San Jose/Nashville - Game Four: What To Watch For
San Jose couldn't match the desperation level from the Predators on Tuesday night. Can they do so tonight? If not, it'll be an even series and turn into a best-of-three to start on Saturday.
Matching the desperation level
Interestingly enough, there are two sides to this equation. Nashville was easily the more desperate team for game three. Not just in driving the play towards Sharks goaltender Martin Jones, but diving to clear the puck out of the defensive zone during penalty kills, sacrificing the body to block shots, and shooting the puck like they were facing elimination.
San Jose had no answer. They'll have to have one tonight if they want a chance to close out the series this weekend.
"Whether it's game one or game two, you're up or you're down, there's a level that you have to hit," said Sharks captain Joe Pavelski. "We can definitely hit a higher level than this last game or two. That's one area I think we'll try to be a little better and compete a little bit more."
Here's the kicker: can the Predators duplicate the same level of desperation from Tuesday? There's no reason to think they can't, but in the same sense there's no reason to believe that San Jose won't be able to match them stride for stride.
Silencing the crowd
When the Predators get rolling, especially at home, the crowd behind them is easily one of the loudest across the league. They've done a fantastic job of energizing the team during some of the tougher moments throughout the season and when they're dominating the opposition.
The Sharks will be tasked with silencing Nashville's faithful early and often -- a tall task in and of itself. Patrick Marleau was able to do so in the first period of game three, but James Neal's tying goal woke the crowd up and they were relentless after that.
"The energy is fun to play in," said San Jose forward Nick Spaling, who spent his first five seasons with Nashville. "The fans [in Nashville] get loud. I think it's a fun series because both barns are pretty loud crowds. It makes for fun places to play."
If San Jose, one of the league's best road teams, can quiet the crowd with a couple of quick goals in the first period tonight, it could take the crowd out of the game early enough and even the playing field.
But remember: the Sharks are 1-7 in their last eight trips to Bridgestone Arena.
So far in the playoffs, Nashville's done a fairly solid job of finding ways to battle adversity. They did so after losing three straight against Anaheim and capitalized on its chances against the Sharks in game three after dropping the first two of the series.
Assuming the Predators can channel the same energy and effort they had on Tuesday night, they have a great opportunity of repeating the same performance and tying the series up heading back to Northern California for game five.
Just like in games six and seven from the last series against the Ducks, it's just a matter of out-performing San Jose -- which is easier said than done.
Tonight is going to be a slug-fest. If any game were going to go to overtime for Nashville, this may be the one.