After attending Sunday’s game against the Islanders and tonight’s versus the Bolts, I can say that this evening’s contest was one of the most “Predator-like” games I’ve been to–not just this preseason–but in years.
Nashville held Tampa to a grand total of 17 shots.
For a team usually known for its high-scoring offensive ways (e.g. Steven Stamkos), the fact that the Lightning only managed two shots in the first period and three in third (when they were desperately trying to overcome a one-goal deficit) is almost unfathomable.
The 17 shots on target for Tampa were not very good scoring chances, either. The Preds were able to keep the Bolts hemmed in their own end for the majority of the night, and the Lightning were forced to settle for throwing pucks toward the cage from the perimeter.
Not only did the Predators keep the opposition’s shot total down, but they also consistently squared up on defense, finished chances and worked down low for scoring opportunities.
The Predators “grinded-out” tonight’s win in a way that must have nearly brought Barry Trotz to tears of joy. The line of Rich Clune, Paul Guastad and Matt Hendricks was dominant (yes, dominant), and they were not only very successful in shutting down any Tampa scoring opportunities, but they also had several very good looks at putting the puck in the net themselves.
Tonight’s performance is a gold-standard for what Preds hockey is supposed to look like. A collection of five skaters working to limit the opposition’s scoring opportunities, while patiently waiting for their own properly-timed scoring opportunities. This is how this team is set up to succeed.
In other words, the 2-1 final tally is very deceiving. This game were almost never in doubt for Nashville and they won it just the way they wanted to. (Plus, Tampa’s only goal came with 45 seconds left in the game and their goalie pulled. Pekka Rinne was perfect for two periods before Marek Mazanec allowed a goal after only seeing three shots in the third).
I don’t want to go overboard on a preseason victory for any team, but I left Bridgestone Arena very encouraged tonight. If the Preds are going to win consistently this season, then this is how they need to it (and are supposed to do it). And it appears that this team is already buying in to that fact.