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Nashville Predators

Game 5 All About ‘Changing The Narrative’ For The Predators




Despite outplaying the Vancouver Canucks in three of their four meetings in their first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series, the Nashville Predators are facing elimination Tuesday night in Vancouver.

And despite what the metrics say about which team has the edge in shots, scoring chances, hits, blocked shots, PDO, and everything in between, the determining factor in the Predators’ three losses actually has nothing to do with analytics.

Each win the Canucks have in this series can be traced back to one thing: their ability to take everything that’s thrown their way and patiently wait for the brief openings they’re given when the Predators inevitably take their foot off the gas.

Take Game 1 for example.

Nashville was leading 2-1 heading into the third period. Vancouver had outshot their opposition 14-12 and led in scoring chances for 19-13 at that point yet still trailed on the scoreboard.

But one 12-second span changed everything.

Nearly halfway through the final period, Brock Boeser collected a pass in the left corner, passed it along to Quinn Hughes at the point, who had no defender within 10 feet of him.

Hughes fired a shot toward the net with Pius Suter and J.T. Miller both screening Juuse Saros. Suter tipped the puck just enough that Saros never saw it, and suddenly it’s tied.

Twelve seconds later, Hughes fired a quick pass up ice after Vancouver won the center-ice faceoff, where Elias Lindholm corralled the loose puck just outside the trapezoid.

With Ryan O’Reilly and Jeremy Lauzon both tied up behind the net, Filip Forsberg far off by the right faceoff circle and Gustav Nyquist in no-man’s land out at the point, Connor Garland fired a quick pass to Dakota Joshua through Alex Carrier’s legs and Joshua buried it for the 3-2 lead.

Vancouver used some similar play setups in Game 3.

Midway through the first period, the Canucks sent Boeser to the front of the net to screen Saros. No defender bothered moving him out of the crease, leaving Miller to tee off from the point. Saros never saw the puck coming and Vancouver led 1-0 early on.

The same thing happened near the end of the second period. Boeser parked himself in front of Saros again with Miller taking a shot from the faceoff circle. Boeser tipped it in and Lauzon didn’t even try to clear Boeser out of Saros’ way until after Miller had already sent the puck his way.

But Game 4 was the Predators’ biggest blunder of all.

Leading 3-1 with just three minutes left, the Canucks pulled their goalie for the 6-on-5 advantage. As Miller skated toward the net, he lifted a skate, faked a show and got Carrier to bite just enough that he went down to his knees to defend, allowing Miller to fire a clean pass to Lindholm in front of the net.

Lauzon dove down to block Lindholm from shooting, but he fired the puck across the crease to Boeser, who buried it in the wide-open net.

Two-and-a-half minutes later in yet another 6-on-5, Hughes made a move on Nyquist in the offensive zone that sent him to the ice and allowed Vancouver to set up the same exact look it had on its last goal with Miller driving toward the net.

Josi went down to one knee and O’Reilly laid out, both in preparation to block a shot. Garland, Boeser and Joshua all crashed the net, and Miller fed Boeser who missed his first shot but redirected the rebound for the tying goal with three Predators players (including Saros) down on the ice.

In those three games, Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet found a way to weather the Predators’ storm and he picked his openings, exploiting the few holes he saw in Nashville’s game.

Two of the three goals Saros allowed in Game 1, and both of the goals he allowed in Game 3 came with a defender screening him. Saros was one of the worst goalies in the NHL during the regular season on screen plays with an .863 save percentage in such situations, per Sportlogiq.

Then in Game 4 when the Predators better defended against the screens, the Canucks switched it up.

They began forcing Nashville to play more spread out, and the incorporated more movement and continuous puck cycling around the offensive zone, resulting in Nashville’s skaters seemingly always out of position — all four Vancouver goals were scored with zero defensive help in front of Saros

We’ve seen Vancouver adjust and counter-strike for four games. Now, it’s the Predators turn. So far, the Canucks have scouting the Predators perfectly, the onus is now on them to show Vancouver something different.

“This is playoff hockey,” Andrew Brunette said. “Things happen fast, things change fast. Let’s change the narrative.”

Follow Michael Gallagher on X/Twitter @MGsports_

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