So much color

Game in a Sentence:

The Nashville Predators played game five like they have the previous four, skating and bullying their way through the Detroit Red Wings and it paid off in their second series win in franchise history.


Observations:

- I thought the Predators were the dominant team from the outset in this game as they ramped up the pace and hitting which really exposed a Detroit team that is relatively small and worn out.

- Alex Radulov’s goal in the first period was the prototypical Predators goal for me as it came off of a dump and chase, got the puck back off of a strong forecheck and found the open man cutting to the net through the defense in space. A hard work play, simple as that.

- On the topic of Radulov, I’ve wanted to see him do something of note all series as I’ve felt he has been out of synch with his teammates. Tonight was easily his best game of the playoffs and if they can get him rolling the team will be scary. For years the knock on Nashville in the playoffs is they lack that impact up front. Well, here he is.

- The first goal in general has been clutch this series as the winner of each game netted the first goal. Sure it seems like an elementary idea, but this felt a bit different as this was such a low scoring series. The team that scored first forced the opponent to adapt to their system. Neither of these teams are at their best when they’re forced to come out of their comfort zone – they don’t have the versatility other teams still kicking do.

- David Legwand has very quietly been the best player all series long for the Predators. His work in the defensive zone has been impeccable and his forechecking has generated a lot of offence for Nashville. I mentioned in the last Nashville recap that he may be considered a bust by many given how high he was drafted but there aren’t many players who are more useful to their team than Legwand is to the Predators.

- Another point I touched on earlier this series was my disappointment in the play of Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi and that didn’t cease tonight. I thought that they were the only players who could truly wear down this Nashville defense with their size and strength and that was clearly the case. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a good series and the Wings suffered as a result. The Zetterberg-Hudler-Filppula line can only do so much physically despite their immense skills.

- A guy I thought who was under the radar this series for Detroit and could play a bigger role going forward is Justin Abdelkader. He’s a feisty player with some speed that provides value from the bottom six. As this Red Wings roster begins to turn around in the coming years, he strikes me as a Draper-Maltby type who could stick around for a while as he continues to improve and learn the defensive side of the NHL game.

- Pekka Rinne is definitely in the conversation for best goaltender in the NHL, no? He stole a couple game for Nashville in this series and really frustrated Detroit’s attack. Nashville totally thwarted a Detroit attack that typically has no issue scoring goals whatsoever and it was punctuated by the performance of the man in goal. I pity whichever team has to try and beat him three or more times a night to take the Predators down.

- Poor Jimmy Howard. The guy played a really good series but was simply outdone by a world class performance at the other end. There’s not much he can do other than shrug his shoulders and get back to work for next season. He made a lot of strides as a goaltender this year and I think going forward he will erase any doubt that he’s an “Osgood” type (Sorry, Chris) – a decent goaltender who wins because of his team – and establish himself as an upper echelon stopper.

- Being a member of the hockey world at-large, I will be very sad if that’s the last game Nicklas Lidstrom ever plays in his career. Is there a petition somewhere to keep him playing? I’d like to sign it.

- I picked the Predators to win the Western Conference and I’m feeling pretty good about that through one series. Despite my faith in this roster I had no idea they’d put away Detroit in five games. Sure, the Red Wings were the better team in at least a couple of them but the Predators did plenty to earn the series win. It’s too bad that this season pitted them in a 4-5 matchup but any other year they could have just as easily met in the Conference finals which is not unlike their 4-5 brethren in the East.

My Three Stars:

1) Alex Radulov
2) David Legwand
3) Pekka Rinne

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