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Coach's analysis: Predators' depth proved decisive against Ducks

Former NHL assistant Perry Pearn says unsung players stepped up for Nashville in Western Conference Final

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

For additional insight into the Western Conference Final between the Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators, NHL.com has enlisted the help of Perry Pearn to break down the action from the Predators' perspective.

Pearn, 65, has worked 22 seasons as an NHL assistant with the Vancouver Canucks, Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets. He began his NHL career as an assistant in Winnipeg in 1995-96.

Pearn also has a gold medal as coach (1993) and two golds as an assistant (1990, 1991) with Canada's national junior team at the IIHF World Junior Championship.

Between two teams so even in the Western Conference Final, depth was the thing that separated the Nashville Predators and Anaheim Ducks, former NHL assistant Perry Pearn said.

The Predators advanced to their first Stanley Cup Final by defeating the Ducks 6-3 in Game 6 on Monday, winning the best-of-7 series 4-2.

"What wound up as the overall difference in my mind was the depth of the Nashville forwards that outlegged the depth of the Anaheim forwards," Pearn said. "In the series, Ryan Getzlaf, Andrew Cogliano and Ryan Kesler didn't score. On the Nashville side, they had goals from a lot of different people and in key situations, guys they would have never counted on performing the way they did going into playoffs. We're talking about Pontus Aberg and Colton Sissons, who made such a big difference for them.

"Given the injuries and what they had to endure, it was impressive and a big part of the end result."

 

[RELATED: Coach's analysis: Predators clutch against Ducks in Game 6]

 

Pearn said the final two games could easily have gone either way and eventually came down to which team found a way to score a game-winning goal in the final 10 minutes of the third period.

"You just have to give Nashville credit," he said. "Monday night, Anaheim played a good game. They controlled the majority of the game and it looked like when they came back in the third to tie it 3-3, it might be really hard for Nashville to come out of this game with a win.

"So for a second straight game the Predators found a way to score when they needed to score. It's a credit to how well they played without the puck and the determination to find a way to get the job done, and doing it by committee. They tightened things down defensively, enough that they allowed the best goalie in the series to do his thing and help win the series."

Video: Discussing the unreal performance by Pekka Rinne

That was a reference to Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, who had 38 saves in Game 6.

"That was a big part of the last two games, that their goaltending was a bit better," Pearn said.

A familiar theme throughout the series was the give and take of momentum by the power plays by each team.

"In Game 6, a power-play goal would have served Nashville well, especially during that five-minute advantage in the first period when Nick Ritchie went off," Pearn said. "But the fact they didn't give up any on the night, went 4-for-4 on penalty killing, was a critical part of the game. It took so much pressure off their power play.

"When Anaheim had their chances and needed to score on the power play, Nashville rose to the occasion. They're a good penalty killing team and their goalie was a big part of that."

Rinne will begin the Stanley Cup Final with a .941 save percentage, and keeping that number at such a high level proved to be a big factor against the Ducks.

Pearn said Rinne's effectiveness in the 2017 playoffs was on display in the Western Conference Final.

Video: ANA@NSH, Gm6: Rinne slides across to deny Cogliano

"I don't think Anaheim took enough shots with the idea that, 'We'll take it and create a rebound,' " Pearn said. "Far too many times they took a shot and thought they'd score on the shot. They didn't get a lot of rebounds to put Rinne in a vulnerable spot. Nashville did a good job of covering rebounds and clearing them away, but I think Anaheim maybe had to look a little more at trying to generate those kinds of rebound opportunities. In the series, those were the chances they were taking advantage of most of the time."

Pearn said Rinne's excellence reminded him of former New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur in his prime.

"When New Jersey was doing well in the playoffs in those years, Brodeur was so good on first shots and Jersey was so good at covering rebounds, teams started to hesitate a split second on shots they took and that played right into Brodeur's hands. He always seemed set and in the right position.

"I think that happened a bit with Anaheim in this series, that they hesitated looking for a perfect shot when probably they'd have been best served to get it away quickly to catch [Rinne] while he was still moving or to shoot to create a rebound."

Pearn also noted how the playoff games are decided by inches, or less.

"You look at how crazy some games are, you see the puck over the glass in the third period that bounced off the top of the glass," Pearn said. "So it's not a penalty to Nashville and they don't go two men short. Instead, they get the opportunity to come down and score the game-winning goal just as they kill off the penalty they had. Talk about inches, that's a prime example of how close things are."

Pearn said he didn't think the Predators were getting enough credit in one other area. Though faceoff numbers showed the Ducks with an advantage throughout the series, Pearn thought the Predators did a great job on faceoffs at key times and in the battles after scrambled draws.

"I know the faceoff chart said 43-26 for the Ducks in Game 6 but I found Nashville doing a great job on some of the key faceoffs," he said. "I look at one of the empty-net goals as a good example, that it's a faceoff that goes to the boards and Nashville wins the battle there."

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