Saturday, October 22, 2011

Predators End the Streak, Snuff Flames 2-0

The Nashville Predators looked to salvage their western Canada road trip with a win at the PenGrowth Saddledome in Calgary in an afternoon matinee. This trip had so far exposed the young Predators squad as not being ready to compete at a level that would allow them to win consistently. With a young team, bad play can become habit forming, and the Predators were attempting to break some of these bad habits against a team in the Flames that had struggled as well early in this season.

Pekka Rinne was once again in net for the Predators, and as has been the normal course of business for the Predators, they gave him lots of work in the period.

Mikka Kirrusoff got the start for the Flames, and unlike Rinne, did not see much action on his end of the ice.

The positive for the Predators was that the first period ended scoreless.

The Flames outshot the Predators 8-3 in the period, but spent a lot of time in the Predators zone. By contrast, the Predators never seriously threatened Kipper, save for one quality scoring chance by David Legwand.

The offense continues to struggle with chemistry and finding a rhythm in the offensive zone. The challenge for this mix and match squad is to keep their game simple and get pucks on net. In their losing streak, this has been consistently difficult.

Sometimes, you need a little luck to break out of a funk. Finally, the Predators had a bit of good luck, as Jack Hillen floated a shot toward the Calgary net. The puck bounced off the chest of Niclas Bergfors and past Kiprusoff to put the Predators on the board at 2:34 of the second period.

Although Calgary outshot the Predators 11-9 in the period, there was much better energy by the Predators. They did a good job of getting the puck deep on the Flames defense and creating offensive chances. They cycled the puck well and were much stronger on the puck. This is what this team has to do to be successful, and they executed much better in the second period.

Once again, this team was going to head into the third period with a lead. Part of the maturing process for any young group of players is learning how to lock down a game with a lead. This was going to be another opportunity for the Predators to learn how to win a game.

Everyone in the Saddledome knew the Flames were going to push in the third period, and they pushed hard. The Predators just managed one shot through the first 10 minutes of the period and had no offensive pressure. Calgary was living in the Predators offensive zone, and Pekka Rinne made some great saves to hold off the Calgary threat.

Perhaps the biggest save of the period came when Jonathan Blum dove across the crease and blocked a shot from Olli Jokinen when he had a wide open net. Sometimes, it helps to be lucky. Sometimes, you have to make your own luck.

The Predators made it 2-0 off a rush by Craig Smith. Smith drew the defense to him and slipped a nice pass to Sergei Kostitsyn  who buried the shot past Kiprusoff at 14:36 of the third period.

Great hustle and challenging the Calgary net resulted in a goal. Sounds a lot like Predator hockey.

The Predators held off the Flames for the remainder of the period and thankfully, the losing streak was over.

There are still areas of concern for the Predators. The often failed to clear the puck when they had opportunities to do so. The offense disappeared for stretches as evidenced by the fact that the Flames outshot the Predators 33-14.

These are areas that have to improve, but one cannot take away from the fact that this team battled all game, hustled, and did what it took to win the game.

Pekka Rinne was outstanding in net for the Predators. This team will continue to ride his effort and he will have to continue to be strong for this team.

Learning from losses is painful and certainly no fun. There are lessons to be learned from winning as well. This team needs to take the lessons from this win and bring them to the ice next week in a three game home stand.

Time to learn some fun lessons.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Craig Smith

3. Sergei Kostitsyn

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