There is a popular theory that the fourth win in a playoff series is the hardest to get. The Predators fully expect that to be the case Friday night in Game Five, as they hold a 3-1 series lead with a chance to knock out the Detroit Red Wings.
“[Detroit is] in survival mode; it’s no different from someone surviving for their life, type of thing,” Predators head coach Barry Trotz said after Thursday’s practice. “They are a good team and have a great tradition, so we’ve got to match everything they have and then some.”
Wednesday night was a prime example of how tough it is to close out a desperate opponent. Pittsburgh and Vancouver, both down 3-0 in their respective series, staved off elimination against Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
“It was a good illustration for us to talk to the guys and see how hard it is,” Trotz said of those aforementioned teams winning. “It will be the hardest game that you have in any series, trying to close out the other team.”
Though the Predators have never held a 3-1 series lead in franchise history, they were in a similar situation last year when they faced an Anaheim Ducks team that was on the brink of elimination. The Predators prevailed in that game, winning 4-2 in Game Six.
That experience of staving off a desperate team could help Friday.
“Last year we had a chance and closed it out, played a really solid game at home,” goaltender Pekka Rinne said. “There are also examples of where we didn’t – a few years back against Chicago and we had our chances against Vancouver last year. Those are all kinds of things we need to learn from and be ready to use those [Friday].”
If recent history shows us anything, it’s that Detroit usually brings its A-game when their backs are against the wall.
Last postseason the Red Wings battled back to force Game Seven after trailing 3-0 in a second-round series against San Jose. The year before they annihilated Phoenix in a Game Seven, and then beat San Jose by a score of 7-1 in a Game Four in which they were facing elimination. In short, they are well-equipped to succeed in any situation possible when it comes to the playoffs.
“We’re up against a different type of team right now,” defenseman Kevin Klein said. “Last year was nice to finish [Anaheim] off for our first series win. We’ve never had a 3-1 lead, so we need to capitalize on it [Friday] and take advantage of our home ice, come out in the first 10 [minutes] and show them we mean business.”
In Stanley Cup Playoff history, teams have held a 3-1 series lead 229 times. Only 20 times (8.7%) has the trailing team come back to win the series. The Red Wings have done it twice, in 1987 and 1992.
Though Mike Babcock’s club brought their best effort in Games Three and Four, the Predators know they have to be desperate and the Red Wings’ best is yet to come.
“Those guys know how to win,” said Klein, “and we need to show them that we do, too.”