Thursday, October 10, 2013

Bernier Continues His Mastery Over the Predators, Leads Leafs to 4-0 Win

The Nashville Predators are glad they don't have to face Jonathan Bernier often.

Bernier continued his mastery over the Predators, this time in net for the Toronto Maple Leafs in a 4-0 victory over the Predators at Bridgestone Arena. Bernier's career record against the Predators is now 8-1.

After a scoreless first period that saw the Predators out shoot the Leafs 8-6, the Predators tilted the ice in the second period and out shot the Leafs 17-9. Bernier was stellar, stopping every attempt by the Predators.

While the Leafs only had 9 shots, they capitalized on 2 of them. James van Riemsdyk gathered in a puck behind the goal line and fired a pass to Phil Kessel, who was alone in the low slot. Kessel rifled a shot over the shoulder of Pekka Rinne to make it 1-0 at 13:41 of the second period. On the play, Filip Forsberg lost coverage of Kessel, giving him an easy shot on net.

The Leafs struck again with just 9 seconds to go in the second period. Kessel shot a puck in on Rinne that hit him in the shoulder and fell to the side of the net. Rinne went down to cover the puck, but before he could get his glove on it, van Riemsdyk swooped in and picked up the puck. He went behind the net and buried the wrap around before Rinne could recover.

The Predators pressed the attack again in the third period, but were unable to solve Bernier. Their efforts to get back into the game were thwarted when Mike Fisher was called for boarding Cody Franson into the curved glass by the Leafs bench. Franson was bloodied and left the game and Fisher was given a 5 minute major and a game misconduct. On the ensuing power play, Tyler Bozak and Joffrey Lupul scored to make it 4-0 and secure the victory for the Leafs.

Some observations:

  • Although the Predators out shot the Leafs 36-26, many of their shots were from the perimeter and with no traffic in front of Bernier. The Predators have success when they create havoc in front of the net. Tonight, they rarely did that. Lacking pure goal scorers, the Predators have to commit to going to the hard areas to score. Right now, that commitment is lacking.

  • The power play, which had success against Minnesota, looked stale. There was not much movement by players away from the puck to create lanes or mismatches. The Predators have to improve in this area and certainly have to be more consistent and productive.

  • Young players are going to make mistakes. Witness the error by Forsberg that led to the first Leafs goal. Yet I am impressed by the play of Forsberg. He is calm with the puck, surprisingly strong, and offensively creative. His game will continue to grow and improve.

  • Mattias Ekholm has been quietly efficient. he did have a turnover at the blue line that led to a 2 on 1, on which Rinne made a great save to bail him out. but his confidence seems to be growing every game and I believe he will develop into a solid blueliner.

  • Still not sold, though, on Ryan Ellis as a full time NHL defenseman.

  • I like Matt Cullen's game, but the Predators need him to get his offense going.

  • Not sure that Matt Hendricks is best suited for an agitator roll. He got the sort end of it in a scrap with David Broll tonight.

  • Rinne made some great saves, but he has to have some offensive support. Right now, he has to be perfect for the Predators to win a game. he hasn't been, and the Predators aren't winning.
The Predators record is now 1-3.

The compete level of this team is good, but they are not finishing. Without elite goal scorers, the Predators have to get to the net and create traffic and trouble for opposing goaltenders. The Predators have not done that consistently, and their record reflects that shortcoming.

It's time to make that commitment, boys.

My three stars:

1. Jonathan Bernier

2. Phil Kessel

3. James van Riemsdyk

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