With victories at home in Games Three and Four, the Nashville Predators are back in St. Louis tonight with a chance to close out the series and advance further than they ever have before.
Game Five between the Preds and Blues comes this evening at Scottrade Center after Nashville topped St. Louis by a 3-1 final in Game Three and then 2-1 in Game Four. Those results gave the Predators a 3-1 series lead and their sixth and seventh wins of the postseason, tying a franchise record.
Tonight in St. Louis, the Preds will attempt to close out a series for the second time in this postseason after sweeping Chicago in Round One - but there's certainly no celebrating quite yet.
"There's experiences through the last couple [of playoff series] that have helped us gain experience," Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "Chicago was a good team and a team that's won championships. We were put in a position to get into a close-out game, but that doesn't guarantee anything, or just having that experience doesn't make it so. We're going to have to go to St. Louis and play a good hockey game."
Defenseman Ryan Ellis, who now has points in seven-straight games, leads the Predators with four goals and nine points overall. Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen have seven points apiece; Colton Sissons and P.K. Subban each have six. Forsberg and Roman Josi have scored three times for Nashville while Sissons, Viktor Arvidsson and James Neal have tallied twice. Goaltender Pekka Rinne is 7-1 in these playoffs with a .953 save percentage.
Alexander Steen and Jaden Schwartz have three goals and seven points each for St. Louis to lead the club offensively. Joel Edmundson has six points in the playoffs while Vladimir Tarasenko and Vladimir Sobotka have five points each. Jake Allen has gone 5-4 for the Blues with a .936 save percentage.
Video: Preds are on the cusp of history as they visit Blues
As the Preds look to advance past Round Two for the first time in franchise history, here are three things to watch for:
Ryan Ellis continues to perform all over the ice for the Predators, and he could break a record tonight. Ellis has points in seven-straight games, dating back to Game Two of Round One, and with a point tonight, he would pass Colin Wilson for the longest point streak in playoff franchise history.
Ellis is the first defenseman in the League to record a seven-game point streak in the postseason since Chris Pronger and Jason Woolley did so in 1998. He has figured in on the first goal of the game in all four games of this series, collecting assists in Games One and Two while scoring the first goal in Games Three and Four.
The defenseman has also established a franchise record for goals in a single postseason by a defenseman with four and has tied the club record for most points by a blueliner with nine, set by Roman Josi in 2016.
Video: McLeod, Ekholm and Josi preview Game 5
Defense Does It All:
Ellis has been the standout on the backend so far, but Nashville's defensive corps as a whole has been solid throughout the postseason, with the team having only allowed 11 goals, eight less than St. Louis, the next closest team still remaining in the playoffs. Via ESPN Stats, that number is tied for the fourth fewest through a team's first eight playoff games since the expansion era of 1967-68. Nashville is also allowing an average of only 1.38 goals per game, the only playoff team below two.
When they're done in their own end, the d-men have contributed on the offensive side of the puck as well, factoring in on 13 of the last 15 goals and 17 of 24 in the playoffs, with 22 points overall coming from the backend.
Video: Laviolette talks about his first line prior to Game 5
One at a Time:
The Predators know the situation - one more win, and they'll go further than any Preds team has gone before. It's hard not to think about it, but Nashville is also cognizant of managing their thoughts and not getting too far ahead of themselves, just as they've done throughout these playoffs.
"It's very motivating," goaltender Pekka Rinne said. "It's in the back of your head and you try not to think about it too much. We know what the situation is; we need one more win, but I think you try to calm yourself down and try to treat it like all of these [other games] in this series… Anytime you have an opportunity to close the series out, you want to give it your best shot and play your best game. We know it's going to be a hard battle again."
Video: Go inside the Preds locker room prior to Game 5
Take It In:
Game Five in St. Louis comes with a 7 p.m. CT start time and can be seen nationally on NBCSN or heard on 102.5 The Game and the Predators Radio Network.
For more information on the Preds Celebration on the Bridgestone Arena plaza or Preds Approved viewing locations, click here.