With Game 3 in the books, the Nashville Predators have new life in this series. In a must-win Game 3, Matt Duchene, scored his first goals of the playoffs in double overtime. This gave the Nashville Predators a much-needed 5-4 win. The series is now 2-1 in favour of the Carolina Hurricanes with Game 4 scheduled for Sunday. It was a high-paced game that saw 110 shots fired between the two teams and there was little to separate them, unlike the opening games of the series.
The Nashville Predators have one of the best groups of defencemen in the NHL. They will need to step up if they are to win this series. Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, and Ryan Ellis are all-star calibre players who have logged big minutes for the Preds. Josi has averaged 29:09 minutes of ice time this series. Ekholm has 26:01 and Ellis 25:22. They also have six points in the three games so far. Team success depends on these horses in the back. The entire team came out flat to open this series losing 5-2, before losing game two 3-0. Giving up 12 goals in three games is not what Nashville would hope for. The defence needs to limit the number of high danger chances and use their experience. They have the ability to stifle an offence and win games when they are at their best. They just need to give goalie Juuse Saros the best chance to keep the team in games.
For his part, Saros has played fairly well posting a 2.82 goals-against average and .919 save percentage while facing an average of 41 shots per game. The team, and not just the defenders, need to keep these numbers down. The Hurricanes are too talented and deep to let them have this many opportunities at goal game in and game out. Team defence needs to be better if the Predators don’t want to be booking May tee times.
Hurricanes Blowing Preds Away
The Carolina Hurricanes offence has been clicking so far in this series averaging four goals per contest. Led by Sebastian Aho who has three goals and two assists the Canes have been impressive offensively. And they are doing most of their damage in the third period where they have scored half their goals. The goals haven’t all been coming from the expected group of Aho, Vincent Trochek and Andrei Svechnikov. Veteran Jordan Staal has been huge in the series with three goals. Defencemen Brett Pesce has contributed four points as well (one goal, three assists). Pesce also leads the team in time on the ice averaging 29:37 per game. Carolina has done a great job of generating offence from all over the ice with eight different players having scored in the series. If they keep this up they will be a hard team to beat, not only in this series but well into the post-season.
Keys To Success
The Hurricanes will need to stay out of the penalty box if they hope to take a stranglehold on this series Sunday in Nashville. They have taken seven penalties in each of the last two games and that puts an awful strain on the team. It gets the lines out of rotation and can wear you down in a long series. It also puts extra pressure on the goaltender, but Alex Nedeljkovic has been up to the challenge. He has stopped 103 shots in the series boasting a 1.96 goals-against average and .936 save percentage. He has been outstanding and an early Conn Smythe candidate for the Canes.
The Predators need to continue to get Carolina out of their comfort zone as they did in game three. Get them drawing penalties and out of their rhythm and capitalize on their chances. Filip Forsberg, Matt Duchene, Mikael Granlund and company need to play at a very high level. The Preds are not a team that will blow you out so they can’t waste any chances. Shots from the talented men at the point and traffic in front of Nedeljkovic can hopefully throw him off his game. They can’t expect to win 5-4 games every night against this Hurricane team, who have more firepower up and down the lineup.
We had initially called the Hurricanes in five games. We will stick with that prediction. Carolina did enough to win game three, but too many penalties hurt their chances after dominating the first two games of the series. Nashville is a tough arena to play in. The fans are as loud and passionate as any rink in the league and that will be a factor. There is just too much talent on the Canes to let this series slip away though. Rob Brind’Amour will have his team focused and ready Sunday. Another loss, turning this into a best of three would be surprising. But that is why they play the games. Get your popcorn ready.
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