Friday had only two games on the board, but one of them had a greater chance to finish up than the other. Let’s take a closer look at why the Predators took care of the Red Wings in 5 games.
What you needed to know
Nashville Predators: The Red Wings lost only 7 games at home in regulation this season, but that didn’t stop the Predators from winning 3 straight games at Joe Louis Arena. Many are going to point at the lopsided point total and claim the better team lost, a sentiment echoed by Mike Babcock in his game 4 post-game press conference. He was at a complete loss for words while waving around the stat sheet at the podium. The simple answer? Two word — Pekka Rinne.
Almost every Nashville player openly acknowledged that the team did not play very well in the first two periods of game 4. In the 2nd intermission, the guys said they need a serious push back in period three to help out Rinne. That's the thing with this Preds team: even when they don’t bring their “A” game, they still have the league’s best goalie between the pipes. Some would argue that Henrik Lundqvist holds that title, but given King Henrik’s 1-8 overtime playoff record, there is certainly room for debate.
What was important for us to know is that Rinne was completely in the Red Wings' heads at the moment. They consciously throw the puck at the net every chance they get in the hopes of getting a tip, a screen, or a crazy deflection of some guys butt. That approach was only good for one goal on Tuesday. Rinne stopped 81 of 84 shots he faced in Detroit, and 9 times out of 10 those kinds of numbers are good enough to come away with victories. Making matters worse for Detroit is that Rinne is 14-0-2 this year when he faces at least 35 shots.
The other problem Detroit faced on Friday is the rabid Nashville crowd. Bridgestone Arena is going to be rocking in the hopes of a potential series-clinching win. Not many cities can boast the kind of atmosphere that Nashville can and that should be a big advantage if the Predators play their game. The team has had no real injuries to report outside of Hal Gill and they’ve done pretty well without him to this point.
In fact, the team has so much quality depth up front that guys like Craig Smith and Colin Wilson have been healthy scratches for the entire series. Don’t expect either to be in the lineup for game 5, but anytime coach Trotz wants to inject some youthful grit and scoring ability he has both at his disposal.
The other key to come out of the games in Detroit was the fact that Nashville got the power play monkey off their backs. They managed a goal on the man-advantage in both games and that regular season league leading power play air of confidence should be on display in game 5.
NHL odds makers opened Nashville a -135 home favourite, but now the moneyline is currently at -125 with the total at 5.
Detroit Red Wings: On the flip side, we had a very frustrated Red Wings team. But, you can be sure that none of these players were hitting the panic button. Mike Babcock was sure to make the necessary adjustments and have a game plan ready for Friday night.
The obvious tactic was to continue making life difficult for Rinne in front of the net. Anytime a goalie stands on his head in a playoff series and stops everything he sees, the opposing team will revert to the fundamentals and keep things simple. I expected them to rack up a lot of shots on the power play rather than looking for that perfect pass. Whether or not this is going to pay dividends is anyone’s guess, but this is a huge advantage for Nashville.
Instead of playing a natural game on auto-pilot, players are being forced to ‘think’ and use conscious attention towards solving Rinne. This approach not only gets the forwards off their game, but it also disrupts things on the blue line too. In games 3 and 4, you saw defencemen pinching in to keep the pressure in the Nashville zone. The result was numerous odd-man rushes the other way. Sergei Kostitsyn made them pay late in game 3, and Martin Erat did the same late in game 4.
The Bottom line before the game: It was very unlikely that Nashville was going to play the way they did in Detroit. They have had a much better offensive game than that and what we should see is more of the Preds team that opened the series in games 1 and 2. Nashville was now 6-1 in their last 7 games and and good NHL pick to wrap things up in another hard fought game Friday night.
Detroit was one of five teams down 3-1. Did you think they could stay alive? Join in the discussion on our NHL betting forum.
Prediction: NSH ML