Ryan Johansen's line carried the play against Ryan Kesler's line last night.
Dan: Let's be clear here: Ryan Johansen is the player Nashville has been missing from day one. He tuned up Kesler's line to the tune of 72% SAT for, 72% shots for, and 88% scoring chances for. And when Filip Forsberg sees red and takes the game on his stick, he's hard to deny. That line worked tirelessly for the tying goal, and should've been rewarded with more than just one last night. The Ducks did a good job playing in front of Gibson, but they looked exhausted by the middle of the third period.
Hayley: I think Johansen's been outstanding, and I think this is the type of play we've been eager to see from him since he came to Nashville. I expect his line to continue dominating Ryan Kesler's through-out the rest of this series. There were times last night that Kesler was so ineffective I wasn't even sure he was playing. For someone who crowns himself the king of being able to get inside his opponents' heads, I'd say he's done the exact opposite. Dirty plays aren't going to carry him past talent this far into the playoffs, as long as Johansen keeps his composure I'm not too worried about Kesler breaking out.
Marya: He's carried the play most of the series, and from puck drop in the first game he's shown zero qualms in mixing it up. Even cheesing for the camera and giving the media something to talk about for two days in between games. The only person in this situation who sounds rattled is Randy Carlyle, who went on a bizarre rant about the shot clock last night.
Michael: I believe that Ryan Johansen is in Ryan Kelser’s head more than vice versa. The reason that Kesler is playing “hard” as he describes it, is because Johansen made him look foolish in the first two games. The JOFA line has a combined 10 points in Games 1-3, while Kelser’s line has only three points. Johansen has scored more points by himself than Kesler’s line has.
Mike Fisher has yet to tally anywhere on the score sheet during the postseason. Are you concerned?
Dan: I'm not. Mike Fisher is essentially being a cleaner, more effective Kesler in this series in the sense that he's shutting down the Ducks' offensive threats. Up to this point, he's gotten the better of Ryan Getzlaf in this series. And unlike previous Preds playoff voyages, his line is playing better with the puck this time around. Any offense from the Aberg/Fisher/Watson line is found money. Speaking of, Austin Watson has been a joy to watch this spring. He's like an excited retriever racing after a tennis ball and crashing into stuff.
Hayley: I'm not concerned yet, but I do think it bodes well to get the captain on the score sheet. He's done well shutting down Getzlaf and his angry forehead veins which I feel is a full time job. That being said, nothing would rally the offense like scoring against a guy like Getzlaf. I know Fisher still has another level to his game that we haven't seen yet in this post-season, so whatever he needs to do to reach that level now is the time.
Marya: I'm not exactly concerned. He's played well and got quite a lot of opportunities, especially in game three. That said, we're going to need points from the captain from next game to six wins from now.
Michael: I’m not all too concerned. As is evident from last night, Fisher’s intensity and motor have not slowed down. True, he does not have any points (Yannick Weber is the only other Predator without a playoff point), but Fisher has been crashing the net, fighting in the crease and trying to poke in that first goal. His defensive game has been top notch and despite not scoring any points he has shut down some top lines in the playoffs.
At long last, the power play cashed in an opportunity with the game on the line. What do the Preds need to do to convert more chances?
Dan: It sounds simple, but they have to cycle more aggressively. The Ducks are too big and have too many players willing to block shots to rely on a power play that just stands and shoots. The Nashville Predators can skate with any team in the NHL, and they don't need to be afraid of moving the puck around. Like most of you, I'd like to see Johansen shoot the puck more and start forcing teams to respect his shot. And if the Ducks want to bodyguard their goaltender, keep cycling and exhaust them. That's how Josi's game winner happened.
Hayley: The days of cycling the puck to the point and letting Shea Weber drop bombs until one went in are over, and honestly I think this team can do more than that on the power play. That's not to say that guys like Ellis and Subban can't still make those plays happen, but if that's their play, the cycling needs to be faster and the shots need to be more aggressive. Gibson isn't a push over, but he's still not an elite goaltender. The faster the play moves the more likely he is to lose his tracking and start flopping around like a fish out of water hoping the puck is somewhere underneath him and not in the back of the net. More than likely one of his own team-mates is going to get in his way with the human wall they've been building in front of him. The Preds have to use that to their advantage and not give them time to reset or clear the puck if Gibson doesn't cover the rebound.
Marya: Shoot more, and more quickly. If we saw half as many passes from the point to the right or left wall and back again, I would be ecstatic. Having a player like Josi or Forsberg creeping down the wall to pot rebounds is also key. Gaining the zone is also a big issue--to start the third period last night, it looked like no one wanted to skate over the blue line until Johansen eventually lost it back into the defensive zone. Start with the Josi unit and don't dump the puck in.
Michael: I don’t think you can overthink this. If you worry too much about not scoring on the PP then you will focus too much on it and the play on the ice will suffer. The Preds just need to go about business as usual and all will be fine. If anything, my only suggestion for adjusting the PP would be to feed the defensemen more. P.K. has one heck of a slap shot, Josi has a propensity for scoring timely goals, Ryan Ellis had a nice goal-scoring streak, and letting them tee-off can only bring about good things.
Are there any matchups you want to see more of? Less of?
Dan: The Ducks are having trouble figuring out a way to get Rickard Rakell going in this series. With the Ducks facing a 2-1 deficit on the road, you'll probably see Rakell with Getzlaf and Perry before too long. Should that be the case, the Ekholm/Subban pairing may be the better choice for that matchup. Subban can clear the puck as good as anyone in the league, and Nashville has been winning that matchup so far. If the Fisher line stays in its current composition with Aberg and Watson, they can work just fine with Ekholm and Subban. Watson and Aberg have been running down loose pucks, and Watson's defensive range has been a very useful tool so far.
Hayley: Where is Miikka Salomaki? The fourth line hasn't been terrible by any means, but Salomaki was a big factor in the series against the Ducks last year. Corey Perry couldn't breath on the ice without taking a hit from him. The longer this series goes on the more physical it's going to get and the Preds could use a guy like Miikka who's not afraid to throw his weight around but has a little more discipline and isn't necessarily looking for a fight.
Marya: I'm pretty happy with the way the matchups shook out in game three. All of the Preds were firmly on the good side of the posession line, and even the old fourth line+third pair combo didn't give me many heart attacks. This team is literally just better than the opposition, regardless of this series' outcome.
Michael: I want to see more of Johansen vs. Kesler. Like I mentioned before, Joey is in Kesler’s head. I think it really irritates Kesler, and anytime he sees Johansen he’s more focused on chipping him or cheap-shotting him that it takes away his focus on trying to score. I’m also intrigued by Ekholm-Subban and their ability to shutdown and control opposing team’s top lines.