Tonight’s game between Vancouver and Nashville may not be the game that every player ultimately dreams of playing in, but it’s the kind of game that must be won in order to get there.
For Nashville, this is especially true, since a loss at home tonight would end their season. But for Vancouver it is almost equally true, as clinching on the road tonight with a game to spare could only make them mentally stronger heading into the conference finals, a round that, unlike San Jose and Detroit, these Canucks have no experience in.
Some talking points heading into tonight’s Game 6 seem to center around the Sedins and home ice. First, I’ve heard multiple television and radio guys talking about how the Sedins are due to have a big offensive impact and litter the scoresheet tonight. If you say so. I would argue that tonight is probably not the night where that is likely to happen, since the Canucks are on the road, and that means defensive stalwarts Ryan Suter and Shea Weber will shadow the twins at every puck drop, since Nashville gets last change tonight. It would seem that the better opportunity for the twins would be at home in Game 7, since they will force Nashville to change on the fly if they want to match up with Vancouver. I certainly respect the Sedins’ game and love watching them play, but I just don’t buy the argument that something is “due,” when there’s no analytical evidence to suggest it. Watch them get four points apiece.
The argument that has been made in favor of Nashville winning tonight is that few teams lose three straight home games in the playoffs. Nashville, of course, lost at home in Games 3 and 4 to set up Saturday’s and tonight’s must-win games, and a loss tonight would see the Preds disappointingly drop all three of their home games to Vancouver. People also are pointing to Game 6 of the previous round, where Vancouver had this same opportunity and lost to Chicago, while Nashville wrapped up its series with Anaheim before a raucous Smashville crowd. But, there are a couple differences. One, being up 3-2 is a whole different animal than being down 3-2. Two, it isn’t the Anaheim Ducks coming to town tonight. Tack on the fact that Vancouver actually played a really good game against Chicago in Game 6, losing in overtime, and there’s little reason to equate the conference quarters with tonight’s game.
And as far as this Nashville team specifically losing three home games in a row, it has happened twice this season; once very early, and once over Christmas. Two caveats, however: 1) Mike Fisher was not on the team at either point, and 2) during each three game home losing streak, Pekka Rinne was only in net for two of the three losses. So Nashville has that to hang its hat on tonight, as if any of this matters with respect to how tonight’s game will go.
Because Nashville has only once shown the ability to outshoot Vancouver in this series, I’m going to go with a 3-2 Canucks win tonight to close out the series. I would not be at all shocked if Nashville played their best home game of the series tonight (after all, they kind of have to), but when the numbers are ran, I have Vancouver with the slight edge. Either way, look for a one-goal game, and if you can get decent odds on the game going to overtime, might want to take that. If gambling were legal, of course.
P.S. – It is nice that Nashville and Detroit have woken up and tried to make up for what was looking like the worst final 8 round in the history of organized tournaments. Thanks, Central Division.