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Johnston: Sharks power play was difference in Game 1

Former coach feels Predators must be aggressive on forecheck but stay out of penalty box

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / Director of Editorial

For additional insight into the Western Conference Second Round series between the Nashville Predators and the San Jose Sharks, has enlisted the help of Mike Johnston to break down the action. Johnston will be checking in throughout the series.

Johnston, 59, was most recently the coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, compiling a 58-37-15 record during his tenure. He was coach and general manager of the Western Hockey League's Portland Winterhawks from 2008 to 2014. He also has been an assistant coach for the Kings and the Vancouver Canucks.

Mike Johnston really liked what he saw from the San Jose Sharks in their series-opener against the Nashville Predators.

"For me, San Jose did carry the scoring chances in Game 1," he said.

Johnston believed that the power play, a staple for the Sharks in the first round, was the difference again in Game 1.

San Jose scored on two of three power-play opportunities on Friday, but Johnston believes it was the first penalty, to Eric Nystrom, at 5:31 of the second period, that turned the tide.

"You have to shut down the San Jose power play if you are Nashville, or keep them off the power play," Johnston said.

Video: NSH@SJS, Gm1: Hertl beats Rinne short side for PPG

He also liked the game played by San Jose right wing Joel Ward. Johnston felt the big power forward was engaged throughout the game, creating offense chances and using his body to wear down the Predators on the forecheck.

Ward also had the go-ahead goal on a beautiful rush that ended with him deking goalie Pekka Rinne and tucking the puck inside the near post.

"Those are goals that Jaromir Jagr and other highly skilled players score," he said.

But with all that said, Johnston thinks that Nashville is not far off from being even in this series.

He knows that Nashville coach Peter Laviolette will make adjustments for Game 2 (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Video: NSH@SJS, Gm1: Couture's perfect deflection nets PPG

Johnston would like to see the Predators be a bit more aggressive on the forecheck than they were in Game 1. He believes the aggression will lead to more offensive zone time.

If they can get more zone time, the Predators should be able to make San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones work harder. Jones made 29 saves in Game 1, but Johnston said Jones "looked comfortable" far too often because of a lack of traffic and tips in the slot.

Johnston also would like to see the Predators be more aggressive in defending San Jose defenseman Brent Burns, who had two assists, six shots on goal and 13 total shot attempts.

"Burns is getting his shot through at a high volume and that is something that Nashville has to answer," he said."

He is also interested to see how the chess match between Nashville's desire to have its defenders jump into the play and San Jose's ability to spring forwards in transition progresses in Game 2.

In Game 1, San Jose won that battle, using Nashville's aggressiveness against the Predators by getting several breakaways on the counterattack.

"You can't let the San Jose forwards behind you," he said. "If you are going to jump into the attack, you need to make sure you don't turn the puck over in the neutral zone."

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