I woke up this morning and started my day off with a good ol’ panic attack. That’s how you know a Game 7 is in the air. After the Predators made me look like a dumbass and pretty much systematically shut down the Jets in Game 6, I can confidently say I have zero idea what’s going to happen. That won’t stop me from trying to guess anyway.
Much like the other six games in this series, the battle in the neutral zone will be of utmost importance. In Games 4 and 6, Nashville was able to slow dow the Jets before they entered the zone with speed. If you’re going to wait and try to defend once they’ve already entered the offensive zone, you’re going to be chasing them all game.
In Game 6, the shot attempts heavily favored Winnipeg (63-42). However, a lot of that gap came after the Predators took a 2-0 lead so the score effect comes into play. Despite that large disparity in attempts, the high-danger scoring chances were just about dead even with Winnipeg holding an 11-10 edge there. That’s because the Predators defended well through the neutral zone and forced shots from outside the slot. Then, Nashville was able to use Winnipeg’s aggressiveness against them with lob and stretch passes to create great scoring chances the other way.
The quality of all of Nashville’s shots was far higher. That will have to be the case in Game 7 if the Preds want to host the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday. Ryan Johansen mentioned that they cannot get swept up in the atmosphere in Bridgestone Arena and get away from their game. If they try to run and gun with Winnipeg all game… well, we’ve seen how that works out.
Game 7’s are hero makers. One player on either team will be remembered forever for a play he makes in this game. Based on past evidence, I’d say Filip Forsberg would be a fair bet to be that guy for the Predators in Game 7. He took over Game 6 with two highlight reel goals and has been doing that all spring. The other line I’d like to see break through and play the role of hero is the Turris line. I know, I’ve said something along those lines since the playoffs started. Combined, that line has 11 points. Both Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen have more than that by themselves. As hard as I’ve been on Turris, Fiala, and Smith, I thought they played well in Game 6. They just couldn’t find the back of the net on their chances. At times, they were trying to be too fine on their shots. If there were ever a time for them to start lighting the lamp like it’s a Christmas tree, tonight would be the night. As for possible heroes for the Jets, the Preds will have to make sure the tandem of Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler doesn’t run unchecked all night. They did in Game 5, and they bent the Preds over a barrel and showed them the 50 states. Granted, some of that was because the Preds’ brains short-circuited in the second period and they forgot what defense was.
One other line I have to highlight in this preview is the Bonino line. He, Watson, and Sissons were absolute beasts in Game 6. They played the most minutes of all the forwards in all situations — thanks largely to the penalty kill. And many of those minutes were against top competition. If you want to know who is responsible for keeping Dustin Byfuglien, Blake Wheeler, and Mark Scheifele, look no further than than those three freaks of nature. They played nearly ten minutes against all of those guys and had plenty of success in doing so. The Bonino line generated more high-danger chances than those three when they were on the ice against them. God, I love that line.
Now, we have the two goalies. Both of the Vezina Trophy finalists have looked great at times and they’ve looked very human at times. For instance, in Game 6, Rinne was on his A-game (and the defense showed up in front of him) and Hellebuyck was leaky. As badass as both Filip Forsberg goals were, they both showed two examples of problems Hellebuyck has had in this series. On Forsberg’s first goal, he beat the Jets net minder to the short side. On his second goal, in which he shot the puck BETWEEN HIS LEGS, it somehow squeaked under the arm of Hellebuyck. On the other hand, Rinne was in control, not overly aggressive, and controlled his rebounds perfectly. I’ll be fascinated to see how comfortable both goalies are in this Game 7 scenario. For Nashville’s sake, I hope they both look as comfortable as they did on Monday.
I’m done trying to predict what will happen in this series. As soon as one team looks like they have things figured out, the other team responds with a win. The only thing I know for sure about tonight is that my adrenal glands will be working overtime and I will consume enough Miller Lite that they’ll be profitable for the month of May based on my business alone. Game 7’s are fun, exciting, nerve-wracking, and terrifying. I love them and I hate them. The Predators have played in two of them and have been on both sides of the end result. Winning is a huge rush. Losing is like if Thanos punched you in the gut. God forbid this game go to overtime. I may not survive. Ultimately, one team that has a legit chance to win the Stanley Cup will be eliminated tonight. One fan base will be exhilarated while the other laments an early playoff exit. I just hope it’s not us. Before I go, I’ll leave you with wise words from the great Samuel L. Jackson.