First off, was Chicken Little right? Is the sky falling? Granted, it’s only one game.
Secondly, after Tuesday night’s 3-0 loss to the Ducks, the Preds still hold home ice advantage and a 2-1 series lead over Anaheim.
Finally, there is some solace in knowing that for the third consecutive game the best team on the ice was victorious.
Disappointing to a sell-out home crowd who came to the arena expecting an automatic win, but face the facts; when you play a team that has the best special teams, the lowest goals against average and Stanley Cup rings on the fingers of your best players, there’s reason to understand why not every game comes with a side order of sunshine, lollipops and rainbows.
Let’s note that in Game One, Anaheim lost defenseman Josh Manson, late in the first period, and left the Ducks blue line a man shy for the final 40 minutes of the game. The Preds took advantage of the depleted defense corps, and won 3-2.
Last night, in Game Three, it was Nashville’s turn to lose a key player, as top line winger Craig Smith played just two shifts at the start of the game and was then deemed out for the remainder of the contest with the dreaded “lower body injury.” While Smith is a streaky, inconsistent player, his presence usually creates a balance of the four forward lines throughout the lineup. Last night saw Predators Coach Peter Laviolette mix and match his forwards with little to no success during the contest.
With Smith out, it seemed the player who benefitted the most was Colin Wilson, who after a brutal regular season, came alive in games one and two for Nashville, prompting talk within the media and throughout the coaching staff of a great resurgence in his play.
Now what were we saying about a resurgence? Colin Wilson was one of the primary culprits in last night’s game and the Preds had no back-up plan for playing the Wilson that showed up for the regular season, and not the one who looked so effective for two games in Anaheim.
The Ducks struck first midway through the first period after a brutal sequence in which the Preds could not get the puck out of their own zone. Tony Bitetto delivered a costly giveaway directly onto the stick of an Anaheim player and bang-bang the puck was behind Pekka Rinne, and the Ducks were never to look back. While Anaheim were still undisciplined, and took five consecutive minor penalties over the course of the game, they also showed why they were the top penalty killers in the league over the course of the regular season.
Frederik Andersen replaced John Gibson in the Anaheim net for this game, and while, overall, he made 27 saves, given the Preds five power play chances, he should have faced considerably more, and considerably tougher. The Predators inability to create any traffic in front of Andersen, coupled with the Ducks stifling defense, sent the sellout crowd home with nary a trace of Tim McGraw serenading a frenzied fan base. The team dropped the game by the score of 3-0.
The teams are back at it on Thursday, and we are now assured a Game Five in Anaheim (presumably on Saturday.) What was once a seeming cakewalk through Round One, is now a series, and one that the Preds need to take seriously, and with far more intensity than they did Game Three.
More shots, more traffic, more disturbance in front of whoever is in the nets for Anaheim. Obviously, the opposition will stick with Andersen for the time being, and with good reason. He seems to be the calmer, more efficient netminder.
We are back in a few days to recap Game Four and the trip back to the west coast, and hopefully a happy ending for the upstart Preds.
Updated series schedule:
April 15, 2016: Nashville 3, Anaheim 2 (NSH leads series 1-0)
April 17, 2016: Nashville 3, Anaheim 2 (NSH leads series 2-0)
April 19, 2016: Anaheim 3, Nashville 0 (NSH leads series 2-1)
April 21, 2016: Anaheim at Nashville – 7 PM CT
April 23, 2016: Nashville at Anaheim – TBD
April 25, 2016: Anaheim at Nashville – TBD (if necessary)
April 27, 2016: Nashville at Anaheim – TBD (if necessary)