The Pittsburgh Penguins tied their series with the Ottawa Senators last night. Defensemen Brian Dumolin and Olli Maatta each scored their first goal of the post-season. A third defenseman, Chad Ruhwedel played six minutes and exited with an injury. In fact, and Preds fans should identify with this, when Bobby Ryan hit Ruhwedel, knocking him to the ice, where he lay, as defense partner Ian Cole exacted revenge on Ryan. The outcome: No penalty for charging on Ryan, penalty on Cole for roughing. Ruhwedel gone from the game in the first period. Pens skate five D. None of those five defensemen wore the name LETANG or SCHULTZ on the back of their jerseys. Up front? How about injuries to Kuhnhackl, Rust and Patrick Hornqvist? Players in the lineup included Josh (10 games) Archibald and Carter (27 games) Rowney. Winning is possible if you play within the team’s structure and execute the coaching game plan.
Losing Ryan Johansen is terrible. And, as terrible as he was through most of the regular season, he was a complete beast in the post season, and very likely the straw that stirred the drink. Be honest, people, had you seen Johansen play with this kind of intensity on a Wednesday in Winnipeg? This Ryan Johansen hit, and got hit, passed and received passes, intimidated when he was faced with intimidation. This Ryan Johansen I LOVED. But alas, he is gone. Thigh surgery… I’d love to know more. I’m not sure I’ve heard of coming off the ice, bypassing the dressing room, going straight to the hospital for thigh surgery. But, it is what it is, and now, just as the Pens did, the Preds need to put on their big boy skates and go out and do damage in Anaheim tonight!
While we don’t know what Lavy has in store for us from a roster perspective, we know that we have multiple options. Putting Calle Jarnkrok with Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson seems likely. Is it as dominant a unit? Perhaps not, but both Forsberg and Arvidsson seem to will most of their chances with their feet. Either one is capable of going solo, ala Stevie Nicks when Fleetwood Mac don’t want to tour. Both guys have multiple weapons in their arsenals and all Jarnkrok has to do is play his game and make sure one of those two wingmen have the puck heading into the Duck zone. And, of course, what has to happen THEN is that SOMEONE GETS TO THE FRONT OF THE NET AND TAKES AWAY GIBSON’S EYES. He stops virtually everything he sees!
Johansen was on the ice as the Preds have gone 1 for 17 on the power play. Losing Johansen may not help, but it may force the coaches into some alternate thinking that can hardly get any worse than the power play has looked. This series would be OVER if the Preds had capitalized on their man advantage chances, and “BULLSHIT” NBC announcers, it’s NOT the Ducks penalty kill being special, it’s the Preds total inability to bring the puck into the offensive zone and station a body that isn’t 5’8, 180 (as much as I love you, little guy) in front of the Duck net. Simple. Johansen fed the puck, yes, but with no traffic… who cares.
Then, there are the remaining three lines. Do you add Kamenev to the mix? General wisdom thinks “no.” I think a kid who was 2nd round, 42nd pick in 2014, who scored over 20 goals for MKE this season has just as much chance to have success, if not more, than 7th round, 205th overall pick in the SAME draft, Ondrej Kase, who granted spent 53 regular season games in Anaheim (compared to Kamenev’s 2 with Nashville,) but the talent level is at worst comparable, and at best a landslide for our guy. Let him play. Let him play a bunch. Especially on the man advantage. Tell him to keep his feet moving. Wonderful things just might happen.
Wonderful things probably won’t happen if it’s just more of the “put Fiddler out there” — while I admire his veteran presence and willingness to walk through walls for this team, we need speed and creativity. Maybe put Neal up on the line with Jarnkrok and Forsberg, and let Kamenev play with Arvidsson. Who knows. Lots of options, but the bottom line is this:
The Preds are not dead because of these losses. The Preds have withstood injuries in the past. I already stated that 1 for 18 on the PP happened with Johansen and with Fisher. You still have five Preds to four Ducks. KEEP THE FEET MOVING AND PUT A MAN IN THE CREASE.
Is the horse dead yet? GO PREDS! YOU CAN DO THIS!!!