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The Bottom 6, Lucky Bounces, and Impekkable Pekka: What to take out of Game 1


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Photo Credit: John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images

Everyone knew this series was going to be a scrappy and down-right rough between the Red Wings and Predators, but who knew that it was going to start from Game 1?

While you could sit there and point to a ton of different aspects as to what the real reason the Predators pulled out the victory last night, the bottom line is that they survived. That’s probably the most defining moment than any other one, and we’re bound to see more of those along the way

Could anyone have thought last night before the game started that Nashville’s top 2 lines would have been shut down, that the Predators would go 0 FOR 6 on the powerplay and take 8 penalties, and that Gabriel Bourque and Paul Gaustad would be your goal scorers for the night?

If you would have told me that, I would have probably called the medic to check your vitals and make sure you still had a active pulse.

Regardless, that’s exactly what happened, Nashville’s third and fourth lines seemed to match up better against Detroit than Mike Babcock had foreseen before the series had began. Granted, Babcock and Detroit were expecting to have Darren Helm for the entirety of the game when it now looks like they may be without him for the entirety of the series after his forearm was slashed open from being accidentally stepped on with a skate. (All my best to Helm for a speedy recovery, as much as I think he CAN be a game changer for the Wings and I don’t want to play against him, you never wish for ANYTHING like that to happen to any player, ever).

There were multiple things last night that you can take away from the game, both in a positive and negative overtone to them:

1) POSITIVE - Pekka Rinne’s outstanding play. Craig Custance believes that Rinne surely can’t be human after his insane performance between the pipes last night. Rinne stopped 35 of 37 shots last night against a dangerous Detroit Red Wings team. That includes 4 shots from Franzen, 3 from Datsyuk, and 5 from both Holmstrom and Zetterberg.

Granted, Rinne let in 2 powerplay goals over the course of 60 minutes, but Detroit had to literally find a puck that was 2 inches away from the goal line to be able to get it into the net. Anything that was further out than that was stopped by the lengthy extended reach of Pekka Rinne.

Rinne had brilliant flashes like that last postseason against Vancouver, however a failure of “run support” by his team cost the Predators that series. This year? It looks like it could be a bit different

2) POSITIVE - When the likes of Gabriel Bourque and Paul Gaustad can net three goals off of a world class goalie like Jimmy Howard, you know that you are getting some kind of luck from the Hockey Gods.

Case and point? Two of Nashville’s goals last night were downright lucky, you can’t even argue it.

Paul Gaustad’s first goal came off of a failed wraparound attempt that banked in off of Brad Stuart’s skate and right in the net. The previous times Nashville has been in the playoffs, they’ve never seen those kind of lucky bounces, however they’ve been on the recipient-end of plays like that in the past that haven’t gone their way.

Case and point? Nick Lidstrom’s bouncing goal over Ellis’s shoulder from center ice the last time the Predators played the Red Wings. Lucky bounces and tips factor in to deep Stanley Cup runs, they always have. With Nashville being the recipient of a couple last night, two that rightfully shouldn’t have happened, it makes me hopeful that the Hockey Gods are in favor of Nashville this time around

3) NEGATIVE - The penalty parade. We talked about this one in our playoff primer about how if both teams tracked to the box on a constant basis, it was going to be a short series one way or the other. But 14 penalties between the two LEAST penalized teams in the league? How in the world does that happen?

I’m not sure if it has anything to do with Commissioner Bettman being in the stands for the game last night or if it was just the referees being a little trigger-happy with their whistles, but there were questionable calls on both ends of the spectrum last night. Both Detroit and Nashville benefited and were victimized by calls last night.

Either way, both the Predators and Red Wings know that they have to simmer down and have a more controlled game. The first team to figure that out and stay out of the box is going to have the advantage in this series.

4) NEGATIVE - What happened to the top lines last night? Both Kostitsyn brothers, Legwand, Fisher, Erat, and Radulov had a combined 0g, 0a, and a +0 with a grand total of SEVEN shots on goal the entire night. Yes, you read that right, SEVEN SHOTS ON GOAL total between the six players in lines 1 and 2 for the Predators.

That MUST change.

Nashville DID get support from lines 3 and 4, fortunately, however for this to be a long playoff run for Predators seven shots on goal total from your top 6 forwards isn’t going to cut it at all. Granted, they had some fine chances during their gaggle of powerplays, and Erat should have easily had 2 goals last night, they have to take more opportunities against this dangerous Wings team, especially if they want to succeed and head back to Detroit up 2 games to 0.

5) POSITIVE - Nashville muscled a win over Detroit. How often do you hear that being said? The Predators grinded along in the boards, won the necessary puck battles, and literally muscled a win out of Detroit. In years past, Detroit would have came from behind and won that game last night, I have no doubts in my mind.

However, the fact that Nashville HELD OFF the Wings, took a 3-1 lead and prevented them from tying the game at the end of regulation speaks loads about how different this series between the Predators/Red Wings is this year from years past.

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All in all, Nashville’s bottom 6 were the difference-makers last night against the Wings in game 1 and it gave the Predators a crucial 1 game to 0 lead over Detroit. The Predators are going to have to REALLY turn up the tempo on Friday night, especially if they could be perhaps without the services of both Gill and Weber.

We’ll find out if Weber will be suspended here soon, but either way, Game 2 is going to be a dogfight and it’s going to get nasty.

Mark my words.

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