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Western Conference Quarter Finals: Game 3 – Nashville @ Detroit


Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images

The series is knotted at 1-1 and the home ice advantage now swings over to the Detroit Red Wings. Detroit came out Friday night determined to have the puck luck turn to their favor. A deflection goal and a softie that Rinne assuredly wants back were the difference as the Red Wings took the second game 3-2.

Nashville for all intents and purposes played a better game and had multiple chances (especially on the PP) but couldn’t convert. Howard stoned at least 3 golden chances and the PP has now gone 0-12 in the two games.

The absentee line has been the “top line” of Nashville…the Erat/Fisher/S.Kostitsyn line. Going a combined -6 (all from Friday’s game) and ZERO points, it might be time for Trotz to shake things up.

Most notable sources who follow the playoffs knew this wasn’t going to be a cake walk for either team and the chessmatch between Trotz and Babcock is finally starting to come into focus after testing the weaknesses in their armor.

Puck drop is at 11 A.M. Central. NBC will have the matinee coverage and 102.5 the Game will cover the radio feed.

Keys for the Red Wings: Home ice has been very good for the Detroit Red Wings as they shattered the previous record for consecutive home wins with 23. The crowd has willed Detroit to post-season success before and it’ll be up to the Red Wings to continue the looming tradition of beat downs in front of the Joe Louis crowd.

As a mirror of Wednesday’s game, it was the bottom two lines contributing for 1 of Detroit’s 3 goals in their win. Cory Emmerton provided the padding of the one-goal lead with a seeing-eye wrister that handcuffed Rinne while playing the two-on-one. Ian White had a similar wrister find it’s way through traffic for the first tally and blind puck luck saw the third Detroit goal go off of Franzen’s leg (a.k.a. Gaustad’s lucky bounce of Stuart).

The biggest key of the series so far has been the shutdown of the league’s most potent power play. Nashville is 0 for 12 and haven’t been able to capitalize even with close to 1:30 of 5-on-3 play. If Detroit can keep the pressure on Nashville’s man advantage and force the play to the outside, it’ll be extremely hard for Nashville to break through to Howard…and even then Howard has shown he can stop it them too.

Keys for the Predators: SHOOT THE PUCK!! Once again it is a simple concept that Terry Crisp belies upon incessantly but it is one area that Nashville has been holding their sticks too tight. Looking for the perfect shot or pass has left Nashville aching on the power play and brought screams of “SHOOT” from the rafters of Bridgestone Arena. For Nashville to have any success on the power play, they will have to adjust and spread out the Red Wings.

The Wings are playing a collapsing system that has two players going after the puck carrier. The more Nashville stands around setting up the play, the faster the Red Wings can come at them, disrupt the play and clear the puck. Nashville needs a large body in front of the net and Hornqvist can only do so much if Nashville doesn’t get any shots on goal. It might be time to have Gaustad out there to not only take the important offensive zone draws, but to stand in front and screen or tip the puck. He has size and hands for the job so it is a possibility that Trotz gives this option the green light.

Another suggestion (h/t to Marty McSurley) is to drop S. Kostitsyn to the third line, promote Hornqvist to the Legwand/A.Kostitsyn line and move Radulov up to wing Erat and Fisher. This might be the jump start to better things without completely re-tinkering the system. Either that or put the Kostitsyn’s together with Legwand (like the second PP unit) and bump Radulov to the top line. Either way this change could be the impetus to a new and improved level of Predators hockey.


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