In Game 1 of the Anaheim vs. Nashville series, the Predators looked to be in full playoff mode, while the Ducks appeared listless.
Despite having home-ice advantage, the Ducks failed to control much of the contest. The Predators stuck to their game plan and the 4-1 score speaks to that. Here are a few reasons why the game ended as it did:
During Game 1 Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne showed why he finished third in the league in goals against average and second in save percentage this year. Rinne set the tone early with a sprawling right pad save on Teemu Selanne, who sat wide open at the top of the crease. Nashville’s No. 35 seemed to build off that stop, and his strong play throughout the game allowed his team to consistently attack the Ducks.
Ducks’ goaltender Dan Ellis didn’t fare as well. Ellis allowed four goals on 24 shots, and was eventually pulled early in the third period when he gave up a weak goal to Nashville’s Mike Fisher (who had a great game — recording two goals, one assist and a +2 rating). However, blame cannot be heaped solely on the netminder. Ellis made a slew of sparkling saves, denying a Predator onslaught throughout the first period. Nevertheless, despite making quality saves, Ellis couldn’t match the adroit play of Rinne in the game. Look for Ray Emery to start Game 2 for Anaheim.
Although Ducks’ head coach Randy Carlyle replaced Ellis early in the third period, the Anaheim defense holds much of the blame for the poor performance. On Nashville’s first goal, the Ducks’ defense was completely incompetent at clearing out the front of the net, allowing Nashville to freely screen Ellis during the power play. Later in the game when Nashville forward Steve Sullivan outskated the Anaheim defense, not only did he put up one shot, but he got his own rebound (after a diving save by Ellis) and slid the puck into the net while both Anaheim defenders loitered — Sullivan should have been leveled after his first shot. Finally, Nashville’s third goal came on an Anaheim defensive breakdown during a three-on-two break; one Anaheim defender went for a winger, allowing a two-on-one rush to develop. Nashville forward Mike Fisher was then given the space to rip a wrist shot under the crossbar from between the hashmarks — Ellis had no chance to make a stop. The Predators, on the other hand, did an adequate job of managing play in front of their net.
Throughout the night, Nashville used its physical play to establish offense and puck control — this allowed the Predators to set the tone and pace of the game. The Predators also did a great job of stifling Anaheim’s top line of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan — exposing the relative lack of depth behind the first line. Anaheim failed to consistently establish its game plan, and ultimately allowed the Predators’ physicality command the game.
Here are Ryan Getzlaf’s post-game thoughts.