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POSTED ON Wednesday, 04.13.2011 / 11:59 AM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's Playoff Blog
In talking with the Predators defensemen the past few days, I’ve noticed a theme coming up when talking about Anaheim’s attack: head on a swivel.

Having one’s head on a swivel means that you are constantly aware of what’s going on around you, not only with your man, but the others involved in the play as well. Coverage may change rapidly when facing a team such as the Ducks, and defensemen must be aware that at any given point they may be called on to pick up another player in coverage (a switch). To help facilitate that switch and keep gaps in coverage to a minimum, you must be aware of the player you’re switching to and his location on the ice. So now you’re tracking three things as a defenseman: 1) puck position 2) your check 3) other players’ movement.

This is where Anaheim looks to create confusion. We’ve explained the cycle before, when three players work in a circular motion on the boards, often leaving the puck behind with a bank pass off the dasher to the next player who is following behind until a coverage breakdown occurs and a scoring chance may be had. What the Ducks do is jump the defenseman on that side of the ice down the wall as well, and make it a four-person event. If the winger covering the defenseman is napping, that defenseman may have a chance to go straight to the net for a scoring chance. If the winger stays with the defenseman, the point position opens up and the puck may then be carried high for a shot by any forward out of the cycle. Or you may just simply get a confused defender on the play and suddenly there is an odd-man situation created by the coverage breakdown.

Defending this is tricky and the Nashville defense knows it.

Shea Weber: The forward has to track that man (the defenseman coming down into the play) and stay with him. If he stays down low, the winger stays with him. But if the d-man comes down low and the forward pops out high (towards the point) we might make a switch where we try to leave the d-man down low (assuming that a defenseman is less of a threat to score in that situation) and that way I can take the forward who is up at the blueline. That’s where communication is so important – you want to be aware of the situation and make sure you’re directing traffic as much as you can.

Kevin Klein: We just have to play ‘stick and pin’ (stick the Ducks to the wall and pin them for as long as possible without an interference call). Those guys are always moving, heading to the back post and throwing pucks there. (Again, this is all about breaking down coverage and finding holes to generate scoring.) We have to be good with our sticks. (Meaning blocking or tipping both passes and shots.)

Ryan Suter: It’s going to be a big challenge for us, they have a lot of big, strong guys. If it’s not (Perry, Getzlaf and Ryan) it’s Koivu, Selanne… Blake… they have a lot of talent over there that’s won before. We just have to play hard and play our game. And we have to stay out of the box.

The last statement is something we saw a bit of during the regular season, especially in the final meeting between the teams. The Ducks all but erased a 5-1 Nashville lead before falling 5-4 at the end thanks in part to a pair of 5-on-3 power play goals by Teemu Selanne on March 24 at Bridgestone Arena. That’s exactly what Suter is talking about with regards to penalty trouble. You simply can’t win a series shorthanded like that. Even if you kill those penalties off, you still have the fatigue for your top penalty killers that has an effect both immediate and series-long.

Finally, as to the point Suter makes about how many weapons the Ducks have, consider that Perry, Ryan and Getzlaf posted 10 points against Nashville this year (2-8-10), while Selanne, Koivu and Blake notched 12 points (7-5-12) in the season series. Koivu scored four goals alone! So the Predators must get not only good efforts from the defense, but the rest of the squad as well.

Anaheim will have the ability to work matchups on home ice to start the series, meaning those top six players will be kept away from Suter and Weber as much as possible during the game by Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle. This will place tremendous emphasis on Nashville’s two-way play at center from David Legwand, Mike Fisher, Jerred Smithson and Blake Geoffrion (plus Cal O’Reilly if he ends up playing at any point). The center’s job is to be the first forward back defensively and the Predators usually do a very good job on the backcheck. If the backcheck breaks down in the series Anaheim will have several odd-man chances and could easily blow games open. Keep an eye on the forwards coming back – it will be a major key to how well the team does defensively.

Well, I think that might be enough for you to deal with just now. Absorb what you can and get ready for Game One tomorrow night! Until next time keep your stick on the ice.
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WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - ANA 82 54 20 8 266 209 116
2 y - COL 82 52 22 8 250 220 112
3 x - STL 82 52 23 7 248 191 111
4 x - SJS 82 51 22 9 249 200 111
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12 VAN 82 36 35 11 196 223 83
13 CGY 82 35 40 7 209 241 77
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2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
S. Weber 79 23 33 -2 56
P. Hornqvist 76 22 31 1 53
C. Smith 79 24 28 16 52
M. Fisher 75 20 29 -4 49
R. Josi 72 13 27 -2 40
M. Cullen 77 10 29 4 39
C. Wilson 81 11 22 -1 33
N. Spaling 71 13 19 2 32
R. Ellis 80 6 21 9 27
G. Bourque 74 9 17 -5 26
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Hutton 20 11 4 .910 2.62
D. Dubnyk 11 18 3 .891 3.43

 
 

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