Sunday, January 2, 2011

Big Brother Predators Bop Little Brother Blue Jackets 4-1

If you have ever had a little brother, you know how annoying they can be. They get in your stuff, they are a constant source of irritation, and occasionally, they can get the better of their big brother. Once big brother has had enough, they usually bop them rather forcefully and they are once again put in their place.

Tonight at the Bridgestone Arena, the little brother Blue Jackets were irritating for a period, taking a 1-0 lead over the Predators going into intermission. The BJ's scored on the first shot of the game, as R.J. Umberger tipped in a shot from the point by Marc Methot. The Predators defense was caught flat footed and left Umberger alone in front of the net, and he was able to re-direct the shot past Nashville's Pekka Rinne just 37 seconds into the contest.

After the first intermission, big brother woke up and started to exert their will over the BJ's. I would suspect that Head Parent  Coach Barry Trotz had a few choice words for his charges when he took them to their room. Whatever was said, it worked, as the Predators started to dominate the contest.

Shea Weber tied the game with a blast from the point with Nick Spaling and Jerred Smithson screening in front of Jackets goaltender Steve Mason. Mason never saw the shot until it hit the back of the net at 2:59 of the second.

The Predators continued to put pressure on the BJ's in the offensive zone, and their effort was rewarded at 6:09 of the second as Nick Spaling was able to find a puck at the side of the crease and knock home a rebound of a Weber shot from the point. Mason was able to make the initial save, but could not control the rebound. Taking a page from Patric Hornqvist's book, Spaling fought into the hard area at the net and was able to slap home the rebound past an out of position Mason.

Hornqvist was not going to let Spaling have all the fun at the net, as he lifted a puck over the shoulder of Mason while being knocked to the ice. Hornqvist's goal came on the power play at 16:50 of the second with Fedor Tytutin in the box for holding. This goal showed the strength of Hornqvist, as he was being hit and knocked to the ice. He still had the strength and ability to lift the puck and find the back of the net.

With a 3-1 lead going into the third period, everyone knew that the pesky little brother Jackets would come out pressing, and it was going to be important for the Predators to answer. They thwarted several BJ scoring chances with some strong goaltending from Rinne and solid defense in front of him. The Predators rarely gave up a secondary scoring chance and did a good job of slowing the BJ rush through the neutral zone.

The Predators iced the win as Colin Wilson ripped a shot from just inside the face off circle. The shot beat Mason, and it  hit the crossbar and appeared to go in. The officials did not rule it a goal, but Sergei Kostitsyn was crashing the net and tapped the puck into an open crease while it was lying on the ice in the blue paint at 5:53 of the period.

The Predators spent the remainder of the game throttling the BJ's offensive effort and notched their second win in three contests against little brother Columbus.

For the contest, Rinne stopped 19 of 20 shots.

This victory kept Columbus winless in Nashville since April of 2006.

This win was not without a price, however. The Predators lost Cal O'Reilly mid-way of the third period with a broken fibula. Once again, the injury bug has bitten the Predators hard.

After a first period that found the Predators on their heels for the most, they came out and played solid, Predator hockey for the next two periods. They shot the puck and challenged Mason, and when he has to move side to side and track pucks through traffic, he is average. Tonight, the Predators offense made him look average.

More importantly, the Predators aggressive forecheck and solid defense in the neutral zone and in the defensive zone limited the Jackets offense. The Jackets top line of Rick Nash ( 1 SOG), Derick Brassard (1 SOG), and Antoine Vermette (3 SOG), were limited to 5 shots on goal and were held in check all night by the Predators. This is the key to any Predators win, moreso against the Jackets.

The Predators will now embark on a west coast swing, and it is going to be essential that they bring this kind of effort every night. This is a team that is built for the grind of the regular season, built for the wars that are the Western Conference contests.

Skate like this, shoot the puck and crash the net, and play solid defense, and you will continue to play the role of big brother.

My three stars:

1. Shea Weber

2. Nick Spaling

3. Pekka Rinne

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