Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Predators Start Road Trip With 3-0 Win Over the Avalanche

The Nashville Predators looked to get back to their winning ways as they traveled to the Pepsi Center to take on the Colorado Avalanche in the first of five meetings these teams will have this season.

This was the first game of a three game road swing out west for the Predators.

The Avalanche have been beset with injuries, notably to their starting goalie, Semyon Varlamov. Calvin Pickard drew the starting assignment and faced Pekka Rinne in net for the Predators.

It would be important for the Predators to get off to a fast start and they did just that as Filip Forsberg scored off a breakaway, roofing the shot over the shoulder of Pickard at 2:23 of the first period. this was Forsberg's 12th goal of the season.

That goal stood up until the third period when Gabriel Bourque got an empty netter at 18:10 to make it 2-0.

James Neal added another empty netter at 19:02 to seal the 3-0 win.

In between, there was a lot of up and down hockey with both teams creating some scoring chances and both goaltenders turning away said chances.

Some observations:

  • Forsberg's first period goal was a beauty off a nice pass from Gabriel Bourque. Forsberg was patient and waited for Pickard to drop to the butterfly before elevating the shot. Forsberg's hockey sense and maturity on the ice continue to impress. 
  • Anton Volchenkov returned to the line up after missing the Chicago game. Taylor Beck was out of the line up with a concussion and did not make the trip. Paul Gaustad returned to action, but only briefly as he played only about half the first period before re-aggravating the lower body injury that has kept him out of the last three games.
  • The lines were juggled, with Mike fisher centering Matt Cullen and Craig Smith on the second line while Calle Jarnkrok centered Colin wilson and Olli Jokinen on the third line.
  • The Predators caught a HUGE break late in the second period as Gabriel Landeskog had a wide open net into which to shoot the puck and instead he hit the pipe.
  • Mattias Ekholm played a solid game and is growing in confidence on the ice. He is quietly physical and handles the puck well. tonight, He was solid in the defensive zone and physical in the corners and in front of the net. Good to see his game getting consistently better.
  • The Predators did a good job in the defensive zone of disrupting the Avs offense. They did a good job of getting in the passing lanes and collapsing around the net to limit scoring opportunities.
  • Rinne had to make some good saves on the quality scoring chances that the Avalanche generated. It is certainly good to have Pekka back healthy and playing at the top of his game. this was Rinne's third shutout of the season.
  • His counterpart, Pickard, made some very good saves as well, absolutely robbing Olli Jokinen in close in the third period.
  • Gabriel Bourque has played with a lot of jump since his return to the line up. I have always liked his hustle and effort, but he has been in a tremendous scoring drought. tonight he was rewarded for his efforts with a goal and an assist. good to see him get on the board.
  • The Predators out shot the Avalanche 36-26.
  • The Predators were 0-6 on the power play, including a 4 minute double minor to Jerome Iginla. As bad as this unit is, I was encouraged to see more movement and working for shots. they will score on the man advantage eventually. Right?
  • The Predators have not lost back to back games this season.
A good start to the road trip  There is no doubt that injuries have depleted the Avalanche, but they are still a team with lots of talent. Tonight, the Predators did a good job of shutting down that talent.

They travel to Phoenix to take on the Coyotes Thursday.

Keep it rolling.

My three stars:

1. Gabriel Bourque

2. Filip Forsberg

3. Pekka Rinne

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