibility that this was Saros' last home game with the Predators. Gladly, that didn't happen thanks to some clutch play from Saros in Game 5.

Sure, people like to get caught up on how many shots a goalie faces to decide on if they were the hero or not between the pipes. While Saros only faced 20 shots on goal, that's actually been the theme of the entire series. Going back to my first x-factors, the Predators have matched the physicality and defensive prowess of the Canucks for most of the series.

Even so, the Canucks have gotten the better looks and higher quality offensive zone time. Saros' degree of difficulty on the saves he has made have been a series changer. Has he been his best throughout all five games? He hasn't, but he has also stepped up in the clutch and did so in Game 5.

Saros closes out Game 5 with a 0.96 Goals Saved Above Expected and a .950 save percentage. His lone goal surrendered is one you would like him to snag considering where the shot came from, but was also a product of red carpet defense by the Predators. These things happen throughout a 60-minute game.

What is encouraging about Saros is he knows how to bounce back. After giving up the goal to Zadarov, Saros would close out the Canucks with multiple saves on their star players Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Connor Garland and Quinn Hughes.

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Much like Game 4, I was sweating bullets thinking if the Canucks rally to score another late goal to push it to overtime, that would be all the Predators could handle and the Canucks would win it in overtime. Saros made sure that nightmare didn't happen again.

It's only Saros' fifth career playoff win, bringing his career postseason record to 5-10 with a 2.52 GAA and .909 save percentage. As you probably painfully remember, Saros wasn't available due to injury the last time the Predators were in the playoffs in 2022 and got swept by the Colorado Avalanche.