There are a lot of people who say that a team isn't in trouble in a series until they lose at home, which would make this Predators-Coyotes series very much alive after the Preds shutout Phoenix 2-0 last night. One thing that I have been saying in the first two games is that this series could go either way because both teams are pretty similar in the sense that they aren't strong possession teams and have relied a lot on goaltending this season.
We are now three games into the series and the two teams are even in scoring chances when playing 5-on-5 but the Preds have had the advantage in two of the three games. They didn't get good enough goaltending in the first two games, but that wasn't the case in game 3 as Pekka Rinne recorded his first shutout but the guys in front of him did a terrific job for most of the game in blanketing the Coyotes offense and making their top two lines ineffective for the most part.
Nashville does not need Rinne to stand on his head to win this series, but having him make the big saves when he needs to definitely helps. That's what the case was last night.
Game 3 Scoring Chances
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
This game is another example of how corsi and fenwick can be misleading. Phoenix had a pretty big advantage in shots at even strength but they did a lot of shooting of everywhere and Nashville had the upper-hand in scoring chances. The Preds were doing a solid job at blocking shots and keeping most of Phoenix's bids to the outside at even strength. The Coyotes definitely had the puck a lot more than Nashville did, but they weren't doing much with those possessions and the Preds were able to force turnovers and make Phoenix settle for significantly less dangerous opportunities. You will also notice that nearly half of the Coyotes' chances came on special teams.
On a similar note, Phoenix has not been able to do much at all for most of the game when they were playing 5-on-4. Their powerplay numbers were boosted from the two-man advantage they had in the third period, but it was ineffective for most of the night. It's usually a bad sign when you're producing more scoring chances shorthanded than at 5-on-4.
Individual Scoring Chance Numbers
Best EV Forwards: Boyd Gordon & Marc-Antoine Pouliot +3
Worst EV Forwards: Radim Vrbata & Gilbert Brule -4
Best EV Defensemen: Michal Rozsival & Oliver Ekman-Larsson +1
Worst EV Defenseman: Keith Yandle -5
Outside of Ray Whitney and Martin Hanzal, Phoenix's top-two lines weren't nearly as good as they were in the first two games. Radim Vrbata might have produced a bit on the powerplay but he was a ghost for the first 40 minutes. Whitney and Hanzal still managed to do enough to make that line somewhat dangerous, the real letdown was from the Coyotes' second line. Vermette, Doan and Boedker were given a lot of offensive zone starts and neither of them could create a lot of offense. Boedker had his worst game of the playoffs by far.
The Coyotes' forward corps only had one line going for them and it was the third line of Boyd Gordon, Taylor Pyatt and Marc-Antoine Pouliot. Gordon was very good at even strength and on the penalty kill as he contributed a few shorthanded chances and limited most of Nashville's opportunities. This is a nice unit the Coytoes have but the fact that they were their best line in game 3 is a problem. It also didn't help that their fourth line was completely useless, which is probably the result of them not getting the territorial protection that they are used to.
In a complete reversal from game 2, Keith Yandle and Derek Morris were abysmal. They were protected at even strength for the most part and were complete turnstiles in their own zone. I expected these two to give up a lot but they usually make up for it by producing a considerable amount of offense, that wasn't the case last night.That last statement seemed to apply more to Klesla and Aucoin going by the stats above.
Best EV Forwards: Martin Erat & Mike Fisher +3
Worst EV Forward: Gabriel Bourque -2
Best EV Defenseman: Ryan Suter +3
Worst EV Defenseman: Kevin Klein -1
I am sure that the pundits are going to talk about how Alexander Radulov being suspended helped the Preds in this game because they won, but David Legwand's line was much less effective without him. They were not horrible but this line wasn't nearly as good they have been this post-season and Gabriel Bourque had his worst game in awhile. Of course, not a lot of people are going to remember that because that line produced a goal which was gift-wrapped to David Legwand by Mike Smith. The Preds defensive play had much more to do with them winning this game rather than Radulov being out of the lineup.
Something that also helped was Mike Fisher's line having a solid game and Sergei Kostitsyn played better than he has all post-season. These three didn't play that much at even strength but they made the most of their ice time and were very strong on the forecheck. That's exactly what they need to do to be effective and things will turn in Nashville's favor if they keep playing like this.
Speaking of "making the most of your ice time," the Preds also benefited from having four solid lines going as the bottom-six players like Jordin Tootoo, Matt Halischuk, Paul Gaustad and Colin Wilson created a good amount of scoring chances in limited ice time. Phoenix benefited a lot from this in the first two games and Nashville has the personnel to do it, so I wouldn't be surprised to see this continue.
Shea Weber and Ryan Suter appeared to have a quiet game but they were solid in all three areas last night. Notice how the Preds gave up three shorthanded chances when Weber wasn't on the ice and created all four of their powerplay chances when he was. These two were a big reason why Phoenix's top two lines were held quiet at even strength.
Roman Josi was bumped down to the third pairing with Hal Gill while Francis Bouillon was promoted to the second pairing with Kevin Klein. Josi & Gill were positive in scoring chances while the latter played really well on the PK. Bouillon was also positive in scoring chances at even strength while Klein was the only defenseman to have a negative rating. That should tell you all you need to know right there.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
- Weber/Suter got the job done against Phoenix's first line and outplayed their defense corps, as well.
- Phoenix's fourth line lost all of their matchups at even strength, which is the complete opposite of how they played in games 1 & 2. I will be interested to see the final home/road splits for them.
- Paul Gaustad seemed to get matched up with the Hanzal line a bit and he won that matchup big time.
- Boyd Gordon's line got the better of David Legwand's when they were matched up against each other. That is usually enough to help you win a game but Hanzal's line lost their matchup against Fisher, Erat & Kostitsyn.
|WES||1||11:50||Legwand - GOAL||16||19||33||41||50||89||11||27||35||57||59||75||5v5|
|WES||1||10:44||Fisher - GOAL||11||13||17||23||32||41||6||10||12||20||35||74||5v5|