Heading into Monday’s Game Five, the Predators find themselves in an unfavorable 3-1 series deficit and on the brink of elimination against the Phoenix Coyotes.
Three reasons why the Predators can pull off a comeback…
1. Pekka Rinne
Minus the first two games of this series (which weren’t his fault, by the way), Rinne has been dynamite all postseason. He carried the Predators through the first round against Detroit and was as solid as can be in Games Three and Four against Phoenix. The team will need Rinne to be a brick wall if they wish to come back, but that is hardly farfetched. Rinne can singlehandedly steal games like his counterpart, Mike Smith, has been doing all spring.
2. Defense has improved
The biggest worry coming back from Phoenix after Game Two was the play of the defense. Now it’s the least of their worries as they head back to the desert. After giving up nine goals in the first two games, the Predators surrendered just one goal in two games in Nashville. The adjustments Barry Trotz and company made to tighten up defensively definitely worked, as the new pairings have been rock solid. If the Predators give up one goal in the next two games, the chances are good that they’d force a Game Seven.
3. ‘Comeback kids’ all season
The Predators showed unmatched resiliency in the first half of the season, making one dramatic comeback after another. They tied for second in the NHL with seven wins when trailing after the second period. As we’ve mentioned recently, resiliency has defined the Predators organization for a long time. There’s no reason why the Predators can’t draw from those comebacks and show that same resiliency with their backs against the wall in this series.
Three reasons why the Predators can’t come back…
1. Historical odds
Obviously, down 3-1 in the series, the odds are not in Nashville’s favor. Only 24 teams (in 259 tries) in playoff history have ever come back from that deficit to win a series. Five teams faced that deficit in the first round; none of them came back. As Trotz said Friday night, the odds are a lot better than having to come back from down 3-0, but it’s still difficult to win three in a row against a team that has had your number through four games.
2. Mike Smith
Over the years a lot of good teams have had their Stanley Cup aspirations ruined by a hot goaltender. The Predators could be the next one due to Smith’s lights-out play in net. Smith boasts a .946 save percentage through 10 games, putting the Coyotes on the verge of their first-ever conference final appearance. Smith stole Game One in overtime and was tough to beat in Game Four. Winning three in a row is a tough task. Winning three in a row against a goaltender that is playing the way Smith is right now is an even tougher task.
3. Offense can’t get going
The Predators’ offense improved this season (4th in the West in goals), but it has taken a step back in the playoffs. Naturally, goals are harder to come by in the playoffs. However, the Predators are just the fourth team in playoff history – first since 1976 – to score three goals or less in each of their first nine playoff games. The power play, which was so efficient all year, is an average 5-for-37. Getting Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn back in the lineup will help, but the forward corps seems to have hit a dry spell at the wrong time of the season.