After another marathon evening, the Predators won in double-overtime once again to defeat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 in Bridgestone Arena. The victory brought the Predators level with the Hurricanes in this series, tying the series at 2-2 as both teams head back to Raleigh for game 5.
Once they took a 2-0 series lead, the Hurricanes did not expect to be in this situation, all tied up with the Predators. Let’s dive into what happened in yesterday’s game.
1. Fundamentals Work
From his first day as the head coach of the Nashville Predators, John Hynes preached fundamentals, structure, and organization to his team. He’s asked his players to adhere to the metaphorical textbook of hockey, and the goal in the second overtime showed that the textbook approach paid off.
It’s an incredibly simple goal that was scored, one where each player had a very specific objective. That play has been on the whiteboards of countless coaches across the world. Dump the puck, reverse it behind the net, have the third forward hang high for a shot from the slot. It’s as textbook as it gets. Regardless of how late the game went, how tired the players were, the Predators stuck to the book. The approach tied this series.
2. Adjustments Working, but Better Discipline and First Periods Needed
Akin to some of their issues throughout the season, the Nashville Predators’ paid the price for poor first period play. Although Luke Kunin scored on his first shot of the game, the Predators were outshot horribly in the first period. The penalty totals also reflect this; the Predators took three minor penalties, albeit one coincidental, in the opening third of the game.
The Predators have demonstrated issues with discipline all series, perhaps partially due to not being able to keep up with Carolina’s speed. But needless cross-checking and tripping penalties keep appearing throughout these games.
Carolina went 0-4 on the power play today. With the second-best unit in the NHL, they should not need many additional opportunities to score again. The Predators must remain more disciplines
3. Ryan Johansen is Dialed In
At times, I have been particularly critical of Ryan Johansen over the past few seasons. At times he looked a bit lost out on the ice and seemed to be a bit of a passenger on the team. I stand by those comments, especially because of the level to which he has elevated his play over the last month, climaxing in a dominant performance tonight.
The goal Johansen scored tonight came from complete domination of all aspects of the offensive zone. From throwing his body around, driving towards the net, and digging in the slot to find and shovel the puck in, Johansen’s playing big, physical, and skilled. He’s become an absolute monster in this series and, when Johansen shifts into this gear, he’s an absolutely complete player.
State of the Series
The Predators, after two consecutive double-overtime victories, travel back to Raleigh with the series all tied up 2-2. The Predators will need to win at least one game in Carolina to advance to the next round, and it would be really convenient if the game they decided to capitalize on such an opportunity was the next one.
However, I’m worried about how close the last two games were. The Predators did squeeze out two hard-fought wins but, without the last line change, can they still contain Carolina? There have been glimpses the last two games of the dominance demonstrated by the Hurricanes in the first two games of this series. The Predators need to do everything they can to keep suffocating the Hurricanes’ offense. It will be significantly more challenging to do so without that last change.
In my recap for game 3, I mentioned that I needed to see another outstanding offensive performance by the Predators for me to believe that game 3 was no fluke. I’m convinced. The consistency found up and down the forward lines is extremely encouraging. Sure, the Predators should have buried more chances (looking at you, Nick Cousins - put the puck in the air on that chance!), but full credit needs to be given to Carolina goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic, who made some incredible saves this game.
With game 5 coming up, Head Coach John Hynes needs to keep pressing the right buttons as he did the last two games. If he can manage figuring out how to beat Carolina having the last change, the Predators have a real chance to finally score a road win this series.