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Predators’ Pain Tolerance Proved Key In Tying Canucks Series



Photo of Ryan McDonagh, right, by John Russell/Nashville Predators

Few players are bruise-free when the Stanley Cup Playoffs arrive.

Nashville Predators center Colton Sissons said he didn’t discover any new bumps after absorbing four of the team’s 30 blocked shots during Tuesday’s 4-1 Game 2 win over the Vancouver Canucks in their first-round series.

“Not from the blocked shots, thankfully,” he said. “The pads did their job.”

The Predators ramped up their shot-blocking efforts partially out of necessity as Vancouver attempted 84 total shots to Nashville’s 36. The Canucks also had the Predators pinned in their defensive zone for much of Game 2, forcing them to defend a high-volume attack.

Getting more bodies in front of pucks was a point of emphasis for Predators head coach Andrew Brunette entering Game 2. Nashville blocked just 14 shots in its playoff opener Sunday and lost 4-2.

“Certainly in the blocked-shot department, we talked about that after Game 1,” Sissons said. “We felt like [Vancouver] was a little bit more desperate to get in the shot lanes and do the blocking. That was something we wanted to get better at, and you saw the result.”

Defenseman Alex Carrier finished with a team-high six blocked shots in Game 2. Ryan McDonagh added four blocks, and on at least one occasion, he braced for a Vancouver shot without turning his head or even raising a glove to protect his face.

“I’m not surprised,” defenseman Luke Schenn said. “[McDonagh] is an animal when it comes to that sort of stuff. I played with him in Tampa for a couple years and have been following him closely ever since he was captain of the Rangers. He’s always blocking shots and [being] a team-first guy. It’s not just him doing it without a reason, intent or purpose. There’s a bit of an art behind it. He’s the best I’ve probably ever played with in terms of blocking shots.”

McDonagh told reporters after Game 2 he makes a conscious effort to balance shot blocking with allowing goaltender Juuse Saros to have a clear line of sight. Vancouver’s lone goal Tuesday came in the second period when Nikita Zadorov ripped a shot from the point that appeared to deflect off Nashville forward Mark Jankowski and past Saros, who made 17 saves.

“We want to let [Saros] see the puck as much as we can, because if he sees it, he’s going to stop it,” McDonagh said. “It’s a fine line. It’s a read for us. We try to play the percentages there.”

Filip Forsberg was the lone Predators player missing from Thursday morning’s practice at Centennial Sportsplex. He’s been almost exclusively limited to just games for the past two months while dealing with what general manager Barry Trotz described to 102.5 The Game as a slow-healing cut.

Otherwise, the Predators seem to be unscathed from their road swing in Vancouver, according to Brunette.

“When you’re a little bit committed to the pain, I think it’s going to hurt [to block shots],” he said. “We’re willing to pay the price to feel it and go forward. I think we feel pretty healthy, knock on wood.”

Fortunately for the Predators, they get an extra day to rest and recover thanks to a previously scheduled Tim McGraw concert at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday night — something forward Ryan O’Reilly is grateful for.

“It would be tough if we were getting back at it tonight,” O’Reilly said. “It’s no easy travel [from Vancouver to Nashville] either. When you block all those shots, the bumps and bruises guys have, and you fly across the country, it’s not easy by any means.”

Follow Russell Vannozzi on X/Twitter @RussellV_MSP.

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