Heading into this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, many people expected to see the President’s Trophy winners, Nashville Predators, get through the playoffs and win the Stanley Cup.
However, even in the First Round, this year appears to be a more difficult task for the Predator’s to accomplish.
This also could simply just very well be the curse of the President’s Trophy taking Nashville down as it often does its winners.
Although at first glance, many people may be quick to put the blame on Vezina Nominee Pekka Rinne for his lack of a stellar performance so far this playoffs, once you take a deeper look it is clear that Nashville has several areas they must improve if they want to force a Game 7 against Winnipeg.
Let’s start with Rinne, his numbers have been below average with a .897 save percentage, and a 3.23 goals against average with 1 shutout.
In 11 games played this post season, Rinne has been pulled three times.
Each of these times Juuse Saros was Rinne’s replacement and has stopped a total of 26 shots, without allowing a goal.
I am not sure all the blame can be placed on Rinne for his sub par stats because he has faced 322 shots this post season which is the most any goalie has faced so far this year.
When looking at production, Rinne also has not necessarily had the greatest help as Nashville only has two players with at least a 1.0 point per game average.
Filip Forsberg has 5 goals and 7 assists, along with Ryan Johansen who has 5 goals and 6 assists.
After that, it drops to Austin Watson with 5 goals and 3 assists, and P.K. Subban with 3 goals and 5 assists.
Speaking of Subban, Nashville’s league leading scoring defense have only four goals this post season.
That is not enough for Nashville to be able to advance in the playoffs, especially with only two players with ten or more points.
However, the Predators have performed fairly well in face-offs, winning 56.9 percent of face-offs, a league best.
Individually, Johansen has won 59.8 percent, Sissons has won 57.5 percent, Bonino has won 57.0 percent, Smith has won 44.4 percent, and Fisher has won 65.0 percent.
Unlike last year, home ice has not necessarily been an advantage for Nashville as Winnipeg has already won two games in Smashville.
If the Predators want to force a Game 7 in Nashville, they are going to have to score more on the league best 36.4 shots per game they get.
Special teams has also proven to be a much more difficult task this year, as Nashville has a power play efficiency of 21.2 percent which is seventh out of the eight teams remaining.
Although their penalty kill has been efficient, with a success rate of 82.3 percent, third in the league.
Game 6 is tomorrow night at 9:30 PM ET in Winnipeg, Nashville must win in order to force a Game 7.
As difficult as it may seem, Nashville has won a game in Winnipeg.
If the Predators are able to get more scoring out of their high powered offense, their Defense is solid, and Rinne has a performance he is capable of having, I see this going to Game 7 in Nashville.
But, if Nashville does not come ready to play then Winnipeg is closing this series out tomorrow night.
Pekka Rinne: www.tennessean.com
Connor Hellebuyck Save: www.gettyimages.com
Winnipeg Goal: www.msn.com