Saturday, March 5, 2016

Predators Clobber Colorado 5-2

The Nashville Predators traveled to the Pepsi Center to take on the Colorado Avalanche in a critical Central Division tilt. The Predators lead the Avalanche by 6 points and occupy the 7th spot in the West and the first wild card slot. The Avalanche have 70 points and want to desperately close the gap on the Predators.

The game had a playoff atmosphere with physical play and chippiness abounding throughout the game.The physical play and intensity certainly looked like a post season game.

Blake Comeau gave the Avalanche a 1-0 lead after the first period as he got position at the top of the  crease  and backhanded a puck past Pekka Rinne.

Filip Forsberg answered with his 28th goal of the year to tie the game at 1 as he beat Chet Pickard with a wrist shot.

Gabriel Landeskog gave the Avalanche a 2-1 lead going into the second intermission as his slap shot would leak through Rinne.

The third period was  all Predators as Rinne would make some excellent saves and got run support from James Neal, Mike Fisher, Shea Weber, and Miikka Salomaki, the last 2 goals empty netters. Fisher picked up the game winner, gathering in a rebound and whistling a wrist shot past Pickard to the far post.

Some observations:

  • I like Anthony Bitetto, and I think that he is going to be a solid defenseman for the Predators, but dang, he has got to clear the front of the net. He was too soft on the Avs first goal by Comeau and he has got to learn that the space in front of the crease is his space and not let the opponent establish prime scoring position.
  • Barret Jackman was a healthy scratch for the third game in a row.
  • Filip Forsberg continues to play excellent hockey. It is no secret that he has great hands and a wicked release. An aspect of Forsberg's game that is underestimated by many opponents is his ability to go to high traffic areas and find space. He has scored many of his goals from hard areas, and that is the mark of a great scorer. With his goal this afternoon, Forsberg has 14 goals in his last 14 games.
  • James Neal was the beneficiary of a great defensive play by Ryan Johansen. RyJo stole the puck and took it hard to the net and Neal, trailing the play, buried his 23rd goal of the season. Great hustle and effort by both players.
  • Great intensity by the Predators, especially in the third period as the Predators matched the physicality of the Avs and stepped up their attack on the Avs net. Trailing going into the third period, one knew the Avs were going to try to step up their intensity and take the attack to the Predators. instead, the Predators took the game to the Avs and changed the tenor of the game by being the aggressor. Good to see from this team.
  • Since mid January, the Predators are 9-0-2 on the road. This is exceptional hockey by the Predators and has to be a major confidence boost for the team.
  • The Predators now have points in 12 straight games, and this is essential in the tight playoff race. It is good to see the Predators hitting their stride at this pivotal point of the season.
  • The Predators were brutal in the face off dot, winning 20 of 62 draws for 32%.
  • The Predators out shot the Avs 40-36.
  • Both teams blocked 22 shots.
  • The PK was much better tin this game for the Predators, killing all 4 of the Avs man advantage chances.
  • Pekka Rinne made some very big stops, especially in the third period. Good all around positioning and play by the big netminder, and the team in front of him is feeding off his play and confidence. 
  • Big ups to Austin Watson for being willing to drop the gloves with Jerome Iginla. Not so much for the quality of the scrap but the statement that the Predators were not going to back down from the Avalanche and were willing to be as physical and nasty as the Avs wanted to be. I think this really helped to set a tone for the Predators that was positive and they capitalized on it.
The Predators showed me that they can ramp up their intensity and play a game that has playoff style intensity. They elevated their game against an intense and hungry opponent. Balanced scoring and solid plays from all lines were the hallmark of this win.

And this was very encouraging for the team.

Mot only does this win keep them well ahead of the Avalanche, but also the Minnesota Wild, who won this afternoon.

Now to keep the momentum rolling.

My three stars:

1. Mike Fisher

2. Filip Forsberg

3. Pekka Rinne

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