The Predators gave everyone in Bridgestone Arena a nice scare last night.
Despite being the overwhelming favorites in their series against the Avalanche, the Avs took two different leads in Game 1. The Avs’ speed looked to be overwhelming the Preds for the most part and for 40 minutes it looked like they might steal the first game.
Then Filip Forsberg and the 3rd period happened.
Thanks to two Forsberg goals—one of which will be on the highlight reel for a long time—the Predators took a lead that they wouldn’t give up. Pekka Rinne made 25 saves on his way to his 37th career win in the playoffs.
Here’s a look at the biggest keys to last night’s win.
Wait... special teams?
I thought that was supposed to be The Great Struggle.
Somehow, the Predators won the special teams battle last night and it started with not taking as many penalties as the opponent. Despite owning a vastly different penalty differential in the regular season—a -28 for the Preds compared to +26 for the Avs—the Preds only took three penalties (and only one in the 2nd and 3rd periods) compared to the Avs’ four.
It was also about what happened during those resulting power plays. The Predators scored the only power play goal of the night, a roof job in front by Craig Smith.
Colorado went 0-4 on the power play and only managed four shots on Rinne in total. The Preds’ penalty kill was on its game, as it has been for a while. The Avs are a dangerous power play team, as Bobby talked about here, but they only managed one or two real scoring chances in power play time.
You’d still like to see the Preds stay out of the box more often. Giving Colorado four penalties a game isn’t a recipe for success, but they survived last night.
Pekka Rinne, Because Of Course
Nikita Zadorov scored a goal from a dangerous area early in the game. Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen used their speed to create space, leaving a ton of room for Zadorov in the high slot area. He doesn’t have a world class shot or anything, but he beat Rinne. You’d expect Rinne to save that. It wasn’t a great start for Rinne and it wasn’t a great start for the Preds.
But after that? He was completely on it.
First, he scrambled to stop this shot by Colin Wilson and then got some help from Matt Irwin. I’m not sure how this didn’t go in.
Then later in the period, there was this save on Rantanen. A full stretch leg pad to prevent the tuck in. Unbelievable.
Also unbelievable on that play was P.K. Subban. A complete brain fart leads to that break in. Who was he defending there? Not a great look. Love the guy, but we have to be honest in our critique of the team around here: he didn’t have a great night.
Finally, Rinne made this save on MacKinnon, a glove save on a 2-on-1 breakout.
This is one of those saves where I was already marking down the goal in my game notes. With 92 and 29 bearing down, you just figure it’s going to be a goal.
MacKinnon’s crucial mistake? Shooting too early. Rinne had to stretch to make that glove save and left all kinds of net open. If MacKinnon hesitates even for a fraction of a second, he has five-hole and far post to put the puck. But maybe he got antsy and figured his wrister was good enough to beat Rinne.
Nope. It wasn’t.
Last night was a classic “keep them in the game” performance from Rinne. The Preds will need more of that in the series if they want to advance.
A Visit From The Prince
Finishing with two goals on seven shots, Filip Forsberg was a force last night. His line was rattled early on, as most of the team was, but when the game was on the line, Johansen and Forsberg played outstanding.
What’s great is that Forsberg’s two goals could not be more diametrically opposite. In the first, he literally just stood there and let the puck deflect in from a Roman Josi shot.
Bouncing pucks are nightmares for goalies and defenders, but daydreams for forwards. It doesn’t matter how the puck goes in, it just matters that it goes in. Forsberg knew all he had to do was go to the front of the net and something good would happen, just like Josi knew all he had to do was send a puck on net. Just like that, the game was tied.
Compare that smart hockey play to this unreal display of skill and power.
Here’s another look:
This Filip Forsberg goal is pic.twitter.com/h3In8SXMAf— Bar South N Celly™ (@BarSouthNCelly) April 13, 2018
It’s this kind of ability that makes Forsberg so dangerous.
Being a right-handed shot, moving in on the left side of the ice, the only real way to protect the puck is to keep it on your off-hand. Johansen is very good at this, using his body to keep the puck far away from the defender’s reach. But Forsberg doesn’t do that.
Instead, he protects the puck with a dangle right in from of Samuel Girard, then taps it in between his legs, clearing the path to the puck in the process. Just beautiful. Then he still has to beat the goalie, which he does with a nice power move and confident snap shot on the far post.
In addition to the two goals, Forsberg finished with decent possession numbers in the 2nd half of the game. JOFA was matched against the MacKinnon line early on and things weren’t going well. Laviolette made a switch to match them up with Colorado’s 2nd line—with Tyson Jost and Alexander Kerfoot—and they had much more success. This was a key move to get the top line going. Full credit to Lavy there.
Final note: Forsberg is now tied for the franchise lead in career playoff points. He now has 28, tied with Shea Weber. I like his chances to break that record on Saturday.