Thursday, December 10, 2015

Predators Return the Favor, Dominate the Blackhawks 5-1

The Nashville Predators were dominated by the Chicago Blackhawks in their previous game on Tuesday in Chicago.

They returned the favor tonight, blowing out the Blackhawks at Bridgestone Arena by a 5-1 margin.

The Predators rode 3 first period goals by James Neal, Craig Smith, and Filip Forsberg to a lead that was insurmountable by the Hawks.

After a scoreless second period, Patrick Kane scored on a goal that never should have been allowed as Pekka Rinne was shoved into the net and Kane was able to tap home the puck that was knocked loose.

Leading 3-1 and with the potent Hawks offense attacking, Predators fans had to be nervous.

Those fears were calmed when James Neal beat Scott Darling 5 hole for his second goal of the game and a 4-1 lead.

With the Predators on the penalty kill and Darling pulled for an extra attacker, Eric Nystrom was able to gather in the puck and fire it down ice for the empty net goal.

Pekka Rinne was outstanding, returning to form and making some high quality saves to keep the Hawks from grabbing momentum.

Some observations:

  • Paul Gaustad said in his post game comments that the Predators were "pissed" with the way they played in Chicago and wanted to send a message to the Blackhawks. Message delivered. The Blackhawks are a team that the Predators need to surpass in the regular season and if they play like they did tonight, they will accomplish that goal. The Central is so tough, and the Predators need to take care of business in the Division. Games like tonight show that they can do just that.
  • The key to the Predators win tonight was their ferocious forecheck. They did a superb job of disrupting the Hawks breakouts and forced 5 giveaways coupled with 8 takeaways. For most of the night, the Predators did not allow the Hawks to get clean breakouts and move through the neutral zone with speed. This forced the Hawks to try to set up in the offensive zone, where the Predators defense did a good job of limiting scoring chances. This is the way that the Predators have to play to win games, and tonight they were on their game.
  • That isn't to say that the Hawks didn't have some glorious scoring chances. Pekka Rinne was called upon to make so high quality stops and he rose to the occasion. The Hawks had a slow first period but came on strong in the second and third. The Predators out shot the Hawks 18-7 in the first period. The Hawks out shot the Predators 13-8 in the second and 16-8 in the third.
  • The goal that the Hawks scored was off an abominable call (or lack thereof) by the officials. Rinne had secured the puck until he was shoved into the net and the puck squirted loose and Kane was able to score. The lack of consistency by NHL officials is incredible and is a detriment to the game.
  • How about that first goal of the game by James Neal? He absolutely undressed Niklas Hjalmarsson to get to the low slot and beat Darling 5 hole. This game was starting like so many others with the Predators attacking the net but having nothing to show for it. Once Neal scored, it was like a great weight was off the shoulders of the Predators and it opened up the offense. Neal has 7 goals in his last 5 games against the Blackhawks.
  • Roman Josi picked up an assist tonight to extend his point streak to a careeer high 6 straight games.
  • I continue to like the play of Viktor Arvidsson and Calle Jarnkrok. Both Players are playing with great energy and are contributing on both ends of the ice. Both players picked up an assist tonight and are showing they can handle quality mninutes.
  • The Hawks have the 5th best power play in the NHL. Tonight, the Predators PK, which has been bad recently, was perfect, killing all 3 Hawks man advantage opportunities.
  • The Predators had 1 power play opportunity and they cashed in, with Forsberg chipping a puck between Darling and the post.
  • Man it was good to see Craig Smith and Forsberg find the back of the net again. Those guys have to get going consistently and hopefully their play tonight gets them going.
  • Smith's goal was odd to say the least. His shot hit several bodies and then Darling. Darling was out of position and couldn't control the rebound, which seemed to move in slow motion before it finally crossed the line.
  • The Predators are undefeated (9-0-2) when leading after two periods.
This was a solid game and win for the Predators. It came about because the Predators played their brand of hockey and dictated the play for most of the game.

Now they have to consistently bring that level of play in the next game and start building on this positive momentum.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. James Neal

3. Craig Smith

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