Nashville Predators: Pekka Rinne Grabs First Shut-Out In Philadelphia

(Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Thursday’s battle in Philadelphia resulted in Pekka Rinne’s first shut-out of the season, exactly what he and the Nashville Predators needed.

Despite just one combined goal, the second meeting between the Philadelphia Flyers and Nashville Predators proved to excite with ample puck movement, few stoppages in play and a shut-out to boot. Rinne’s performance in net, combined with a good defensive showing, showcased a steady Nashville team.

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The Ebb and Flow

The game began with more defense than offense for the Predators as the Flyers moved the puck swiftly and efficiently. While the home team came out swinging, the visitors sought to gain their bearings. The Predators struggled to close the gap against rushing Flyers, often leaving too much room in between the blue line and the top of the circles. The Flyers generated a fair amount of chances but ultimately met their match in Pekka Rinne.

Though there existed sloppy defensive play early, Matt Irwin stood out as the best lock-down defender. He broke up a streaking two on one in the first period that had potential. He also did a great job setting the tone down low in the defensive zone with physical and stingy play.

Craig Smith and Kevin Fiala proved key players on offense, generating quality chances and pushing the puck north-south. Out of all four forward lines, the Fiala – Sissons – Smith combination looked the strongest.

A Single Breakthrough

Both Pekka Rinne and Michael Neuvirth stood strong in net, but somebody had to let one eventually. The Predators began to press more in the third period and that aggressiveness led to the breakthrough. Fiala’s effort in the defensive zone lead to a nifty Colton Sissons goal.

Fiala grabs the puck in the defensive zone and speeds up the ice before feeding Sissons for a beautiful cross-goal, low blocker shot. Sissons wisely takes advantage of Neuvirth’s smaller size and wrists a shot that out maneuvers the angle.

The Masked Man Efforts A Win

Perhaps the best performance of the night came from Rinne, who continually bailed out point-blank shots as the Predators looked to get their feet going. He made 28 saves to score a well deserved shut-out, the forty-fourth of his career. While he didn’t have to make too many impossible saves, he stood steady and played through screens extremely well.

Rinne now has a stellar .999 Goals Against Average and .965 Save Percentage in his last four starts. A fair amount of chatter existed before the season concerning Rinne and whether or not he would struggle this season. Two weeks from turning 35, Pekka Rinne still anchors this team.

Just as in the past, as Rinne goes, the Predators go. Fortunately, Rinne has been going over the last four games and the Predators have three victories and an overtime loss to show. Confidence builders like tonight play a big role in how an aging goaltender feels about his ability to compete at a high level.

Where They Go From Here

The Flyers came into the game with 18 goals in their last three games. Shutting out an impressive offensive team speaks to the defensive ability of the Predators. All season, the Nashville Predators will face streaking teams like they did in Philadelphia. A highly important characteristic of a championship team is to shut down even the most potent of offenses. Nashville must continue to emphasize this aspect of their game.

The offense as a whole struggled to play simple hockey in the beginning and often made one too many passes on a rush. Thankfully, this improved as the game went on. The first line began driving to the net and making sharp, direct passes. Simplicity will always elicit the most chances when executed properly and with confidence.

One item that may need attention is the Nashville Predators power play. The units seem to show a lack of confidence in their puck handling and frequently rims it around the boards to find space. A confident and steady puck handler needs to quarterback the power play. Ryan Johansen takes this duty on the first unit, though he needs to handle the puck more. The second unit could also use a handler. Perhaps this will sort itself out as more opportunities arise.

Next: The Roster Logjam Is An Easy Fix

Despite the mistakes, Nashville keeps Philadelphia from finding the back of the net and demonstrates why their tremendous defensive strength will play a paramount role in their success this season.