If you're like me, you spent most of Sunday trying to forget about Game 5. Everything about that game was miserable. The team lost in ugly fashion, everyone looked pissed off and uncomfortable, Mike Ribeiro did dumb things, and now the Sharks have control of the series.
But, hey! The series isn't over! New life comes in the next game. "You are never as good as you think you are on your best day, and you are never as bad as you think you are on your worst day" and so on. This is the playoffs and you get to watch your beloved hockey team take the ice at Bridgestone Arena once more to prove to the world that they can row with the best of them. Go root them on, they deserve it.
The San Jose Sharks
Yo, this is the same team the Preds have faced in 5 games, except that Dainius Zubrus took Tommy Wingels spot on the 4th line in Game 5. And I don't think Dainius Zubrus will be the reason the Sharks win this series, if they do so. So for the most part, the Preds know what they are facing.
The Sharks are skilled and dangerous at every level of the game. The players we thought would be tough to handle are, in fact, tough to handle. Brent Burns has made his mark several times. The Couture-Ward-Donskoi line has been a nightmare. And then in Game 5, Joe Pavelski took over. We can count on seeing all of those players play well in tonight's game.
To me, the one weakness still appears to be Martin Jones. All four goals in the Game 4 triple overtime win were off rebounds in front of the net. All four goals in the Game 3 win were shots in the upper half of the net, glove side. In Game 6, the Preds never really got into the attacking zone when the game was still in doubt, so they couldn't test Jones much. There doesn't need to be much of a change in the attacking approach for the Predators: get traffic in front and when you see your shot, shoot high glove side. Rebounds will be there, just need to put them home.
The Nashville Predators
Mike Ribeiro is the PT Cruiser of the NHL. Not very appealing, impractically designed, famously unreliable, dangerously slow... and yet somehow ubiquitous. You keep seeing these things out on the road, wondering, "Why do we still have these? Haven't we gotten rid of all these yet?" While the rest of the highway is full of roaring, peppy horsepower-raging machines, this clunky, dawdling spaceship is awkwardly yielding at a green light.
But let's be fair. The entire team sucked on Saturday. From the forwards to the defense to the goaltending. Nothing worked. When your best player on the ice was probably Anthony Bitetto, who finished +11 Corsi in 15 minutes TOI, and was the only Predator besides his partner Barret Jackman with a positive +/-, that's not a great sign.
Ekholm & Ellis had a particularly bad game. They seemed caught in between offense and defense for most of the game, which meant they were stuck in the middle doing very little. Josi and Weber were not much better. None of the forward lines could generate a forecheck. Even the usual forecheckified Viktor Arvidsson wasn't all that effective. Arvidsson, along with James Neal, Colin Wilson, Calle Jarnkrok, Mike Fisher, Paul Gaustad, Miikka Salomaki and the aforementioned PT Ribeiro, all finished with a negative Corsi rating, with only 1 goal between them.
Did the Sharks take control of the game too early? James Neal: "Pretty visible, wasn't it? We weren't ready to go."— Adam Vingan (@AdamVingan) May 8, 2016
So what gets fixed, besides the obvious? I'd only fix one thing: attitude. As Neal, Ellis, Laviolette, and others pointed out, that game was just bad from start to finish, mostly because the Preds weren't in the game mentally until it was too late. Poor passing, turnovers, bad positioning, lack of focus in key moments, losing control of emotions late... that screams mental imbalance and emotional instability. But I don't think that means there is a trend here. From the beginning of the season, there have been moments like these. And in those moments, the real leaders of this team have stepped up. This team needs Shea Weber to be vocal about that performance and to make it clear that that performance is not Predators hockey. Weber likes to pick his spots when it comes to being vocal, opting to mostly just lead by example. Time to speak up and tell this team they sucked on Saturday. Because if nothing changes, they are staring at a playoff exit.
A Reason To Be Happy
These two GIFs:
Those things happened. Be happy. And get ready for the encore tonight.
The Important Details
8 PM puck drop on CNBC. Radio: 102.5 The Game