Friday, April 20, 2012
The Nashville Predators can eliminate the Detroit Red Wings from the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a win on Friday night at Bridgestone Arena. After collecting two road wins in Detroit in Games 3 and 4, the Predators are in the driver's seat with a 3-1 series lead for the first time in franchise history.
Pekka Rinne has been sensational for the Predators so far in this series. In the previous two games in Detroit, Rinne stopped 81 of 84 shots to propel Nashville to two crucial road victories. He will have to be exceptional in goal once again on Friday night in order to fend off what is sure to be a desperate Detroit team.
In every game in this series so far, the team that has been outshot has also been the team that has won the game. The Red Wings outshot the Predators by a 84-39 margin in the last two games in Detroit. Nashville will have to tighten that gigantic shooting gap on Friday night.
Detroit has dominated Nashville in shots in the previous two games, but have been unable to capitalize in key moments. If the Red Wings are able to sustain the same kind of offensive pressure in Game 5 that they have in the previous two games, they are going to have quality opportunities for goals.
Gabriel Bourque has made his presence felt so far in this series for the Predators, scoring three goals in the first four playoff games of his young NHL career. Bourque was drafted in the fifth round by Nashville in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, and he's making a huge impact at an early stage of his career. If he is able to continue to provide the Predators with goals, Nashville will be in good position to close out the Red Wings on Friday night.
In what could potentially be his last NHL game, expect Nicklas Lidstrom to be a force on both ends of the ice for Detroit on Friday night. The future Hall of Fame defenseman has not registered a point so far in the series even though he has fired 13 shots on goal through the first four games.
Bridgestone Arena is sure to be rocking on Friday night. The Predators have been chasing the Red Wings since the inception of their franchise, and a first round victory over Detroit would be one of the biggest accomplishments in franchise history.
My player to watch for the Red Wings is Pavel Datsyuk. Big players have big games in big situations. Datsyuk has proven to be a clutch player throughout his career. There are nights when he is arguably the best player in the world. Friday night could be one of those nights. Expect him to be a huge factor in Game 5.
For Nashville, my player to watch is Ryan Suter. While he's been completely quiet offensively through the first four games of the series, Suter has been masterful defensively. One of the biggest strengths in Suter's game is that he is almost always in the right place at the right time. Look for him to make an impact on both sides of the ice for the Predators in Game 5.
Game 5 starts at 7 p.m. central on Friday night at Bridgestone Arena.
(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)