P.K. Subban and Mattias Ekholm had a dominant Game Three.
Heading into the Stanley Cup Final, Evgeni Malkin led the league in playoff scoring with seven goals and 17 assists. It was no secret that he and his line were going to be a huge factor in the series and they got off to a quick start in Games One and Two as Malkin netted a goal in each game while his winger Phil Kessel added an assist in Game Two as well.
For Saturday night’s Game Three, Malkin’s line featured Chris Kunitz and Kessel and those three, combined, were responsible for two goals and five assists through the first two games of the series. To say that line was a dangerous one would be an understatement.
The two defensemen that matched up against Malkin and his line the most during 5-on-5 play in Game Three were P.K. Subban, who guaranteed a Game Three victory after Game Two, and Mattias Ekholm. The two stepped up in a major way and completely shut down Malkin’s line during the Predators 5-1 win.
Malkin played 10:49 of 5-on-5 during Game Three and Subban was on the ice for 8:15 of that. During those eight-plus minutes of play, Nashville managed seven total shot attempts and gave up only three. When it came to shots on goal, the Preds led that category as well in that situation, 4-3. When looking at the shot attempts when Subban was on the ice against both Kunitz and Kessel, the Preds dominated with a 6-2 edge.
Ekholm played a total of 8:03 against Malkin during 5-on-5 action and during that time the Preds managed six shot attempts while the Penguins had just three. The shots on goal count was even at 3-3 during those stretches of play. Ekholm’s biggest differential when it comes to the Malkin line came against Kunitz. The Swede went up against Kunitz for just under seven minutes of 5-on-5 play and the team shot attempt difference was 5-2 during that stretch.
Mattias Ekholm. 5-1 Preds. pic.twitter.com/drR3NaQsbs
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) June 4, 2017
Simply put, it was all Predators when Malkin was on the ice as Nashville held a 15-4 Corsi For advantage and a 10-4 edge in shots on goal. Malkin ended the night without a shot on goal, and the last time that happened came back on January 12, a stretch of 42 total games. Kessel had three shots on goal while Kunitz had one during Game Three.
The Penguins other superstar center, and arguably the best player in the world, Sidney Crosby also didn’t register a shot on net. It was the first time in their careers that Malkin and Crosby didn’t register a shot on net in a playoff game.
Roman Josi logged the most 5-on-5 playing time against Crosby and during that 11:19 of play, the Preds had eight total shot attempts compared to the Penguins seven. Five of those eight for the Predators were on goal while only two of the Penguins seven were on target. Crosby did however have the secondary assist on the Penguins lone goal of the night.
Ryan Ellis, Josi’s defensive partner, logged 10:55 of 5-on-5 play against Crosby and the shots on goal counter was even at 4-4 during that span of action.
The Predators did an exceptional job against both Malkin and Crosby on Monday night. When those two combine for zero shots on goal it makes things a bit easier for the opposition to say the very least.
It’s certainly easier said than done to hold Malkin and Crosby in check in such dominating fashion as the Preds did in Game Three. It probably isn’t safe to assume the two will go without a shot on goal in Game Four, but it does seem as if the Predators have figured out a way to execute their gameplan against the two while also finding the more favorable matchups during 5-on-5 play.
Stats via NaturalStatTrick.