The Nashville Predators embarked on a critical five game road trip, making their first stop in Dallas to take on the Stars.
These two teams met earlier in Nashville, with the Predators taking a 5-4 overtime decision in a spirited contest. This one had the makings of another feisty contest, and the teams did not disappoint.
The Predators had Pekka Rinne in net, while the Stars went with Kari Lehtonen.
The Predators had a solid effort in a 4-0 win.
I missed the second period while at my son's hockey game, but I saw enough of the game to offer these observations:
Predators Find Some Grit
Dallas made a commitment to be physical, to the point of gooning up the game in the third period. The Predators responded with grit and physical play of their own, but it was physical play that was in control. The Predators drew penalties and responded with physical play of their own.
I like the response of the team, especially in the third period that saw an old fashioned line brawl. When the Stars get down, they try to use their size and physicality to back down their opponent. Tonight, the Predators did not back down. That is the kind of response that the Predators have to have, as the remaining games will bring out the desperation of every team.
Peks recorded his league leading 5th shutout and was outstanding in net. He made some big saves, especially in the third when the Predators were under siege by a desperate Dallas squad. When Rinne is moving well and tracking the puck like he did tonight, he is nearly unbeatable. And this frustrates the other team, as we saw late in the game by the Stars cheap shots and goon tactics.
Penalty Kill Comes Up Big
The PK was a perfect 4 for 4, and came up with two big kills early in the third period when Dallas was pressing to get back into the game. The Predators are going to need the PK to be stronger than it has been in previous games, and this was a good way to get their mojo back. They need to build on this effort.
Clune Continues To Impress
Rich Clune had another strong game and even scored on a penalty shot. Clune plays a gritty game, but has emerged as a player that is smart with the puck and creates some offense. His style of play gets under the skin of the opponents as evidenced by drawing a game misconduct penalty against the Stars Jamie Oleksiak late in the game. Clune chose not to engage Oleksiak and watched him sent to the showers while he stayed on the ice. That was a heady play.
Welcome Back Matt
Matt Halischuk set up the Predators first goal with a nifty steal of the puck at the Stars blue line, setting up Nick Spaling for the Predators first goal of the contest. Halischuk had been sent down to Milwaukee but was recalled after two games because of injuries. Halischuk needs to continue to produce, and the Predators need him playing solid hockey.
That Darn Injury Bug...
struck again as the Predators lost Paul Gaustad to an upper body injury. The extent of the injury is unknown, but with Patrick Hornqvist and Colin Wilson injured, the Predators can ill afford to lose more players for an extended period of time.
Stop Me if You Have Heard This before
Once again, Marty Erat and Sergei Kostitsyn played a game and recorded no shots on goal. C'mon guys.. we need scoring, and you are not going to score if you never shoot the puck.
A solid win by the Predators that was characterized by gritty play, solid goaltending, and scoring by committee. And it is good to see the committee begin to score again. Shots on net with traffic in front is a winning combination for the Predators. Now, if we can just get some of our forwards untracked and shooting the puck...
This is the kind of win the Predators needed to start the road trip. But this is one game in a critical five game swing. It is imperative that the Predators bring this kind of effort in the remaining road games. I beleive the Predators are going to need to capture at least 6 of the 10 possible points on this trip.
This was a good start.
Now build on it.
My three stars:
1. Pekka Rinne
2. Craig Smith
3. Rich Clune