Maybe they just needed to play Predator hockey.
Whatever the reason, the Predators erupted for a season high 7 goals en route to a 7-2 thrashing of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Marek Mazenec got his first NHL win, stopping 39 of the 41 shots he faced and in the process looked like he belonged with the big club.
The Predators have been known for scoring by committee, and tonight, they epitomized that effort as 7 different players tallied goals.
Unlike their previous games, the Predators came out skating hard and playing solid team defense. More importantly, the Predators had good puck possession and kept pressure on the Blackhawks in the offensive zone all night.
That effort paid off in an offensive explosion that gave fans a glimpse of the potential of this team.
- This was a complete game by the Predators. They did a good job of limiting quality chances by the Blackhawks in the defensive zone, had good breakouts, and were able to effectively enter the offensive zone. These elements of their game were missing in their previous losses. More importantly, they had good jump and a high compete level which had been lacking in their losses. This is the way the Predators have to play to be successful.
- Marek Mazanec was solid between the pipes. He was calm, positionally sound, and moved better in the crease than in his previous outings. Hopefully, this gives him the confidence to build on this outing and turn in some quality starts.
- Craig Smith played an exceptional game. his goal was a thing of beauty, faking forehand before lifting a backhand past Chicago netminder Corey Crawford. He also had two assists, skated hard, and was a force in the offensive zone. This is the kind of play of which Smith is capable, and he has to bring this effort every night.
- How sweet it must have been for Viktor Stalberg to pick up his second goal of the season, a beauty off a sweet pass from Gabriel Bourque. Stalberg lifted the puck under the crossbar off the rush, using his speed to separate and get into a scoring position.
- Shea Weber finally hit the net with a rocket of a shot from the blue line on the power play, blowing the puck past Crawford for his 5th goal of the season. Weber needs to consistently get his shot ion net, and when he does he creates scoring chances.
- Nikolai Khabibulin started the game for the Blackhawks and gave up 2 goals before leaving with an injury. The Predators kept up their intensity and their pressure and lit up Crawford for 5 goals after he entered the game.
- 9 Predators got on the score sheet. This is the kind of effort that the Predators have to have every night to win games. Goals were scored by Matt Cullen, Viktor Stalberg, Mike Fisher, Shea Weber, Patric Hornqvist, Craig Smith, and Nick Spaling. Gabriel Bourque, David Legwand, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Seth Jones picked up assists.
Now it is time for the Predators to build on this effort. They go on the road (again) and will have that opportunity against the Red Wings.
Bring this effort and work effort, and success will follow.
My three stars:
1. Marek Mazanec
2. Craig Smith
3. Patric Hornqvist