Canadiens 2, Predators 1: Looking Forward to the Next 1,000

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 12: Eric Cole #72 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates a goal against Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators at the Bridgestone Arena on November 12, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

There were three hockey teams represented in the Bridgestone Arena tonight, all sharing a strikingly similar style of play: the 1998 Nashville Predators, the 2011 Nashville Predators, and the 2011 Montreal Canadiens

And for the two teams that actually played, that resulted, at times, in a frustratingly back-and-forth battle. Both the Candiens and Predators play a quick skating, hard forechecking style. And while those adjectives might make it sound exciting, this game got kind of boring, with neither team surrendering too many chances .  

The first period started out fine for the Preds, but the Canadiens managed to control the play before the first intermission by pinning the non-Weber/Suter defensive pairings deep in the Nashville zone. Les Habitants finally broke through when one very small French-Canadian man, David Desharnais got behind another, Francis Bouillon, to consumate a 2-on-1 breakaway. The Canadiens' breakaway resulted from Kevin Klein whiffing badly on an attempted pass-interception in the neutral zone, and the Craig Smith line being unable to pick up the slack on the backcheck. 

The knock on the Preds used to be they had a better chance to score 5-on-5 than 5-on-4. Tonight they looked more likely to score on the 4-on-5 disadvantage than the 5-on-3 advantage. The Predators and Canadiens traded ineffectual power plays in the second period, with the Predators failing to convert the ever important two-man advantage. A particularly spirited penalty-kill shift from Mike Fisher and Martin Erat later that period, however, produced two good chances and an offensive zone faceoff. And off the ensuing draw, Shea Weber scored his second of the season, short-handed, on a slap shot that rang off the crossbar.

The third period was a little more stymied--a shocking development in a tied game between two defensively-minded, non-conference opponents. Pekka Rinne did make one key, brilliant last minute save on Erik Cole to send the game to overtime. But unfortunately, Peks couldn't stop a perfectly placed Max Pacioretty wrister in OT. 

Notes and errata after the jump.

Some thoughts:

  • Hillen and Blum looked really terrible at times, getting trapped in the defensive zone because of bad turnovers or lazy skating. Jonathon Blum is not a big dude, and if he doesn't skate hard after the loose pucks, he's not going to make up for it by winning every board battle. 
  • Fisher knocked over Hal Gill, which is impressive. 
  • I'm not saying this because they were both -2 tonight, but it seems as good a time as any to bring it up: I don't think Klein/Bouillon is going to work as a second-pairing. Both strike me as third-pairing PK-specialist guys. The Predators have sorely missed that third good, solid, second-pairing defenseman since Hamhuis left. And the problem is magnified with Franson and O'Brien gone. Find a guy that allows Bouillon to drop down to the third pairing with Blum and that solves two problems. 
  • Spaling made his triumphant return and did a lot of very Spaling things. He picked off a pass on a Montreal power play, killing a good amount of clock. He blocked a pretty hard shot with his leg. His line with Geoffrion and Bergfors actually looked pretty good tonight, cycling the puck, getting a few solid chances.
  • Tootoo is still making a lot of little smart plays on offense that make wonder if, with better teammates, he could be more of an offensive force. Maybe move Legwand back to that line when he's healthy? 
  • For once, the problem with the first line of the power play seems to be execution, not strategy or personel. The umbrella-thing seems to be working pretty well. Smith-Wilson-Hornqvist-Weber-Suter can all be first line power play players. It's just a matter of moving the puck quickly and not making stupid passes that end up in the neutral zone. The second line power play, though, could use some players. 
  • Sometimes I think teams over-think the 5-on-3. I wonder if the Preds would have done better if they had all totally tuned Horacheck out during that timeout. They seemed obsessed with getting a perfect shooting lane for Weber, which was the exact neurosis that got Nashville's special teams in such a funk last season.  
  • The top line of Wilson-Smith-Hornqvist still looks good to me. They turned in plenty of exciting shifts this game, with Smith nearly scoring in front on feed from Hornqvist with less than 2 minutes left in the second. 
  • Tootoo and PK Subban not fighting was nearly as disappointing as the score. Subban has great reach, but he swings wildly, and I bet Tootoo could drop him. 
  • Finally, shout out to the fans at the game, who seemed loud from the TV. 
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