Friday, March 14, 2014

Predators Perfect on the Road Trip; Defeat Balckhawks 3-2

There is no doubt the Chicago Blackhawks are one of the elite teams in the NHL.

The Nashville Predators have struggled to score and play consistently this season.

Yet these two teams still had to play the game, and the heart and the grit of the Predators prevailed over the talent and skill of the Hawks to capture a 3-2 win at the United Center.

The Predators looked as if they thought the game started later than the actual puck drop as the Hawks dominated the first half of the opening period. The Predators did not get their first shot on net until 9:18 had run off the clock.

But once they got their legs going, the Predators showed they could play with the Blackhawks.

The Predators jumped out to a 2-0 lead on a goal by Mike fisher off a rebound of a Roman Josi shot, which Hawks netminder Corey Crawford kicked out with his pad. Fisher was driving the net and banged the puck past an out of position Crawford at 15:33 of the first period.

The second Predators goal came off a Shea Weber blast that Crawford blocked but the rebound was lifted into the net by Patric Hornqvist at 18:51.

With just 14 seconds left in the first period, the Hawks got on the board as a puck jumped over the stick of Josi at the blue line and the Hawks were off on a 3 on 1 break. Jonathan Toews cashed in off a nice pass from Kris Versteeg to beat Pekka Rinne and make it a 2-1 game.

The second period ended scoreless but with the Blackhawks on the power play and Ryan Ellis in the box.

Just as the power play ended, Josi spotted Ellis coming out of the box and hit him with a perfect pass to send him in alone on Crawford. Ellis made a sweet move to beat Crawford to make it 3-1 at 19:15 of the third period.

The Hawks were certainly not done, as Peter Regin deflected a puck through traffic past Rinne at 8:32 of the period. The Predators were victimized by their inability to get the puck out of their zone, and the talented Hawks made them pay.

That goal energized the Hawks, but Rinne was stellar, stopping shots with lots of traffic in front of him.

The Predators were able to withstand the last gasp push by the Hawks and came away with a 3-2 victory.

No happy humans leaving the United Center tonight.

Some observations:

  • The defense corps has stepped up their game offensively. Roman Josi had 3 assists; Shea Weber had 2 assists; and Ryan Ellis had the game winning goal. Getting the defense involved, and more importantly contributing to the offensive effort is essential for the Predators to have an opportunity to win games.

  • The goals by Fisher and Hornqvist were quintessential Predator goals. They were going hard to the net and collected rebounds for the score. The forwards for the Predators have to consistently do this to score, and when they do, they can be productive.

  • The Predators had a bit of luck as Jonathan Toews had an open net into which to shoot the puck, but his backhand from the top of the crease hit the post and bounced out of harm's way.

  • The goal by Ellis was sweet, with a nice move to get Crawford completely out of position. Ellis struggles against larger forwards in the defensive zone, but their is no denying his offensive skill.

  • Colin Wilson and Gabriel Bourque continue to struggle offensively. They hustle and they compete, but their offensive game has completely disappeared. Each recorded just one shot on goal in 14:57 and 10:54 TOI, respectively. The Predators desperately need to get these guys going offensively.

  • With the win, the Predators are now 1 game over .500 with a record of 29-28-10.
The Predators completed the three game road trip with a perfect 3-0 record, and will return home to face the St. Louis Blues tomorrow night.

It's time to get some wins on home ice, boys.

My three stars:

1. Roman Josi

2. Shea Weber

3. Pekka Rinne

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