Originally posted on The Predatorial  |  Last updated 5/4/12

Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images

It was hard-nosed, strong fore-checking, bring your lunch pail kind of hockey. It was the “Predator Way” and Nashville took full advantage of the small mistakes by Phoenix to cut the series lead in half and skate out Wednesday night with a 2-0 victory.

This was Pekka Rinne’s first playoff shutout and the additions of Wilson, Halischuk and especially Tootoo were a welcome sight as the team started to look like the team we saw in that magical month of January where the Predators looked unbeatable.

Puck drop is at 6:30 P.M. Central and can be viewed on NBC Sports Network or listened to locally/online at 102.5 the Game with Pete Weber and Terry Crisp handling the color and play-by-play.

Phoenix Leads Series 2-1

The Keys for Phoenix: Phoenix has their work cut out for them and the Predators had better expect that Tippett is planning on bringing everything but the kitchen sink. Phoenix played a relatively solid game and in the third period drew two key penalties to go on the 5-on-3 power play. Phoenix did not capitalize due to the amazingly lucky and physically insane stops by Rinne.

Mike Smith, who is known to be the heir apparent to Martin Brodeur as far as puck handling goaltenders made an ill-timed move to clear out the puck to his defense only to have it picked off by Bourque and centered to Legwand for the first goal of the game. Smith did a masterful job in net and only the two key mistakes by the Coyotes ended up in the back of the net. While his puck play is second to none, it might be to Smith’s benefit for some better communication and less of a tendency to leave the net so open (he seemed to stay put for the second and third period).

Vrbata and Whitney are still generating prime scoring opportunities and had it not been for Rinne playing lights out in the pipes, both could have easily scored on some high-percentage power play shots. The discipline for Phoenix needs to be in check. Too many times the Coyotes were a man down due to retaliation or blatant head-shots (yep..looking at you Morris) and Nashville had multiple chances on the PP but converted none. Tempting fate against Nashville’s league leading PP unit is a dangerous proposition and Tippett knows all too well about trying to contain momentum in such a pivotal game.

The Keys for Nashville: Play hockey the “Predator Way.” It sounds so simple and it is as simplistic a style of hockey as there is: pay the price for going to the hard areas, keep the other team in front of you, defense first and capitalize on mistakes. The suspension of Radulov and A. Kostitsyn allowed for players like Jordin Tootoo and Matt Halischuk to be inserted into the lineup. What came with these additions is the grit and guts that Halischuk and Tootoo bring; a 110% effort that was rewarded with adulation from the crowd and derision from the Phoenix Coyotes. It took Phoenix off their game and made them keep their heads up for what could be a bone-crunching hit.

Much speculation has been batted around about whether or not Trotz will re-insert A. Kostitsyn or Radulov or keep things as they are. It is true that Radulov and A. Kostitsyn provide a ton of scoring opportunity, but many calling the local radio stations and posting on the local blogosphere are of the opinion that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” We will not know till game time what the lineup will be, but judging from the practice squad earlier today, Trotz had A. Kostitsyn and Radulov flanking Craig Smith. Also it should be noted that Halischuk practiced for the full time today dismissing any claims of injury from the night before.

Rinne will have to continue his dominance and steal another one for the Predators. The defense did a great job of clearing out the crease and thankfully the experiment of having Klein/Josi and Gill/Bouillon came to an end Wednesday night. The result? Josi/Gill each a +1 and Klein/Bouillon +/- 0. A far cry from the combined -4 from Sunday’s game for Klein/Josi.


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