Thursday, February 14, 2013

Predators Play Predator Hockey, Defeat the Coyotes 3-0

A funny thing happened in the Nashville Predators tilt against the Phoenix Coyotes at the Bridgestone Arena.

The Predators out shot their opponent for only the second time this season.

The Predators out shot the Coyotes 29-19 en route to a 3-0 victory in front of a sell out crowd, turning the tables on the Coyotes and dominating the visitors. In their first meeting, the Coyotes had dominated the Predators in a 4-0 victory.

The Predators did not get on the scoreboard until the third period offensive explosion, surpassing over 200 minutes without a goal in regulation time.

Fortunately, the Predators had Pekka Rinne in net, and the big netminder recorded his second consecutive shutout. Rinne has not allowed a goal in over 137 minutes of regulation time.

Mike Smith was in net for the Coyotes and did a good job of frustrating the Predators through two periods.

Smith made a great save on Mike Fisher, who was alone in front of the net. Smith got his glove on Fisher's shot to prevent the score.

The Predators had another glorious scoring chance in the waning seconds of the second period as Gabriel Bourque was alone at the side of the net and found the puck on his stick. Unfortunately, the puck bounced as Bourque took the shot and he didn't get much on it, allowing Smith to make the save.

Frustrating for Fisher and Bourque, but the story is not over. They would get their goals.

Bourque got his goal in the third period on the power play as Marty Erat took a shot with Bourque screening Smith. Bourque did a good job of taking away any look that Smith had at the shot. Erat's shot hit Bourques's skate and re-directed past Smith to put the Predators up 1-0 at 2:40 of the third period.

The Predators had done a good job of swarming the net, taking shots, and getting traffic in front of Smith. Predator hockey was back, and it was keeping the Coyotes on their heels and bottled up in their zone.

The Predators made it 2-0 at 9:38 of the third as Matt Halischuk dug the puck out of the corner and got a pass to Nick Spaling inside the face off circle. Spaling ripped a shot over the shoulder of Smith to give the Predators some breathing room.

Mike Fisher made it 3-0 at 18:16 of the third as he beat Smith to the far post from almost the same spot as Spaling. This was Fisher's second goal of the season, and it was good to see him on the score sheet.

The Predators played Predator hockey. Even though they were held off the board through two periods, it felt as if it was just a matter of time before they scored. They were firing shots at the net and had traffic in front of Smith. They had control of the puck in the offensive zone for lengthy stretches. When the Coyotes did threaten, Rinne was a wall.

With the win, the Predators are 7-3-4, good for 18 points and tied for third in the Western Conference.

Some observations:

  • Bourque moved up to the line with Mike Fisher and Marty Erat. Sergei Kostitsyn moved to a line with Colin Wilson and David Legwand. I like Bourque's game, and he provided some jump to Fisher's line. I am glad to see Barry Trotz mix the lines to try to generate some offense, and tonight it worked well.
  • Pekka Rinne was in the zone tonight. I think he has the best glove hand of any goalie in the NHL, and tonight, his glove gobbled up a number of the Coyotes shots. He tracked the puck well and appears to be playing relaxed and with confidence. Rinne has 3 shut outs in his last 4 games.
  • The defensive pairs also changed, as Shea Weber was paired with Roman Josi and Kevin Klein and Scott Hannan were on the second D pairing. Josi continues to be a solid blueliner and his game is consistent in all phases. The pairing of Jonathan Blum and Ryan Ellis has been good, and they are playing some quality minutes.
  •  The Predators appear to be rounding into shape as far as playing Predator hockey. Solid defense, excellent goaltending, and now some opportunistic scoring. The Predators have to continue to build on this effort.
This was a quality win against a team that has vexed the Predators. The game was a defensive struggle, but unlike some recent contests, the Predators committed to shooting the puck and going to the net. And it paid off with a big victory.

Now it is time to continue to string together some more games like tonight.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Gabriel Bourque

3. Nick Spaling

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