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Preds need to solve Coyotes' stifling defense

Saturday, 05.05.2012 / 2:21 PM

By John Manasso - NHL.com Correspondent / Coyotes vs. Predators series blog

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Coyotes vs. Predators series blog
Preds need to solve Coyotes' stifling defense
NASHVILLE -- Just as the Phoenix Coyotes did to the Chicago Blackhawks in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- winning all but one game by one goal -- they are doing the same to the Nashville Predators.

Nashville lost Game 1 in overtime, Game 2 by two goals and Game 4 again by one goal in a 1-0 loss Friday night at Bridgestone Arena.
 
The Coyotes' defense has been stifling. They yielded only five shots in the first period to Nashville in Game 4 and 25 for the game. In that game – and even in Game 3 which Nashville won 2-0 – the Preds have had great difficulty getting shots through to the net.

"I think it's desperate, but confident," Preds forward Colin Wilson said. "I think that's what's going to allow us to go on and play an even-keel game when we go out there (for Game 5 in Phoenix on Monday) because we don't want to be running around everywhere. Being confident and desperate is what's going to help us to win the next three games."
 
Nashville coach Barry Trotz said that he would like to see the Preds' combination of shots attempted, missed and blocked to be about 70 instead of the 55 range, where they were in Game 4.
 
"They do collapse in front," Preds third-line center Nick Spaling said. "A lot of time, they have five guys really tight to the net and they block shots. I think it's a matter of continuing to try to put pucks there and get guys there. It's all we can do is to keep shooting and throw everything we can at the net."
 
The Preds' main issue in Game 4 was getting opportunities, but missing the net. That makes it impossible to get rebounds, which is one of the best ways to beat a goaltender who is playing as well as Mike Smith is for the Coyotes.
 
"We're doing a little bit of playing outside right now," Spaling said. "They're forcing us to play outside. I think we can do a better job of creating offense by getting a little bit more interior and forcing shots through and creating rebounds."
 
Nashville allowed one goal to Phoenix in two games at Bridgestone Arena in Games 3 and 4, but managed to win only one game. Trotz said the Preds have "no wiggle room" and "no mulligans" as they face elimination and seemingly called on All-Star defensemen Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, the team's captain, to be better in Game 5.
 
"We haven't found ways to win," he said. "We've got to find ways to win. Our best players have to be our best players. Some guys have played OK. There's no room for OK. We only have room for your best and we've got to be our best. Any player not at his best for Game 5 and going forward, it lessens our chances of getting back in this series."
Quote of the Day

He's only 17 but he can see the ice so well and he moves the puck and goes to the open ice all the time, so I just think he's a player that is ready to play in the NHL. I'm really looking forward to coaching someone like this.

— U.S. National Junior Team coach Ron Wilson on Auston Matthews, the projected No. 1 pick of the 2016 NHL Draft