Photo: Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire
The Predators could not match the 81% play-by-play advantage they built in game three, but they outplayed the Penguins by a 27% margin in game four and got some timely goaltending to secure a 4-1 victory to even the series at two.
Crosby and the top Penguin forwards stepped up their play, but for the most part the rest of the Penguins failed to deliver a similar jump in performance.
The top six Penguin forwards outperformed the top six Predator forwards by an average of 18%, but the bottom six Nashville forwards contributed two and half times more than Pittsburgh’s bottom six forwards.
The fifth and sixth defensemen for each team performed very similar in game four, but Nashville’s top four out contributed Pittsburgh’s top four defensemen by a five to one margin.
Puck management for Pittsburgh was very similar to game three and well below Pittsburgh’s playoff average. Nashville’s speed and pressure created problems along with the Penguins falling behind on the scoreboard and having to take more offensive risks.
Pittsburgh’s power play contributions jumped nearly 300% in game four but they could not convert their chances.
As the Penguins head home, converting chances and superior goaltending will be important ingredients to a game five win, because outplaying the Predators depth appears to be a monumental hurdle on Pittsburgh’s quest to repeat.
1. Sidney Crosby was excellent in game four and contributed 41% more than any other forward. He showed urgency and desperation on a shift by shift basis and was among the leading defensive forwards in the game.
2. Phil Kessel also had his strongest game of the series, trailing only Crosby in play-by-play offense. 43% of the offense he created was on the Penguins power play.
3. Evgeni Malkin rounded out the top three for the Pens and performed in line with his playoff average, but his contributions were well back of Kessel and Crosby.
1. Brian Dumoulin performed 37% above his playoff average in game four, but the top four Nashville defensemen have all averaged higher contributions through four games.
2. Trevor Daley was excellent against the Senators and very strong in game one against Nashville, but in the last three games his contributions have been less than half of his playoff average.
3. Ian Cole was in third place but well below his playoff average.
1. Viktor Arvidsson and 2. Calle Jarnkrok had their best games of the series, with both players performing about 75% above their series average, and Jarnkrok three times above his regular season average. Arvidsson led offensively and Jarnkrok led defensively on a play-by-play basis.
3. Filip Forsberg and 4. Mike Fisher were close in contributions and both performed above their playoff averages.
1. Roman Josi had another monster game, more than doubling the contributions of any other defenseman. He was second offensively only to Ellis and the runaway leader defensively, showing he is equally strong without the puck as he is with it. Win or lose, he should warrant serious consideration for the Conn Smythe Trophy.
2. PK Subban was steady defensively and turned in another strong offensive performance. After four games of the Finals he ranks third among Nashville defensemen.
3. Yannick Weber was well back of Josi and Subban but climbed into the third spot on limited ice time, by moving the puck reliably and playing a clean defensive game.
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