Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Predators Cruise Past Columbus 4-0

The Nashville Predators traveled to Nationwide Arena to face their former Central Division rival Columbus Blue Jackets. What had been a heated and testy division rivalry has been dampened somewhat by the Jackets move to the Eastern Conference.

Marek Mazanec was in net for the Predators, while the Jackets had their workhorse Sergei Bobrovsky between the pipes.

The Predators were once again without the services of Patric Hornqvist, who was out with an upper body injury. The Jackets were dealing with a myriad of injuries on their roster that caused Head Coach Todd Richards to juggle his lines.

The Predators opened the scoring at 9:58 of the first period. Matt Cullen skated the puck into the offensive zone and passed to Ryan Ellis on the opposite point. Ellis drew the defense to him and zipped a diagonal pass back to Cullen, who beat Bobrovsky with a one timer from just inside the face off circle. Ellis showed great patience and vision on the play and put the pass through the defense on to the tape of Cullen.

That would be the only scoring in the period. The Predators put a lot of pressure on Bobrovsky and the Jackets defense in the period, outshooting them 14-4. Bobrovsky was called upon to make some good saves to keep the Predators from extending their lead.

The Predators started the second period on the power play with 1:30 of man advantage time. A shot from the point by Roman Josi deflected off Gabriel Bourque into the slot. Mike Fisher gathered in the rebound and banged a shot over the shoulder of Bobrovsky to give the Predators a 2-0 lead 54 seconds into the period.

The Predators forecheck forced a Jackets turnover in their defensive zone. Viktor Stalberg was able to create the turnover and got a pass from Gabriel Bourque while driving the front of the net. Stalberg's shot got through to Bobrovsky, who made the initial save, but David Legwand tipped the puck into the open net to make 3-0 at 8:56 of the period.

The latter stages of the second period saw the Jackets attempt to mount an offensive push, but the Predators defense was up to the task.

In the second period, the Predators out shot the Jackets 11-8.

The Predators made it 4-0 at 2:02 of the third period as they won a face off in the offensive zone. Matt Cullen slipped a pass from his knees to Nick Spaling, and he let go a wicked wrist shot that beat Bobrovsky over the shoulder.

The Predators spent the rest of the third period shutting down the Jackets offensive push and Mazanec picked up his second career shut out with the 4-0 win.

Some observations:

  • The Predators have been playing some disciplined hockey of late. Tonight, they took one penalty until Craig Smith was called for delay of game for shooting the puck over the glass with 26 seconds left in the contest. This discipline has helped to keep the Predators fresher since they are not spending an inordinate amount of time killing penalties.

  • The line of Cullen, Smith, and Spaling has shown some very good chemistry and has become an offensive force. Cullen is playing some very good hockey right now and is the catalyst that gets this line going.

  • The Predators defensive effort, especially in the first 40 minutes, was exceptional. They limited the Jackets to 12 shots through 2 periods and did not allow the Jackets many quality scoring chances.

  • The Predators have shot the puck well and have been going strong to the net. This is a winning formula and the Predators have to continue to consistently do this to have success.

  • Mazanec continues his strong play. He tracked the puck well and gave up few rebounds. The team in front of him seems to be developing a confidence in his abilities in net, and this has helped their play.
This was a solid road win by the Predators. They shut down the Jackets and did not allow the fans at Nationwide to get into the game.

Now the Predators have to continue this kind of play to climb aback into the playoff race.

My three stars:

1. Marek Mazanec

2. Matt Cullen

3. Gabriel Bourque

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