Want to be optimistic? The Preds will muster up the wherewithal to survive, and win Game 6. Take it back to Anaheim on Wednesday.
At that point, flip a coin. The Preds will have won three games, and the Ducks will have won three games. Both teams will have gone 2-1 on the road, and conversely 1-2 at home.
Yes, Game 7 will mean all the marbles for this round one matchup. Only problem? Game 6 hasn’t been played yet, and the Ducks are on a three game winning streak, while the Preds are getting their clocks cleaned in virtually every area of the game.
Throw statistics out the window, they say. Forget that the Preds, having won Games 1 and 2, had an 86% chance of winning the series, and now, having lost Games 3, 4, and 5 seem to have almost that much of a chance of exchanging handshakes with the opposition some time around 10pm tonight.
Where did this all go horribly wrong for Nashville? Or, is it, where did things go so gloriously right for Anaheim? Isn’t there some bet revolving around mayors and musical instruments? Don’t we need to get a banjo into Orange County? It was just last week that optimism reigned supreme, and Preds fans were buying brooms at an alarming rate. Today, they’ve swept their optimism under the rug and seem unbearably broken.
Don’t read Twitter, Facebook, or any of the myriad of hockey blogs that are turning on the Predators faster than, say the Penguins dispatched the Rangers, or the Lightning (without Stamkos) jettisoned the Wings, or how the Dallas Stars took care of Minnesota. Pundits let their opinions blow in the wind.
Just for today, be objective… well, I KNOW that can’t be easy, but seriously, the Predators had a solid regular season, and the first two games of this series were decidedly in Nashville’s favor. What happened?
I guess to start, Freddie Andersen happened. The Ducks goaltender, inserted prior to the games in Nashville, has been revelatory to some, and as advertised to those who had seen him play in the regular season.
Of course, Anaheim’s best players became their best players, and their supporting cast has chipped in to provide secondary scoring.
For Nashville, with the injury to Craig Smith in Game 3, the well has run dry. Smith will be a game time decision for game 6, but in general, the best Nashville players have been stymied.
The support crew has done little in the area of support. Special teams (power play and penalty kill) have been dreadful at best. Sure, there’s the occasional push back, where the Preds revert back to the tenacious team they have been throughout much of the regular season, but it seems the inevitable let down shows up at the worst possible moment, and the Ducks have found a way to get the puck past Pekka Rinne, killing all sorts of potential and momentum.
The top defensive tandem of Shea Weber and Roman Josi have some tightening up to do, as they’ve been on the ice for an alarming number of Anaheim goals. Top 6 forwards like Calle Jarnkrok have yet to produce a point, and Mike Ribeiro with a lone assist took a costly penalty late in Game 5, effectively ending any chance the team might be able to crawl back into said contest.
It comes down to tonight: faceoff at 7PM central time. Ducks at Predators.
If Nashville can crawl out of this mighty big hole, they live to see an exciting Game 7 in Anaheim on Wednesday.
If not? Enjoy the bittersweet handshake line, which is still the greatest tradition in the game itself.
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 4, Nashville 1 (Series tied 2-2)
April 23, 2016: Anaheim 5, Nashville 2 (ANA leads series 3-2)
April 25, 2016: Anaheim at Nashville – 7 PM CT
April 27, 2016: Nashville at Anaheim – TBD (if necessary)