After a rough start to their Western Canada road trip following a disastrous two games at home, the Preds got an outstanding performance from Rinne to finally score a win over the Flames. Needing to seize momentum and make up lost ground during the western excursion, the Preds needed to at least take 2 of the 3 at home. To accomplish that, some problems needed to be solved and reinforcements needed to arrive.
Note- you will have to excuse your humble Lead Writer here *snicker*. WordPress and I had a fight, and it won. Therefore you will never full know the kneejerk reaction to the Sharks loss. Instead, you will have to deal with a crummy “put it in perspective” response. Lucky you.
Game 1- San Jose
Citing frustration front the front office and fans, the Sharks brought in Brent Burns and Martin Havlat at the cost of Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley. Now the they’re a bit more well-rounded and able to rely more on their Defensemen. The result is a team that shoots the most in the league and allows the least amount of shots. So we had every right to expect a blowout given the the Preds were straight up sucking in those categories.
As far as the game went, Antti Niemi played very well, and while the Preds weren’t able to crack the San Jose defense until late, they did play solid for most of the game. Craig Smith created and punched in the only Preds goal of the night. While he doesn’t have a great shift everytime he touches the ice, he does have the tools to make a darn good player. He fights for the puck, wins battles, elevates the puck well, and sees the play before it happens. More on him later…
The two shots that did get past Rinne were both excellent plays, both hallmarks of the excellent players that are really taking the reigns of the Sharks team; Joe Pavelski has been nothing short of awesome so far in the young part of the season. Brent Burns and Dan Boyle both topped over 22 minutes, and limited the Preds chances all night, holding the golden gang to 20 shots.
Final score after Pavelski’s ENG was 3-1. BUT, the Preds showed some improvement. The team that showed up in Edmonton would’ve been rocked 5-0.
Game 2- Tampa Bay
Being honest here, the team played 2 solid periods, and 1 exceptional period. Nothing I would overly get excited about but nothing too shabby. On paper, Tampa is not too far different than Columbus as of right now. They have a great top line, and a better blue line, but shaky goaltending that’s either hit or miss. Also keep into mind where Matthieu Garon played last year. Still, 5 goals for this team is more than worth a happy trip to Wendy’s. The additions of Fisher and Boullion back into the lineup paid immediate dividends against San Jose, but were elemental in winning the clash against the Lightning. More importantly, the kids finally got a win at home done.
A few good trends were evident-
-Maybe Jack Hillen isn’t that terrible after all.
-Very encouraging to see the Fisher/Kostitsyn/Smith line already getting positive results in.
-Colin Wilson and Craig Smith are at times the only two forwards on the scoring lines trying to make plays. Wilson has shown more tenacity from the blue line the cirlces, while Darth Smithious has been lurking around the net more and more using his skills to elevate the puck to score. Wilson seems to be following through a bit better and finding his teammates better than in years past.
-And look, LESS STUPID PENALTIES!!! WOOHOO!!! It’s not like the Lightning have a dangerous power play unit or anythi-… never mind. But good work.
-Hornqvist was skating much better. If he gets hot, he can truly lift this team. More will be asked of Patric as he gets older, and his shot is now developing as well as his skating. I bring this up because he scored his first of the season against Tampa.
-Sergei Kostitsyn was very happy to see Mike Fisher back. Almost as happy as Mike Fisher was to see Mike Fisher back. That line combined for 3 goals, and sent Garon to the bench early.
So while it wasn’t anything we’ll recall fondly, that’s still a good win over a team that nearly played for the cup last year. I’ll take that check and deposit it any ol’ day.
Game 3- Anaheim
The godless hoards of Anaheim led by our favorite human beings, Corey Perry (I once listened to someone trying to sell me how awesome of a guy he was. I didn’t listen for long.) and Bobby Ryan, came to finish out the homestand in a rematch of the first round. If just as many fans watched the Ducks series as they did the Vancouver series, there would be FAR more animosity towards the Ducks. Randy Carlyle is a smart man, and given that he looks like an evil oil executive he has a game plan worthy of an evil oil company- intimidate the competition, agitate, get power plays, and become a ninja if you’re trailing.
Almost unfortunately for the Preds, Patric Hornqvist scored 14 seconds into the game. So lucky us, we had 59 minutes of Ducks hockey to endure.
When Brian McGrattan was claimed off waivers to replace the dreamy Zack Stortini who was bound for Milwaukee, many fans were howling with displeasure. After several games, he’s a positive plus/minus (I know you hate that stat, deal with it), he doesn’t struggle to keep up with the speedier players, and he doesn’t make stupid mistakes. And yeah, he fought George Parros and won.
If you were assigned to give out a gold star at the end of the night, you should probably find Jordin Tootoo with that. In addition to showing some major restraint, he had an all around good game. He was drawing penalties, skating with the puck well, and took very little garbage from these guys. A big props also goes Kevin Klein and Blake Geoffrion for both sticking up for their teammates. Klein knew that Francois Beauchemin’s hit wasn’t very nice, especially since Mike Fisher was just coming off surgery and Beauchemin was lining that up 3 strides away, so Klein went after him. Geoffrion didn’t approve of Matt Beleskey messing with Tootoo after Corey Perry speared him, so he gave it his best effort to thwart another attempt.
In short, this was a great exercise in discipline from the young team. Team leader gets hurt in dramatic fashion, and they kept their cool. They limited the Ducks chances, didn’t give up great shots, and helped Pekka Rinne to his 100th win, 26th shutout, and the team taking two points.
If you’re wearing gold, you have to feel good about the homestand. They’re taking less penalties (Anaheim had less than a minute of PP time), getting better in the SOG department, and protecting their own net better. That’s all we ask.
Now, the question is where do they go from here if Fisher is out with a concussion especially since Cal O’Reilly is now a Coyote….