“It’s a trap!”
In the late 90’s through early 2000’s, the New Jersey Devils perfected a style of play which created a smothering style of seclusion for their opponents in the neutral zone. As successful as The Trap was for teams like New Jersey, and in some cases the Dallas Stars in the late 90’s (Hitchcock was named as head coach yesterday, so the fireworks of offense in Dallas are long gone…not really), it made for an excruciating style of hockey for the average hockey fan.
“We did a really good job messing up their systems and didn’t give them too much flow,” said Pekka Rinne who notched the first Nashville playoff shutout on the road. “They like to play with a lot of speed and puck possession, and we did the right things on the ice. I think that’s a credit for us to interrupt their style of play.”
Rinne was definitely good but wasn’t required to be stellar as the Preds sacrificed their bodies 26 times to block shots. Perhaps the save of the game came midway through the second period, a period that Chicago absolutely dominated, when Artem Anisimov toe-dragged around Ryan Ellis in the slot and got a low wrister off that Pekka got with the skate end of his left pad.
Another vital key to the game was special teams. Against a team that doesn’t get many penalties called against them, when Nashville does get power plays, it will be important to take advantage of them. The Preds only got one crack with the man advantage however, it was the penalty kill that was the story. Despite only taking two penalties, the killers came up huge when called upon, none larger than in the third period with nine minutes remaining when Chicago didn’t even register a shot on goal.
Nashville needed a split in Chicago and they came out of the gates and stole the victory in game one. Now, it’s Nashville that must deal with a trap of their own. They can’t get comfortable. That started to become evident in the game as they let off the gas in the second period. They skated harder and with authority in the third, but were still outshot 23-9 in the final 40 minutes. In the Stanley Cup playoffs, you look to your goaltender to steal a game or two, but your netminder can’t be your only hope.