It’s not often that a team you pull for has the opportunity to really make history in their franchise legacy. Yes, Nashville has been here before, a chance to knock out an opponent on home ice to progress into the next round of the playoffs. However, there is a vast difference between the Anaheim Ducks and the Detroit Red Wings. While Anaheim has a boatload of talent and a Stanley Cup to their name, but there are not many teams that can easily match the storied history of Detroit.
With the Nashville Predators just one win away (again) from the second round, they have a chance to do something that few teams have done against the Red Wings in their history: knock them out of the playoffs in 5 games. Over Detroit’s 85+ year history, only 10 teams so far have beaten the Wings in a total of 5 games. Never have the Red Wings been beaten in 5 games in the first round of the playoffs since the format of the playoffs was switched to four rounds in the 80’s. 6 games? Sure. Swept in 4? Yep, once against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. However, NEVER 5 games.
Fans will be doing everything they can think of to superstitiously will Nashville into a game 5 victory, however if the Predators are going to pull this off, it’s going to come down to a few different realistic scenarios:
1) Pekka Rinne – Rinne has faced everything that Detroit has been able to throw at him and has only allowed 8 goals on 130 shots over the course of the series. Yes, Rinne is averaging 32.5 shots faced a night, and he has a 3-1 record to show for it. Regardless of how crazy it seems that the more shots the Finnish netminder faces the better he is, Nashville will have to do it’s part to try and give Rinne a clear view of any shot that comes his way tonight. The men in front of Rinne have done a decent enough job enhancing Rinne’s vision in the zone, however they’ll need to be on top of their game tonight.
2) Neutral Zone Pressure – Nashville will have to clog the zones early and often as the Red Wings are going to be pressing hard. The Predators have seen Detroit walk through the neutral zone on more than one occasion this series and throughout all the many different times Nashville has faced the Red Wings over the course of their history, however they’ve seen nothing like a Red Wings team on the brink of elimination.
3) Offense – Nashville’s offense has slowly been increasing it’s play over the past 4 games, even though scoring 11 goals over the past 4 games. Yet, with the way they performed in the third period of game 4, the Predators have an opportunity to carry that over into game 5 and possibly do some real damage to the scoreboard. Do I think that will happen? Probably not, I don’t see Nashville scoring 5-6 goals tonight against Detroit. Is it possible? You better believe it.
Detroit isn’t going to allow another 4-man Benny Hill defensive lapse this game, but it’s just a matter of time before the floodgates break open for the Predators, whether it be this series or not. Alex Radulov, Mike Fisher, Martin Erat, and Patric Hornqvist have yet to register a goal on the statsheet, which is unbelievable to say the least.
4) 60 Minute Effort – Nashville, in my opinion, has yet to play a full 60 minute effort in this series. Imagine what the game would look like at the final horn if they were? Suppose Nashville comes out tonight and doesn’t stop pressing until the buzzer in the third period sounds. You’d be hard-pressed to tell me that the Predators wouldn’t be the team leading on the scoreboard at the end of the game.
Granted, Nashville played a 40 minute performance on Game 2 and they ended up on the losing end of it. Yet still, if the Predators top lines don’t leave the game to be decided by the bottom 6 forwards and Kevin Klein/Shea Weber, this game could be pretty lopsided.
History is history until you earn it. Has Nashville earned their spot in history yet? No. Yes, they’ve won a playoff series. Yes, they’ve proven they can win a big game when they need to. But things are always a little bit different when you factor in Detroit as your opponent. The Predators haven’t earned anything yet and they know it.
Respect? Not yet.
Praise? Too much too soon.
Bragging rights? Yeah right.
With a Game 5 victory tonight against the Red Wings, Nashville will be at the quarter-pole towards their march to the Stanley Cup. They won’t have proved anything to anyone yet, but they may have finally earned some level of respect from Red Wing Nation (or hatred). The Predators can win this game, there is no question about that, but they have a lot of work in front of them tonight if they want to shake some hands and earn a little bit of extra rest.