The Nashville Predators are facing elimination tonight as they host Game 6 of their Stanley Cup Playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes.
It’s do or die time for the Preds.
While in one respect, it’s impressive that the Preds even made it this far into the playoffs, considering where they were in the Central Division standings back in early March, the perspective has changed somewhat with how well they’ve played for stretches in this series.
Most analysts weren’t giving the Preds much of a chance in the series, so for them to be only 120 minutes away from winning the series is pretty incredible.
But now, with being so close to winning their first playoff series since 2018, the Preds might feel like they missed an opportunity against the Hurricanes.
If the Preds want to win this series, they must force a Game 7 by winning tonight in Nashville. And if they want to do that, there’s one stat that must change.
Preds must help Juuse Saros out
There’s no question that Juuse Saros has been the Preds’ best player in the playoffs, just like he’s been their best player since early March.
But if the Preds have any ability to do so, they must help Saros out in Game 6.
Through five games, Juuse Saros has faced 221 shots in this playoff series, the second most shots in a single playoff series in Preds history. Saros has saved 205 of those shots, which is good for the 2nd most saves in a single playoff series as well.
Most shots faced in a single playoff series in #Preds history:
1. Dan Ellis, 2008 vs DET – 240 (225 saves in 6 gms)
2. Juuse Saros, 2021 vs CAR – 221 (205 saves in 5 gms)
3. Pekka Rinne,2018 vs WPG – 209 (188 saves in 7 gms)
— Alex Daugherty (@AlexDaugherty1) May 27, 2021
Dan Ellis holds the record for the most shots faced in a playoff series. He stopped 225 of 240 back in 2008 against the Red Wings, though that was in six total games.
Assuming the Preds allow at least 19 shots in Game 6 (highly probable), Juuse Saros will end up passing Dan Ellis for that record.
The real problem is the sheer volume of shots that Saros has faced every night. He’s faced 37, 30, 56, 61, and 37 shots in each of the five games. That averages to around 44 shots per game.
If the Preds want to win tonight, they must give Juuse Saros a break by reducing the number of shots that get through to the net.
That’s not to say Saros is getting tired or is overworked. The guy is in incredible shape and the best part of his game, his puck tracking and play reading, is still excellent.
Watch Juuse Saros’s head on this play. Tracking the puck like a beast.
He was all over this attempt from Aho. pic.twitter.com/UdQZYssFq4
— Alex Daugherty (@AlexDaugherty1) May 26, 2021
But the Preds defense needs to work harder to prevent shots from getting on net in their own zone. Carolina’s offense has been feeding on volume, getting shots off from all angles and forcing the Preds to cover every square inch of their own zone. Saros does a great job of reading plays as they develop, but the more shots on net, the higher chance of a tipped goal or a stray rebound.
Nothing is more deflating for a goalie than to make one or two huge saves in a sequence, but then have your defense watch the rebound sitting there for an attacker to pounce on. That’s happened numerous times in this series to Juuse Saros.
Reducing the overall work load for Juuse Saros, and thus reducing the chances for Carolina to score, will be key for the Nashville Predators to win Game 6. It will also be key to keeping Saros fresh for Game 7 on Saturday night in Carolina.
— Featured image via James Guillory/USA TODAY Sports —