As evidenced by the first four games, it won’t be easy for the Sharks to take out the Predators but here are things to focus on over the rest of this series.
Heading into this series between the San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators, we identified three keys that would be instrumental in deciding the outcome. With this series tied at 2-2 ahead of tonight’s pivotal Game 5 matchup, let’s alter the perspective and take a look at what team teal has to do in order to knock out this gritty Nashville team over the course of the nest two or three contests:
1. Contain Nashville’s Top Line
The Predators top line of Mike Fisher, Colin Wilson and James Neal were a handful for the Sharks defense, single-handedly carrying Nashville to a Game 4 victory. The trio played a role in all four goals including Fisher’s second of the night which ended things in triple overtime.
In Game 4 alone, they combined for four goals, three assists and a plus-nine rating for the night. That’s getting it done, and the Sharks will need to find a way to limit their time and space in the offensive zone.
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Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun will have to be better in trying to shut down this dynamic trio for the Predators. If San Jose can slow them down, it will go a long way in limiting the offensive attack of Nashville.
Rebounds have played a critical part in the offensive game plans for both teams, and the Predators pounced on second-chance opportunities last game. Martin Jones struggled to corral and control his rebounds in Game 4, including the game-winning tally. He must be better throughout the rest of this series in putting rebounds in to better spots.
Also, the Sharks have to provide a stronger presence in front of their own net. San Jose allowed Nashville too many chances from key scoring areas. Team teal needs to make it much more difficult for the Predators to get to Jones and make them pay when they do.
On the flip side, the Sharks need to convert on their own second-chance opportunities against Pekka Rinne. While Rinne has been great thus far, he is prone to give up rebounds which we’ve seen through the first four games.
San Jose needs to get inside on the Nashville defense, which they were able to do more effectively as Game 4 wore on. The Sharks ability to create havoc around Rinne and find some ugly goals will be something to keep an eye on moving forward.
3. Special Teams
As always, special teams play a critical part of any playoff series. San Jose did a great job of responding on the penalty kill in Game 5 , killing off all five Nashville opportunities including two during overtime.
Meanwhile, the Sharks seemed to regain some of their power-play mojo in Game 4, although they will lament their missed chances in overtime. Team teal did find the back of the net with the man advantage on a Brent Burns blast, and the Joonas Donskoi goal came just after another penalty expired.
If San Jose’s special teams shows up, it will be difficult for Nashville to find a way past this Sharks team.
This has been a great series to date and should make for a fascinating finish with everything still left to be decided.
The Sharks will be looking to bounce back on home ice tonight and are hoping their fresher legs will help carry them past this pesky Predators team.