ANAHEIM, Calif. – After the Anaheim Ducks went on a frantic six-week sprint just to make the post-season, Teemu Selanne thinks it’s understandable they couldn’t maintain that breakneck pace going into their playoff opener.
The Finnish Flash just wants to make sure the Ducks don’t take another night off in Game 2 against the Nashville Predators on Friday night.
The Ducks acknowledge they were outworked in Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to Nashville, and 6-foot-5 goalie Pekka Rinne was exactly the nightmare Anaheim anticipated. But after a dynamic 15-5 finish to the regular season, Selanne and his high-scoring Ducks aren’t out of tricks.
“The way I saw last night’s game, we have been grinding so hard for such a long time, and we had a letdown,” said Selanne, who scored the Ducks’ only goal during a 5-on-3 advantage in the third period. “We took a night off. Those guys were better, but now it’s back to business for us.”
The Ducks will have to do almost everything better to compete with the Predators, whose conservative approach negated most of Anaheim’s strengths, just as it did while winning three of four in this matchup during the regular season.
Anaheim loves an uptempo game, with its star forwards jumping on odd-man rushes or cycling the puck to create scoring chances. Nashville didn’t allow much of either, and Rinne ate up the Ducks’ few good scoring chances with an alarming ease.
Selanne doesn’t know his fellow Finn very well personally, but he responded to the mention of Rinne’s name Thursday with a good-natured epithet.
“He’s one of those guys, when you think it’s an empty net, it’s not,” Selanne said. “He’s the reason Nashville is where they are. He’s so quick down low. When he goes down, his bowed legs touch either post, and his glove hand is one of the quickest.”
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle is being typically secretive about who will start in his own net Friday night. Ray Emery, who missed Anaheim’s last two regular-season games with a lower-body injury, pronounced himself healthy Thursday after mopping up for Dan Ellis in the final 19 minutes of Game 1.
Emery’s aggressive style and sharp play since signing with Anaheim could be a boost for the Ducks, who relied heavily on the former Ottawa goalie down the stretch. Emery could only watch in Game 1 as Mike Fisher, his longtime Senators teammate, scored two of the Predators’ four goals.
“Getting into the playoffs is special,” said Emery, who was in net when Ottawa lost the 2007 Stanley Cup final to Anaheim. “Playoffs are a whole different thing. That’s what I really, really love about the game. It’s been a long time. It’s been since I played against these guys in the finals.”
Nashville coach Barry Trotz couldn’t find much to criticize about his team’s opening effort, praising Fisher’s playoff poise and downplaying the importance of a single game. After five first-round losses in the past six years, the Predators aren’t getting excited just yet.
In fact, Nashville led Chicago in their first-round series last year after winning Game 1 on the road, only to drop the series in six games.
“We’ve been in this position before, so I don’t think anybody is thinking it means something it doesn’t,” said captain Shea Weber, who scored Nashville’s opening goal on a power play. “We want to keep pushing forward, not sit back on our heels. They’re an offensive team, and you try not to give them any life. You don’t just sit on it.”
Nashville lived up to its reputation for discipline, committing just two penalties in the first two periods—both by Shane O’Brien—before both teams got a bit rambunctious with the game out of reach. The Predators’ ability to stay out of the penalty box is a key against Anaheim’s collection of high-scoring forwards.
Ducks defenceman Francois Beauchemin and Predators forward Sergei Kostitsyn both didn’t dress for practices Thursday at Honda Center, but both are expected to play Friday.
“It’s simple. We have to get back to our game,” said Beauchemin, who lost a race to a loose puck before Steve Sullivan scored to put Nashville up 2-0. “We want to play our physical game, and it wasn’t there. Pucks weren’t bouncing our way, but we can’t change what we do defensively. We have to get back to it.”