If the performances from both teams are going to be any indicator of the rest of this series, then this Game 3 is extremely bad news for Anaheim.
On an afternoon where the Ducks needed to pull together to find a way to win in Nashville—something they have not yet done this year—they were completely dominated by a Predators team that is on a mission.
The scoreboard finished 4-3 in favor of Nashville, but this is one instance where the score definitely does not tell the whole story, as the Predators controlled every aspect of this game from start to finish.
It was an afternoon that was positively frustrating for Anaheim, so much so that it even provoked captain Ryan Getzlaf into a rare fight in the second period.
For the Predators, there was a lot to love about their game three performance.
On one hand, they came out of the gate attacking in the first period, catching Anaheim completely off guard and banging in two goals just 38 seconds apart. Those goals were two of a total of 12 shots they would have in the first frame and 37 they would have on the night.
The surprising success also continues for the Predators offense and power play. Suddenly, the team that finished a mediocre 21st in offensive production now has at least three goals in each of their games this post-season.
Their power play unit that ended the regular season ranked 26th in the league has sprung for four goals in three games, with at least one goal in every game so far.
Who has been the MVP of this series so far?
Mike Fisher has become an extreme thorn in the Ducks' collective side, having scored in two of the three games so far and his five points are tied for the best in the playoffs.
For Anaheim, their defense has got to improve and their poor play can be narrowed down to one trend I've noticed from this entire series: The remarkable inability to clear the puck outside their blueline when given a chance.
I can't find a stat for the exact number, but there have been so many times over these three games where the Ducks get control of the puck with a chance to get it out of their defensive zone and relieve the pressure, only to either turn the puck over when trying to skate it out or throw it to the only spot on the ice currently occupied by a Predators defenseman.
This has led to a number of incidences where the Ducks have been forced to withhold a line change due to consistent pressure from the Predators offense.
If the Ducks want to find a way to crawl back in this series and not go back to Anaheim with their backs to the elimination wall, they have got to find a way to contain this offense that in all reality shouldn't even be giving them all that much trouble.
However, there are three positive points that the Ducks can take out of this lopsided loss:
- Goaltender Ray Emery has proven that he is completely devoid of any side-effects from the small injury he sustained at the tail end of the regular season by stopping a remarkable 33 of the 37 shots he faced, many being very difficult ones from high-scoring areas.
- The Ducks have shown that their offense can still produce without young superstar Bobby Ryan. While the "Big Line" didn't produce a goal tonight, Corey Perry still had two assists, Matt Beleskey scored a huge game-tying goal and Teemu Selanne scored a pair of goals a mere 30 seconds apart to tie the game in the dying moments of the second period.
- After a game one in which Pekka Rinne frustrated the Ducks by only allowing a single goal (and only allowing it on a five-on-three advantage for Anaheim), the Ducks have proven that the Finnish netminder is human and beatable, breaking him for eight goals over the last two games, including three tonight despite managing a paltry 16 shots on goal.
Looking ahead to Game 4, I think it will be very similar to Game 2: Anaheim will once again be desperate for a victory and will no doubt come out angry and extremely aggressive.
If they can pull their defense together and make sure they can take care of the puck when they need to, then they've proven they can give themselves a shot at a victory.
They just need to find that desperation again that drove them through the end of the regular season and in game two.
Nashville will however be just as pumped with the chance to go up by two games and put Anaheim's backs to the wall. They've already won a game at Honda Center this series, and they know they can do it again.
They're in great shape to finally break their curse and advance to the second round, they just need to string together another solid performance to help that become a reality.