For the first time in this year’s playoffs, the Nashville Predators trail in a series. After outplaying the Pittsburgh Penguins for all of Game 1, minus an 8 minute stretch in the 1st period, the Predators trail in the series 1-0. After some mental breakdowns during that stretch, Nashville found themselves chasing the game. Somehow, they caught the game, erasing a 3-0 deficit.
However, they almost played too good and held the Pens without a shot for over 37 minutes. Then a snipe on a cold Pekka Rinne would lift the Pens to the win. Rinne will bounce back, no doubt, and he could use another performance like that in Game 2 from the guys in front of him.
Now let’s look at the 3 keys for Game 2:
Mental Focus. In Game 1, the no goal call seemed to derail the Preds focus a bit. They were in complete control of the game at that point. Then it all fell apart. Look, the bounce off of Mattias Ekholm is just one of those things that happen, not much you could do to change it. However, the selfish penalty James Neal took to cause a 5 on 3 started the downhill spiral. Then, Conor Sheary being left all alone on the back side for an easy goal is something this team doesn’t do very much. These kinds of mental mistakes cannot happen in Game 2 if the Preds want to even the series.
Top 4. Nashville’s top 4 d men did a fantastic job in controlling Sydney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in Game 1. Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi were great against Crosby (his only points came on the 5 on 3 and against the Preds 3rd pair) and Ekholm and P.K. Subban dominated the Malkin line 5 on 5. Mike Sullivan did everything he could to get Crosby and Malkin out against Matt Irwin and Yannick Weber, but Peter Laviolette was having none of it. Still not really sure how he did it, but Laviolette kept the 3rd pair away from the top two lines. They only played 1:45 seconds against Crosby and Malkin 5 on 5. If that continues and Nashville’s top 4 continue playing like they have all playoffs long, the big two for Pittsburgh will find it tough sledding moving forward.
Pekka Rinne. Look, Pekka will be the first to tell you he should have stopped the first and third Penguins goals. Let’s be honest here, yes..he probably should have stopped them, but we are talking about greatly placed shots from two very good, top end snipers. Laying this defeat at the feet of Rinne is just wrong. I look for the big Finn to come out guns blazing in Game 2. Pekka is known for having great comeback games after struggling and I expect nothing different from him here.
Game 2 is Wednesday, May 31st at 7 pm CT in Pittsburgh and can be seen on NBCSN.
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