Through three games of the Western Conference final, John Gibson has seen a lot of the Nashville Predators.
The Preds have clearly prioritized making Gibson’s life difficult — driving to the net, taking away his eyes, etc. etc. — and it all came to a head in the third period of Game 3 when, within seconds of each other, Harry Zolnierczyk and Mattias Ekholm were both whistled for goalie interference, wiping out goals in the process.
Ahead of Game 4, the guys in front of Gibson talked about how to stop the Preds from crashing the crease.
“If we start stopping them a little bit earlier before they get to the net, they run out of speed before they get to him.,” blueliner Josh Mason said, per the O.C. Register. “It’s pretty simple what you got to do when guys start taking runs at a goalie like that.”
Under different circumstances — say, the regular season — the “pretty simple” solution would be for the Ducks to dole out some post-whistle justice, or seek retribution at a later time. But it’s the playoffs. Power plays are just too vital. Nashville’s winning tally in Game 3 came with the man advantage, and Anaheim has scored PPGs in consecutive games.
The bottom line is that neither team wants to take a penalty. It’s something Manson alluded to in explaining what he and the Ducks can do to keep the flies off Gibson — and, what they can’t.
“Any time you hit the goalie, it’s crossing the line,” he explained. “Any time you drive to the crease and you don’t really have any objections to stopping and running into him, that’s crossing the line.
“And I think if it wasn’t playoffs and you’re not worried about taking an extra penalty, I think there’d be a little more consequence to pay.”
There’s another option to consider: Do to Pekka Rinne what Nashville has done to Gibson.
That’s going to be something worth monitoring tonight. The Ducks have been vocal about not challenging Rinne enough, and Carlyle essentially challenged his group to be more aggressive yesterday.
“We have to get to the front of the net a lot harder,” he said. “[Rinne] got to see too many pucks.”