If the Predators didn’t have their backs against the wall earlier in this series, they certainly do now.
Following last night’s shutout loss in Game Four, the Predators are down 3-1 in the Western Conference Semifinals and will make their way to Phoenix facing elimination. It obviously isn’t where they want to be heading into Monday’s do-or-die contest.
“We have to take it one game at a time now. We can’t look too far ahead,” defenseman Ryan Suter said after last night’s defeat.
Contrary to the start of the series in Phoenix, the last two games have been more of what was expected in this series between two evenly-matched defense-first teams. There were a combined 15 goals scored in Games One and Two. In the pair of games in Nashville, a grand total of three goals were scored.
Last night the Coyotes got an early break, scoring at the 14:25 mark of the first period when Shane Doan’s backhand shot found the back of the net. That was the eventual game-winning, keeping the series trend intact of the team that scores first wins the game.
“It was a good play by [Radim Vrbata] to get it off the wall and I’m trying to get to the middle, trying to throw it on net and get there for the rebound and it went in,” Doan said of his goal, which re-directed off of Roman Josi’s stick in front.
“Every time we get a little bit of momentum, it goes the other way,” Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. “We’ve had numerous chances they’re not going in the net. To me, that’s just a little bit of the rub right now. In Game One, and tonight, we had numerous chances and weren’t able to finish. They’ve needed just a goal or a play to win a hockey game.”
As a result, the Predators are on the brink. Monday will be the ninth time in franchise history the Predators will play in an elimination game. They are 1-7 in the first eight games; the one win came last year in Vancouver in Game Five of the second round. The Predators hope to draw from that experience on Monday night.
“For us it’s do-or-die,” Suter said. “You come out and you leave it all out there Monday and then you go at it the next day. Hopefully we can take something from last year.”
This and That:
- Before we get heavy into the observations, Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett took a subtle shot at the Predators in his post-game presser. Here is a snippet of what Tippett had to say when he was asked about his team’s resiliency this postseason:
“Adversity is just part of who we are. We’ve got leadership in the dressing room that keeps guys on the straight and narrow. We just kind of go out there and plug along and find a way to win, and that’s what we’ve done these playoffs.”
- The subject everyone wants to talk about is the benching of Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn. Hindsight is always 20/20; if the Preds had won last night, the backlash wouldn’t be as bad. But since they were shut out, the blame for last night has been put on Trotz for keeping two skilled forwards out of the lineup after they served their one-game suspension. It’s hard to say if they would have made a difference in that game, but you can bet they will in Game Five.
- Predators GM David Poile gave up a first-round pick in February for Paul Gaustad’s faceoff services. So where was Gaustad late in the game when the Predators needed to win some key faceoffs?
“If you look at the sheet tonight we were pretty decent on the faceoffs,” Trotz said. “In certain areas of the game, especially late in the game, for him to win the faceoff – we were looking more at offensive players [like] Legwand and Spaling. … Sometimes that’s what you have to weigh: defensive posture versus offensive posture.”
Three things here:
1. Looking at the stat sheet, the Predators only won 51% of their faceoffs – in part due to Gaustad’s 7-4 mark in the dot.
2. Gaustad only took one third period faceoff and didn’t play in the final 12:44 of the game. If he’s not hurt, it makes no sense.
3. The Coyotes won 10 of 12 faceoffs in the Predators’ offensive zone in the third period. Gaustad’s a defensive zone faceoff specialist – but still.
- The best offensive player on the ice for the Predators last night was Colin Wilson. He logged 17:51 of ice-time and even saw some shifts with Mike Fisher and Martin Erat in the third period. Even though Wilson recorded just one shot, he generated chances. He has made his case to stay in the lineup loud and clear in these last two games.
- To me, the big moments in the game were Patric Hornqvist’s missed opportunities in the second period. He attempted 12 shots, but only got three of them on goal. He missed on two open-net chances and hit the post on another. On another night, maybe Hornqvist scored on two of those chances and we’d be talking about this series being even at 2-2.
- Suter and Trotz both went out of their way to voice a bit of frustration over the ice conditions. Suter said, “It was pretty hot in the building. [The ice] was pretty rough. It was tough to move the pucks. … It was probably 68 degrees in the building; that’s pretty hot for a hockey rink.”
- Referees Wes McCauley and Dan O’Halloran did not have their best game last night. Not only have they received criticism for the Predators’ disallowed goal in the third period that would have tied the game, but they mis-penalized Coyotes defenseman Rostislav Klesla for his hit on Matt Halischuk in the first period.
Klesla dangerously shoved Halischuk from behind into the boards right in front of the Coyotes’ bench. Klesla was only penalized for two minutes for boarding, probably because Halischuk didn’t stay down on the ice. The hit had ‘major penalty’ written all over it.
- Prediction: Preds win Game Five on Monday.
Smashville 24/7 3 stars of the night:
1. Mike Smith, PHX (25 saves, shutout)
2. Shane Doan, PHX (1 goal)
3. Colin Wilson, NSH (1 shot, 17:51 TOI)
Recaps around the blogosphere:
|Preds On The Glass||Inside Smashville||Section 303|
|Puck Scene||Hockey Night in Nashville||On The Forecheck|
Decibel Level Chart:
How loud was it in Smashville last night? Find out here…
|108 (dB)||Preds come onto the ice|
|109||Pekka Rinne introduction|
|106||Rinne’s 1st period save on Mikkel Boedker|
|102||TV timeout ovation (#1)|
|107||Disallowed goal in 3rd period|
|98||TV timeout ovation (#2)|