Predators on the Brink of Elimination

Pekka Rinne

Just as it seemed the Nashville Predators had clawed their way back into their best of seven series with the Phoenix Coyotes by taking game three on home ice, the Coyotes snuck out of town with 1-0 win in game four and a 3-1 series lead.  Phoenix has a chance to end the series in the desert Monday night.  Nashville, who cam into the playoffs considered a favorite to make a run at the Cup, now have to win three straight or their season will end in round two for the second straight season.

So what do the Preds need to do differently to get back in the series again? One thing they need to do is find a way to break the momentum of Mike Smith.  In game three, the Preds only win in the series they scored two goals just 1:06 apart before the midway point of the opening frame and not again.  In game four, Smith turned aside all 25 shots he faced to shut out Nashville.  After an unexpectedly high total of 15 goals in the first two games, as predicted before the series the goaltenders have taken over by swapping shutouts.  Smith has been solid all season for Phoenix and when he gets rolling he is extremely hard to beat.  This is bad news for Preds fans considering he has went 110:44 without surrendering a goal. Pekka Rinne, who has surrendered just one goal in his last two games will need to continue to stand on his head to counter the stellar play of Smith if the Preds are going to come back in the series.

pekka rinne playoffs 2012
(Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE)
Nashville also needs more production from their big guns.  Mike Fisher has just one goal so far in the playoffs and Shea Weber has just one point in the series so far.  Why is this even more noticeable than it was in round one?  the answer is the production that was coming from the likes of Gabriel Bourque and Kevin Klein has fizzled out as Bourque, who scored three goals in round one, is yet to find the back of the net in the series and Klein, who played some of the best hockey of his career against Detroit, has just one assist so far against Phoenix.
Phoenix should by no means think Nashville will go down without a fight as this Predators team has many veterans such as Hal Gill who have faced elimination before.  The season is on the line and Nashville’s leaders need to emerge in game five to give them a chance.  Nashville will need to come up big or they will be watching the Conference finals from home.