Skip to main content
The Official Site of the Nashville Predators

Three Things to Improve for Game Three

Eliminating Offensive-Zone Penalties and Odd-Man Rushes, While Upping Shot Quality Among Nashville's Goals

by Thomas Willis @TomAWillis / Digital Manager & Producer

Attention has already turned to recent teams that have erased 2-0 series deficits to win the Stanley Cup. The 2011 Boston Bruins. The 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Predators' current deficit can't be overcome with a single win, as blueliner P.K. Subban stated on Thursday, so for now, it's throw everything into claiming victory in the first home game of the series.

But how does that happen? Here are three things to focus on for Game Three:

Dangerous Enough? The Predators have outshot the Penguins in the first two games of the Final (26 to 12; 38 to 27), but that may not be overly impressive. The Penguins have been outshot in 15 of 21 postseason games, yet they've won 14 overall.

The quantity is there, but what about quality?

Head Coach Peter Laviolette wants his club to fire from all angles - outshooting the opposition isn't new - the challenge is making that high volume of shots worth the effort. Nashville notched a whopping 71 shot attempts in Game Two, but the Penguins weren't impressed.

"The shot clock wasn't really indicative of how the game was played," Penguins winger Conor Sheary said following Pittsburgh's 4-1 win in Game Two. "I think they had a lot of outside shots… I don't think it was lopsided either way. I thought it was pretty evenly matched."

Nashville did win the high-danger scoring opportunity battle in both opening contests of the Final as well: 7 to 2 in Game One and 8 to 5 in Game Two, according to NaturalStatTrick. But with only a single goal in Game Two, several Preds listed traffic in front of the net, which helps to create rebound opportunities, as the best way to turn their pre-existing shot quantity into quality.

"We had some good chances," Ellis said of Game Two. "[Pontus Aberg] made a nice move on his goal. [Filip Forsberg] had a similar look. [Mike Fisher] had a quick hit in the slot. The quality was there. We had almost 40 shots [on goal], not all of those shots are going to be high quality. It's about creating the second chances and getting guys to the net. Obviously you wish all 40 shots were grade-A chances, but in reality that's not going to happen. Throwing more pucks to the net, getting more guys there for second efforts; I think we'll find the result we're looking for."

Video: Neal, Josi and Aberg preview Game 3

Limiting Penalties: Nashville took seven minor penalties in Game Two. Their penalty killing was masterful as they blanked the Pens' fearsome power play on the more than a half dozen attempts, but frankly, that's something that should never be attempted again.

Particularly frustrating for the Predators was the location of several of their minors. Craig Smith, Mike Fisher and Cody McLeod all took penalties in the offensive zone, with Fisher's negating a 5-on-3 power-play opportunity.

Winger James Neal proposed on Friday that a transition from two physical and heavy-hitting series with St. Louis and Anaheim may still be integrated into the Predators game. As the Final has morphed into more of a speed and finesse game, it appears Nashville needs to leave some - but not all - of their on-edge playing style packed away.

"You have to be smart about what you're doing with your stick, definitely stay away from the cross checks and slashes, but be in control," Neal said. "I think it's been an adjustment for us, for sure, with how physical that Anaheim series was, pretty much just anything goes, then you come into the Pittsburgh series and you're kind of ramped up and you're in that same mindset. Then we find ourselves going to the box and we have to be under control."

Better for Peks: A poor decision here, a pinch there, and in a cumulative span of approximately seven minutes in two games, the Predators have seen six pucks find the back of their net.

Whether they've truly been the better team for the majority of the series can be argued (correct answer: they have been), Nashville has been victimized by the Penguins' quick-strike offense after they've had a lapse in defensive zone coverage or a turnover in the neutral zone.

To a man, after their Game Two loss, the Preds said they need to play better in front of goaltender Pekka Rinne. On Friday, Filip Forsberg boiled it down to an even simpler point, saying odd-man rushes have to be eliminated.

"That's pretty much it," Forsberg said. "Be careful with the puck, gaining the zones and you see how great they are transitioning."

Added Neal:

"It's just puck management - we're giving guys 2-on-1s that are coming right down the pipe on him and have clean shots," Neal said. "So definitely puck management and putting pucks behind them and getting in on the offense. And when it's there, getting sticks on pucks, blocking shots, all the things that made us successful throughout the playoffs. Last game, we were pressing and trying to get that next one, and we gave up a little too much. We'll be better."

Shot of the Day:

View More