Tonight the Nashville Predators played the game that nobody expected.
Nashville players piled up 17 points and not one of them went to Shea Weber. Colin Wilson helped create three goals instead of seeing opportunities fizzle on weird bounces. Martin Erat not only came back from an injury after missing just one game but scored a goal, too. Sergei Kostitsyn shot the puck. Rich Clune scored a goal.
It’s like somebody saw how the Nashville Predators’ season was going after the shutout loss to Phoenix, built a time machine, and made the exactly the right changes to history so that they could start playing Predator hockey again. (Not sure about the Shea Weber thing…maybe a butterfly flapped its wings.) Maybe St. Louis can hire this time traveler’s services and do something to get Jaroslav Halak back ahead of schedule, because Brian Elliott didn’t look like a number-one goalie tonight. The Nashville offense chased him from the game after their fourth goal.
Pekka Rinne, however, looked like a world-beater as he stopped 31 of 32 Blues shots. The only goal he gave up came on a Blues power play, making him perfect at even strength over the last nine regulation periods (and two overtimes) he’s played. He’s stopped 87 consecutive shots in that stretch. Everyone knows that for this team to be a winner this season, Pekka has to put up a Vezina-worthy performance. That’s the caliber of game he’s played the last three outings after a rough start. Two weeks ago I think this slick Tarasenko move would have become a goal:
Pekka has been himself for a solid week now. The offense, however, looked like a hornet’s nest some kid from St. Louis stirred up. They took the game to the Blues from early on, and they didn’t give up the lead as they’ve done several times already this year. Both Colin Wilson (0G-3A) and Martin Erat (1G-2A) walked away with three points tonight and helped boost the team’s goals-per-game average from 1.5 to 2.0 in a single night.
All in all this was a huge win for the Nashville Predators. It was their third straight win, which is great for confidence. It was in regulation, which is even better for confidence. And it was against a St. Louis team that had beaten the Preds twice already this season, which is huge for confidence. Plus there’s that whole “points in five of seven road games” thing. (More on that soon.)
Here are the full highlights. Go grab some popcorn, they’re good:
- Rich Clune got his first NHL goal tonight on a play where Colin Wilson overwhelmed the St. Louis defender, went to make a pass, caught the puck back off a skate, and fired a hard shot on the St. Louis net. Clune was there to clean up the garbage. Good on him for playing smart hockey and giving full effort.
The Nashville Predators’ first six-goal game of the season came playing with 11 forwards and seven defensemen. Colin Wilson and Paul Gaustad were double-shifting in the 12th forward’s spot.
- Forechecking is once again officially vogue in Nashville. The Preds have been maintaining pressure on their opponents over the last week that they were completely incapable of producing even in short spurts at the very beginning of the season. It feels like the Barry Trotz System is shaking off the shackles thrown on it by the stupid lockout and beginning to take hold fimrly in his players’ minds once again.
- For as bad as this team has looked at times early this season, this was a near-perfect game. The downsides? They took six penalties (before Paul Gaustad got two for roughing at the end of the game). They were also held without a shot for the last half of the second period and several minutes into the third, relying on Ye Olde A+ Pekka to weather a serious St. Louis storm.
- Score effects had something to do with it, but the Preds were outshot 32-19 tonight. They were actually up 9-4 on the Blues in that three-goal first period, but after chasing Brian Elliott from goal and scoring on their first shot against Jake Allen they didn’t register another shot until about five minutes into the third period.
- Shea Weber might not be putting up points right now, but he gave Vladimir Tarasenko a little something to think about next time the kid wants to venture into a Nashville Predators-owned corner:
- This is the kind of statistical result I’ve been waiting to see for Colin Wilson since Trotz moved him to the top line. He’s been creating chances and firing sharp passes pretty consistently without having any points to show for the most part. His three assists were a career single-game high. Nice to see him get some reinforcement on the score sheet.
- I said that nobody expected it, and so far as media and most blogger/internet types go that’s mostly true. But I’m going to give credit to my friend Chilly up in St. Louis on this one. I asked him this morning what he thought and this was what he had to say:
Tough call. I don’t have confidence in Elliot as a true #1 yet, But here we are and that’s what he is. Preds are stinging (or should be) from the whooping they took from the Blues last time. Blues are still steamed over the refs gifting their last game to Detroit. Detroit comes to town next and the Note might be looking right past Nashville.