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Nashville’s Speed Advantage Needs to be Utilized

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Through the opening two games the Predators are superior in one aspect of the series. And they have plenty of room to enhance it.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Nashville Predators at St. Louis Blues Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

After my “expert” analysis of the first two games in the series, I’ve come to one distinct conclusion. The Nashville Predators are a much faster team than the St. Louis Blues.

And Nashville needs to do a better job of capitalizing on that advantage when they come back to Bridgestone Arena.

Their edge in terms of skating isn’t surprising when comparing rosters coming into the series. The Blues pride themselves on being a physically imposing lineup that wears the opponent down with a consistent structure in the neutral zone under new coach Mike Yeo.

The blueline of St. Louis consists of veteran experience with Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo combined with the size of Colton Parayko. But the word “mobile” defenseman isn’t used often when describing this group.

The forward core of the Blues is deep and talented, but there are few guys you would consider excellent skaters. Vladimir Taresenko is an elite goal scorer, but he’s not blowing past anyone. The same could be said for a lot of the Blues forwards throughout the four lines they deploy.

On the other hand, Nashville possesses likely the best transition defensive group in the league. Forwards such as Viktor Arvidsson and Colin Wilson are just a couple of the guys in gold that can really move.

For much of Game 1 and in the third period of Game 2, the speed difference between the two teams was evident. Especially when the Nashville defense would jump in the play on the rush.

St. Louis would much rather the series be played at a slower pace through the neutral zone with an emphasis on physical play.

How does Nashville increase their advantage in terms of skating?

It starts with a few lineup changes. The strategy coming into the series seemed to be how can we match up better with St. Louis grinding style of play? That likely resulted in the insertion of Vernon Fiddler and Cody McLeod into the lineup.

But perhaps the thinking should have been, “Hey, we just swept the best team in the Western Conference. Let’s make the Blues try and match up with us.”

The insertion of Craig Smith when healthy will help the cause and giving Pontus Aberg another shot increases the team’s speed. In addition, a return of the productive bottom six line in round one with Austin Watson, Mike Fisher, and Harry Zolnierczyk (didn’t even google the spelling) could cause St. Louis fits with the speed of those wingers centered by the captain.

The Predators are in a solid position heading back to Nashville. They’ll likely get another power play at some point in the series. But there’s an opportunity to put themselves in the driver’s seat going forward.

Speed kills, and Nashville has plenty to burn.