Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Predators Stop the Bruins In a Shootout

The Nashville Predators returned to Bridgestone Arena for one game against the Boston Bruins before departing on the road until after Christmas. So playing in front of the home crowd, where the Predators have been almost unbeatable, and against a team in the Bruins that has struggled to score lately, this looked like a matchup that would favor the Predators.

Instead, the Predators found themselves in a battle with the Bruins before they won it in a shootut.

Regulation and overtime ended tied at 2. Derek Roy scored the only goal in overtime and Pekka Rinne stopped all three Boston shooters for a 3-2 win for the Predators.

After a scoreless first period that saw both teams register 9 shots, the Bruins opened the second period absolutely dominating the Predators. They had the first 8 shots on net and tallied the first goal of the game just after their power play expired. The Bruins were swarming the net and got 4 shots on goal before Milan Lucic was finally able to get a puck past Rinne to make it 1-0.

The Predators answered with just 30 seconds to go in the second. With Lucic in the box for hooking, Shea Weber let a shot go from the blue line that was tipped by Mike Fisher in front past Tuukka Rask to tie the game.

The Predators took a 2-1 lead early in the third as James Neal passed the puck off the end boards right to the stick of Mike Ribeiro. He fired a rocket over the shoulder of Rask for his 9th goal of the season.

That lead lasted just under 2 minutes as Reilly Smith drove around James Neal and was able to slide the puck past Rinne.

Both teams has some chances in the remainder of regulation but neither could find the back of the net.

In overtime, the Predators were a turnover machine and Rinne had to make some huge stops to keep the Bruins off the board.

Roy notched the only goal in the shootout to secure the 3-2 win and the valuable second point for the Predators.

Some observations:

  • If Pekka Rinne doesn't get serious consideration for the Vezina and the Hart, then the Pro Hockey Writers will have committed a criminal offense. Rinne has been outstanding so far this season and some of his saves have just been amazing. In overtime in particular he was outstanding, stopping the Bruins on a breakaway. He did a good job of tracking the puck through traffic and kept the Predators in the game while the offense was absent early in the second period. Rinne came into the game with a .937 save percentage and stopped 33 of 35 shots for a .943 save percentage in this game. 
  • Rinne has now stopped 14 straight shootout attempts.
  • The Predators power play goal tonight was their first power play goal on home ice since the home opener on October 9th. Yikes! This does point out, however, how strong the Predators have been at 5 on 5 scoring.
  • The Predators penalty kill stopped all three of the Bruins powers plays. The Bruins first goal came just 8 seconds after their power play had expired.
  • Remember how bad the Predators were in shootouts last season? They are 4-1 in the skills competition this season.
  • The resiliency and the strength of the Predators is reflected in how well they have played in the one goal games. With the win tonight, they are now 13-4-2 in contests decided by one goal.
  • Roman Josi led all Predators in TOI with 31:12. He has been playing at a very high level and against the best forwards of the opponent. He and Shea Weber have developed into one of the elite D tandems in the NHL.
  • Speaking of Weber, one aspect of his game that has really stood out to me is how well he is skating this season. He seems faster and has been more active jumping into the offensive rush and creating some scoring opportunities in the offensive zone.
  • David Poile has moved into second all time in the NHL for wins by a General manager. He now has 1,171, passing Harry Sinden.
  • The Predators opened the second period back on their heels and were atrocious. They did not register their first shot on goal until the 14 minute mark of the period. A time out by Head Coach Peter Laviolette jolted the Predators back to life.
  • Filip Forsberg picked up an assist for his 30th point of the year.
  • The Predators are now 20-8-2, good for 42 points, and the win tonight keeps the Predators on pace with the Blackhawks and Blues, who have 45 and 44 points respectively. The Predators have 2 games in hand on the Blackhawks and 1 game in hand on the Blues.
  • The Predators have not lost back to back games this season.
This was a hard fought, scrappy win by the Predators against a team that has lots of talent, the Bruins injuries notwithstanding.

More importantly, this keep the Predators right in the thick of a very competitive Central Division race.

They will have a chance to add to their win total on Thursday in their first meeting with the Minnesota Wild.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Mike Ribeiro

3. Tuukka Rask

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