If you had told me that after four games, the Predators would have yet to lose in regulation, their power play was clicking along at 21 percent, and the brand new backup goalie had stolen the show, I would've laughed you out of the room. Since all those things have come true, you'd think I could say there were very few problems. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
As good as the power play has been, the penalty kill has started the year at the other end of the spectrum. Nashville sits in 29th place at an awful 64.3 percent, and are allowing 32.8 shots per game, both of which are alarming numbers. Matthew Lombardi and Marcel Goc are both out for extended periods of time, and Goc's injury especially will do more damage to Nashville's play than you might think.
At any rate, a win is a win, and the Predators have three of 'em, as opposed to just one loss.
Mark Dekanich was reassigned to Milwaukee, which can only mean one thing - The Big Finn is ready to go. His preseason form was spectacular, and you hope that the early injury setback hasn't changed a thing.
|2010 - Pekka Rinne||1||43||1||0||1||1.40||30||29||.967||0|
No Matthew Lombardi and no Marcel Goc for Nashville, so Colin Wilson has been moved to center (his natural position), and Nick Spaling recalled from the AHL. Martin Erat looks ready to take the ice again after missing three games with back spasms.
To be blunt, the Calgary Flames are not a very good hockey club. They've started the year 2-2-0, but general manager Darryl Sutter has done everything he can to run the team into the ground, including bringing back washed up veterans like Alex Tanguay and Olli Jokinen for second tours of duty. They lack a number one center, and the only players giving consistent efforts are captain Jarome Iginla and franchise goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff.
The Flames' penalty kill has started the season fairly well, though, at 87.5%, and they have a very well-balanced defensive corps. As usual, getting off to a hot start is important for Nashville - there's no need to allow the likes of Jay Bouwmeester and Robyn Regehr to dig in and hold the fort.
|2010 - Miikka Kiprusoff||4||240||2||2||11||2.75||103||92||.893||0|
Ultimately, the Predators' success this year will begin and end on the power play. That power play success can be due in large part to Patric Hornqvist, Nashville's best goal-scorer. He has gotten his year off to a decent start, posting 2 goals and 1 assist through 3 games. While that rate of scoring will surely be acceptable, Hornqvist will continue to and start drawing opponents' best defenders, which means the Horn Dog has to up the ante once again.
Jay Bouwmeester is relied on by the Flames to do just about everything, and that includes stopping elite offensive players. Hornqvist can win this matchup by doing what he already excels at - crashing the net. It will be a long night for Calgary if Hornqvist is able to cause havoc around Miikka Kiprusoff.
When analyzing a game, there are several ways to compare teams. One is on paper, or statistically, and another is using a more simple method - your eyes. In this particular matchup, the Nashville Predators come out on top no matter which way you look at it. Thankfully for the Flames, games are not played in either of these manners, so I anticipate it being a bit closer than any of us would like. Predators 2, Flames 1.