The Predators bested the Blackhawks in a pretty even game tonight, and in so doing, jumped them in the standings, taking third in the Central Division and the fifth seed in the Western conference. 9-1 in their last ten, the team has definitely earned a full week break (their next game is January 31 in Minnesota).
Nashville played a solid road game tonight, in that they took the lead earlier and didn't blow it. Craig Smith opened the scoring at 11:49 in the first on a Halischuk-style-spin-and-shootTM, after he and Matty ice combined on some solid forechecking. The Preds then went back On the Forecheck® after a hellish shift from Ellis-Hillen, and Patrick Hornqvist kicked the puck to Mike Fisher, who scored his fourth in four games.
The good guys avoided their patented second-period slide by spending the first eight minutes of it on some type of special teams assignment (an early PK, followed by a four minute block of 5-4 advantage). The third period was a little more stressful, with the Hawks converting one of three power play chances. A too many men call late, however, allowed the Preds to close out the game on the power play, and Colin Wilson put it on ice with the empty netter.
Notes, video highlights, & errata after the jump.
The Preds are still way to cute. Evidence:
- 9:30 into the first- Hornqvist forgoes a 2' shot on a 2-on-1 to try a backhand pass to Mike Fisher. Turned over to Duncan Keith
- 18:50 into the first- Erat tries a drop pass to Kostitsyn, who can't hit the open net. (This one was actually OK, but symptomatic of the larger problem)
- 6:09 into second--Predators end their best power play possession of the night by trying 3 passes through the box, before finally turning it over.
- 16:02 into second--Nick Spaling forgoes a wide-open slot shot to pass it to Jordin Tootoo, who has a much inferior angle. Turned over.
- 1:50 into third--Wilson passes 2-on-1.
- 18:04 into third--Kostitsyn passes 2-on-1, Erat off the crossbar.
- Ryan Ellis handles the puck very well. His 2:30 shift with Hillen in the first, though, was brutal and reminiscent of the one that yielded the first goal in the Rangers game. Had the Preds gotten one puck deep, the Blackhawks would have had two fewer scoring chances that period.
- Are the coaches ever going to challenge Ellis with serious minutes? If not he needs to either (A) take Suter's PP minutes so Sutes can focus on PK or (B) go back to Milwaukee (pending Bouillon's return). I'm not convinced the Predators don't need to add a defenseman.
- Halischuk and Smith have worked well together. I'd still prefer to see Smith centering Tootoo's line. If the coaches could get Smith hot and more minutes, his scoring touch could really be helpful through a tough post-break schedule.
- Great poke check by Pekka on Stalberg. The best weapon against breakaways is having absurdly long arms, I guess.
- That's twice in two games Kostitsyn has watched an empty net chance go by because he arrived to the play a second late. He could shooting at 40% by now!
- Weber did a great job after the Preds' first power play to take the puck off Hossa's stick on a 1-on-1 and turn it up ice for an odd-man rush.
- Yip is doing everything he can to earn a spot, apparently. Typically, I'm against instigating a fight with a lead, but this one actually ruined a 2-on-1 for the Hawks. Also props to Yip for winning. Nice comment from hockeyfights on this one: "What a punk Montador is!! He looks like the second coming of Stortini here." Poor huggy bear.
- Weber called for someone to cover Bolland on the play that became the Hawks only goal, but unfortunately Halischuk was only able to give Bolland a nice pat on the back.
- In case there was an lingering doubt that Erat's shot hit the crossbar:
- Now we have six days to watch exhibition hockey/fret about Suter's contract/hope Poile trades for a forward. Yay...?