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A Final Look Back At The Detroit Series: 5 Pivotal Moments; 5 Pivotal Players

by Jay Levin / Nashville Predators

With the Preds taking a day off from on-ice practice today, we’re taking one final look back at Nashville’s first round series win over Detroit. There were several memorable moments, top plays, standout players during the Preds five-game series win, but we’re limiting our flashback to five; the five pivotal players and five pivotal moments in the series. Agree? Disagree? Join the conversation below to let us know your thoughts.

Five Pivotal Preds Players in the WCQFs vs. Detroit

Pekka Rinne – Rinne posted a 1.81 goals against average and .944 save percentage in the series, but that doesn’t even do justice to Rinne’s importance on the Preds Round 1 win. Rinne didn’t allow any soft goals in the series, didn’t give Detroit any chances to re-gain momentum, and made several highlight-reel saves. But beyond even that, Nashville’s goaltender was at his best in the clutch. He stopped 15-of-16 shots during the third period of Nashville’s Game 1 win to set the tone for the series and then posted back-to-back 40-save outings to win both games in Detroit, including 18 saves during the third period of the Preds Game 3 win.

Weber/Suter – Sometimes we get spoiled by how good the Ryan Suter/Shea Weber defensive pairing plays. The duo only posted two goals and a combined +1 plus/minus rating in the series, but they were outstanding in the defensive end. They were on the ice for only one even strength goal scored by the Wings the entire five game series, Franzen’s goal in the second period of Game 2 --- skating the final 10 periods of the series without allowing an even strength goal while they were on the ice. For the series Weber saw 96:14 of even strength ice time, while Suter saw 94:31 … and they were matched up almost exclusively against Pavel Datsyuk and/or Henrik Zetterberg. In the third period of the clinching Game 5, Suter was on the ice for 10:11 of even strength time, topped only by Weber’s 11:00. They were the best two skaters on the ice in the series and refused to let Nashville lose.

Gabriel Bourque – Bourque had three goals, four points, and a +5 plus/minus rating in the series, scoring the game-winning goal in Game 1 of the series and game’s opening goal in Game 3. He was fast. He was physical. He provided energy. But more impressively, Bourque made every line he was added to better. He opened the series with Spaling and Hornqvist on what was Nashville’s best line in the first two games of the series. In Detroit he was rotated around lines, ultimately ending the series with Legwand and Radulov on the line that combined for both of Nashville’s goals in the Game 5 win.

Martin Erat– Erat only picked up two assists in the five-game series, but both came at huge moments --- assisting on Kevin Klein’s highlight goal in Game 3 to give the Preds a 2-0 lead at the time (in an eventual 3-2 win) and drawing the attention of four Wings players to set up Klein’s game-winner in Game 4. The offense was clutch, but Erat’s defensive efforts were even better. He and Mike Fisher were outstanding in vexing Pavel Datsyuk all series long, holding the Wings scoring star to one goal and two assists. Coach Trotz cited the unusually high number of turnovers Datsyuk had during the decisive Game 5 as a sign that Erat and Fisher had successfully frustrated the usually unflappable Datsyuk. Erat made easily a dozen plays on the backcheck to negate potential A+ scoring chances for the Wings during the series, highlighted by a diving poke check to thwart a Detroit shorthanded break during the second period of Game 3.

Paul Gaustad– Gaustad was outstanding in the faceoff circle and excellent in one-on-one battles. Detroit is at its best when it is playing a puck-possession game, but Gaustad’s exploits along the boards and on faceoffs – he was credited with wins on 55.2% of his draws, but appeared to be shorted some wins during the two games in Detroit – made it very difficult for the Wings to get possession of the puck. Coach Trotz also credited Gaustad with helping the other Preds centers improve on their faceoffs, “He is one of those guys who makes everyone else realize the importance of the faceoff win” Trotz said. “When you don’t have a specialist like that you just don’t know the importance.” Gaustad’s effect on the series was magnified because on Trade Deadline Day the Wings were long rumored to be the favorite to land the big center but David Poile made sure he ended up in Nashville; had the Wings won the Deadline Day bidding for Gaustad’s services the series may well have ended in the other direction.

Honorable Mention: Francis Bouillon (series best +6 plus/minus); Patric Hornqvist (similar effect as Bourque, despite only recording one point); David Legwand (2 goals, 4 points, GWG in Game 5); Alexander Radulov (team-high 5 points; was more dangerous as the series went on)

Five Pivotal Moments of the Series (in timeline order)

Gaustad’s Bank Shot GoalPaul Gaustad opened the series-scoring 6:59 into Game 1 with a wraparound shot that banked off a Wings defender and ricocheted past Jimmy Howard to give the Preds a 1-0 lead. The goal relaxed some nerves in the arena and set the tone for the series, as the Preds depth lines out-played the Wings depth lines. In fact the team that scored first won all five games.

0.1-seconds In Game 3 – With Nashville seemingly in control of Game 2, up 2-0 late in the second period and holding a stronger advantage in scoring chances than the scoreboard indicated, Pavel Datsyuk made a tremendous individual play on the forecheck to put Detroit on the board. The Wings then buzzed in the Preds zone the final five minutes of the second period, drawing a power-play in the closing seconds of the frame. Detroit thought it had the game tied, but the clock expired tenths of a second before the Wings put the puck in the net allowing the Preds to enter the locker room with the lead. Nashville stabilized in the third period, killed of the remainder of the Detroit power-play and extended the lead to 3-1 late in the period to skate away with the win. In his post-game press conference, Coach Trotz admitted that the third period would have been much different if that late period attempt had beaten the buzzer. Instead Nashville won the game to take a 2-1 series lead and carried the momentum into the next two games to close out the series.

Klein’s stick save in Game 3 – With the Preds holding a 2-1 lead 5:30 into the third period, Klein made a huge stick save on Cory Emmerton’s rebound attempt with Rinne attempting to go post-to-post. Klein’s offensive exploits -- going end-to-end early in the second period – drew headlines, but the stick save on the back-check was just as important to the win. The Joe Louis Arena crowd had already started to celebrate the “goal” when Klein denied the attempt and preserved the lead.

Erat’s rush in Game 4 – With the score tied in the middle of the third period, Jiri Hudler’s backhander hit the post, Fisher won a one-on-one battle with Henrik Zetterberg and soccer kicked the puck up to Erat to start the break; Erat drew three Detroit skaters and goaltender Jimmy Howard creating an empty net tap in for Kevin Klein to give the Preds a 2-1 lead en route to a 3-1 win and 3-1 series lead.

13-seconds In Game 5 – Game 5 was a tight-checking defensive battle from start to finish. Nashville netted one late in the first, Detroit answered back middle of the second. The Wings used the goal to turn momentum in their favor and had the Preds on their heels -- and quieted the Bridgestone Arena crowd. But Legwand’s goal off the start of period faceoff – with Bourque and Radulov executing a quick give-and-go along the bench-side boards entering the Detroit zone to open up the slot for Legwand – turned the tide back to the Preds; the Bridgestone Arena crowd fed off that play and was in raucous “party mode” the remainder of the game. And, after a scoreless final 19:47 of the period, the score end up as the series-clinching goal.

Honorable Mention: Bourque's deflection goal in Game 1; Klein's end-to-end rush in Game 3; Sergei Kostitsyn's breakaway goal in Game 3; Power-play breaks through early in Game 3; Rinne's 3rd Period barrage (pick a game -- Game 1, Game 3, or Game 4)

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