Prior to Game 4 between the Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators, neither team had shown an offensive advantage in the series, despite the talent that both rosters contain. Down 2-1 in the series heading into Tuesday night's affair, Mike Babcock made some changes to the lineup in order to bring a little offensive balance for Detroit to take advantage of their well-known dominance at home.
The notable changes for included putting Dan Cleary with Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen. Meanwhile, Todd Bertuzzi, whom Cleary replaced, moved down to play with Justin Abdelkader and Drew Miller to add some frontline presence to give the Predators defense some trouble. Cleary has been recovering from an injury to his knee, and after a few games (and a bunch of cortisone shots), he earned a chance to get going this series on Detroit's top line.
The changes worked in the Wings' favor to start, as they came out much harder than the Predators. Nashville was unable to establish anything offensively and Detroit owned in zone time -- by the start of the third period, the Preds only had 10 shots (three in the second alone) to the Red Wings' 28. The advantage in puck possession also gave the Wings more chances on the power play. It seemed inevitable that the line changes had worked, giving Detroit an edge in holding the Predators talent back.
The only problem was that none of the changes turned into actual goals, so changes were made once again during the game. Bertuzzi returned to the top line and Cleary was moved back down with Abdelkader and Miller. It didn't work. While one Nashville attempt was reviewed and ruled no-goal early in the period, the Preds got one right to take the 1-0 lead. The Wings kept up the pressure and Jiri Hudler scored to tie the game on the team's fifth power play of the evening, but it didn't take long for the Predators to take the lead again. They have their own adjustments to thank.
Martin Erat began the game playing with Sergei Kostitsyn and Mike Fisher, but by the third period he was moved over to work with Fisher and Patric Hornqvist, who was moved up from the third line. The Preds' adjustment worked almost immediately, as he took advantage of a defensive breakdown and fed the puck to Kevin Klein for the open goal.
With Nashville leading by midway in the third period, Babcock continued to tinker with the lines, but the changes worked to no avail, as the Wings went down, 3-1 in the game and now the series.
The number one reason for the failure in Detroit's adjustments was Pekka Rinne, who finally played up to his expected level in Game 4, stopping 40 of 41 shots on the night. At the same time, maybe it's true that Nashville just has the simple ability to outmatch Detroit, regardless of what lineup they throw together.