Sunday, April 17, 2011

Predators and Their Fans Have A Reputation to Live Up To As Ducks Invade Music City

For years Predator fans in Section 303 have carried the mantle of "the loudest fans in the loudest arena in the NHL." This year, the TV time out ovation have become a tradition that has occurred more regularly during the stretch run and involves the whole arena.

Coach Barry Trotz and the players always acknowledge the fans part in giving them a little extra boost at criticle points in the game.

In the last week or so, with no home games for fans to burn their enthusiasm on a new theme of "Welcome to Hell" is gaining ground. There's even a Facebook page set up by Patten Fuqua of Section 303 with specific instructions on taunts and duck calls and such.

On the flip side, you have to wonder how the Anaheim Ducks will react to the pregame taunts. Coming from a relatively quieter arena. will they appreciate the attention and take it as a challenge, or will the noise level later in the game become a disquieting situation for them?

All the fanfare leading up to this game really puts plenty of pressure on the Nashville fans to actually take it to "the next level." It will be an interesting sub plot to watch as the game unfolds.

Meanwhile, back to the game on the ice, The Nashville Predators (1-1) have a prime opportunity to use the last change, the crowd, and every other advantage home ice affords to take the lead from the Anaheim Ducks (1-1) in game three at the Bridgestone Arena today at 5 p.m.

After a tough opening few minutes in game two, when penalties led to a quick 2-0 lead for the Ducks, the Predators clearly outplayed Anaheim, especially in the third period. Ray Emery (1-0-0, 2.28, .925) was well protected by his teammates but did not look good in goal. He did not move well and gave up plenty of jucy rebounds that the Preds did not take full advantage of.

Dan Ellis (0-1-0, 5,86, ,833), the game one starter, did not look any better, losing 4-1 and being pulled early in the third period. The Ducks number one goalie, Jonas Hiller (0-0-0, 0.00, .000) is still is dizzy with Vertigo. Basically, the Ducks goalie situation could be discribed as playing on a "wing and a prayer." (sorry about the horrible analogy)

Pekka Rinne (1-1-0, 2.54, .909) will obviously be in net for the Predators. He has played well but has been victimized by two five on three goals from the number two power play unit in the NHL.

The big story in the series was the suspension of Bobby Ryan for both of the games in Nashville. While he is a critical player in the Ducks attack, they have plenty of other weapons and usually there is always someone else like Matt Beleskey that will step up with increased minutes and playing on a better line.

For the Predators to succeed in this series, they are going to have to do a better job of staying out of the penalty box. The Predators are a much better team five on five than the Ducks. Nashville has a 1.16 ratio of goals for/against in five on five play during the regular season while the Ducks were a meager 0.89.

The Predators are also going to have to continue to play well on the power play where they are three of eleven so far. While Nashville was the second least penalized team in the league (8.8 mpg) the Ducks were one of the worst (26th 14.4 mpg). During the season, when the Preds fell into one of their many goal scoring droughts, the power play usually stopped clicking too.

So much emphasis has been placed on the Ducks are ranked second (23.5%) in the league ranking on the man advantage but they are up against the Predators' fifth ranked (84.9%) penalty kill. On the flip side, Anaheim’s 19th place ranking (81.3%) on the kill gives the Preds meager 26th ranked (15.2%) power play an opportunity to score.

Predators Keys to the Game

1. Own the slot at  both ends of the ice - When the Preds are successful, they clear every rebound in front of Pekka Rinne and pick up the trash around the opponents net and bury the loose pucks for easy goals.

2. Stay out of the box - While the Preds don't need to drop the physicality from their game, they need to avoid penalties that do nothing to establish their might on the ice.

3. Take advantage of home ice - Barry Trotz need to be on top of his game in controlling the match ups while the players need to excel in the face off circles where they have their stick on the ice last.

Other Predator Previews come from Amanda DiPaolo, Robby Stanley, Predatorial, Marc Torrence, Paul McCann, The Tennessean, and

Amanda Dipaolo writes about the significance of the Ryan suspension.

Ryan Porth emphasizes that the Preds need to stay out of the penalty box.

Bryan Mullen has a story about the Ducks playing without Bobby Ryan and his notes column at the Tennessean.

Eric Stephens had his pre-game notes for game three at the OC Register. He also has the Ducks side of Bobby Ryan's suspension.

Previews from the Southland come from from The OC Register, Long Beach Press Telegram, L A Times, Ducks Blog, Quackalakin', Anaheim Calling, Battle of California, Ducks and Cover, Ducks Daily Blog, and Ducks and Pucks.

More Later...

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

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