Nashville head coach Barry Trotz made a risky decision to keep forwards Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn out of the lineup despite their suspensions being repealed. His reasoning was that he didn't want to mess with what worked in game 3 which Nashville won 2-0. This plan ended up blowing up in his face as the Preds were shutout 1-0 by Phoenix last night and now trail the series 3 games to 1.
The Predators did outchance the Coyotes in this game and Mike Smith had to do his part to keep the Coyotes ahead, but the problem throughout the game was that Nashville could not finish their chances. They had control of the game for the last two periods but too many of their opportunities either went off the post or were blocked by the Phoenix defense. Patric Hornqvist's shot data from this game sums things up perfectly. He had 12 shot attempts, four were blocked, five either hit the post or missed the net and only three actually made it on goal.
This was the type of game where the Preds could have used a player like Radulov or Kostitsyn because they had a lot of zone time and chances, but couldn't finish any of them. Radulov and Kostitsyn are two of Nashville's best offensive players and they were kept out of the lineup. I know that hindsight is 20/20 but the Preds haven't exactly been running over the Coyotes this series or scoring a ton. They won game 3 on the back of a strong defensive effort and a shutout from Pekka Rinne. Nashville got off to a horrible start in game 4 and were playing catch-up for the rest of the game and ended up losing because they make the most of their opportunities.
It's a tough loss for the Preds, but I still think that they are far from done. They have outchanced Phoenix in three of the four games this series and can turn things around. It will be very difficult for them to pull it off, though.
Game 4 Scoring Chances
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There wasn't a lot of offense in this game but the Preds had the advantage for the last two periods. This is mostly because they were playing from behind during that time but something that shouldn't be overlooked is how poorly Nashville played in the first period. Their first didn't come until there were a little over two minutes left in the first period and that was after Phoenix put five unanswered on them. One thing that will kill you in the playoffs is letting the other team dictate how the game flows and that's exactly what the Preds did in game 3.
Phoenix's defense in the last two periods wasn't terribly impressive and they definitely lucked out a few times. It's something that I would be a little concerned about if I was a 'Yotes fan because they have relied a lot on Mike Smith in the last two games and it might come back to haunt them. I know that he's been lights out this post-season but I tend to have less faith in teams that rely heavily on goaltending than ones that don't. This could change in game 5 because Phoenix has performed better territorially at home this series than they have in both road games.
Special teams? Non-existant for both squads. The only thing that's worth mentioning is that the Phoenix penalty kill has generated the same amount of scoring chances as their powerplay this series. Four.
Best EV Forwards: Antoine Vermette & Ray Whitney +2
Worst EV Forward: Boyd Gordon -4
Best EV Defenseman: Oliver Ekman-Larsson +2
Worst EV Defenseman: Rostislav Klesla -5
A good game for the Coytoes' top-six forwards as most of them managed to at least break even when playing five-on-five. I thought Whitney had a terrific game along with both Vermette and Shane Doan. That second line of the Coyotes has been the driving force of their offense this series and they got right back on track in game 4 after having an off-night Wednesday.
This post-season has been a great showcase for Oliver Ekman-Larsson as he has been regularly matched up with the opposing team's top lines and has passed this test with flying colors. He won the battle at even strength against David Legwand's line and has been one of the Coyotes' best defensemen in this series, if not the best. The rest of their defense corps was very unimpressive last night but OEL was a stud.
The Coyotes were getting a considerable amount of offense from their bottom-six for most of this series but that didn't happen last night. Boyd Gordon's line was stuck playing defense for most of the game and the fourth line has been completely ineffective away from Jobing.com Arena.
Best EV Forward: Nick Spaling +5
Worst EV Forward: Mike Fisher -4
Best EV Defenseman: Roman Josi +4
Worst EV Defenseman: Shea Weber -2
One of the reasons why the Preds were able to win without Radulov was the Erat-Fisher-Kostitsyn line coming out of hibernation in game 3. They were held in check for the most part last night as they seemed to get pinned in their own zone a lot and weren't producing much until Patric Hornqvist was promoted to that line. These three need to be a lot better, especially Sergei Kostitsyn who is having an awful post-season.
A little fun fact about Hornqvist is that he created all six of the chances he was on-ice for, which means that he produce almost half of the Preds' even strength scoring chances by himself. Hornqvist is a good player but if he is creating half of Nashville's offense then that is a problem. I was almost shocking that he didn't score last night but he just couldn't hit the net at all with his chances.
I mentioned in my article defending Radulov that the Preds have some nice players who they can use in his place, but they are not nearly as talented. This applies directly to their third and fourth liners who all had solid games, but their lack of finishing ability made this game very frustrating for Preds fans. At the very least they were contributing by keeping the puck in the Coyotes' end for the last two periods.
For the first time in this series, Kevin Klein had a positive scoring chance differential and Roman Josi had a very solid game, too. Unfortunately, Weber and Suter had their worst game of the series which is partially the reason for Phoenix's top-six having a good rebound game. These two were another reason why they shutout the Coyotes in game 3 and they clearly weren't at their best last night.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
- Vrbata-Hanzal-Whitney won most of their main matchups which included beating out Mike Fisher's line and rendering them ineffective for most of the game. They also outchanced the Suter/Weber pairing.
- One reason for Klein performing better at home is Trotz getting him into situations where he can suceed. Notice how he outchanced the Phoenix third line but not the first line.
- Oliver Ekman-Larsson did a number against the Fisher line and fought almost everyone else to a draw.
- Not much to dislike about the Wilson-Spaling-Yip line as they handled most of their competition well and were able to create zone time and scoring chances for the Preds. Had they scored, they would have given the Preds exactly what they needed in this game.
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