Saturday, November 8, 2014

Predators Take Over Top Spot In the Central with a 2-1 Win Over the Blues

The Nashville Predators played their last game of a six game road trip in St. Louis in a match up that featured the top two teams in the Central Division.

Almost everyone expected the Blues to be there.

No one expected the Predators to be challenging for the top spot.

Part of the reason for the Predators success has been the play of goaltender Pekka Rinne. Rinne entered the game with a 1.89 GAA and a .932 save percentage.

He would face Brian Elliott, who has a 2.06 GAA and a .920 save percentage.

The Blues came into this contest with a 7 game winning streak.

The Blues struck first as a rebound of a Vladamir Tarasenko shot kicked out to Jori Lehtera, who slid the puck under the pad of Rinne, who was scrambling to get back in position. The goal occurred at 14:30 of the first period.

Filip Forsberg continued his strong play as he took a cross ice pass from Roman Josi and beat Elliott glove side at 7:20 of the second period to tie the game at 1. Great vision and patience by Josi to find Forsberg and excellent shot placement by Forsberg.

Did I mention Forsberg's strong play. He carried the puck into the blues zone and dropped a pass to James Neal, who blasted a shot over Elliot's stick to make it 2-1 Predators at 13:32 of the third period.

The Predators made that goal stand up, holding off the Blues and the extra attacker over final 1:10 to secure a 2-1 win and take over first place in the Central Division.

Some observations:

  • Vladamir Tarasenko is a scary player. Scary good. The kid can skate, handles the puck well, and has a wicked good shot. The Blues have a player in Tarasenko that is fast becoming an elite hockey player.

  • Filip Forsberg has made a strong case to be an early favorite for the Calder. He now has 5 goals in his last 4 games and leads all rookies in scoring and in +/-. Forsberg is quietly good and doesn't get the highlight reel goals like Tarasenko, but is putting together a very solid effort early in the season.

  • I really like the Predators compete level in this game, especially in the second period. They created some good scoring chances and kept pressure on the Blues. One characteristic of this team that is really encouraging is that they do not sit back in a defensive posture throughout the game, but are looking for opportunities to attack.

  • James Neal has a great shot- we all know that. But I like his total game. He goes to the hard areas and battles for the puck and is responsible in the defensive zone. His power game is a nice compliment to Forsberg and Ribeiro on his line.

  • Neal's goal was his 8th, which leads the team.

  • The Predators lost Colin Wilson in the third period to a lower body injury.

  • The Predators out shot the Blues 35-27.

  • The Predators finished the 6 game road trip with a 4-2 record.
The old saying is "if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best". Tonight was the Predators night to beat the best. Yes, it is only the first of many contests with the Blues, but this has to be a huge confidence boost for the Predators. They know they can not only play with the best team in the division but can defeat them.

Now the Predators get to come back home for a few days before they attempt to build on this momentum.

My three stars:

1. James Neal

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Filip Forsberg

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