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Peter Denton The Hockey Writers

Published on Friday, April 24, 2015





Predators Struggling to Last Through Second Periods

The Nashville Predators’ long changing second period has been troublesome, to say the least. In the first three games against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Predators have been outscored 7-2 in the second period and outshot 35-28. Head Coach Peter Laviolette has clearly made some adjustments to correct for this problem in the last two games. The Predators scored the only goal between the two teams in the long change period, and outshot the Hawks 25-14. Not only do the stats say that they have been doing better in the long change, but they have looked better. Instead of chasing the puck, and running end to end, they are creating scoring opportunities and setting up in the offensive zone while moving the puck (mostly) cleanly out of the defensive zone. Everything a coach could hope for.

Peter Laviolette of the Nashville Predators

Peter Laviolette has changed the focus in Nashville – for the better. (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

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Unfortunately, it seems that, while improvement in the second period is important, it doesn’t tell the whole story. The problem of the long change is one of lasting through longer shifts. With captain Shea Weber out for the time being, his huge ice time will have to be distributed down the defensive line. While defensemen Roman Josi and Seth Jones have stepped up in big ways, it hasn’t been enough.

Related: Roman Josi Key to the Predators Playoff Chances

Playoff Overtime is Nothing Like Regular Season Overtime

Yes, both are sudden death, and both involve tagging extra minutes on to a hard-fought sixty minute game, but they are very different beasts. Obviously the regular season variety is a 4-4 battle while the playoff version is 5-5. But the biggest difference seems to be the length. While it might seem that it hardly matters since a goal can be scored quickly, it seems to make a huge difference, especially in a series that has seen more than sixty minutes of extra time played.

Related: Nashville: Predators in Extra Time

The Preds have been strong in OT all season (while they have been weak in the shootout, it is, luckily, a fact that is irrelevant in the playoffs). While the long change has been a struggle for Nashville, a five-minute sudden death OT period is a bit different from twenty more minutes of tired, long changes. It should be seen as no surprise that both OT playoff games went Chicago’s way. Yes, netminder Pekka Rinne and the defensive squad held the Blackhawks off through three complete sudden death periods across two games without giving up a goal, his lack of goal support proved problematic (his GAA in the two OT losses was just 2.24, fairly solid for losses, compared to his 2.18 season long figure).

Pekka Rinne seems to be returning to form (Dinur/Flickr)

Pekka Rinne seems to be returning to form (Dinur/Flickr)

Filip Forsberg, Our Hero

A solid performer all season, young center Filip Forsberg has produced when Nashville needed it most. On March 28 at the Washington Capitals, Filip Forsberg put together a three-point game to give the Predators a 4-3 and to secure a playoff bid (remember that after Nashville earned that bid they dropped a remarkable six in a row to end the regular season).

Filip Forsberg (Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

Filip Forsberg (Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

Related: Forsberg Scores Hat Trick, Not Calder Trophy Invite

As the Predators were facing elimination by the experienced Hawks, young Forsberg stepped up again with a hat trick (including an empty netter, but who’s counting) to secure at least one more game for Nashville. While it might have seemed somewhat like overkill to win 5-2 in such a tight playoff series, proving Darling beatable (again, Darling only accounted for four of those goals) sets a potentially important tone as the series returns north to Chicago.

What to Look for Down the Road

It would seem to be in the Predators’ best interests (also those of us who have to wake up for work) to wrap up games in regulation. Not only have the two OT games in this series ended with a puck in Rinne’s goal, but with Shea Weber still day-to-day at the moment, the long games don’t seem to be doing the Predators (or the fans) any service.


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