Two teams that were mirror images of each other took to the ice in the Sommet Center. Tight checking, limited offensive chances, solid defense were the hallmarks of both squads. It was inevitable that this game would be scoreless after sixty minutes. Scoreless through overtime. And tied going into the 10th round of the shootout. Unfortunately for the Predators, they blinked first and lost the shootout to the Phoenix Coyotes by a count of 2-1.
Watching the Coyotes is like watching a Lou Lamoriello or Andy Murray team on steroids. A trapping defense that limits chances was what the Predators faced in the resurgent Coyotes, and they played their system to perfection. At the end of regulation, Phoenix had 26 shots on goal, the Predators had 25. Quality scoring opportunities were at a premium for both teams, and when an opportunity emerged, both Ilya Bryzgalov for the Coyotes and Pekka Rinne for the Predators were up to the challenge.
The Predators were forced to go with five defensemen for the bulk of the game as they lost Cody Franson on his first shift to an upper body injury. Franson will be evaluated in the morning to determine the extent of his injury.
As a result, it was imperative that the Predators play a disciplined game to avoid tiring out the remaining five D men on the PK, and they did that, taking just one penalty in the game. In fact, each team committed only one penalty. The D corps got a lot of help from the forwards, as they back checked well and supported in the defensive zone.
There were times, especially in the second period, that Phoenix cycled the puck well and seemed to tilt the ice to the Predators defensive zone. When they did, Rinne made some quality saves, and the Preds were able to weather the challenge.
Offensively, the Predators struggled to get quality scoring chances. When those quality chances emerged, too often there was one pass too many. Here is a piece of advice for this team- SHOOT THE PUCK. STP. Learn it, love it, live it boys. Good things happen when you shoot the puck.
As it was, two teams that are remarkably similar battled for 65 minutes and remained tied at 0. On to the shootout.
The second Phoenix shooter, Lauri Korpikoski, scored. With the Predators needing to score to extend the shootout, David Legwand scored five hole on Bryzgalov. The next six shooters from each side were held scoreless by both goalies.
In the tenth round, Adrian Aucoin beat Rinne stick side to give the Coyotes a 2-1 lead in the shootout. Shea Weber was the tenth shooter for the Preds, and his shot whistled over the net and Phoenix skated away with two points.
The positive for the Preds is that that played a very solid game and got a point against a very good and hot club. Every point is precious and every team is fighting and clawing for points. To get at least one point out of this contest is important for the Predators.
Again, boys, shoot the puck. Too often, this team seems to pass up the shot for the additional pass. This team has won because they have fired pucks at the net, crashed the crease, and scored "dirty" goals. You are going to face teams that are desperate and are going to limit chances. That is the nature of the game when so many teams are battling for playoff positioning. You have to play your game; not fancy, not pretty hockey, but hockey that is blue collar.
Early in the year, Barry Trotz attributed the turn around for this team to realization of who they were and playing to their strengths. You can't deviate from that and be successful. You have to continue to bring your lunch pail and battle every night. You have to shoot the puck and crash the net. The fancy passes are nice, but the fact is that this team needs to get back to the basics of Predator hockey to start piling up wins.
Expect these kind of games from here on out. You know what to do to be successful. Remember, STP.