PREDATORS at DUCKS
(Nashville leads best-of-seven series, 1-0)
TV: TSN, RIS (HD), SPSO, KDOC (HD)
The Ducks entered the postseason on a hot streak that has some prognosticators picking Anaheim to emerge from the West. But after a 4-1 thumping in Game 1, Nashville suddenly has the edge. With Anaheim needing to resolve its goaltending issues, the stage is set for an enormous Game 2 Friday at Honda Center.
Sometimes being a little bit taller can make life that much easier. In the case of the 6-foot-5 Pekka Rinne
, those extra few inches were an awful big help in Game 1, as the Finnish netminder set the tone with a big right pad stop on countryman Teemu Selanne. Rinne made 27 saves in the Predators' 4-1 win Wednesday night and against a team that, lately, has lit the lamp in bunches, he'll need to continue his impressive play if Nashville is to win its first playoff series in franchise history.
While a win in Game 2 might not be crucial -- the Preds have already stolen away home ice for the series by taking Game 1 in southern California -- a 2-0 lead heading back to Music City could go a long way toward putting Nashville on course for the second round for the first time.
To say Game 1 didn't go as Anaheim had planned would be a dramatic understatement. After a stunning performance in the last month of the regular season, the Ducks had climbed all the way from outside the top eight to home ice in the first round. That advantage disappeared rather suddenly Wednesday night, however, and now Anaheim will need to pick up the pieces of its first down offensive performance in weeks.
If Anaheim wants to avoid heading to Nashville in a two-game hole, getting shots on net won't be the issue. The Ducks had 28 shots on goal Wednesday, but finding a way to put quality chances on Rinne will be key, as will controlling the puck at even strength -- the Ducks' only goal came in the third period with a two-man advantage, a trend they'll need to break in Game 2. As well, with Jonas Hiller
still not ready to play in net, Anaheim's goaltending situation became murkier after a sub-par performance by Dan Ellis
in the opener. While Ray Emery stopped all six shots he faced in relief, the crease still serves as a large question mark for the rest of this series.
While the Ducks were rendered cold by Rinne, mid-season acquisition Mike Fisher
is already paying enormous postseason dividends for the Predators. Fisher led all scorers with 2 goals and 1 assist in Game 1.
Still suffering from vertigo, Hiller is considered doubtful for Friday night.
Rinne's impressive performance in Game 1 is certainly bad news for Anaheim, a team that lately has been scoring at will. Wednesday was the first time the Ducks scored less than two goals in a game since a 3-0 shutout loss to Vancouver on March 6. In the 16 games after that the Ducks averaged 3.56 goals per game.
The Predators' combination of a strong defense and a top-notch goaltender is a recipe for success over the long haul of the playoffs, but the Ducks' offense is a force that will have to be reckoned with at some point in this series. Anaheim will find its offensive game eventually, and with the firepower the Ducks have, one would have to assume those goals will come sooner rather than later. The bigger issue for the Ducks is whether they can match Nashville in net. Coach Randy Carlyle wouldn't reveal Thursday who will be starting in Game 2, but there is a strong chance it could be Emery, who relieved Ellis in Game 1. If Emery gets the call, will rust be a factor? His last postseason start came for Ottawa in Game 5 of the 2007 Stanley Cup Final.