From the second the Ducks won game 4, one thing became very clear, they were going to have to win 2 in a row to win the series. While it is discouraging to give up a tying goal in the final minute and lose a game in overtime, that fact hasn't changed. The Ducks need to find a way to win two games in a row. In order to do that, they need to solve Nashville's forecheck. To solve Nashville's forecheck, Randy Carlyle is going to have to abandon his love of 7 defenseman and go to a full 4 line rotation.
Normally, I'm a big fan of Randy Carlyle. I've been impervious to the many calls that Anaheim fans have made for him to be fired. However, Randy has not adjusted well to this series. His desire to constantly pressure the team into quality performances is also his biggest weakness. His constant line shuffling hinders the ability of players to build quality chemistry. The Ducks have two phenomenal lines because they are, for the most part, left alone. Moreover, Carlyle's need to frequently play 7 defensemen has also forced him to overplay those top 2 lines. I believe that the lack of a quality 4th line to put into the rotation directly led to a tired forward corp that couldn't fight the puck out of the zone.
The Ducks have been beaten along the boards all series long. Their best games have been the ones when they can get the puck out of the zone quickly and force the Predators back into their zone. Last night, the Ducks' forwards spent long stretches hoping the D would just get the puck to them instead of going to the corners and offering quality puck support. Nowhere was this more evident than in the final minutes of the game. Perry had an opportunity to dive and swat the puck out of the zone, instead he let it roll to a Nashville defender. A little more chasing, and then the Ducks were icing the puck and forcing Carlyle to take a timeout. The second line committed a similar error. Koivu should have never been forced to take a faceoff like that. We have to be able to support the puck along the boards and fight it out of the zone. When it gets out we need to be able to transition effectively to the neutral zone and get the puck deep. You can't sit in a defensive shell if you can't move the puck.
The Ducks have a strong group of forwards, but Carlyle isn't playing them. Chipchura, Sexton, and Palmieri are all capable of playing solid minutes and forcing the Preds to play in their own zone. More importantly, they'll be able to move through the neutral zone with a little bit of speed. Carlyle needs to use all of his lines. The kid line has been effective and will be better going forward. However, Nashville has demonstrated that you don't need a full line of power to play an effective game. The best way to get to Nashville is to force them to play in their zone, or catch them on the counter attack. Carlyle continues to ignore the need for forward depth and instead uses an extra D to throw off the chemistry of his defensive pairings.
This series is far from over. The Ducks have the spirit to come back and take this series, but something has to give. They can't continue to get beat to loose pucks in the most critical moments of the game. Carlyle needs to use more forwards and keep the pressure on Nashville's D the way they pressure ours. It's the only way to get the yolk off our blue liners and get them to start producing. The Ducks haven't played 60 minutes this entire series, but are still well within striking distance. Unfortunately, there's no telling if they'll do what is necessary to make it to the next round.