ANAHEIM - APRIL 22: The Nashville Predators mob Jerred Smithson #25 after his game winning goal in overtime against the Anaheim Ducks in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Honda Center on April 22, 2011 in Anaheim, California. The Predators won 4-3 in overtime. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
One more win.
The Nashville Predators are one more win away from advancing to the Western Conference Semi-Finals for the first time in team history. Nashville exorcised the Game 5, 3 wins, and overtime demons that have haunted this franchise since its inception with Friday's thrilling comeback, so it's full speed ahead for tonight's Western Conference Quarterfinals match-up with the Anaheim Ducks.
More after the jump...
Three factors that I think will determine tonight's game:
Pekka Rinne -To be frank, Nashville's Vezina Trophy Finalist has not been the dominant force we saw in the regular season. He played fairly well in Games 1 and 5, but has been less than stellar otherwise. For the series, Rinne has posted a 3.57 GAA and a .865 save percentage - pretty bad numbers for a guy most Predator fans were counting on to carry them through the playoffs. Thankfully, Nashville's offense has produced, and Rinne hasn't had to completely take over a game like he did so often in the regular season. Tonight would be as good of a time as ever for Rinne to have one of his 35-40 save nights.
The 3rd Period - The last three games of the series have been tied after two periods, and there's no reason to believe tonight won't be different. The Predators and Ducks are two of the most evenly matched teams in the post-season, and it shows on the scoresheet, with both teams having scored 18 goals a piece. If Nashville can win the third, they should win the game. Besides, I don't think any of our hearts can take a repeat of Friday night.
Shea Weber - In all of Nashville's wins, the Captain has set the tone early on, and the team has followed suit. Whether it's getting an early goal, sending a message with a big hit, or keeping the team level-headed and not getting over-confident, Weber has almost certainly been Nashville's playoff MVP thus far, and it shows on and of the stat sheet.
|2010 - Ray Emery||10||527||7||2||20||2.28||272||252||.926||0|
Ryan - Getzlaf - Perry
Blake - Koivu - Selanne
Beleskey - Bonino - McMillan
Sutton - Marchant - Parros
Erat is questionable for tonight's game, so it'll be interesting to see if he plays tonight.
|2010 - Pekka Rinne||64||3789||33||22||134||2.12||1905||1771||.930||6|
Erat - Legwand - Ward
Blum - Klein
O'Brien - Franson
Available: Dumont, Wilson, O'Reilly
Is it a stretch to say that tonight's game is the biggest in franchise history? Absolutely not. Bridgestone Arena will be as loud as it's ever been, as all eyes turn to 501 Broadway to see if the Nashville Predators have what it takes to make history.