The morning after: Breakdowns cost Predators, lose 3-2 in Game 2
By Seth Lake
The Nashville Predators had an opportunity to take their first ever 2-0 playoff series lead on Friday night, but were unable to capitalize on their chances.
While the line of David Legwand centering Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexander Radulov were strong, the Predators other half of the top-six forwards, Mike Fisher, Martin Erat and Sergei Kostitsyn remained off the scoresheet.
With the series tied at 1-1, the Predators now travel to Detroit for Games 3 and 4 before returning back to Bridgestone Arena for Game 5 which will be held on April 20th.
- Breakdown Leads to First Goal Against – Midway through the 1st period, Tomas Holmstrom got free from coverage in the Nashville end of the rink as he skated out towards the blueline to chase down a loose puck. Reading that Holmstrom was open, Brandon Yip moved in from his position at the point covering Ian White and finished the check on Holmstrom along the wall separating him from the puck. The puck squirted out to White at the point, who without anyone covering him, walked in from his point position and beat Pekka Rinne with a wrister through traffic to give the Red Wings a 1-0 lead. While it is easy to point to Yip finishing the hit as the culprit for the goal against, he recognized an open man with the puck and finished his check, separating the man from the puck. The real breakdown occurred before that with Holmstrom getting lost in coverage and thereby also not having a skater in position to support Yip by switching off to White when Yip comes in to make the hit. While it is still early in the series, the team scoring first has won both games. The Predators went 35-3-4 in the regular season when scoring the first goal of the game, so it will be a trend to keep an eye on as we move forward in the series.
- Lack of Discipline Increases Deficit – Late in the 1st period with Nashville pressing deep in the Detroit end of the rink, Sergei Kostitsyn sent a long pass through the defense up to Kevin Klein standing at the far point. Klein had to catch the pass on his backhand and spun to move it to his forehand to fire a shot on goal, but seeing that Klein did not catch the pass cleanly, Cory Emmerton came out to challenge and got into the shooting lane to block the shot and send himself in on a 2 on 1 rush the other way. With Roman Josi playing the odd-man attempt to take away the pass, Rinne was responsible for the shot all the way, but reading that Rinne was cheating a bit preparing for the pass to Gustav Nyquist skating towards the back post, Emmerton beat Rinne with a well-placed shot to the upper corner to put Detroit up 2-0 and take the sold-out Nashville crowd out of the game for the time-being.
- Predators Find Weakness In Coverage, Answer Back – In their final game of the regular season on March 30th at Detroit, Nashville scored two goals in a similar fashion with the puck-carrier entering the Detroit end of the ice wide with speed and taking it down and around the back of net before making a pass out to a teammate who then scored. Just before the midway point of the 2nd period on Friday night, Nashville exposed that weakness in the Detroit defense once again to pull the game back within a goal as Klein stepped up to challenge a breakdown pass in the neutral zone creating a loose puck that Alexander Radulov scooped up on the backcheck and promptly turned up ice sending Roman Josi in wide with speed with a long pass across the rink. Josi carried down and around the back of Jimmy Howard’s net, before sending a pass back to Radulov who read the hole in the defense and jumped down the slot for a quick shot. The rebound went high in the air, but Radulov was able to track it down in the corner and began a quick cycle with David Legwand behind the Detroit net before walking out from behind the goal and finding Andrei Kostitsyn again in a hole in the Detroit defense from which he fired a wrist shot high over Howard’s glove to get the Predators on the scoreboard.
- Unable to Sustain Momentum – Just as quickly as they grabbed the momentum back in the game, the Predators once again gave it up as 56 seconds after Kostitsyn’s goal. Johan Franzen got a bounce off his skate as he went skating across the top of Rinne’s crease to increase Detroit’s lead back to two goals at 3-1. The play began in the Detroit end with Nashville again pressuring offensively, but after a pair of lost battles along the boards, the Red Wings went on the attack with Brad Stuart jumping into the rush to create a 3 on 2 opportunity against. The Predators were able to force the puck wide, however with no backchecking support were unable to pick up Franzen as he skated towards the goal to create traffic for Rinne as Datsyuk fired the puck on goal from the boards. Allowing a goal immediately after scoring one was a trend seen too frequently during the regular season for the Predators and is one that must be addressed as they move forward in the postseason. Energy was not the issue, but rather once again it was a matter of discipline with the three forwards all getting caught deep in the offensive end of the rink after a sustained attack and unable to be in a position to or provide any backchecking support for the defense.
- Secondary Scoring Makes Final Push Possible – With time winding down and the Predators unable to convert on any of their chances yet in the 3rd period, the team put together back to back strong forechecking shifts that finally resulted in a goal when Nick Spaling created a turnover behind the Detroit net, Paul Gaustad moved in to support Spaling and took the puck before turning around to find Shea Weber open pinching down in the slot. With the Detroit defense collapsing around him, Weber was unable to fire a quick shot, instead corralling the puck on to his backhand from where he beat Howard to bring the Predators back within a goal and make the crowd a factor yet again heading into the final television timeout. The Predators pressed, but were unable to score the tying goal late even after pulling Rinne for an extra attacker. The goal was the Predators 4th of the series created from secondary scoring sources with the bottom-six forwards scoring all three goals in Game 1 on Wednesday night.
- Dirty Dozen – For the second game in a row, the Predators top-ranked power play unit from the regular season went 0-for-6 on Friday night to move to 0-for-12 in the series and 3-for-29 on the season against the Red Wings. There was improvement from Game 1 for Nashville though with the Predators able to gain possession deep within the Detroit end of the rink to establish a sustained attack, but the team was mainly limited to passing around the Detroit defense and unable to get passes or shots through the box for the majority of their time with the advantage. In the third period, Nashville changed up their attack again and was able to work passes through the box, but with the defense challenging the lanes and the ice breaking down, the Predators were unable to catch a backdoor feed cleanly to release the quick shot. If the Predators are going to win this series, they will need to continue to work on the power play. It is not about the conversion percentage or sheer number of goals, but rather about scoring timely goals moving forward to erase a deficit or to take or extend a lead. Since scoring two power play goals against Chicago on March 31st, the Predators are 0-for-15 in their last 5 games while Detroit’s penalty-killing has gotten hot stopping their last 37 attempts against.
Stops and Starts
- The team being outshot is 2-0 in the series with Detroit outshooting the Predators in their Game 1 loss and Nashville outshooting Detroit 26-17 on Friday night.
- Despite being acquired to take key faceoffs for the Predators down the stretch, Paul Gaustad took just 8 faceoffs overall on Friday night going 4-4 (50%). David Legwand (10-9, 53%) and Mike Fisher (4-10, 29%) took the majority of the draws for Nashville with Nick Spaling leading the way in terms of winning percentage winning 6 of his 9 attempts to go 67% in the dot.
- Sergei Kostitsyn is in the midst of a 12 game scoreless streak dating back to March 20th against Edmonton.
- For the second game in a row, Hal Gill sat out due to injury and was replaced by Jack Hillen. In both contests, Hillen has played less than 9 minutes of ice time, seeing a little more ice time in Game 1 by playing on the penalty killing unit. With the power play struggling, if Gill remains out in Game 3, the possibility of Ryan Ellis replacing Hillen in the lineup is something that will definitely be discussed.
- Matt Halischuk was listed as questionable (upper body) during the third period of Friday night’s game and played just one shift early in the period. Should he be unable to go on Sunday, it will be another interesting decision for Trotz as to whom to put into the lineup. Jordin Tootoo fits the 4th line energy role and had a good game against Detroit in their last meeting of the regular season, but Craig Smith and Colin Wilson, who each had a strong game in the regular season finale at Colorado sit on the sidelines as well combining for over 70 points on the season.