Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Predators Potent Offense Pours in 6 Goals Against the Avalanche

The Nashville Predators continued their road trip with a stop in Denver for their second meeting of the season against the Colorado Avalanche. The Predators looked to continue their new found scoring prowess against an Avalanche team that possessed and explosive offense of their own.

Carter Hutton got the start for the Predators, while the Avalanche had Semyon Varlamov in net.

The Predators had to wonder if this was going to be one of those games where they were snake bitten as they hit three posts early in the first period.

The Predators finally broke through at 13:12 of the period as Viktor Stalberg forced a turnover off his forecheck and took a pass from behind the net from Colin Wilson and buried the shot past Varlamov for his first goal of the season.

The Avs answered back at 15:23 off a 2 on 1 break. P.A. Parenteau took a pass from Matt Duchene and beat Hutton, who had no chance on the shot. The play was set up when Seth Jones took the puck deep in the offensive zone and had his pass intercepted, starting the break for the Avs.

The Avs continued the trend of cheap shots as Jamie McGinn left his feet and boarded Seth Jones. Jones left the game and went to the locker room after the dirty hit.

On the ensuing power play, Colin Wilson dug the puck out from the side of the net and got it to Craig Smith. Smith roofed the shot over the shoulder of Varlamov and under the crossbar to give the Predators a 2-1 lead at 19:07 of the period.

Fortunately for the Predators, Jones was able to return to the game.

At the end of the first period, the Predators held a 2-1 lead and out shot the avalanche 10-9.

The Avs tied the game at 2 at 2:15 of the second period off a 3 on 2 rush. Ryan O'Reilly took a drop pass from P.A. Parenteau and fired a shot over the shoulder of Hutton to knot the game.

Just 59 seconds later, Paul Gaustad re-directed a Filip Forsberg shot to give the Predators a 3-2 lead at 3:14. Gaustad was right in front of Varlamov creating havoc and was able to get the shaft of his stick on the shot to deflect it.

The Predators extended their lead to 4-2 on the power play as Ryan Ellis faked a shot from the point and found Colin Wilson breaking in on the weak side with a perfect pass. Wilson banged the puck into the open net at 6:47 for his second goal of the year. Avery heads up play by both Ellis and Wilson.

The Avs made it 4-3 at 13:37 as Paul Stastny drove the slot and took a pass from Jamie McGinn and his wrist shot beat Hutton on the stick side.

The Predators survived a too many men on the ice penalty and exited the second period with the 4-3 lead. Shots were 9 apiece in the second.

Colorado tied the game at 4 at 4:23 as the Predators turned the puck over at the offensive blue line as fillip Forsberg lost the puck. Matt Duchene picked up the loose puck and blew into the offensive zone. Duchene split Kevin Klein and Roman Josi and beat Hutton over his shoulder.

See a trend here? The Predators gave up too many goals on odd man rushes or breakaways to this point in the game.

The Predators answered back as Viktor Stalberg stole the puck in the offensive zone and found Colin Wilson streaking toward the net. Wilson beat Varlamov with a sweet backhand to give the Predators a 5-4 lead at 7:34 of the third period.

As the period wound down, the Avs pulled Varlamov for the extra attacker. The Predators controlled the puck in the defensive zone and David Legwand got the puck to Gabriel Bourque in the neutral zone. Bourque skated in a fired the puck into the empty net for a 6-4 lead at 19:52 to seal the win.

Some observations:

  • This team is beginning to play with confidence in the offensive zone. In previous seasons, this team has appeared to be unwilling to shoot the puck. This group is doing a good job of working for the open shot and more importantly taking the shot. And they have been very efficient in the offensive zone, which is a pleasant surprise.

  • Viktor Stalberg had his best game as a Predator. He was active in the offensive zone, picking up a goal and an assist and played a solid defensive game as well. Hopefully, this gives him confidence and his game begins to consistently produce.

  • The Predators were guilty of some very sloppy play. They gave the Avs all their goals off transitions and breakaways. Credit the Avs- they are talented and attack in waves, but the Predators are going to have to play better defense and limit turnovers.

  • Who would have thought this team could- or would- be this offensively productive? In the first 3 games of this road trip, the Predators have scored 14 goals. Certainly not "offensively challenged" against some very good teams to begin this roadie.

  • The Predators were without Mike Fisher, who hurt his foot in the previous game against L.A. The team also announced that Pekka Rinne has an e-coli infection in his hip and will miss 6-8 weeks instead of the 4 weeks originally estimated.
This was a solid win against one of the best teams in the NHL in this young season. More importantly, the Predators have shown some resiliency and fight by not wilting in the face of pressure from a very good opponent.

This team is beginning to show their potential and it looks promising.

They have to consistently build on that potential.

My three stars:

1. Colin Wilson

2. Viktor Stalberg

3. Matt Duchene

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