A win meant a tied series coming home to Nashville, and a loss mean a 3-1 hole against the team that's won 2 of the last 5 cup banners. So it's safe to say that last night was a massive deal. And the Predators played very well.
Preds fade in overtime to Chicago
How they lost:
This was a tough one to watch. You knew that Chicago was going to turn the heat up on Nashville, and you knew the Blackhawks have the offensive stable to run teams out of the building. The question was could the defense playing without Shea Weber and Mike Fisher be able to withstand the barrage and survive the third period.
You've seen this movie before.
How we got to this point was impressive. James Neal, Calle Jarnkrok, and Seth Jones all stepped up in big ways and showed much more than in game 3. But while the shot count told one story, the game told another. The Preds were not able to set up in front of Chicago's net and were not able to take the puck off the boards in their own offensive zone. The Blackhawks were.
Kevin Fiala looked decent during his second career NHL game. At times he was on the ice with Colin Wilson and Jarnkrok, and he looked right at home. Yes, he was a bit too fancy at times and should've had a bit more confidence in his own shot which brought him across the Atlantic much quicker than expected... but I'll take it. He is chaos on the ice. Hell, I wanted to see him on the PK in overtime just for the pressure. That's what real effective penalty kills will feature: pressure. It's having a guy on the kill that the power play has to worry about. And seeing how he had some very fresh legs in overtime since he didn't PLAY A SECOND IN OVERTIME. Even if it's just for 30 seconds, just having that unpredictable weapon on the ice is fun.
The overtime looked better to start with, but the Hawks were the ones able to sustain pressure. And if it weren't for Pekka Rinne playing like vintage Pekka Rinne, this might have ended quickly. Remember that one time that Nashville really tested Scott Darling and Darling bailed them out? I don't recall anything more dangerous in the later parts of that game than James Neal and Calle Jarnkrok doing that thing off the face offs. That was cool.
Here's the Game 1 winner.
Here's the Game 4 winner.
There's a pattern here. Traffic to the net, goaltender doesn't see the puck, and a bit of luck. The recipe doesn't change as the weather warms up.
Even though Jones and Roman Josi looked MUCH better as a pairing, the Preds could have used Shea Weber badly. I didn't care for Cody Franson only playing sparingly alongside Victor Bartley. The good news is that we saw that this team, while it didn't win the game, had a great chance to win in Chicago against the best Blackhawks team we'll see in a while, and pushed them to the limit. The reality is that it wasn't enough. Chicago is protecting Darling's net much like how Minnesota bodyguards Devan Dubnyk, and we know the trouble that caused Nashville. Nashville lost this game because they were not able to sustain pressure and create quality chances against Darling.
Thursday could be different. We'll wait for updates involving Mike Fisher and Weber, but prepare for the worst. Coach Laviolette has been down 3-1 three times. He's won one of the three, and that was with Michael Leighton in net.
But FFS guys, please pay attention out there.
Look familiar folks? pic.twitter.com/Q8k6Y7jGwb— Paul Tagliajew (@hairmetalhenry) April 22, 2015