Saturday, April 30, 2016

Predators Wilt In the Third Period, Fall to Sharks 5-2

The Nashville Predators looked to continue their road success in the playoffs with a second round match up against the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center. The Predators won 3 of 4 meetings against the Ducks at the Honda Center and were attempting to build on that momentum.

A scoreless first period saw both teams probe but neither would find the back of the net.

That would change in the second period as Mike Fisher sent the Predators into the second intermission with a power play goal.

The Predators seemed content to sit back and lost their attacking mode, and it cost them. They gave up power play goal to Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture, which were sandwiched around an even strength goal from Joel Ward.

The Predators pulled Rinne for the extra attacker and a Roman Josi shot deflected off Ryan Johansen to make it 3-2 with 1:49 remaining in the game.

Any hopes of a comeback were dashed by an empty net goals by Couture  and Tommy Wingels to make it 5-2.

Some observations:

  • Craig Smith re-aggravated his injury suffered in game 3 of the Ducks series and was out of the line up. Pontus Aberg was called up, but did not play.
  • Eric Nystrom drew back into the line up and was on  the 4th line with Paul Gaustad and Colton Sissons.
  • Good to see the power play finally convert. The man advantage unit was 1-26 against the Ducks and definitely needed to get their groove back. Getting one on their second attempt hopefully gets their mojo going in this series.
  • Both teams had spurts of intensity surrounded by tentative play. The Sharks were backing off defensively and allowed some room for the Predators in the offensive zone. The Predators had moments where they went into a shell and the Sharks peppered Rinne in net. First game jitters...maybe. Rust by the Sharks...perhaps. Look for the intensity and continuous action to ramp up in this game and in this series.
  • The Predators tempted fate by putting the Sharks on the power play and it bit them. A dumb penalty by Johansen allowed the Sharks to get back in the game and get momentum early in the third period. The penalties will happen, but they cannot, CANNOT, be silly penalties.
  • When the Predators get tentative and lose their attack mode, they are not a very good hockey team. The Predators have all season long turtled when they have a lead, and they did again tonight. And that allowed the Sharks to take the game to them and take the lead. This team is going to have to develop a killer instinct and forget going into the shell and hoping Rinne can bail them out.
  • And when you dig a hole with a soft, passive game, it will cost you when you scramble to try to get back in. This is exactly what the Predators did in the third period. Losing their offensive effort and then being forced to chase cost them this game. 
The Predators were in this game, and in fact controlled this game until they decided they could sit back and hope Rinne would be able to hold them off. Letting the Sharks attack and pour shots on the Predators net was not going to succeed.

That style of play didn't work in the regular season. It certainly isn't going to work now.

This team can win this round. They have the talent to do so.

But they will not win if they continue to be passive.

My three stars:

1. Logan Couture

2. Joel Ward

3. Brent Burns

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