After a few close calls in the third period, the Nashville Predators finally broke through to take a 2-1 series lead in the Western Conference Final. Let’s take a look at tonight’s NHL playoff predictions.
|Ducks vs Predators
ML +125 / -150
Here are tonight’s starting goaltenders, courtesy of LeftWingLock.
Nashville bore witness to history Tuesday night, as the Predators won their first Western Conference Final home game in franchise history. Returning home with home ice stolen away for the remainder of the series, the Preds hit the gas and applied the pressure late in the game to come away winners of a 2-1 game.
Though the first 20 minutes would come and go without any scoring, it was loaded with scoring opportunities- most belonging to the Nashville Predators. The Preds outshot the Ducks 17-9 in the opening frame. Though Anaheim got a few good looks, Nashville was running the show offensively (Randy Carlyle insisted that the stat keepers needed glasses with the way they were padding Nashville’s shot total. I say he needs glasses for the way he continually uses Antoine Vermette).
Nashville’s desire to set a physical tone in the game led them to perhaps be a bit overzealous. With about six minutes remaining in the second period, Jarred Boll laid a menacing hit in the neutral zone. The point of contact was high, but it was a clean hit. Cody McLeod did not see it that way. McLeod skated right over to Boll by the benches and dropped the gloves. To McLeod’s credit, he rained some pretty heavy blows down on Boll. However, he could not have picked a worse time.
The Predators had been dominating possession in the period again. McLeod was given an instigation penalty, giving Anaheim a powerplay and a chance to get some mojo back. As Jeremy Roenick put it in the second intermission report, McLeod effectively “made an irrelevant player relevant” by fighting him.
Corey Perry managed to slip a bad-angle shot through the wickets of Pekka Rinne to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead. Incidentally, it was Corey Perry’s 32nd birthday. Fitting, because it was a gift of a goal.
Boll found the whole situation amusing.
Boll having a grand ol' time in the penalty box pic.twitter.com/b4zfRClfyf
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) May 17, 2017
Boll and McLeod had gotten tangled up earlier in the season as well, back on March 7th in Anaheim.
Nashville would get it back early in the third period. Though the Ducks won a defensive zone draw to the left of John Gibson, Cam Fowler’s attempt to play the puck to safety behind the Anaheim net was sorely miscalculated. Filip Forsberg bodied up a defenseman, won the puck away and sent a pass to the slot. Ryan Ellis’ shot was saved and the rebound bounced to Forsberg at a sharp angle. Forsberg placed his shot just right to even up the score.
The Predators had been running the show possession-wise for most of the game. With the score tied and blood in the water, they went in for the kill.
Twice they thought they had the game-winner buried. Twice they had their goal waved off for goalie interference. And twice, that call was correct.
The first goal was called off as the Preds were attempting to set a screen on Gibson. Where Arvidsson was extremely successful early in the series getting close to the goaltender without drawing contact, this time around…well, things did not go as smoothly.
No interference there!!! At all. None. Not one bit.
(ok maybe just a wee bit) pic.twitter.com/R9eavxI37X
— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) May 17, 2017
Only nine seconds of hockey went by before the Predators sounded the horn in vain again. This time around, Ryan Johansen bowled Gibson over while driving to the net and the subsequent rebound was shot into the net.
But the Predators would still find a way to win the game anyway. Their hunger for the net was hardly quelled by the two disallowed goals. If anything, it only intensified things.
With less than three minutes remaining in the game and the Predators threatening once again, Mattias Ekholm blasted a shot from the center of the blueline. The shot went off the backside of James Neal right to the stick of a pinching Roman Josi. Gibson completely lost sight of the puck through the chaos, looking to the wrong side of the ice after the block.
The net was left vacated.
Gibson has no idea where the puck is and Josi puts the Predators up late pic.twitter.com/ol77SLZwB7
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) May 17, 2017
Anaheim would not really put together much of an attack in the waning minutes of regulation. Ryan Getzlaf made a heroic block on the goal line to save an empty netter, but the Ducks failed to penetrate the Preds’ neutral zone. Nashville had their first ever home victory in the Western Conference Final.
Prior to the game, the spotlight was trained on the burgeoning beef between Ryan Johansen and Ryan Kesler. Johansen had called out Kesler for being a pest of a defender, saying it “sucks to have to pull a stick out of your groin every shift.” Johansen is not alone in his hatred of Kesler, and Kesler returned fire with comments of his own, saying he’s “not here to make friends.”
So, many people were ready to write narratives of Kesler playing the role of agitator and effectively getting under Johansen’s skin. Could the young powerhouse forward be undone by the wily veteran?
Ryan Johansen ~obviously~ being outgeneralled by Ryan Kesler. pic.twitter.com/vg9QJ9HJ1o
— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) May 17, 2017
To simplify the chart for those not used to seeing something like this: the Y-axis is shot attempts allowed, adjusted for score. To be high up in the chart is to not allow many shot attempts, which is a good thing. The X-axis is shot attempts for, adjusted for score. To be far to the right is to generate a lot of shot attempts, which is a good thing.
Ryan Johansen is very far right and very high up. Ryan Kesler is very not.
It should come as no surprise, but the JOFA line is dominating possession. It helps that the Preds have the best defensive core remaining in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, maybe in the National Hockey League, to get the puck up ice and let their forwards go to work. It’s truly a thing of beauty to watch the Preds’ depth go to work.
Anaheim will need that kind of capitalization from their depth forwards to even the series back up. They had a few good offensive flurries, especially after allowing the tying goal early in the third period, but that pressure quickly dissipated. If Getzlaf, Perry or Silfverberg are not on the ice, the Ducks’ offense dries up.
If we’re just looking at the bottom line, 20 shots on goal is not enough. Especially when allowing 40.
The home team has now won five of the last six meetings between these two teams.
Craig Smith participated in morning skate but will likely not return just yet for the Preds.
The home mojo is flowing in Nashville, and it will take a Herculean effort out of the Ducks to get a win tonight. It absolutely can happen, but the line is not slanted enough to entice me. I’m sticking with the Predators tonight, who have been playing some stellar hockey.
Once the Ducks return home to the Honda Center, that’s when I’ll count on them to turn on the jets. But for tonight, go with the Preds.
Prediction: Take the Predators to win. Play the under.
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