Saturday, March 14, 2015

Predators Defeat the Kings 2-1, Sweep Season Series

The struggling Nashville Predators needed a win to right the ship and stay in the hunt for the Central Division lead.

They got that win at the Staples Center as the Predators defeated the Kings 2-1 and swept the season series from L.A. 3-0.

Jeff Carter opened the scoring on the power play as Ryan Ellis blocked a shot and it went right on the stick of Carter in the slot. His wrist shot beat an out of position Pekka Rinne to give the Kings a 1-0 lead.

The Predators played with lots of jump and created some good scoring chances, but could not solve Kings netminder Jonathan Quick through two periods.

This game had all the hallmarks of a good effort but bad results for the Predators.

That changed in the third period as Craig Smith scored on the power play and 1:06 later a shot from Viktor Stalberg deflected off the stick of Jake Muzzin and past Quick for the game winning goal.

Some observations:

  • James Neal was out of the game with an upper body injury. Mike Santorelli moved to the top line with Mike Ribeiro and Filip Forsberg. Calle Jarnkrok drew back into the lineup and centered the third line with Matt Cullen and Viktor Stalberg on his wing.
  • Same song, same verse. Once again, the Predators gave up the first goal of the game, this on the power play as Jeff Carter tallied.
  • That power play was the result of a Mattias Ekholm penalty. Matty Ek has had a rough two games, taking three penalties, two of which resulted in the opponent scoring a power play goal.
  • Let's be honest- the Predators power play is not a threat to score. Not even close. And this is hard to understand given the talent that we have at forward. Entries into the zone are scary at best and more often than not result in a turnover that is sent down ice. What puzzles me is that this has been on-going for most of the season. If the man advantage unit is struggling so much, one would think that the system would need to be modified to make it more effective. One would think.
  • That said and the Predators score a power play goal as Craig Smith worked hard in front of the net to poke one past Quick. Smith is not afraid to go in front of the net and he was rewarded for his hard work with his 22nd goal of the season. Prior to Smith's goal, the power play had been 0-18 in their previous games.
  • Viktor Stalberg got his first goal of the season and played a solid game. He had lots of jump, forced some turnovers, and created in the offensive zone. I sure would like to see him build on this and get his game going.
  • Pekka Rinne had no chance on the Kings power play goal, but after that, he was in control. Rinne looked more relaxed in the crease and tracked the puck exceptionally well.
  • I really like the play of Craig Smith, and not just that he scored a power play goal. Smith is absolutely relentless in hunting down the puck and attacking the net. He certainly is not afraid to shoot and drives the puck to the net which creates opportunities for his line mates.
  • The effort by this team was strong and consistent all game. That is a good sign for this team as they have not let the rough patch cause their energy and effort to drop.
  • Maybe the hockey gods are starting to smile on the Predators. Stalberg's shot was one that Quick would have easily handled but the deflection off his defenseman's stick wound up in the back of the net.
  • The Predators win tonight was the 600th for the franchise. It was also Pekka Rinne's 200th win. Does anyone have any doubt about the value of Rinne to this franchise?
  • Before the goal by Craig Smith, the Predators had gone 113:33 without scoring a goal. Ouch.
  • The Predators played some disciplined hockey tonight, taking two penalties for the game, one of which was a coincidental penalty with Stalberg and Dwight King both going to the box for roughing.
  • The Predators blocked 18 shots.
This team has continued to battle through the difficult patch that they have faced. And the only way to get out of a funk is to battle.

They did that tonight.

As long as this team continues to compete like they did tonight, they will be fine.

They will have to. It won't get any easier.

My three stars:

1. Craig Smith

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Jonathan Quick

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