Saturday, December 14, 2013

Predators Extend Win Streak, Defeat the Sharks 3-2

The Nashville Predators looked to continue their win streak, but faced quite a task with the San Jose Sharks visiting Bridgestone Arena. The Sharks are one of the better teams in the NHL, while the Predators are just above .500.

The Predators were going to have to play a complete game if they were going to take down the Sharks.

And that is what the Predators did.

The Predators extended their win streak to three games with a 3-2 victory over the Sharks.

The Predators opened the scoring at 16:04 of the first period as Victor Bartley took a shot from the point that ricocheted off the leg of Eric Nystrom and past Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi.

The Predators extended their lead to 2-0 in the second period on the power play. Craig Smith controlled the puck behind the Sharks net and saucered a pass to Roman Josi, who was moving off the blue line into the high slot. Josi picked the top corner past a screened Niemi at 18:08.

The third period saw the Sharks attack the Predators net and the Predators just trying to survive. The Sharks made it 2-1 as Dan Boyle tipped a shot from the point by Matt Irwin that went through the pads of Predators netminder Carter Hutton at 7:28.

The Predators got some breathing room as Viktor Stalberg used his speed to separate from a Sharks defenseman and fire a shot from the face off circle that beat Niemi to the far post to make it 3-1 at 17:21 of the third period.

The Sharks pulled Niemi for an extra attacker with over two minutes remaining in the game. That strategy paid off as Dan Boyle found Patrick Marleau at the side of the net and he beat Hutton to make it 3-2 at 19:05 of the third period.

The Predators were able to hold off the Sharks over the final 55 seconds for the victory.

Some observations:

  • Hutton had an exceptional game. He tracked the puck well and his rebound control, was exceptional. The Sharks were flying, especially in the third period and he handled the pressure well. The poise and calmness that Hutton has shown over the past three games has been critical to his success. Hutton has also shown a very good ability to play the puck and help the defense.

  • The Predators have shown a disturbing and annoying tendency to sit back with a lead. While they were able to capture the win tonight, this puts tremendous pressure on the defense and goaltending. Tonight, the Sharks out shot the Predators 20-7 in the third period. The Predators need to keep their offensive mindset with a lead, and more often than not, playing a "prevent defense" will not be successful.

  • Victor Bartley continues his strong play. He picked up an assist, delivered a big hit, and is physical in front of the net.

  • The Sharks have often been the more physical team when they play the Predators. Tonight, the Predators had 28 hits to 12 for the Sharks. The Predators generally did a good job of moving the Sharks out of the front of the net and protecting Hutton. The Predators have to continue to play with a physical edge to be successful.

  • The line of matt Cullen, Colin Wilson, and Craig Smith have blazing speed, and they used this speed to their advantage to back off the Sharks defense and create space. This line has potential to be dangerous, but they need to get the puck in the net.

  • Stalberg's goal was set up by his speed. He separated from the Sharks defense and whipped a shot past Niemi. Stalberg has shown that he has offensive skill, and now he needs to consistently utilize that talent.
The Predators did enough to win tonight. And that victory is sweet.

With Chicago coming to town, they are going to have to bring another complete game effort.

My three stars:

1. Carter Hutton

2. Viktor Stalberg

3. Dan Boyle

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