Monday, November 25, 2013

Predators Fast Start Leads to Win Over the Coyotes

Just like in their first meeting with the Phoenix Coyotes, the Nashville Predators jumped out to a big early lead.

Unlike that contest, which resulted in a shootout loss, the Predators made that lead hold up on the way to a 4-2 victory.

The Predators have now won 4 of their last 5 games. The Coyotes have dropped 3 in a row.

The Predators did their damage in the first period, jumping on the Coyotes for 3 goals. Nick Spaling opened the scoring, driving the slot and banging home a rebound of a Matt Cullen shot over the shoulder of Coyotes netminder Mike Smith at 1:02 of the period.

Mike Fisher took a pass from Colin Wilson and fired a shot from below the face off circle to give the Predators a 2-0 lead at 8:22 of the first period. Wilson controlled the puck in the corner and made a nice pass to Fisher, who did a good job of getting the shot off in traffic.

The Predators extended the lead to 3-0 as Viktor Stalberg used his exceptional speed to drive wide and force the Coyotes defense to turn and chase him. Stalberg put a nice pass through the legs of the defenseman onto the tape of Gabriel Bourque. Bourque made a nice fake to put Smith out of position and buried a backhand into the open net.

It was a good thing the Predators had a strong first period.

The Coyotes answered with a strong second period to make it a game.

Mikkel Boedker beat Predators goaltender Marek Mazanec five hole with a shot through traffic to get the Coyotes on the board at 9:34 of the second period.

That goal energized the Coyotes, and they began to control the puck and put pressure on the Predators. That pressure paid off as Tim Kennedy was able to gather in a rebound at the top of the crease and slide a backhand past Mazanec to make it 3-2 at 13:00 of the second period.

In the third period, the Coyotes spent a majority of the time in the Predators zone. They out shot the Predators 12-5 in the period, and Mazanec had to make some good saves to keep the Coyotes off the board. The Predators seemed content to play defense and just clear the puck, as they rarely established any offensive presence and zone time.

With Smith on the bench for an extra attacker, Shea Weber got the puck in the defensive zone behind the face off circle and banged the puck off the glass. The puck caromed off the glass and landed in the neutral zone and rolled into the open net to seal the win for the Predators at 19:25 of the third period.

I don't know if Shea called "bank" on the shot.

Some observations:

  • The Predators were without Patric Hornqvist, who is called day to day with an upper body injury.

  • The Coyotes lost the services of Shane Doan, who was injured and did not play in the third period.

  • Gabriel Bourque's goal was a thing of beauty. The goal was set up by the speed of Stalberg, who made a sweet pass through the legs of a Coyote defender onto the tape of Bourque. Bourque showed great hands in controlling the puck, faking to the forehand, and pulling the puck to his backhand and lifting it into the net.

  • David Legwand has reverted to form. He has been a non- factor the past several games, and was again tonight. Among the forwards, only Rich Clune had less ice time than Legwand. This team needs Legwand to step up his game and begin to contribute offensively.

  • The Predators flirted with disaster in the third period. Content to sit back and play defense, the Coyotes dominated in offensive zone time and in shots. The Predators didn't seriously threaten Smith and establish offensive zone presence. More often than not, this is not a winning formula.

  • Mazanec made some very good saves tonight and tracked the puck well through traffic. The Coyotes first goal came through traffic, and Mazanec didn't see the puck until the last instance, getting beat five hole. Mazanec has looked calm and has been positionally sound and has seemed to grow in confidence with each start.
The Predators are now 12-10-2 for 26 points, and sit 10th in the West. They are 6 points out of the 8th playoff spot, held by the Coyotes.

The Predators are going to have to continue to string together wins to climb back into playoff contention.

This means they are going to have to develop some consistency in their game and their effort every night.

And play a solid 60 minutes of hockey.

My three stars:

1. Gabriel Bourque

2. Mike Fisher

3. Marek Mazanec

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