Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Predators Hold Off the Avalanche 4-3

The Nashville Predators have secured a playoff spot, and with 3 games to go, one could say that their game with the Colorado Avalanche at Bridgestone Arena didn't mean anything.

But it did. It meant a lot to both teams.

For the Predators, it was an opportunity to end a 4 game losing streak and sharpen their game. For the Avalanche, it meant keeping their faint playoff hopes alive.

The Predators weren't as sharp as they will need to be in the playoffs, but they did enough good things to defeat the Avalanche 4-3 and begin to build some positive momentum. As for the Avs, their playoff hopes were crushed by the Predators effort.

Colin Wilson opened the scoring with his first goal in 15 games, blasting a shot over the shoulder of Semyon Varlamov.

Filip Forsberg made it 2-0 with a goal that is a legitimate candidate for goal of the year. Watch and be amazed:

Seemingly in control of the pace of the game, Pekka Rinne let in a brutally soft goal on a shot from the goal line by Mikkel Boedker to send the teams into the first intermission with the Predators up 2-1.

The second period saw the Avs dominate possession and the Predators spend much of the period trapped in their own zone. Jerome Iginla sent the teams into the second intermission tied at 2 as he chipped the puck past Rinne from the side of the net.

With the game in the balance, the Predators came out with jump and capitalized. Mike Fisher scored just 36 seconds into the third to give the Predators a 3-2 lead.

That lead stood for all of 1:22 as Shawn Matthias beat Ryan Ellis to a rebound and slapped it into the open net to tie the game

The Predators took the lead for good as Craig Smith took a sweet pass from Forsberg and buried his 21st goal of the year for the game winner.

The Predators had to hold off the Avs for the final 3:40 of the game as Varlamov was pulled for the extra attacker. The Predators compounded their misery when Ryan Johansen took a high sticking penalty with 1:57 left in the game, but the Predators PK came up big to seal the win.

Some observations:

  • That goal by Forsberg was amazing, to say the least. To have the presence of mind to kick the puck between his legs and get it on his forehand, get the stick between his legs, and place the shot perfectly is a talent level that the Predators have not had. Ever.  Couple those sick puck handling skills with his vision and hockey sense and Forsberg is the most talented and dangerous player that the Predators have ever had on their roster.
  • Forsberg now has 32 goals for the season, one goal away from tying the franchise record for 33 goals in a season held by Jason Arnott.
  • Although Rinne let in a bad first goal, he stood tall, especially in the second period when the Avs dominated play. He did a great job tracking the puck through traffic and generally controlling rebounds. 
  • I continue to be impressed with the hustle and heart of Viktor Arvidsson. The Aardvark has to get stronger, but he is fearless and will mix it up in the tough areas. I especially like his motor- the kid goes full tilt every shift.
  • Good to see Colin Wilson get his game going. His first goal was a perfectly placed rocket under the crossbar. Wilson also picked up an assist for a 2 point night. Hopefully Wilson will get his game in gear heading into the post season.
  • Teams that go deep in the post season have to have strong play from their third line. Tonight, the line of Fisher, Wilson, and Arvidsson combined for 2 goals and an asist. If that line can produce consistently then the Predators can have some good results in the post season.
  • Roman Josi and Shea Weber both picked up assists tonight. The gives the Predators D corps a total of 109 points for the season, a new franchise record.
  • The Predators blocked 21 shots tonight, 17 through the first 2 periods.
Not the prettiest win by the Predators, yet it was a good win.

The Predators need to fine tune some aspects of their game and they have two more game to do so. They are going to have to step up their intensity and effort for a full 60 minutes. A period of hockey like tonight's second period usually spells trouble in the playoffs.

So the team has ended a losing streak and has started to build some positive momentum. Learn from the mistakes, tune up the performance.

And most importantly, keep it rolling into the playoffs.

My three stars:

1. Filip Forsberg

2. Colin Wilson

3. Craig Smith

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