The Nashville Predators have the chance to finish off the Detroit Red Wings tonight in Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals at Bridgestone Arena, in what will prove to be a test of their ability to finish off an opponent. The lone opportunity they've had previously in the playoffs was Game 6 against Anaheim, which they won 4-2. This Red Wings team is much more dangerous than that Ducks squad, however, so the Preds will have their hands full against an experienced opponent which has too much pride to simply fold up the tents and call it a season.
While reading, listen in as Roman Josi talks about the upcoming game:
And now, on to the preview...
Mike Babcock has been quoted as saying that defensively, the Red Wings are focusing on the wingers more than the centers, so how exactly is Detroit matching up against the Preds? Let's take a look at how they've been doling out the ice time...
The following table (underlying data from TimeOnIce.com) illustrates what portion of 5-on-5 ice time is being spent on the following individual matchups, split out by games in Nashville vs. Detroit. For example, in the two games in Nashville, Martin Erat has had to face Pavel Datsyuk in 33.1% of his (Erat's) 5-on-5 ice time, but only 61.6% for the games in Detroit:
|Martin Erat||Sergei Kostitsyn||Andrei Kostitsyn||Alexander Radulov||Patric Hornqvist||Gabriel Bourque|
There are some interesting trends which show how these coaches are using the last change to get the matchups they want. Granted, there's a bit of noise in here due to availability, as a player who the coach may wants to throw out there in 5-on-5 may just have finished a PP/PK shift and needs a breather, but basically, Barry Trotz got the Erat/Fisher/SK74 line matched up with Zetterberg's, while in Detroit, Babcock has matched them up against Datsyuk. Conversely, the Radulov/AK46 tandem faced Datsyuk in Nashville, but Zetterberg in Detroit.
So if the Fisher line falls silent offensively again tonight, just keep in mind who they're out there against - if both the Fisher and Datsyuk lines are kept off the scoreboard, that's a win for Nashville.
Is tonight's game the hottest ticket in Smashville's history?
Detroit Red Wings
The Wings feel confident in their gameplan, knowing that they're out-shooting the Preds consistently. That's not, however, due to them just tossing lobs at the net from the outside, per Mike Babcock:
"I hear (team broadcaster) Mickey Redmond say, ‘They're keeping them on the outside.' So the good thing about that is that I watched the game, and watched it on the computer and then ‘NHL On the Fly' played it again,'' Babcock said. "So I watched it three times to see if that's the truth, to see if we're never getting to the net, we're never getting on the inside, and all I can do is go off what I see and I don't think that's the truth.''
According to that article, the Red Wings stuck with their same lines & D pairings in practice at Joe Louis Arena yesterday:
Extras: Conner, Mursak
One interesting bit of news was the story filed by Josh Cooper, about how Jordin Tootoo was complaining about being scratched from several of these games:
"I was told that my play towards the end of the season was awful and they got to go with the guys that are going (well). Inconsistency I guess," Tootoo said. "I think the only way to get out of that slump is to play games. ... You can practice all you want, but at the end of the day it's about playing the games and showing up and doing the right things and just being a professional about it."
I guess he forgot the punch to the back of Zetterberg's head early in the 2nd period of Game 3, a completely unnecessary penalty when the team was clinging to a 1-0 lead. I think that qualifies as "awful". Jordin has to realize that with increased talent and depth up front, just because he's been around here a long time, he's not entitled to a spot in the lineup.
It's worth noting that we haven't heard such griping from Colin Wilson.
The forward lines at practice, as reported by John Glennon, were as follows:
SK74 - Fisher - Erat
Bourque - Legwand - Radulov
AK46 - Spaling - Hornqvist
Smith - Gaustad - Yip
This lineup is interesting for a number of reasons:
- Moving Gabriel Bourque up alongside Radulov brings a lot of speed to that line, which might help spring Rads free more often.
- Might Craig Smith make his playoff debut? Happy Happy, Joy Joy.
- I'm still not getting the Yip fascination, personally.
Ryan Ellis - he got ping-ponged in the ding-dong right before Game 4, but should be ready to play tonight if called upon.
Seriously, Hal Gill took part in a full practice yesterday, so hopefully he's back in the lineup tonight. Between Franzen, Bertuzzi and Holmstrom, Detroit has three guys who are capable of storming the crease, and Gill's size & strength would be a welcome addition back there. He practiced with Kevin Klein, a pairing which could see Gill play "safety net" while the high-flying Klein continues his scoring rampage.
If you're going to tonight's game, check out the highway construction issues as shared by cbrooksy yesterday.