#12 Anaheim Ducksvs.#11 Nashville Predators
Written by Chris Kubala
Nashville Predators (10-4 SU, 8-6 PL, 2-6-6 O/U) vs. Anaheim Ducks (10-5 SU, 7-8 PL, 7-4-4 O/U)
NHL: Saturday, May 20, 2017, Honda Center, Anaheim, California, 7:15 pm ET
Lines: Anaheim -110, Nashville +100; Over/Under: 5
It’s a pivotal Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals out on the west coast. The Nashville Predators, who were the first wild card team, making them the seventh seed in the West, travel to face the Pacific Division winners, the Anaheim Ducks, Saturday night. The teams split the first four games of the series, each winning once at home and once on the road. Anaheim squared the series with a 3-2 overtime win on the road Thursday night. Three of the first four games have been decided by one goal with two of them going to overtime.
Nashville had a chance to put their foot on the throats of the Ducks but failed to capitalize. Instead, they head back west with the series all square and home ice advantage back in favor of Anaheim. Nashville is 7th among playoff teams in goals per game with 2.71 per contest. The Predators lead the postseason in goals against with an average of 1.79 per game. Nashville is 13th in power play efficiency as they convert 14.3 percent of their chances with the man advantage. The Predators are 8th in the postseason in penalty killing as they successful kill off 85.3 percent of their shorthanded situations.
The Predators started slow but rallied late to force overtime. Unfortunately, they were unable to continue that momentum in the extra session. Nashville was dominated in the opening period as they were outshot 14-2: only Pekka Rinne kept the Predators in the game. They were fortunate to go to the dressing room only down 1-0. In the second period, Nashville played much better as they held an 18-12 edge in shots. Unfortunately, they gave up the period’s only goal to trail 2-0 after 40 minutes. The third period saw the Predators hold an 11-5 edge but more importantly, a 2-0 advantage in goals, tying the score. P.K. Subban made it a 2-1 game with his second goal of the playoffs at 13:33 of the third period. Colin Wilson and Viktor Arvidsson assisted on that goal. In the final minute, still trailing by a goal, Filip Forsberg netted his seventh of the playoffs at 19:25 to tie the game. Arvidsson and James Neal drew the assists on the goal. Nashville seemed to run out of gas in overtime as they were outshot 6-3 and allowed the winning goal midway through the first overtime stanza. Rinne stopped 34 shots in the loss.
Anaheim had to go the extra mile to square the series after coughing up a two goal lead in the third period in Game 4. The Ducks now look to take the advantage in the series for the first time after losing Game 1 (with the series tied 0-0) and Game 3 (with the series tied 1-1) earlier in the series. Anaheim comes into this game first in the postseason with an average of 3.07 goals per game offensively. The Ducks are 12th in goals against as they allow 2.87 goals per contest. Anaheim is struggling on special teams: they are 11th on the power play as they convert just 15.2 percent of their chances with the man advantage. Penalty killing has been the bane of the Ducks’ existence as they are third worst in the playoffs as they successfully kill off just 76.3 percent of their shorthanded situations.
The Ducks started strong, wilted late and then recovered in overtime to avoid a 3-1 series deficit. In the opening 20 minutes, Anaheim had a staggering 14-2 advantage in shots on goal and took a 1-0 lead to the dressing room. Rickard Rakell lit the lamp for the seventh time in the postseason at the 11:30 mark on an assist from Cam Fowler to open the scoring. In the second period, the Ducks were outshot 18-12 but doubled their lead after 40 minutes. Nick Ritchie tallied his fourth of the playoffs at 10:22 to make it a 2-0 game. Nate Thompson and Sami Vatanen assisted on that goal. Anaheim went stagnant offensively for a while: they were outshot 11-5 in the third period as the Predators knotted the score in the final minute of regulation. In the extra period, Anaheim held a 6-3 advantage in shots and midway through the frame, they netted the winner. Corey Perry scored his fourth of the playoffs at 10:25 unassisted for the game winning goal. John Gibson made 32 saves for the Ducks in the victory.
The Predators were dealt a blow when it was announced that Ryan Johansen was lost for the playoffs after undergoing thigh surgery. He had contributed three goals and 10 assists in the playoffs as the top line center for Nashville. The Predators will have to scramble things around a bit to figure out who will replace him on that line. Anaheim has struggled at home in the postseason, which is strange. The Ducks have the edge with home ice advantage but Rinne is capable of stealing games. Look for Nashville to steal another one on the road to take a 3-2 series lead.
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Christopher Kubala has been crunching stats and following sports for over 30 years. His in depth analysis and passion for sports have led him to writing books about sports, regularly being featured on sports talk radio and as the go-to person for any obscure trivia. He keeps an eye on transactions and statistics like a hawk, especially when it comes to football, both the NFL and college, the NHL, the NBA and college basketball and MLB.