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Stifling Defense Launches Nashville Predators Past Avalanche

The gang moves on to the Second Round. Oh and #SissonsScored!

Nashville Predators v Colorado Avalanche - Game Six Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Well, it’s done. After six games of very stress-inducing hockey, your Nashville Predators are moving on to the second round. Bring on the handshakes.

There’s Vezina candidate Pekka Rinne shaking hands with Corey Crawford... oh wait that’s the wrong first round series.

There. That’s better. The handshake line from the Preds’ 2018 first round series, featuring Vezina finalist Peks (and the rest of the team) giving former Predator Colin Wilson a huge hug.

Now let’s dive into what happened Sunday night.

The Preds opened up the game ready to close out the series, firing on all cylinders. After nearly seven minutes of onslaught, #SissonsScored on the Hamburglar to give the Preds a 1-0 lead. Or did he?

Now, the Preds ended up dominating this game all over, so there’s no need to dwell on this arguably bad call, but it’s worth going over again. The play starts with a failed clear floating perfectly to the tape of Ellis’ stick. Ellis proceeds to pass it to Smith, who fires a shot wide, where it’s picked up by Sissons and sent into a completely empty net. At some point between Smith and Sissons’ shots, Hammond skates out of the crease, and Turris (who might have been-probably was pushed by Sam Girard) crashes into him. Tim Peel sees this contact and waves off the goal on the ice immediately for goaltender interference.

The play gets reviewed by Toronto, who agreed with Peel enough about the play to keep the call standing as is, no goal. Here’s a good look at the play:

Fortunately for the Preds, the puck don’t lie. And boy did it tell the truth after Sissons’ goal was disallowed. 16 seconds later, Sissons passes to a wide open Ekholm, who skates to Hammond’s blocker side and fires a slap shot from the faceoff circle that no goalie was stopping.

The Preds took control of the scoreboard with that Ekholm goal—basically the only part of the game they weren’t controlling at that point—and they never looked back. Shortly after Ekholm’s goal, noted goal scorer Austin Watson found the back of the net to extend the Preds lead to 2-0.

After Watson finished off Sissons’ shot off the post, it was Bonino’s turn. Nick took the puck and dragged it along around Hammond before firing on a very wide open net to extend the Preds lead. Franchise playoff points leader Filip Forsberg followed that up with a goal of his own to more or less put the game completely out of reach.

As a nice layer of icing on the cake, Viktor Arvidsson channeled his inner Ender Inciarte for a drag bunt style goal to give the Nashville Predators a five goal victory in Denver.

So what worked for the Preds? Well, the defense finally showed up to help Peks for 60 minutes—and the offense showed up too. Not only did they hold Colorado to 22 shots on goal, but they kept a majority of those shots from being in high danger areas.

Well. Those are two different heat maps for sure.

As the heat map shows, Colorado’s unblocked shot attempts were, for the most part, in places not very difficult for Rinne to get in front of. The Preds on the other hand put up an onslaught of shots from all over, and the Hamburglar from Sunday’s game was not the same Hamburglar from Friday’s.

Here’s another look at the shot attempts for the Avs, from HockeyViz:

That is definitely what you want to see... a nice clean crease in front of Rinne, with the majority of the chances from well outside the slot.

The Presidents’ Trophy winning Predators showed up Sunday, and that team can beat anyone. Here’s to hoping they show up in the next round against Winnipeg.