Firstly, the Predators accomplished what they needed to accomplish already. They've already won in Anaheim's building, and did so in a modestly impressive fashion. And even after Game 1, there are some very encouraging trends. The top line looked strong, Ryan Ellis is playing like a man possessed, and the Preds are hitting the Ducks like it's the playoffs or something.
Let's take a further look at what led to the Preds' success on Friday night.
Ryan Johansen & James Neal vs Ryan Kesler, Jakob Silfverberg and Andrew Cogliano
This is going to be a key to the series. The Ducks are counting on generating enough offense through special teams while deploying Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf on separate lines. In order for this to work, Kesler's line will need to shut down the top line of Nashville.
And in Game 1, this did not work in Anaheim's favor. Check out these counts from Neal and Johansen:
- Ryan Johansen played just over 15 minutes of 5v5 ice time. In that time, shot attempts were 22 for Nashville, 3 against.
- James Neal played over 16 minutes (mostly with Johansen), and in that time Nashville was a +13 in shot attempts. What's even more impressive is that he had 7 individual scoring chances, and 3 high-danger chances.
- Those numbers were mostly against Ryan Kesler's line. Shot attempts were 14-3 in favor of Johansen over Kesler.
The Ribeiro Line vs Ryan Getzlaf, David Perron, and Chris Stewart
DID NOT WORK
This looked to be a mismatch all night. The logic on this was a bit puzzling, but it's Game 1. And thankfully, we only saw it for 5 minutes of icetime. What's pretty surprising is that both Mike Fisher and Paul Gaustad matched the pace of Getzlaf's attempts. It's not a shock that Fisher and Gaustad are defense-first players, but Mike Ribeiro, Filip Forsberg, and Craig Smith didn't impact the game until the third period, and that came against the Rickard Rakell & Corey Perry line. We saw this mostly in the early part of the game, so don't expect it a lot as the series goes on.
Staying Out of the Box
After Cody Bass and his dumb idea put the Preds on a PK, the officials let the guys play. And that's fine with us. Penalties lead to more penalties, and Nashville looked to be the better team at 5 on 5. If Nashville is going to continue to play more physical and hit more than they did during the regular season, they'll need to make sure they don't cross the line. That may mean Cody Bass taking a seat, it may not. I'd rather see Colton Sissons or Austin Watson play his role.
Paul Gaustad taking important faceoffs
DID NOT WORK
Alton Brown refers to kitchen tools that have one purpose as "unitaskers". It makes sense. You don't have that much room in your kitchen to store a ton of single purpose devices. Hockey teams are the same way. Paul Gaustad is very much a unitasker. And like you expect your quesadilla maker to maker a great quesadilla, you expect a guy with Gaustad's salary to win at least half of the draws with under a minute left in his own zone, and not go 0-4. He went 0-4. Mike Fisher might be the better option for that task next time.