Sunday, October 20, 2013

Predators Pick Up Point in the 'Peg

The Nashville Predators ventured to Winnipeg in search of back to back wins and their second road victory of the season.

This was the first meeting of the season between the new divisional rivals.

With the Predators playing last night in Montreal, Carter Hutton got the start in net. The Jets had Ondrej Pavelec manning the crease.

The first period was scoreless but both teams played an up tempo style that created some good scoring opportunities. The Predators best scoring chance came when Matt Cullen came out of the penalty box and gathered in a puck that had gotten behind the Jets defense. Cullen was stopped on the breakaway by a stick save from Pavelec.

Shots were 15-12 in favor of the Jets in the first period.

Just 10 seconds into the period, Matt Hendricks went to the box for tripping. On the PK, Eric Nystrom blocked a shot by Dustin Byfuglien and took the puck in the neutral zone. He broke in 2 on 1 with Paul Gaustad, but rather than pass he ripped a shot inside the far post to give the Predators a 1-0 lead 20 seconds into the period.

The Jets answered the Predators score with a flurry of shots at the net, requiring Hutton to make some big saves to hold the Predators lead.

The Predators got a gift from the Jets at 12:07 of the second period. Pavelec had gone behind the net to stop the puck. The the puck was cleared around the boards and Patric Hornqvist took possession of the puck along the boards in the offensive zone and just threw the puck at the net. Pavelec was not back in the net, and Hornqvist's shot hit the leg of Zach Bogosian and caromed into the net to make it 2-0.

The Predators got their first power play of the game, and just as the power play expired, Matt Cullen got a pass on his tape from Craig Smith and roofed a shot from the left face off circle to give the Predators a 3-0 lead at 14:57.

The second period ended with the Predators up 3-0. Carter Hutton was strong in net, fending off all 11 shots he faced in the period. The Predators had 7 shots on goal.

Winnipeg got on the board at 9:13 of the third period as Carter Hutton looked to have the puck frozen at the side of the net. Several jets kept banging away at the puck and it trickled out into the blue paint. Evander Kane poked the puck five hole to give the Jets some momentum.

That goal gave the Jets more than momentum. they were buzzing the net and keeping the Predators hemmed in their zone. The Predators looked to have reverted to survival mode trying to hold off the offensive onslaught of the Jets.

The teams traded some power play opportunities but neither could capitalize. The Predators defense was able to limit quality scoring chances and protect the two goal lead for the remainder of the game for the 3-1 victory.

Some observations:

  • Carter Hutton looked very good in net. he was poised, relaxed, and was rarely caught out of position. There were questions about Hutton in the back up role before the season began, but if he can continue to give quality starts like tonight, the Predators have found a solid back up.

  • Mike Fisher was out of action again tonight with a lower body injury.

  • The line of Cullen, Bourque, and Smith continue to play well. They have good chemistry and are very complimentary style players.

  • In general, I like the compete level and response of the team. They withstood the pressure of the Jets and matched their speed. There was a stretch in the third period where the Predators ere back on their heels but they rallied back to level the ice. That showed some mental toughness.

  • Patric Hornqvist continues his solid play. he constantly battles for the position and the puck and his motor is always going full tilt. He has to work on his breakaway shot, though. After a stellar defensive play, he broke in alone on Pavelec. Instead of getting a shot, he launched it into the net.

  • Eric Nystrom has been a very good add for the Predators. He brings intensity and hockey smarts, and tonight, he showed he has a pretty good shot. His shorthanded goal took the energy out of the building and gave the Predators momentum.
With the win, the Predators move their record to 5-3-1. More importantly, the Predators are building confidence with two good road wins and they are beginning to gel as a team.

They will have an opportunity to build on that momentum Tuesday night in Minnesota.

My three stars:

1. Carter Hutton

2. Matt Cullen

3. Eric Nystrom

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