The Anaheim Ducks were going to do anything and everything to avoid going down 3-0 to the Nashville Predators on Tuesday in a best-of-seven series of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
After the Predators surprisingly snagged the first two games on the road, they had the Ducks on their heels. Nashville capitalized on Anaheim’s undisciplined and, in the words of Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau after Game 2, “stupid” play.
Though the Preds were feeling confident about their situation, they knew the Ducks were not going away without a fight. After all, it is anything can happen in a lengthy series.
Anaheim made changes in preparation for Game 3 that stumped Nashville completely. Of them, the most notable was turning to goaltender Frederik Andersen, who earned a 27-save shutout in his first start since Mar. 30 because of a concussion.
Andersen was solid, but the Ducks made it easy for him by effectively solving and shutting down the Predators’ offensive attack. They were clogging passing lanes, hard on the backcheck and limited Nashville’s shots in high-danger scoring areas.
It was a great coaching adjustment by Boudreau.
But now it is time for Nashville’s bench boss Peter Laviolette to do the ahead of Game 4 on Thursday.
The Predators’ defense has not been a problem. They allowed just 21 shots to reach Pekka Rinne but were victims of unfortunate bounces. What the coaching staff will have to figure out is how to stretch Anaheim’s defense and create plays to increase scoring opportunities in the slot.
“I don’t think we did a great job getting to the front of their net,” said Preds captain Shea Weber. “A lot of our shots were from the outside. We’ve got to do a better job of getting to the interior, getting traffic and second opportunities.”
Additionally, Nashville’s power play went 0-for-5 in Game 3 and has been 1-for-13 in the series. Their power play was not exactly lethal in the regular season, but if it came alive in Game 3, it would have been a completely different game.
Since the Ducks appear to have cooler heads after Boudreau’s tongue lashing, the need for Cody Bass has decreased. While Bass has delivered punishing checks, stood up for teammates and have even created plays, he is the most expendable player in the lineup. Laviolette could turn to either Colton Sissons or Austin Watson, who have a nose for offense and have been healthy scratches throughout the series.
Craig Smith’s status will be a cause for concern, as well. Smith left the game two shifts into Game 3 at 7:48 of the first period with a lower-body injury and did not return. If Smith misses significant time, the Predators’ most productive line of Filip Forsberg, Mike Ribeiro and Smith will have to be tinkered with.
While sweeping Anaheim was the ultimate goal, it was not realistic. All Nashville needed to do was split Games 3 and 4, and they would be in good shape. With the chance at having a strangle-hold on the series, they need to come out victorious in Game 4.