Thursday, February 25, 2016

Rinne Leads the Predators To A Big 2 Points With a 3-1 Victory Over the Blackhawks

The Nashville Predators looked to continue their road points streak with a stop at the United Center to take on Central Division rival Chicago in their last meeting of the regular season.

The Blackhawks have won 3 of the 4 meetings between the teams this season.

The first period saw both teams get some good scoring chances but neither able to find the back of the net.

Brent Seabrook broke the scoreless tie early in the second period with a wrist shot from inside the face off circle past a screened Pekka Rinne to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead.

Viktor Arvidsson evened the game at 1 when he drove the net and sent a sharp angle shot over the shoulder of Corey Crawford.

After a scoreless second period, both teams spent most of the third period probing and looking for an opportunity to score.

That came with 1:52 to go in the third period as Mike Fisher outworked two Hawks defenders on the boards in the Hawks zone and slipped a perfect pass onto the tape of Calle Jarnkrok, who one timed a shot over the shoulder of Crawford to give the Predators a 2-1 lead.

Miikka Salomaki scored into the empty net from his own blue line to make it a 3-1 lead for the Predators.

The Predators would close out the Hawks by that margin for a much needed win.

Some observations:

  • Shea Weber missed his second consecutive game with a lower body injury.
  • Pekka Rinne had to be sharp in the first period as the Hawks had several very good scoring chances. Rinne moved well and did a good job of tracking the puck, including a very nice save on a 2 on 1 rush by the Hawks. If Rinne had not been on his game early, the Hawks would have had several scores in the first 20 minutes. Rinne turned aside 15 of 16 shots in the second period, including a breakaway by Andrew Shaw. For the game, Rinne stopped 38 of 39 shots.
  • Viktor Arvidsson has shown no fear in going to the front of the net and capitalizing on his efforts. His 7th goal of the year was a result of hard work and driving the net and it was a thing of beauty, tucking the puck into a very narrow space. The Aardvark is showing that he belongs and is going to be hard to move out of the line up.
  • The Predators set a franchise record by going 10 straight road games without a loss. They have gone 8-0-2 in their last 10 games.
  • Back to Rinne for a moment. The Predators have often relied on Rinne to steal some games throughout his career. This season, that has rarely been the case. But recently, something has changed about Rinne's game. He has been more efficient in his movements, more calm in the net, and most importantly, looks like he has his swagger back. All of that was evident tonight as Rinne stoned the Hawks for 60 minutes and helped the Predators capture a critical 2 points. Hopefully, this is Rinne, and by extension, the team, starting to peak and play exceptional hockey at a time where they need to do so.
  • The Predators blocked 19 shots while the Hawks had 12 blocks.
  • Mike Fisher did yeoman's work tonight, playing a solid game in all zones and picking up 2 assists.
  • The Predators out hit the Blackhawks 39-21.
To say this was a huge win for the Predators is  understating the obvious. The win allows the Predators to maintain their lead over the Avalanche and extend their lead over the Wild (who lost tonight).

More importantly, this win and the total game played by the team tonight is a massive confidence boost for the squad and for Rinne in particular.

The Predators have proven themselves to be successful road warriors.

Now to bring that mojo home.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Mike Fisher

3. Calle Jarnkrok

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