The Desert proves too much for Predators, Phoenix takes Series 2-0

Brandon Yip has some choice words with Michal Rozsival.

Even before the puck dropped Friday night for Game 1 between the Nashville Predators and the Phoenix Coyotes, it was clear that this would be a series to make or break the playoffs. Because Phoenix was ranked with the 3rd seed, Nashville would have to start the series with two games in Glendale, Arizona, giving the Coyotes the upper hand with home ice advantage. However, Nashville has a point of making the best of an underdog situation, but would it be enough with an equally as skilled goalie like Mike Smith? Here are the highlights from the first two games of Round 2 between Nashville and Phoenix:

G A M E 1:

  • Colin Wilson, Jordin Tootoo, Brian McGrattan, Jack Hillen, Matt Halischuk, and Ryan Ellis found themselves on the scratched list, but there is one name that did not make that list: Hal Gill. The week long break after Round 1 gave Gill just the amount of recovery time he needed to step up in Game 1 of Round 2.
  • Phoenix took the lead first at 7:23 with a wrist shot by Radim Vrbata on the powerplay, his first goal of the playoffs.
  • Brandon Yip would answer the call at 14:09 for his first goal of the playoffs with a wrist shot of his own. Francis Bouillon (2nd assist) and Craig Smith (1st assist) picked up the assists on Yip’s goal.
  • Rostislav Klesla would put the Coyotes up 2-1 early into the 2nd Period at 3:05 for his 2nd goal of the playoffs with a backhander passed Pekka Rinne.
  • Andrei Kostitsyn would respond at 11:19 for his 2nd goal of the playoffs with a wrist shot passed Mike Smith. Patric Hornqvist (2nd assist) and Francis Bouillon (3rd assist) picked up the assists.
  • Mikkel Boedker would end the 2nd Period with a wrist shot for his 3rd goal of the playoffs.
  • Martin Erat would tie the game at 15:18 in the 3rd Period on the powerplay, his first goal of the playoffs. Patric Hornqvist (3rd assist) and and Ryan Suter (1st assist) grabbed the assists.
  • After an impressive 3rd Period and OT push by the Predators, Ray Whitney ended the game in favor of the Coyotes at 14:04 in OT, his 2nd goal of the playoffs.
  • The Predators blew the Coyotes out of the water in shots (42 to 24), but Mike Smith lived up to his name, blocking 39 of those shots on goal. Pekka Rinne and the defense fell to Phoenix, who had a difficult time with both face-offs and miscommunicated plays.
  • Along with miscommunication and terrible face-offs, the Predators had a difficult time slipping the puck passed Mike Smith on power plays, and Nashville was given five chances against Phoenix’s three. Out of their three chances, the Coyotes were able capitalize on their first one, and Nashville was also only able to capitalize on one. Here are the three offenders:
  1.  Kevin Klein – 6:26 1st Period – Tripping
  2. Ryan Suter – 15:43 1st Period – Tripping
  3. Pekka Rinne (Yes, the goalie picked up a penalty & it was served by Brandon Yip) – 2:47 3rd Period – Interference

The Predators tend to have a rough start after taking long breaks (i.e. the All-Star break), but after one game, surely the Predators were able to get a good feel of what the Coyotes were capable of. Surely, right?

G A M E 2:

  • Colin Wilson was given his taste of playoff freedom tonight, stretching his legs on the ice after being scratched since March. Craig Smith, Jordin Tootoo, Ryan Ellis, Jack Hillen, Brian McGrattan, and Matt Halischuk rounded out the scratched list for Game 2.
  • The Coyotes started the game off with a goal at 8:32 with a wrist shot from Antoine Vermette, his 5th goal of the playoffs.
  • Andrei Kostitsyn would nab his 3rd playoff goal at 17:13, tying the game up going into the 2nd Period. Kevin Klein (2nd assist) and Nick Spaling (3rd assist) walked away with the assists.
  • The 2nd Period belonged to Phoenix, with Martin Hanzal gaining his 2nd goal of the playoffs at 3:47.
  • Radim Vrbata would push Phoenix up 3-1 at 7:05 for his 2nd goal of the playoffs.
  • Patric Hornqvist would seal his first goal of the playoffs with a tip-in passed Mike Smith at 11:20 on the power play. Ryan Suter (2nd assist) and Mike Fisher (3rd assist) picked up the assists.
  • Exactly thirty seconds later, Taylor Pyatt pushed the Coyotes up 4-2 for his 3rd goal of the playoffs.
  • Ryan Suter would score early in the 3rd Period (53 seconds) for his first goal of the playoffs. Shea Weber (1st assist) and Alexander Radulov (5th assist) nabbed the assists on Suter’s goal.
  • Shane Doan would silence the Predators at 3:36 with a tip-in goal, his second goal of the playoffs.
  • The Predators toned down the shots on goal in Game 2, only sending 33 towards Smith compared to Phoenix’s 39 at Rinne. However, the weaknesses in Nashville’s defense looked like a wide open net to Phoenix, who ate up every mistake the Predators made. Powerplays favored the Predators, however, with Nashville capitalizing on two of four chances. Nashville’s defense stepped up during the penalties, but failed during even play. Trotz’s experimental Josi/Klein line completely buckled under the pressure of the Coyotes, proving Roman Josi and Hal Gill should stick together.
  • As stated above, the Predators gave the Coyotes four powerplay chances, but luckily were unable to nab their chances. Here are the four penalty takers:
  1. Brandon Yip – 12:57 1st Period – Roughing
  2. Shea Weber – 17:07 2nd Period – Boarding
  3. Mike Fisher – 19:50 2nd Period – Roughing
  4. David Legwand – 19:14 3rd Period – Cross Checking

The Phoenix Coyotes are relentless at home and Nashville just wasn’t prepared for the Coyotes to come out swinging after just finishing their Round 1 with the Chicago Blackhawks. It was clear in Game 1 that Nashville was taken aback by the Coyotes’ ferocity, but were completely mauled in Game 2. The Predators head home to Nashville tonight to continue the series, hoping the familiarity of the Bridgestone Arena will bring life back into the struggling team.

What the Predators need to focus on/fix:

  • Miscommunication
  • Frustration/Complete mental breakdown
  • Fallout of the defense
  • Face-off wins
  • Turnovers

Game 3 starts an hour later than usual with the puck dropping at 8PM. Nashville will need to buckle down and work together to climb out of this hole they have dug called ‘Phoenix’ and remember that this isn’t the regular season. With such a prime opportunity to reach the Cup, why start breaking down now?

Until then,
GO PREDS

Nashville finds Strength in Detroit; Predators Win 3-2

Take that, Klein haters!

Game 3 of the Detroit/Nashville series started bright and early today with the puck dropping at 11AM; the first game scheduled for the day.

Nashville struggled Friday night on home ice, losing to Detroit 3-2 in regulation and tying the series 1-1. With two games down in Nashville, it was time for the Predators to head north to the Motor City to throw-down in the Joe. However, the Predators last visit in Detroit bounced in their favor, wiping out the Red Wings 4-1. Needless to say, the Predators aren’t afraid of Detroit and its fans, but would it be enough to erase the power play issues from Friday? Here are the highlights from today’s game in Detroit:

KEY POINTS:

  • Colin Wilson, Craig Smith, Jack Hillen, Chet Pickard, Brian McGrattan, and Hal Gill rounded up the scratched list for Game 3, but one surprise was the scratch of Matt Halischuk. In replace of Hali, Jordin Tootoo hit the ice, along with rookie Ryan Ellis.
  • Good thing Shea Weber feeds positively off of negativity, for he sealed the first goal of the game at 2:48 on the power play for his 2nd goal of the playoffs. Every time Weber’s stick would touch the puck, a cascade of “boos” would float amongst the crowd, but Weber quickly silenced them. Andrei Kostitsyn (1st assist) and Alexander Radulov (2nd assist) picked up the assists on Weber’s silencer.
  • Kevin Klein would pick up a goal of his own at 3:50 in the 2nd Period, his first of the playoffs after scoring only four during the season. Martin Erat picked up his first assist of the playoffs, also the first point acquired by the top line of SK74-Marty-Fisher.
  • Pavel Datsyuk would finally get Detroit’s ball rolling at 15:03 with a wrap-around goal passed Pekka Rinne. This was Datsyuk’s first goal of the playoffs.
  • Johan Franzen stopped the hearts of millions watching when he was able to slip the puck by Pekka Rinne, essentially tying the game with under a second left in the 2nd Period. The goal was reviewed and it was clear the clock had run out just milliseconds before passing Pekka, rendering it no good. Whew!
  • Sergei Kostitsyn would sink the third goal for the Predators at 16:30 with a clean snap shot passed Jimmy Howard. Mike Fisher picked up his first assist and point of the playoffs along with Kevin Klein (1st assist) on SK74’s first goal of the playoffs.
  • Henrik Zetterberg would leave fans biting their nails at 19:06 when he was able to put the Red Wings within one of tying the game with Nashville on the power play, but the Predators defense would prove impenetrable, holding the Wings at bay until the final horn sounded to end the game.
  • Call this the Series of the Penalties! Twelve penalties in all, with six penalties for each team, giving both Detroit and Nashville equal power play opportunities. Unlike Friday, Nashville was finally able to snag a power play goal, but Detroit was able to snag one as well. Pointless penalty of the day came from Jordin Tootoo, who was called for roughing after pushing on Henrik Zetterberg. If you’re going to take a penalty, at least get a few swings in first! Here are the other Predators who took some time to reflect in the box:
  1.  David Legwand – 12:53 1st Period – Tripping
  2. Jordin Tootoo – 1:21 2nd Period – Roughing
  3. David Legwand (served by Patric Hornqvist) – 14:33 2nd Period – Interference
  4. Mike Fisher – 17:46 2nd Period – Roughing
  5. Sergei Kostitsyn – 19:49 2nd Period – Hi-Sticking
  6. David Legwand – 18:23 3rd Period – Holding
  • Pekka Rinne blew Detroit away in usual fashion, blocking 41 of 43 shots on goal. Nashville lacked on the shots on net, only attempting 22, but the accuracy was much better and Howard just wasn’t expecting to be taken out on his own ice.
  • Kevin Klein stepped up today, gaining an assist and a goal, only his 2nd playoff goal of his career. Both Kostitsyn brothers picked up points, with Andrei gaining an assist and Sergei collecting a goal. The top line all finally found a groove, with Fisher and Erat both gaining assists and, again, SK74 with a goal. 
The Predators came out swinging in the first period, but the second and third periods left us biting our nails down to the quick. However, a win’s a win and we will take it, especially when it is up in Motown. This win was actually Nashville’s first post-season win in Detroit in franchise history. As “Not Paul Gaustad” said on Twitter:

Follow @PaulsStick on Twitter

The Predators stay in Detroit until Tuesday, taking on the sea of Red at 6:30PM. Although the defense has been doing pretty well thus far, if Hal Gill can return by Tuesday, we believe there’s no stopping Nashville from taking this series.

Until then,
GO PREDS.

(Photo credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)