There are no signs of slowing down from the Nashville Predators as they sweep their Canadian road trip with a 2-0 shutout over the Calgary Flames.
We’re starting to get spoiled by how great this Nashville Predators team really is, and how they still haven’t reached their full potential. There have been games where they didn’t look their best, but they keep winning. Not only winning but dominating the scoreboard.
The Predators go 3-0 on their road trip north of the border and outscore opponents 13-1. That is simply a spectacular feat considering how hard it is to hold a team to one goal in a single game.
This game wasn’t the most flashy win, but the Predators keep grinding out victories and doing what Stanley Cup caliber teams tend to do.
A sloppy start for the Predators out of the gate set the tone early. The Predators didn’t register their first shot on goal until around the five minute mark. Both teams struggled to find quality scoring chances. It was apparent that goals would be at a premium.
Pekka Rinne‘s elite services were still very much required as the Flames started to find some opportunities. Rinne is playing like the best goalie in the league right now. He’s being overlooked somewhat due to the Predators putting up high goal totals. It means we’re not sweating out as many victories because the margins are so high.
Leaving the opening period, I was happy with a scoreless draw. The Flames play a physical brand of hockey, but also have some elite talent that can score in bunches. The Predators dodged some bullets and plugged through a scrappy first period.
The intensity picked up even more going into the second frame. Both teams deserve credit for their defensive play. They didn’t make it easy on each other to find space to score. This makes for a boring game to the average fan, but intense for the true hockey fans.
However, plenty of highlights can be plucked from this period. The Austin Watson fight got the intensity level to boiling. We can debate on who gets the win of Watson’s fight with Troy Brouwer. This marked a turning point in the game. The Predators were staring at a lengthy penalty due to Watson’s game misconduct. With a brief 4-on-4, the Predators got the game’s first goal from Ryan Johansen.
Johansen’s goal illustrates the chippy theme of the game. He had to work hard in the trenches to power the puck by veteran goaltender Mike Smith. Even after this, the pressure wasn’t off. A sloppy penalty from Anthony Bitetto forced a 5-on-3 penalty kill. Despite plenty of chances for the Flames, they come out of that power play with a goose egg.
Kevin Fiala got another goal right in front of the net to push the lead to two goals. With this big goal, Fiala now has six goals in his last seven games. After a slow start to the season on the scoring front, he’s really surging.
This period is all about Rinne. I felt the Predators played a bit too conservative and let the Flames hang around. Luckily Rinne took control. The Flames didn’t go away and forced Rinne to stay locked in. There were several times I figured the Flames were about to pull to within one.
Later in the period was more about Rinne preserving the coveted shutout. The team defense of the Predators took over and started thwarting a lot of scoring chances. Killing all five Calgary power plays isn’t too shabby, either. As great as Rinne was, the team defense played well in front of him:
Rinne got his third shutout of the season, and the 46th of his career.
Chad’s Three Stars
Third Star: P.K. Subban
It was hard to leave Fiala off one of the three stars, but P.K. Subban‘s great night can’t be judged by the box score. He was a menace to Calgary’s offensive push, and tallied an assist on Fiala’s goal. His puck handling and ability to keep the puck away from forwards still amazes me.
Second Star: Ryan Johansen
Ryan Johansen’s goal isn’t just a big one because it broke the scoreless tie. It comes at a time when the Nashville Predators were about to go on a three-minute penalty kill from Watson’s game misconduct. Getting that goal to make it 1-0 took a little pressure off. This game could’ve ended very differently if the Predators didn’t get aggressive on the 4-on-4 and break the tie.
First Star: Pekka Rinne
He’s still the foundation of this team, even with a roster full of talented scorers. Pekka Rinne notches his third shutout, and the second-straight for the team. He’s playing with so much confidence right now and ins’t really being fooled by anything. His swipe save in the middle of the game might be one of his top saves of the year. He ends the night with 32 saves and propels the Predators back to first place in the West.