Nashville is Music City, and they want to make sure that everyone has an earful of the essence of their town during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Their entertainment, specifically showcasing country stars singing the Star Spangled Banner, is unparalleled to any of the teams in the league. However, they’re going to need more than home-ice advantage and megastar anthem singers if they want to demolish the Whiteout nailing them full-force by the Winnipeg Jets in Round 2 of the playoffs.
The Predators took home-ice in Game 1 with confidence and fire in their gameplay. They shattered a playoff franchise record of 20 shots on goal in the first period; which rolled into another franchise record-breaker for most SOG during a regulation playoff game with a grand total of 48.
Albeit, Pekka Rinne wasn’t quite the brick wall he was during the first round against the Colorado Avalanche. He ultimately let in a wicked wrister from Scheifele late in the second period. This was a goal that solidified the direction of the game, and he was replaced with Saros to begin the third period.
Though the Predators struggled to find the back of the net enough times to stop the Jets from maintaining the lead, they put up one heck of a battle in their 4-1 loss. P.K. Subban told the media in post-game coverage, “If I’m being honest, that’s the best game we’ve probably played in the playoffs…maybe one of our best of the year.”
If the Predators don't get a protective grasp on their leads in this series, they're going to find themselves in a constant power-struggle against an eager Jets team. This happened again in Game 2 as the Predators could have won 4-3 in regulation. Their issue? They finished the game like it was a penalty kill until Scheifele scored with 65 seconds left in regulation and the game went into overtime.
The Predators needed to step it up in overtime, otherwise they would be heading to Winnipeg with a 2-0 deficit. Thankfully for them, they have been steadily building their playoff endurance over the past few years, and it's becoming obvious in their relentless overtime runs. In Game 2, it took 85 minutes and 37 seconds of exhilarating hockey for the Predators to win the game, but they did it; 5-4 in double overtime. This team is able to overcome.
Keys to Round 2
Each team is only three wins away from a Round 2 victory, as the series is tied 1-1 heading out of Smashville and into the eye of the Winnipeg storm.
Nashville will need to execute outstanding goaltending, and if that means swapping Rinne for Saros on a shaky night, so be it. To back up the goaltending, they're going to need to generate offensively. If this team isn't scoring goals, they're not going to win a game because I can guarantee that Winnipeg will find a way to capitalize on even the smallest mistake by Nashville.
Lastly, the Predators are going to need to limit their time in the penalty box. According to ESPN.com, Winnipeg currently has a 23.5 power-play goal percentage in the playoffs, which is too risky to give chances to at this point. If the Predators want to come back to Bridgestone with a lead over the Jets, or better yet - a possible elimination game, they need to play with discipline.
I’ve been saying it since the beginning of April, and it’s a statement proven true: both the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators are hungrier than ever to win the Cup, and they’ll fight through fatigue, blood, and injuries to the last second for the opportunity to seize it. Buckle up, this series is going to be a smashingly wild ride.