Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Predators Start the Long Road Trip With a 4-1 Win Over the Oilers

The Nashville Predators began a two week road trip at Edmonton to face off against the suddenly hot Oilers, who came into the game winners of four straight contests.

For the Predators, it was going to be critical to get not only this game but this road trip off to a good start.

They accomplished both objectives as they defeated the Oilers 4-1.

Although the first period was scoreless, the Predators outshot the Oilers 10-3 and out skated and out chanced the home team.

In the second period, the Predators scored two goals in 1:26 to take control of the game.

Craig Smith notched his second goal of the season as he beat Ben Scrivens short side through traffic at 6:23.

Taylor Beck fired a puck into a wide open net off a nice cross ice pass from Colin Wilson at 7:49.

The third period would be critical and the Predators would need to keep up the pressure and not allow the Oilers to seize momentum. They did just that as Shea Weber launched a rocket from the blue line that Scrivens never saw to make it 3-0 just 24 seconds into the period.

The Oilers finally broke through against Pekka Rinne at 8:54 of the third perios as Taylor Hall banged home a rebound of a Ryan Nugent Hopkins shot.

Craig Smith tallied his second goal of the game and third of the season off a 2 on1 rush with Matt Cullen. Cullen saucered a pass to Smith, who blew the puck past Scrivens to make it 4-1 at 12:24 of the third period.

Rinne and the defense locked down the Oilers for the remainder of the game, and the Predators recorded their 6th win of the season.

Some observations:

  • The Predators were victimized by the "intent to blow" call by referee Ian Walsh in the first period. Craig Smith jammed a puck in on Ben Scrivens and into the back of the net. However, the goal was waved off immediately by Walsh, and his explanation was that he was intending to blow the whistle, even though the puck was in the back of the net.

  • Matt Cullen returned to the line up after missing 8 games with an injury. He looked very good on a line with Derek Roy and Craig Smith, skating well and creating some chances. That line showed some jump all night and got the first goal of the game by Smith off of nice pressure on the net. This was Smith's third goal of the season.

  • After being a healthy scratch the past few games, Gabriel Bourque returned to the line up and looked good, skating hard and getting some scoring chances. the Swedish Chef needs to get his game going if he wants to stick in the line up, and the team can certainly use some production from him.

  • Taylor Beck got his first goal of the season off a nice assist from Colin Wilson. Wilson moved to center the line with Beck and Olli Jokinen and looked comfortable in that role. Wilson is probably more suited to being a set up man than a pure goal scorer, and if he can settle into this role with some consistency, it will benefit his game and his line.

  • The Oilers started the season 0-4 before winning their last 4 games to bring their record to .500. Interestingly, all their losses came against Western conference teams, while all their wins have come against Eastern Conference teams.

  • Rinne made some good saves tonight, but in my opinion looked a bit "scrambly" and not as relaxed tonight.

  • In games last season, the Oilers used their speed and attacking style to overwhelm the Predators defensive system. Tonight, the Predators turned the tables and attacked all night and forced the Oilers to go into defensive mode. The effect was to curb some of the offensive explosiveness of the Oilers and create the opportunity for offensive chances by the Predators. The Predators also did a good job of selectively activating the defense in the offensive zone and putting pressure on the Oilers defense.

  • The Predators out shot the Oilers 35-27.

  • The Predators blocked 24 shots by the Oilers.
This was a solid game from start to finish, and it is good to see the Predators dominate a team that had owned them last season.

The start to the road trip was just what the Predators needed. Now they have to continue to build on that effort. They will have their chance on Friday night in Calgary.

My three stars:

1. Craig Smith

2. Roman Josi

3. Pekka Rinne

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