Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Predators Stymie the Sharks For the Second Time

The Nashville Predators seem to enjoy playing the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks are one of the best teams in the NHL, while the Predators are struggling to play .500 hockey.

Yet the Predators captured their second win in as many games against the Sharks, notching a 3-2 victory at Bridgestone Arena.

After a scoreless first period that saw the Predators out shoot the Sharks 10-6, the game opened up in the second.

The Predators got on the board first as David Legwand gathered in a loose puck and roof a shot over the shoulder of Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi from just inside the right circle at 3:35 of the second period.

After the officials missed a tripping call against the Sharks in the Predators defensive zone, Mattias Ekholm cleared the puck over the glass. On the ensuing power play, the Sharks tied the game as Joe Pavelski tipped a shot from Dan Boyle and re-directed it past Nashville netminder Marek Mazanec at 6:49.

Just 27 seconds later, Ekholm redeemed himself as he got the puck low in the offensive zone and whipped a backhand shot toward the net. The shot seemed to surprise Niemi and went through the five hole for Ekholm's first NHL goal.

The Predators made it 3-1 at 11:30 of the second period when Roman Josi carried the puck behind the net and circled back into the high slot. He fired a shot that beat Niemi high glove side for the score. The Sharks protested since Colin Wilson was laying in the crease and they claimed he prevented Niemi from making a play on the puck. However, Wilson had been cross checked to the ice by Marc-Edouard Vlasic and the contact was deemed incidental.

The Sharks, as expected, turned it on in the third period. They out shot the Predators 11-5, many of which came in the final two minutes with Niemi pulled for the extra attacker.

The Sharks cut the deficit to one with 1:22 remaining as Patrick Marleau was able to re-direct a shot by Matt Nieto past Mazanec.

The Predators were able to hold the Sharks at bay for the remainder of the period and picked up their first regulation win in four games.

Some observations:

  • The Predators are 16-1-4 when scoring first. They are 17-0-3 when scoring at least 3 goals.

  • Mazanec has continued to look more comfortable and poised in the net. He has rarely been caught out of position and has not been giving up rebounds. His play continues to improve, and if Rinne can return this season, I expect Mazanec to remain on the team as the back up. 

  • Ekholm has shown continued improvement. He logged 18:56 in ice time paired with Seth Jones, was a +1, and had a huge goal that allowed the Predators to seize back momentum shortly after the Sharks had tied the game. His confidence seems to be growing and his play has been steady. He needs to continue to progress, and his recent play has been beneficial to the team.

  • The Predators out hustled and out worked the Sharks, especially in the defensive zone. They limited quality scoring chances by the Sharks and blocked 20 shots. The Predators also did a good job on their breakouts, pressuring the Sharks defense and setting up some good scoring chances.

  • The defensive pairing of Shea Weber and Roman Josi has been very good. Weber picked up 2 assists and Josi had the game winning goal. Both move the puck well, and Josi has really stepped up and shown confidence in carrying the puck and distributing it, and he has a deceptively good shot.

  • The Predators had only one power play, which came 10 seconds into the contest when Joe Thornton was called for hooking. The Sharks had 4 power play opportunities, scoring on one for their first goal of the game. The Predators PK was solid tonight and limited quality chances by the Sharks.
This was a solid game by the Predators. it was evident early on that the Predators were going to assert their will, and that will was going to be better than the skill of the Sharks.

This is the kind of effort that the Predators have to have every night to rack up points.

My three stars:

1. Mattias Ekholm

2. David Legwand

3. Marek Mazanec


  1. Did Hornqvist get hurt in the game? Stat sheet says he only played about 10 mins and that doesn't seem right?

  2. He looked like he took a shot off his foot or leg in the first period. Was wincing on the bench, but took some regular shifts in the first and second period. He had 9:05 of ice time, and I don't think he had any shifts in the third period. No official word about an injury from the team.