2018 NHL Playoffs: When Nashville Met Winnipeg
In recent history, Nashville has lost 2 Game 1’s. In 2016, Predators lose to the Sharks 5-2 in San Jose. San Jose would eventually win the series in 7 games in the 2nd round. In 2017, Preds lose to the Penguins 5-3 in Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup Final. Will history repeat itself once again in 3 straight years?
If you were to tell me that Nashville would have 48 shots by the end of the game and only come away with 1 goal, I would have laughed extremely hard. I would have definitely made sure to ignore you after the fact as well. Vezina Trophy finalist Connor Hellbuyck stopped 47 of Nashville’s 48 shots to steal a game away from the top-seeded Predators in Nashville. All but two Preds players were able to register a shot on the Jets and Hellbuyck. It was a game that Nashville dominated from every statistic, however, the main stat that counts, Nashville falls 4-1 against the Jets in Game 1 of the seven-game series.
“When a team is trying to shoot everything from everywhere, there’s only so much you can do.” Jets forward Blake Wheeler said: “I think your goal then is to have your three guys down low be really strong. I think our three guys were excellent boxing guys out and limiting their second-chance opportunities” Wheeler is referring about forward Patrik Laine and center Mark Scheifele whom all combined for five points.
Nashville Predators defenseman PK Subban added, “A couple of mistakes cost us, but bounces are going to happen in a hockey game. That’s just the way it is. Like I said, we’ll be ready Sunday.”
Subban and the Predators definitely came ready to play in a must-win game. In a game that was more evenly matched saw two extra periods as it came down to a breakaway goal. Craig Smith raced down to mid-ice receiving the puck, then dished it to Kevin Fiala who put it past Hellbuyck to score the game winner.
It all happened thanks to center Mark Scheifele who tied it up with 1:05 left in the 3rd period. It was his second goal of the game and league-leading eight goals in the playoffs. Pekka Rinne, who was pulled in Game 1 for allowing three goals on 16 shots made 46 saves, with 14 coming in the two overtimes. It was a back and forth game and this time it was in the favor of the Preds.
Center Ryan Johansen stated: “You focus on the details as an individual that makes you the best player possible for your team and where you can help guys around you in their game and stuff. For me, it’s going out there and doing the little things all the time consistently well and putting myself in position to have success.”
In the past two years, Nashville was defeated in Game 1, they also lost Game 2 which goes back to my original question. Will history repeat itself? History could repeat itself, and time can only tell. But, there will definitely be some new chapters to add.