2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – First Round Series Recap
Western Conference First Round, Game 1 - Nashville 4, Anaheim 1 – Nashville leads series, 1-0
The Nashville Predators have never won a playoff series in their brief history as a franchise. The boys from the state of Tennessee sure looked intent on ending that drought on Wednesday night in Southern California.
Playing with a crispness that matched their passion, the Predators rolled right through the Anaheim Ducks to take charge in this matchup of two teams who finished the regular season with 99 points. One 99-point team looked a lot better than the other, and given Anaheim’s situation in net, this series has already reached a crisis point for the franchise that took home Lord Stanley’s Cup in the 2007 season.
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The big deficit the Ducks have – and which emerged in full relief on Wednesday – is that star goalie Jonas Hiller is out with lingering and severe vertigo… severe enough, at least, to keep him out of the lineup for now. Hiller is an excellent backstopper who can steal games in playoff series or, at the very least, enable his teammates to weather storms. Because of Hiller’s absence, Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle had to turn to backup goalie Dan Ellis, who ironically used to be Nashville’s goalie and tasted the pain of postseason failure while playing for the Preds. Ellis was out of his element and noticeably unready for a playoff challenge at the Honda Center in Game 1. Nashville peppered him with shots, and he was just not able to stop them. By the time Nashville’s Mike Fisher scored his second goal of the game (the two goals came in a span of under three minutes) with 56 seconds gone in the third period, the Preds had accumulated a 4-0 lead. Carlyle yanked Ellis from the ice, and the final 19 minutes played out in undramatic fashion. Anaheim stalwart Teemu Selanne scored a goal that averted a shutout but did nothing else of value for the decidedly defeated Ducks.
Game 2, which is a virtual must-win for the Ducks, now becomes that much more daunting because of the fragility of Ellis in net. Carlyle needed Hiller to be his playoff netminder, but because that isn’t happening, the Ducks simply have to be the consummately superior team between the blue lines and gain a pronounced territorial advantage. Ellis has to see the puck, and he can’t face the 30 shots he saw in Game 1 unless they’re long shots with a clear line of vision.
The playoffs are just one game old, but they’re already very urgent for an Anaheim team that needs to find answers very quickly.
By: Matt Zemek
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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