The Nashville Predators took Game 1 of the Western Conference Final by beating the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 in overtime. Filip Forsberg and Austin Watson scored in regulation and James Neal bagged his fourth of the playoffs in overtime to give his team the victory.
Here’s Pete Weber’s call on the Neal OT winner…
Here are five thoughts on Game 1 of the Western Conference Final…
- Pekka Rinne
What a performance yet again. Yes, John Gibson made 43 saves in the losing effort on the other end of the ice but Rinne made 27 saves of his own, many of the difficult variety. Much like Game 1 against the Chicago Blackhawks back in April, Rinne was the reason his team won. He was beyond incredible when he needed to be and he backstopped Nashville into home ice advantage thanks to the victory.
- Austin Watson
The Ducks are known for being a heavier team that can be borderline dirty at times. The Predators have no better answer for that style of play than Watson. The former first round pick had himself a whale of a game, hitting everything in sight, keeping his composure when pushed around, blocking a key shot on the penalty kill and even contributing on the scoresheet with his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal.
- Special Teams
Nashville may have gone 0-4 on the power play Friday night but they fired 11 shots on goal while on the man advantage. Despite not being able to convert, they had plenty of puck movement, creative set ups and scoring chances. Conversely, their penalty kill shut down the Anaheim attack, holding them to 0-for-4 and just four shots. A truly dominant performance, all things considered, even without a tally.
- Missed Opportunity
The Predators received a gift when the Ducks took back-to-back delay of game penalties in the third period thanks to clearing the puck over the glass twice. The result was an extended 5-on-3 advantage but Nashville couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity. It almost meant the game but Anaheim wasn’t able to solve Rinne in the final minutes of regulation. The Preds can’t afford to squander too many more opportunities like that throughout this series.
Mike Fisher did not have a strong night in the faceoff dot, going 9-18 (33 percent). As the game went on, Nashville improved their efficiency but, as a whole, this is an all-too-important area of the game that Anaheim had success in. As a team, the Ducks won 56 percent of their draws. Ryan Kesler, Nate Thompson and Antoine Vermette all clicked at 57 percent or higher. The Predators are a team that thrives on puck possession. If the Ducks continue this pace in the dot, it could mean the difference in a game or two and, at this time of year, that’s flirting with disaster if you’re Nashville.
Game 2 is Sunday at Honda Center. FULL SCHEDULE IS HERE.