at NASHVILLE PREDATORS
February 16th, 2013
7:00 p.m. CST
Game available in Atlanta market
Anaheim leads season series 1-0
The last time the Nashville Predators faced the Anaheim Ducks was in California in the front half of a seven-game road trip. Anaheim took the shootout win that time in Viktor Fasth’s first NHL start. It was one of four Saturday games Nashville has played so far this season, all of which have lasted beyond regulation.
(7-4-3, 2nd in Central)
the number one reason for the Nashville Predators’ success: Pekka Rinne. (PHOTO: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports)
After dropping two straight games last weekend, the Preds have won two in a row by shutout thanks to the Finnish giant they employ to tend the goal. Their defense continues to be the best in the NHL, giving up just 1.64 goals per game. They’re also still worst in the league in shots on goal with 21.9, though they did outshoot Phoenix 29-19 on Thursday.
I should just reserve this spot in every game preview for Pekka Rinne. He’s playing Hart Trophy hockey right now: leading the league in shutouts (3), third in GAA (1.61), and fourth in save percentage (.938). With the offense still sputtering along right now, the Preds need this kind of play from Pekka every night to have a chance to win.
Mike Fisher leads all NHL forwards in blocked shots. (PHOTO: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports)
Mike Fisher has been a solid defensive presence so far this season, blocking as many shots (24) as Shea Weber has to lead all NHL forwards. If he could begin adding some offense to that he’d join Rinne as another of the team’s most valuable players. He picked up his second goal of the season in the Phoenix game, in which he took four shots on goal – a category in which he leads the team’s forwards (28).
The Marty Party has split time between the goal and the penalty box this season. (PHOTO: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports)
Others to watch
Martin Erat is tied with Colin Wilson for the team lead in points (9). He’s also second only to Rich Clune in PIMs (22). It’s highly uncharacteristic of Erat to be penalized so often. He has only finished a full NHL season with more than 50 PIMs one time in his 10-year career.
Shea Weber (32), Roman Josi (24), and Craig Smith (20) are first, third, and sixth respectively on the Predators in shots on goal. Yet none has beaten an opposing goalie to this point. Shooting percentage is more about luck than skill in a given season; can one of them get lucky tonight?
(10-1-2, 1st in Pacific)
Amazingly enough, the Anaheim Ducks don’t shoot on goal all that often – they’re 24th in the NHL with 27.1 per game. The difference lies in the natural scoring talent of about two-thirds of its roster. Nine different Ducks have at least four goals this season, compared to just Colin Wilson for the Preds.
Viktor Fasth is off to a 7-0-0 start in his NHL career. (PHOTO: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports)
The 30-year-old Viktor Fasth has outperformed the man he was supposed to back up, Jonas Hiller, jumping out to a 7-0-0 start with a 1.78 GAA and .932 save percentage. Hiller is still out with a lower-body injury, so Fasth will get a back-to-back test for the first time in his short but productive NHL career.
The Finnish Flash never grows old. (PHOTO: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA Today Sports)
Just three months shy of his eleventy-first birthday, Teemu Selanne (4G-11A) is enjoying a most productive season. His 15 points lead a potent Ducks attack. He’s also prone to scoring in bursts – 11 of his points came in three games against the Canucks, Wild, and Blues.
Others to watch
Saku Koivu (4G-10A) is the other ageless Finnish wonder on the Ducks roster. It’s hard to believe it’s been more than 10 years since he beat cancer.
Daniel Winnik (5G-4A) hasn’t scored a goal since the Ducks’ last game against Nashville, way back on January 26th.
People who believe in the power of math will tell you that both of these teams are overproducing right now, Anaheim more so than any other team in the league and Nashville just four spots behind them. The question is which one of them will continue to do so tonight: the league’s number-one defense, or its number-two offense? The Ducks are coming off a game last night, so the advantage would seem to be with Nashville and its hot-hand goalie.