Saturday, March 13, 2010

Predators Down Ducks 1-0 Behind Rinne's 31 Saves

When the Nashville Predators took on the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center, there was concern that the third period meltdown in the game against the Sharks the previous night would carry over to tonight's game. Fortunately, that was not the case, as the Predators turned in a stellar effort to defeat the Ducks 1-0 behind the 31 saves of Pekka Rinne.

Any game against the Ducks is going to be a physical contest, and in times past the Ducks would use their physical game to grind down the Predators. Tonight was different, as the Predators matched the Ducks physical play and refused to let them dictate the tempo of the game. Kudos to Francis Buillon as he played a very solid game tonight. 

Both teams had numerous scoring chances in this penalty marred game, but both Rinne and Jonas Hiller for the Ducks came up with big saves to keep their teams in the contest. The only scoring in the game came from a Shea Weber blast with the Preds on a 5 on 3 power play. The Ducks had Aaron Ward in the box for interference and Ryan Getzlaf in for high sticking. Weber teed one up from the blue line and absolutely blew the shot past Hiller at 17:54 of the first period.

This game would turn out to be an ebb and flow battle for the remaining two periods. Each team would mount offensive pressure, and each time the goalies would answer. Both Rinne and Hiller made several quality saves over the course of the two periods as neither team could get a puck past the opposing goalie. Hiller stopped 27 of 28 shots he faced tonight.

The impressive aspect of this game tonight is the job the coaching staff did to purge the sour taste of the Sharks game from the psyche of this team. To implode as the Predators did and lose a game badly they should have won in the previous night could have carried over into this game. Although the Predators didn't light up the scoreboard, they played a very relaxed and solid game tonight. They did not let the aftereffects of the Sharks game bleed into this game. To do so would most likely have resulted in another painful loss.

The Predators have the capability to make life very difficult for any opponent; they have the capability to win any game they play. As we have seen, however, they also have the ability to absolutely stink up a period or a game. For the Predators to finally lock down a playoff spot and make any kind of run in the playoffs they must get consistent. The defining characteristic of tonight's win was that the level of play for the Preds did not change from the drop of the puck to the final horn. That did not happen last night between periods. At times this season, it has not happened from game to game.

Bring it like you did tonight, every period, every game, and you will make the playoffs and make some noise once you are there.

There were some painful lessons to be learned from the Sharks game. There are positive lessons to be learned from the Ducks game. Learn from both and bring them to the ice in the remaining games this season. Be consistent with the effort and you will secure the wins and points you need.

And be ready for the playoffs.

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