Overtime magic was the story for the Nashville Predators on home ice in Games 3 and 4. Overtime, regulation, whatever it takes to extend the series to a decisive Game 7. That will be the goal for the Predators on Thursday night in Game 6. The Hurricanes returned the overtime favor with a Jordan Staal goal less than two minutes into the extra period to swing the balance of the series in favor of the favorites.
Carolina is priced in the -135 range per BetOnline a Bitcoin Sportsbook for Game 6 at Bridgestone Arena in what will be a loud, prideful pack of patrons down on Broadway in the Music City. The total for the game is 5.5 after Game 5 just snuck under the total. Three of the five games in this series have gone over.
This has been a wide-open series at 5-v-5 and one that has clearly favored the Hurricanes. Game 5 did as well. Carolina did buckle down defensively on Tuesday night and held the Predators to just 13 scoring chances at full strength and only five high-danger chances. Despite those big defensive efforts, Nashville still had the 2-1 scoring edge at 5-v-5.
Martin Necas scored twice, including the game-tying goal with just over seven minutes left in the third period. It was that kind of game, as most of the top players from each team failed to find the stat sheet, but sometimes you need the role players to find a way. Something interesting for Carolina is that no forward logged more than 19:34 of ice time. After back-to-back overtime games in Nashville, the Hurricanes were able to roll all four lines and give everybody a chance to play. They could be the fresher unit for Game 6.
Then again, it was a different story on defense. Jake Bean only played 7:54 and Jani Hakanpaa only played 14:57. The Big Four for Carolina logged huge minutes once again, including a lot of time on special teams. Nashville was able to balance the ice time out a bit better among the defensemen.
Carolina brought some additional physical play to the table and also had the advantage in the faceoff circle. Four one-goal games have been played in this series and even though we’ve seen some goals, both Alex Nedeljkovic and Juuse Saros have played well. With 23 saves on 25 shots in Game 5, Nedeljkovic now sports a 2.10 GAA and a .927 SV% in the series.
Yakov Trenin scored his first two goals of the series for the Predators, but assists from Roman Josi and Colton Sissons were the only other points on the stat sheet. The Predators need more from a lot of their top guys. Matt Duchene had the overtime game-winner in Game 3, his only goal of the series. Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, and Game 4 hero Luke Kunin are the only guys with multiple goals other than Trenin.
Nashville was 0-for-3 on the power play again in Game 5 and is now just 2-for-22 with the man advantage in this series. Carolina is only 3-for-17, but Carolina has been the better team at 5-v-5. Nashville desperately needs to take advantage of some of these power play opportunities, otherwise this series isn’t going seven games. Even if it does, it would be hard to advance. Those should be premier scoring opportunities and it just hasn’t come together for the Predators. A lot of that could have to do with needing to use all their top players extensively at 5-v-5 to try and slow down Carolina’s attack.
Nashville seemed to be a very tenacious bunch at home. Having the crowd and the last change certainly help. They were still outplayed a bit in the xGF department, but Juuse Saros played extremely well and the Predators just found ways to make things happen offensively. They can’t play a skill game with Carolina. They have to find a way to get down and dirty in Game 6 and make things happen.
Saros has truly been good in this series with a 2.59 GAA and a .928 SV%. This has been a continuation of a strong season for Saros, who posted a 2.28 GAA and a .927% SV% in what really amounted to a breakout year for the 26-year-old. Confidence in your goaltender is huge when forced to take chances in an elimination game.
Hurricanes at Predators Free Pick
It seemed like the price was too big on Carolina in Game 5 and it even got bet up throughout the day, but Nashville hung right in there yet again and made it a game. Unfortunately, I see Game 6 playing out the same way. Nashville will give a big effort, but the Hurricanes are too deep and too balanced the longer a series goes. It’s been a fun series and a good one to watch and wager on, but it ends on Thursday.
Pick: Carolina Hurricanes