Monday, April 18, 2016

Predators Play Smart Hockey in 3-2 Victory Over the Ducks

The Nashville Predators looked to take a 2-0 lead in their first round playoff series against the Anaheim Ducks. The Predators held a 1-0 lead after a 3-2 win in their first game at the Duck Pond...uh...Honda Center.

The Predators knew that the Ducks were going to come out with great intensity and fire as they tried to even the series. They also knew the Ducks would goon it up to take the Predators off their game.

The Predators refused to engage the Ducks in their style of play, instead playing smart hockey in capturing a stellar road win by a 3-2 margin.

Andrew Coglianio staked the Ducks to a 1-0 lead when he blocked a shot a came in on a breakaway and beat Rinne 5 hole to give the Ducks a 1-0 advantage.

That goal was answered by Mattias Ekholm in the last minute of the first period as he beat John Gibson with a beautiful backhand from the slot. 

Craig Smith and Shea Weber added second period goals to give the Predators a 3-1 lead.

Nate Thompson scored with 2:27 to make it 3-2 and increase the heart rate and pucker factor Predators fans everywhere.

With Gibson pulled for the extra attacker, the Predators defenders did their job, thwarting any quality scoring attempts by the Ducks and secured the 3-2 victory.

Some observations:

  • You can see why the Ducks have the number one penalty kill. They attack the puck and do a very good hob of clearing lanes in front of their goalie. The Predators are going to have to do a much better job of getting motion and moving the puck if they are going to be successful in this series.
  • HUGE save in the first period by Rinne. Mattias Ekholm had the puck stripped from him behind the net by Jakob Silfverberg and he fed Ryan Kessler coming down the slot alone. That save was vintage Rinne and is the kind of save that can get into the heads of the Ducks.
  • Matty Ek! Ekholm pinched down low, cruised into the slot, and lifted a beauty of a backhand past Gibson to tie the game with less than a minute to go in the first period. Ekholm has quietly emerged as a solid defender that has some surprising offensive pop. His goal was Forsberg-esque and something you don't expect to see from a blue liner. 
  • The Ducks are a very talented team, but it is in their DNA to be a goon squad. The Predators showed great discipline in not being drawn into the thuggery that the Ducks were trying to foment.
  • How great is it to have an asset like Roman Josi on your blue line. His speed and vision on the ice make him such a dangerous playmaker. He used those assets to help set up the goal by Craig Smith to give the Predators a lead in the second period.
  • Speaking of Smith, his work to find a soft spot in the defense was excellent and his shot was a perfectly placed rocket inside the post for his first goal of the playoffs. The Predators need the Honey Badger to contribute and he is off to a good start.
  • What a rocket by Shea Weber. He just kept pounding away on the point on the power play. Gibson had a clean look, but the Captain just blew a bullet past him for the team's third goal.
  • Full marks to the defense for collapsing in front of Rinne and clearing the front of the net. The Ducks made an intentional effort to run Rinne and crowd him, especially in the third period. The D did a good job of cleaning up rebounds and getting the puck out of danger.
  • For the first time in franchise history, the Predators have won the first two games of a playoff series.
  • The Predators showed superb discipline in not engaging the Ducks in their goonish style of play. Yet the Predators were the more cleanly physical team, pounding the Ducks with hard and clean hits all night. This is a side of the Predators that is fun to watch and I believe has surprised the Ducks.
  • Absolutely stellar defense by the Predators in the third period. Everyone knew the Ducks would be pressing to get back into the game, and the Predators limited the Quack Attack to just 5 shots in the third period.
  • Shea Weber had 27:36 TOI, followed by Roman Josi with 25:47.
This was a quality win by the Predators. They refused to engage in the thuggish play of Anaheim's goons and instead were physical and solid in all zones. Playing disciplined hockey, while the Ducks are running around after the whistle, will continue to frustrate the Ducks and set the Predators up for more success.

This series isn't won, but the Predators have seen the formula to capture it.

Now to bring it home and close it out.

My three stars:

1. Craig Smith

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Shea Weber

No comments:

Post a Comment