The Nashville Predators trail the Vancouver Canucks 3-1 in the Western Conference Semifinals, but it sure isn’t because of a lack of effort. Barry Trotz’s crew, who is now on the brink, is competing well and hanging with the Presidents’ Trophy winners. In the end, the Canucks are just flat out the better team.
All four games thus far have essentially been decided by one goal. Twice, a contest has needed to be decided in overtime. Both defense corps and goaltenders are playing great, but the Canucks’ edge in firepower up front is making the difference.
In the first round, Nashville was able to score three or four goals regularly against Anaheim. However, their lack of a true goal-scorer is evident in this series. When Ryan Kesler weaved through Shea Weber and Shane O’Brien en route to his game-winning goal in Thursday’s Game 4, I’m sure Preds fans were wondering where they could find someone who could do that.
The only game-breaker GM David Poile has ever been able to nab abruptly defected to Russia in 2008. With the way Vancouver has been playing defensively in this series, the Preds have needed someone who can step up and strike quickly. Grinding out goals and capitalizing on turnovers can only work for so long.
Joel Ward is leading the team with nine points this postseason; nothing against Ward, but the ones who are relied upon for offense are not getting it done. Mike Fisher, Patric Hornqvist and Sergei Kostitsyn – who succeeded versus Anaheim – have been completely shut out by Vancouver; so much so that their line has been separated in search of a solution.
All of the life is being sucked out of Nashville’s offense. There’s little-to-no room to get shots off or generate chances.
Yes, the Preds are passing up some opportunites; but whenever Shea Weber winds up for a slap-shot, a Canuck is in his way. Almost every cross-ice pass is being intercepted or deflected away. And when they finally do get a good look, Roberto Luongo is there to stop it more times than not. The Canucks have done a tremendous job of getting in passing/shooting lanes to limit the Preds’ scoring chances.
From start to finish, Alain Vigneault’s Canucks have been the most complete team in the NHL this season. The defense is dominating and Luongo has been solid in net. Against a defensively-sound opponent, Kesler and company are getting the necessary timely goals.
The Predators pride themselves on a 20-man, 60-minute effort on a game-to-game basis. If you take out a couple periods in the four games, they have gotten that effort. Trotz would like to see his team play better, but they are simply out-matched and do not have an answer for a Vancouver club that is built for playoff success and destined for greater things.
Hard work simply is not enough for the Preds to top these Canucks. If the underdogs from Music City can’t find a way to muster more offense in Game 5, this series will be over.
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