Saturday, January 10, 2015

Predators Slug Out a 3-1 Win Over the Wild

The Nashville Predators traveled to the frozen tundra of Minnesota to take on a desperate Wild team in a Central Division battle.

The contest was a sloppy affair with both teams turning over the puck and playing a generally inconsistent game.

Mike Fisher tallied in the first period off a nice assist from Colin Wilson beating Niklas Backstrom with a backhand shot. Charlie Coyle tied the game late in the first as he was left alone at the side of the net and was able to tap home a rebound past Pekka Rinne.

After a scoreless second period, the game ramped up in intensity in the third. Calle Jarnkrok drove the net and slammed home a rebound of a shot from Olli Jokinen. Colin Wilson backhanded a shot from the low slot past Backstrom.

The game got ugly when Matt Cooke crossed checked Shea Weber in the face with just over three minutes to go. Weber proceeded to pound Cooke into the ice after his cheap shot.

That wasn't the end of the fisticuffs as Nate Prosser drew the ire of Mike Fisher and Fisher unleashed some righteous fury on Prosser, leaving him addled after landing some serious right hands.

The rest of the game ended without incident and the Predators skated off with a 3-1 win.

Some observations:

  • Last season, the Predators struggled in close games, and rarely were able to come from behind to capture a win. How things have turned, as the Predators are 18-4-4 in one goal games.
  • Since 2010, the Predators are 10-3-3 against the Wild.
  • Taylor Beck, Matt Cullen, and Anton Volchenkov returned to the line up. Ryan Ellis, James Neal, and Eric Nystrom were out of the game due to injury. Mark Arcobello was a healthy scratch.
  • The play of Colin Wilson has been exceptional. He is battling in the hard areas for the puck and is dangerous in the offensive zone. He is using his speed, vision, and puck handling to create scoring chances for himself and those on his line. Good to see Wilson playing to his talent level. Wilson figured prominently in the outcome of this game with his play today.
  • The Wild have been struggling and there is some question about how long Head Coach Mike Yeo would remain with the team. As such, the Wild came out with an air of desperation and played with moments of intensity that the Predators looked like they had trouble matching. That the Predators kept grinding and attacking speaks well of the mindset of this team. This was not a pretty game by any stretch, but the Predators just would not relent and were rewarded for their efforts.
  • With the injury to Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm is being asked to play more minutes in all situations. Ekholm has responded well and is maturing into a solid blueliner for the Predators.
  • Calle Jarnkrok played some quality minutes in the contest. he is used on the PK and has solidified his position as the team's third line center. He is puck smart and uses his speed to doggedly forecheck and create some scoring chances in the offensive zone. His goal in the third period was the game winner.
  • Pekka Rinne had to make some very good saves. His save on Mikko Koivu in the third period was incredible. Rinne made 36 saves on 37 shots.
  • The Predators are the first team in the NHL to 60 points. They now sit 4 points ahead of the Blackhawks with a game in hand and 2 points in front of the Ducks with 2 games in hand.
  • One of the few games where the Predators have been badly out shot. the Wild had a 10 shot advantage, 37-27.
  • The Predators PK was superb, stopping all 5 man advantage opportunities for the Wild. Three consecutive Wild power plays in the second period yielded 2 shots.

After a slow start, the team responded and started to turn it on and build momentum throughout the game. The result is what happens when a team just refuses to relent and to cave in a hostile environment.

This is what championship caliber teams do.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Colin Wilson

3. Calle Jarnkrok

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