The Nashville Predators have broken new ground in franchise history. In their first ever Western Conference Final, Nashville has a 1-0 series lead over the Anaheim Ducks.
There have been a few different reasons for Nashville’s success this post-season. You know all about these two:
— The goaltending they have received from Pekka Rinne has been dynamite. He made 27 saves in Friday’s series opener and now carries a save percentage of .950. No big deal.
— Talk of the production from the blue line — most notably Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi and P.K. Subban — has been constant since the first couple of games against the St. Louis Blues in the second round, and the trend continued versus the Ducks.
What may not be getting enough credit in this playoff run so far is the play of Nashville’s penalty kill.
During the regular season, the Predators were 15th in the league short handed. Yeah, nothing to write home about. It’s been a totally different story in the playoffs.
“Well, I think Pekka’s the biggest reason, goaltenders are always your best penalty killer and he’s done a great job,” said Josi of Nashville’s penalty killing success.
Since the beginning of the second round — a span now of seven games — the Predators have given up just one power play goal against in 19 opportunities. On Friday, they successfully killed off four Anaheim power plays and allowed only four shots when short handed.
Of the remaining teams in the playoffs, Nashville’s penalty kill is the best, almost two percentage points better than Ottawa. As noted earlier, their top defenders have received plenty of accolades for their production, and rightfully so, but they’ve all been key members of this thriving penalty kill.
Josi leads the team in short-handed ice time and Ellis is right behind him. On Friday, those two, as well as Subban and Mattias Ekholm were all relied upon heavily in that situation. (As was captain Mike Fisher, who doesn’t have a point in the playoffs but remains Peter Laviolette’s top penalty killing forward.)
Again, not only were the Ducks shut out on the score board while on the power play, they didn’t generate many shots on Rinne.
“When you’re in the Final Four … every team’s got a pretty good power play and got players that can break open a game, so you’re not always going to be able to shut them down,” said Subban.
“But you can just try to take away their time and space, and try to disrupt and deter as much as you can.”
In the playoffs, special teams can determine the difference between winning and losing a game or a series. The penalty kill is just another reason why the Predators have continued their winning ways this spring.
Meanwhile, the Ducks power play continues to endure its own struggles. They have just two power play goals in 27 opportunities in their last eight games.
“Our power play has been a little bit touch and go. We have had a lot of looks that we liked but we’re just not getting them in the net,” said Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf.