Again we ask: is exhaustion an issue?
This morning, Nashville again conducted an optional morning skate -- which is slowly becoming the norm for the Predators as the playoffs continue to stretch on. While there wasn't a large group of players to speak to in the locker room, I took the opportunity to ask them one major question: is exhaustion becoming an issue after traveling nearly 15,000 miles?
Read for yourself.
Ryan Ellis: "It's playoffs. You're intense. You're aggression is up. We're excited to be in the spot we are. Whether we're traveling an hour or four hours on every flight, hockey is hockey. We got to play, we got to win. That's the bottom line."
Shea Weber: "I don't even think about that right now. There's no excuses for energy or exhaustion. I think we work hard in the summer and train for a reason to be ready for these situations."
Pekka Rinne: "No, I don't think so. It's been a tough schedule for us and a really demanding schedule, but at the same time I feel like you're in a rhythm. You just keep going, try to keep your engine running and don't stop. Two California teams, a lot of flying across the US. And playing every second night. I mean, this time of the year you don't really feel how demanding it is."
Forcing the play away from Rinne
One of the many things I've noticed throughout this series is how dominant the Sharks have been once they've brought the puck into the offensive zone and attempt to circulate around Rinne.
Especially on Saturday night, Nashville was victimized on more than one occasion by San Jose forcing the Predators back into their own zone and pressing them close to the goal mouth. In doing so, they were given ample time to make the right pass -- and sometimes, the perfect pass -- setting up one of their five goals.
The Predators have to press the play away from Rinne and closer to the boards or blue line, making the neutral zone the "hill to die on".
Unless Nashville can slow the Sharks down prior to entering the offensive zone, it could be a repeat performance of game five.
Boosting the power play
Nashville has scored a total of four power play goals on 42 opportunities through two rounds. That's awful. Unfortunately, there's no other way to put it.
"Special teams is a big part of the playoffs -- power play and penalty kill. For our power play, we've had success and we scored two on them at home," said Ellis. "It's just simple things: shooting the puck, making the right plays when they're there and not forcing the issue and ultimately scoring goals. That's the bottom line. We need to win and we need to score."
Out of the three chances they had on Saturday night, they failed on all of them -- this included a double-minor opportunity where they couldn't muster but a handful of decent looks, none of them very threatening for Sharks goaltender Martin Jones.
If this series ends tonight, the power play will be reflected upon as one of the key factors for why Nashville lost the series -- much like the six-game loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010.
It has to be better. The Predators know it. It's just a matter of execution, now.