The Nashville Predators might want to do a little more partying in front of the Winnipeg Jets’ net.
Despite putting up 48 shots on goal to the Jets’ 19, Nashville fell to Winnipeg 4-1 in Game One of their second-round series. Despite what the shot attempt heat map from Natural Stat Trick might say, the Predators got the short end of the stick tonight.
Aside from the chances directly in front of goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, the Predators were unable to generate interior scoring chances. Even when they did generate rebounds, the Predators were unable to bury those too.
“They played well,” captain Roman Josi said. “They have some big D and big players. They protect the net pretty good. They played well defensively and the goalie played well.”
Despite the lopsided shot total and losing score line, the Predators still felt they were the better team all night.
“We threw a lot of pucks to the net,” defenseman P.K. Subban said. “He made some really good saves, but like I said, I think that’s the best game we’ve played of the playoffs so far. We’re fine in here. I think that’s probably the best I’ve felt after being -3 in a game. I’ll take it and move forward and get ready for Sunday.”
The goals that the Jets did manage to score were on quick rushes and rebounds that could not be cleared from the front of the net. Late in the first period, Brandon Tanev cleaned up a loose puck in front of the net to put the Jets up 1-0. Paul Stastny tacked on the eventual game-winner in a similar fashion halfway through the second period.
Some people might say that the Jets were opportunistic with the small number of chances they got.
Subban is not some people.
“It’s not even about being opportunistic,” Subban said. “I don’t think that’s how you win championships in professional sports. You play the right way, and I think we played the right way tonight. We were fast, we were strong, we cycled the puck, we got pucks to the net. We did a lot of things. We hit early, I think we were first on a lot of pucks. For us right now, I mean, there’s a few things that we’ve got to clean up, a couple of mistakes cost us, but bounces are going to happen in a hockey game. That’s just the way it is. We’ll be ready to go on Sunday.”
As the game went on, Hellebuyck had a clear look at most of the shots he faced. The Predators were only able to get themselves on the board in the third period when Kyle Turris found Kevin Fiala right in front of the net with Hellebuyck out of position. The screens just weren’t there.
It seems like net front traffic will be a point of emphasis as the series goes on, and perhaps the addition of someone like Scott Hartnell to the lineup will help with that.
Overall, the Predators are fairly loose and confident that they can win hockey games by cleaning up a few mistakes and peppering the net just like they did on Friday.
“I enjoy that,” Subban said of the team’s shot total. “Let’s do that for the rest of the series, and we’re going to be a happy bunch at the end of it.”
“We’ve got a smart group,” center Ryan Johansen said. “We know how to handle situations, especially this one. For us, we’ll take tomorrow. I’m looking forward to hanging out with my dogs. It’s a nice day, so maybe take them to the park and then get back to work.”
However, don’t mistake that confidence for blissful ignorance of the task at hand. The Predators know that they’re not the team in the win column at the end of the day. They’ll need to get back there soon or their season might slip away.
“We played very strong,” Johansen said. “It’s too bad that doesn’t matter though. You have to win a hockey game. They’re up 1-0 and that’s all that matters. For us, there’s some good things we can look at for sure and things we can improve on.”