Issues haven’t gone as deliberate for the Nashville Predators within the first spherical of the 2019 NHL Playoffs. After taking a 2-1 lead on the Dallas Stars, the Predators misplaced Video games four and 5 in convincing trend and now discover themselves in a must-win state of affairs heading into Sport 6 in Dallas. With their season on the ropes, what have the Predators executed to seek out themselves on the point of elimination? Listed below are my ideas on the subject, in no specific order.
Lack of Physicality
Getting into the collection, the Stars had been anticipated to dominate the physicality battle. That’s unsurprising because the the Stars are taller than the Predators by 1.9 inches and heavier by 9.Three kilos. Due to the scale discrepancy, the Stars have been the extra bodily workforce via 5 video games. Utilizing hits, an unfair metric as a result of it’s saved by the house scorekeeper, the Stars held the benefit in three of 5 video games. However the bodily edge goes past hits. The Stars are extra bodily attending to the puck, once they possess the puck and in puck restoration.
Essentially the most obvious instance was in Sport 5 on Alexander Radulov’s second purpose. Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis and Stars captain Jamie Benn had been each in pursuit of the puck in Nashville’s zone. Not solely was Ellis hesitant to have interaction in a bodily battle with Benn, he didn’t even make a play on the puck. Benn acknowledged that Ellis was timid and hit Ellis earlier than reaching the puck, creating room for himself. He then handed the puck to Radulov and the sport was Three-1 in Dallas’ favor.
Maybe the referees might have referred to as Benn for interference, however it might have been questionable at finest and it doesn’t excuse Ellis’ play. Ellis could also be a smaller defenseman at 5-foot-10, however he has to face up in opposition to greater opponents to achieve the postseason. Proper now the Predators are enjoying just like the small workforce they’re, and it’s costing them dearly. Velocity is nice, nevertheless it’s ineffective except a bodily aspect comes together with it.
Can’t Enter Offensive Zone Cleanly
The obvious cause the Predators are on the point of elimination is that they’re not scoring sufficient targets, with solely 11 via 5 video games. That’s not sufficient. The primary issue of their goal-scoring drought is that they’re not cleanly getting into the offensive zone. In the course of the common season, the Predators scored rather a lot off the push, usually passing the puck as they crossed the blue line. Within the postseason, nevertheless, the house isn’t accessible to make mentioned passes and the Predators have been pressured carry the puck into the zone or dump the puck and chase after it.
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The Predators’ concern is that their roster isn’t constructed to enter the zone with possession. Whereas defensemen Mattias Ekholm, Roman Josi and P.Okay. Subban are all good at doing so, the workforce lacks forwards who can do the identical. The one ahead who was good at this, Kevin Fiala, was dealt on the commerce deadline, and his absence has been problematic. Not with the ability to enter the zone with possession means dumping and chasing the puck. The Stars acknowledge this and are beating the Predators to the puck, leading to simple zone exits.
Kevin Fiala’s absence has made zone entries troublesome on the Predators. (AP Photograph/Mark Humphrey)
Additionally Can’t Cleanly Exit Defensive Zone
Maybe extra alarming is that the Predators have been unable to exit the defensive zone within the collection. In the course of the common season, the workforce was profitable at forcing turnovers and getting the puck up the ice, usually creating breakaways. Thus far within the postseason, the success they’d within the common season hasn’t been current.
When within the Predators’ zone, Dallas’ forecheck has made life troublesome on the Predators. For one, Nashville’s defensemen have had little time to make selections, which had led to errors. And secondly, forwards have needed to keep within the defensive zone longer, limiting offensive probabilities throughout a shift. When the Predators have cleared the zone, the puck has usually gotten no additional than the impartial zone, the place the Stars dump it again in, additional extending shifts. Drained play has resulted in improper reads and quite a few icings. Merely put, the Predators have been unable to alleviate Dallas’ offensive strain, and it’s taking a toll on everybody.
Turnovers in Each Zone
If poor zone exits and entries aren’t sufficient, turnovers have been an enormous supply of the Predators’ struggles. They’ve had the upper variety of giveaways in all however Sport four, when each groups had 11. They had been even a minus-11 in Sport 5. Like hits, turnovers are subjective as the house scorekeeper tracks them. Of the 20 Predators skaters who’ve performed within the postseason, none have a constructive turnover margin and solely 5 are even. Ekholm and Austin Watson have been probably the most egregious, each at minus-seven.
Austin Watson has seven turnovers via 5 video games. (AP Photograph/Paul Sancya, File)
The workforce’s turnovers are occurring in each zone. The Predators know find out how to play protected with the puck. They had been good at it throughout the common season as six of their 18 skaters who performed at the least 500 minutes had constructive turnover margins. The workforce wants to seek out that puck safety once more and regain their sensible decision-making. It’s there, discover it and put it to use.
Penalties Have Been Pricey
The Predators have already accrued 50 penalty minutes versus the Stars’ 30. Ekholm has had the largest downside, already with 12 penalty minutes when he had 47 throughout the common season. He took three penalties in Sport 2, together with an unsportsmanlike conduct, and two in Sport four, each high-sticking calls.
The worst a part of the penalties is that Dallas has scored 4 power-play targets on 21 probabilities, together with three of them in Sport four. Though they didn’t capitalize on any of Ekholm’s penalties in Sport 2, they scored on each penalties in Sport four. When enjoying in opposition to a workforce just like the Stars that options Benn, Radulov, Tyler Seguin and John Klingberg on the highest power-play unit, limiting probabilities is important. Getting into Sport 5 there was a deal with not taking penalties. The message will need to have gotten via, as they had been solely shorthanded twice, and that message wants to stay for Sport 6.
Mattias Ekholm has taken expensive penalties all collection, accumulating 12 penalty minutes via 5 video games. (AP Photograph/LM Otero)
Energy Play is Laughably Dangerous
Is there something extra to say in regards to the Predators’ energy play that hasn’t already been mentioned? They had been final within the league throughout the common season and have managed to look even worse within the postseason. They’ve gone Zero-for-11 and haven’t been overly near scoring. In Video games four, 5 and 6, they’d seven whole pictures on purpose whereas on the person benefit. They’re struggling to work the puck down low, are taking too lengthy to make selections and usually haven’t been a menace. At this level, declining the ability play could be a greater possibility, as a result of proper now they’re shedding momentum on the person benefit.
Pekka Rinne Hasn’t Been Nice
Cease me should you’ve heard this earlier than: Pekka Rinne is struggling within the playoffs. After a mean common season by his requirements – a .918 save proportion (SV%) – his play within the postseason was going to be very important for workforce success. Given his previous struggles within the playoffs, I’m positive most followers had been apprehensive getting into this collection, and he’s confirmed followers appropriate. He was alright in Sport 1 (.897 SV%), nice in Video games 2 (.957 SV%) and three (.952 SV%), was pulled after permitting 4 targets on eight pictures in Sport four and wasn’t superb in Sport 5 (.808 SV%).
His largest wrestle has been in opposition to high-danger probabilities, the place he has a .741 SV% at five-on-five after posting an .858 SV% throughout the common season. A part of this has to do with going through extra high-danger probabilities than he did within the common season (5.four per recreation versus four.9), however Rinne nonetheless isn’t coming via when wanted.
Pekka Rinne was pulled after permitting 4 targets on eight pictures in Sport four. (AP Photograph/Tony Gutierrez)
Laviolette Getting Out-Coached
Constructing off Rinne’s struggles is head coach Peter Laviolette’s resolution to proceed enjoying him. Laviolette solely pulled Rinne as soon as, in Sport four, and it was too late. It was apparent that Rinne wasn’t on his recreation after the third purpose he allowed, but Laviolette caught with him for yet another. Backup netminder Juuse Saros got here in and was nice, stopping 20 of 21 pictures for a .952 SV%.
That’s the identical save proportion he had in 4 appearances within the 2018 Playoffs. Saros has proved over the previous two years that he’s able to performing within the postseason, but Laviolette hesitates to make use of him. Laviolette allowed Rinne to surrender 5 targets in Sport 5 as an alternative of placing Saros in web, regardless of Rinne not being on his recreation. Whether or not Laviolette needs to indicate loyalty to Rinne, is anxious about his relationship with the veteran netminder or doesn’t belief Saros, he’s made the fallacious selections this collection, and it’s costing the workforce.
Laviolette has additionally didn’t deploy match traces even when enjoying at dwelling and he’s making zero in-game changes. He is a superb coach, however proper now Dallas’ first-year coach Jim Montgomery is out-coaching Laviolette, and searching like a genius within the course of.
Peter Laviolette is getting out-coached this collection. (AP Photograph/Gene J. Puskar)
Working Out of Time
The Predators could have entered 2018-19 as Stanley Cup contenders, however their play throughout the common season wasn’t convincing. Optimists prompt the workforce was saving their finest for the playoffs. We now know that wasn’t the case. This workforce is flawed and so they haven’t been accountable for their first-round collection. The Stars have executed an ideal job at exposing the Predators’ flaws, however the Predators are making life simple on them.
Their errors, which they’ve dedicated with surprising consistency, are obvious. Optimistically, they’ll appropriate their points and pressure a Sport 7. Nonetheless, proper now, it’s trying increasingly more probably that the Predators will likely be experiencing an early summer time.
*All stats from Hockey-Reference, Pure Stat Trick and Corsica Hockey