Predators Win and Advance to Western Conference Final

Predators Win and Advance to Western Conference Final

After the Blues took game 5 in St. Louis, they look to stay alive in game 6 in Nashville. Since 2012, the Blues are 1-5 in potential elimination games on the road (2-0 at home). The Predators look to capitalize on their home ice advantage and finish the pesky Blues off so they do not have to play a tough game 7 on the road. The Preds have been hard to beat at home this season, 24-9-8 during the regular season and 4-0 in the playoffs. They have never been to the conference final since they were established in 1988. The fans were loud and ready to go at the start of the game. However, it would be the Blues who would come out flying. Their first attack of the game would force Nashville to ice the puck. The Preds had their checking line out on the ice to start (4th line) so when they iced the puck they had to stay out there. Intern head coach Mike Yeo noticed that and threw his top line (Schwartz-Statsny-Tarasenko) out there for the ensuing face off.  The Blues would win the face off and go right to work cycling around on the attack. A Tarasenko shot would hit Statsny in front who is there to clean it up for the first goal of the game…

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The Preds did not look sharp in the 1st period. They were stiff with the puck and kept trying to be too cute with the puck instead of attacking and making plays. They would get two power plays which were terrible. They got only 1 shot on goal in both power plays. The Blues forwards kept their sticks active which got in the passing lanes and gave the Preds trouble. Nashville committed 10 giveaways in just the 1st period. Rinne was fantastic to keep the game only 1-0. This is the first time this series the Blues have led after the 1st period.  Coming into the 2nd, a different Predators team showed up. Right off their first attack of the period, they would score just 34 seconds in. Josi would do a good job cycling around from the left defenders spot to the right, where the Blues lost track of him and left him wide open for the one time finish….

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If you can see in the GIF above, he slid out wide where the Blues forgot to pick him up. Great job being creative on offense and using their star defenders in the attack. In fact, up to this goal the Preds totaled 13 goals this series. Defenders either scored or assisted on 11 of those goals. They scored 13 against Chicago in the 4 games and defenders either scored or assisted on 8 of them. 19 of 26 total.  A showing of how much of a difference their defenders have made on both side of the game. Late in the 2nd, the Blues would get a great chance to take the lead back off a brutal Subban turnover but Rinne would make a great save…

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Subban just trying to be cute behind the net with the Blues on the fore check, never a good idea. With the game tied at 1-1 going into the 3rd, both teams began to battle right off the opening face off. With the Blues on the attack, the Preds would steal the puck and connect a few sharp passes to exit the defensive zone quickly and go on the counter attack. Arviddson would dish a nice pass to Johansen who is all alone and ends up backhanding it in the back of the net….

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As you can see, Parayko is just a step behind Johansen when he scores. Parayko was trying to create a chance by cheated up while the Blues were on the attack, but this would let Johansen get a head start on the rush. Parayko was just a step behind Johansen when he scored. This helped him bring it to his backhand without Parakyo being able to get his stick in there and disrupt the chance. Hockey, like all sports, is a game of inches and that is evident here. Not a bad idea by Parayko to try and make something happen on offense with his team facing elimination. The Preds did a great job in the neutral zone after taking the lead (and really the entire playoffs). They kept the Blues without a single odd-man chance in game 6. This shows how well they play in the neutral zone. This forces the Blues to dump and chase, where the Preds star defenders are able to win the battles along the boards and negate attacks. Rinne is great handling the puck as well which makes the Preds strategy work even more. As the 3rd went on, the Blues became more desperate. The Preds got 2 breakaways but Allen saved both to keep the Blues alive. The Blues pulled Allen with 2 minutes left and got some chances but could not capitalize. The empty netter that would finish the Blues off would be a great showing of this great netural zone play. The Blues had to dump and chase, Rinne makes a good play with the puck to stop the fore check and the Preds would exit quickly and get the final dagger…

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The crowd was definately a factor in this game. The momentum swings were evident when they went the way of Nashville. They really do have a home ice advantage, now 5-0 this playoffs. Pretty cool to see this passionate sports town get their first chance to play in the west final and a chance to go to the Cup.

Series: 4-2 Preds win. They won and moved on for many reasons. First, Rinne has been fantastic. He allowed 1 or 0 goals in 3 of the 6 games of this series and 3 of 4 against Chicago. So in 6 of their 10 games, the Preds only needed 2 goals to win a game. That is amazing. I know the great defense in front of his has a lot to do with it, but he has made some big time saves so far this playoffs. The veteran goalie has been a reliable goalie with Nashville his entire career of 9 full seasons. Good to see him get the credit he deserves. Other than Rinne, the defense was a key reason for them making this playoff run. Subban is +5 with 1G-6A. Josi has 4G-4A and is +3. Ellis is top 5 in blocked shots and is +4 with 4G-5A and a game winner. Ekholm is +8 with 3 assists. Austin Watson, a forward, leads the league with 58 hits in the playoffs. Lastly, they have been getting production from all 4 lines they play. 14 of the 22 players that have skated in a playoff game have recorded a goal. Head coach Peter Laviolette has made some good coaching decisions. He dressed guys like Fiddler and Mcloud who ended up scoring game winning goals. By having this depth, it gives Laviolette a great ability to mix and match according to the situation. They have their core guys, but these role players have been the difference maker on the offensive side. They eat up ice time that helps their top guys stay fresh for late in the game. They have won 8 games up to this point in the playoffs and have 8 different skaters getting game winners. Awesome stuff for the Preds. It is always cool to see an 8 seed make a deep run in the playoffs.

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