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Western Conference Semi-Finals: Game 3 – Phoenix @ Nashville


Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It is not the truest definition of a must-win game, but it isn’t far from it and it starts with the above pictured individual: Pekka Rinne. Nashville dropped an ugly one to the Phoenix Coyotes on Sunday and Pekka Rinne has now let in the same amount of goals he let in for the entire series against Detroit: 9.

The much-vaunted defensive core for Nashville has also been MIA and many are questioning Trotz’ pairings, namely having Klein with Josi and Gill with Bouillon. Klein and Josi are a combined -8 in the two games against Phoenix which is staggering considering that Phoenix has scored 9 goals. Another wrench in the system is the subtraction of Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexander Radulov from Game 3 for a team rule violation. It seems Murphy’s law really has it out for the Predators right about now but thankfully the Predators are stacked with talent to plug in the holes with the likes of a Craig Smith, Colin Wilson, Matt Halischuk or Jordin Tootoo.

Puck drop is at 8 P.M. and can be viewed on CNBC or listened to locally/online at 102.5 the Game with Pete Weber and Terry Crisp handling the color and play-by-play.

Phoenix leads series 2-0

The Keys for Phoenix: There is not much to say about how Phoenix should play any better than they did Sunday night. It was a complete effort of forechecking strong, getting sticks in the lanes and forcing the Predators to the outside. The transition game of the Coyotes is phenomenal and by watching the first two games the chemistry of the “Prime Line” in Whitney, Vrbata and Vermette is helping them collect multi-point efforts.

Mike Smith has also been a huge key in keeping Nashville off the board. Although he has been peppered with shots, Smith does not lose his cool or focus even when the Predators keep trying to get back in the game and tally on their power play. Smith keeps it interesting but the offense of the Coyotes has certainly helped to overshadow any inconsistencies in his game.

If Phoenix can take what will be a rabid crowd out of the game early and draw first blood (which seems to be the key for beating the Predators: 0-3 when the opponent scores first in the playoffs) Phoenix can put a huge stranglehold on this series and force Nashville to win out to advance.

The Keys for Nashville: It comes down to desperation. The same kind used for the last two periods of Game 1 and the kind of play that stifles the offense of Phoenix while capitalizing on their mistakes. It is what has come to be known as “Predators Hockey” and it has been absent for all of Game 2 and the first half of Game 1. If the Predators can put forth a full 60 minute effort, then the ice may start to tilt in their favor and Nashville can try to even up the series while holding serve on home ice.

The absence of A. Kostitsyn and Radulov is a crushing blow, so much that there are many Predators fans hopelessly losing faith and stepping closer to the proverbial cliff. If there was ever a time to shake things up and see if a change can bring forth a better effort; it is now. Having a roster full of depth is something the Predators have never truly had at their disposal. Nashville has their pick of NHL ready talent such as Smith, Tootoo, Wilson and Halischuk. All have proven their skills in the regular season and Tootoo was an unforeseen beast in the playoffs last season.

Rinne needs to play stellar hockey from here on out. The unspoken rule for the Nashville Predators is that if they score 3 goals, they should get the win. In both games against Phoenix, Nashville has scored 3 goals but allowed an extra three tallies from Phoenix to end up where they are. Rinne can stone opponents and it has to start Wednesday night and continue for the rest of this series for the Predators to have a chance of digging themselves out of the 2-0 hole. It’s time for Phoenix to find out why Rinne is imPEKKAble.


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