Everyone and their creepy uncle is now aware that the Detroit Red Wings are, well, red hot. After all, the team that went to back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals series rarely finds itself completely off the radar, right?
Perhaps it’s fitting that the Red Wings are completely overshadowing the equally impressive run of their longtime Central division bridesmaids, the Nashville Predators.
The Predators and their criminally underrated goalie Pekka Rinne are absolutely on fire right now. Just like Detroit, Nashville is 8-1-1 in their last 10 games.
There are three big things that stand out for the Predators. First, the performance of Rinne. Check out his stats from his last nine games. (Click the button to enlarge the stats at your leisure)
Four shutouts in nine games. No more than 3 goals allowed in any of those contests. Aside from that 3-1 loss against Dallas, he’s had a good-to-amazing performance in every game.
One other fact popped out about Nashville’s impressive streak: they’re not getting any help from their powerplay. It’s all hard work (also known as 5-on-5 play). They failed to score a PP goal in their last six games, going a horrendous 0-for-16. In the entire 10 game stretch, they’ve only scored twice on the man advantage. Yet they managed an amazing 8-1-1 record without getting those easy skill goals.
Of course, their penalty kill is carrying its own weight though. They haven’t allowed a PP goal in four games and only allowed three in the last 10 games. Clearly this team is scraping by with its all-D, no-O approach.
Certainly, a deep playoff run is always easier with an explosive offense. Still, considering the fact that the playoffs account for a time when passing lanes clog faster than Fat Albert’s cartoon arteries and selfless acts like shot blocking become crucial, the Predators might be the dark horse team of the playoffs.
And sooner or later, pundits will have to give Rinne his due.
After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.
Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.
The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.
Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.
Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:
Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.
Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.
Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.
It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.
After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.
Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:
Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.
The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.
Thomas Hickey is involved in a controversial hit, yet the greater debate may revolve around the one he received rather than the one he delivered.
In the second period, the New York Islanders defenseman connected for a thunderous hit on Tampa Bay Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin, which sidelined Drouin for a chunk of Game 3.
Many believe that hit was legal:
The Islanders are upset about the Brian Boyle hit on Hickey in overtime, which came moments before Boyle scored the game-winning goal. You can see the full sequence here, with the hit happening around the 50-second mark:
Islanders head coach Jack Capuano believes that it was a suspension-worthy hit.
You’re not going to believe this, but the Lightning disagree.
Boyle clearly didn’t receive a penalty on that sequence, yet one would imagine that the league will at least take a look at that hit.
Brian Boyle was part of the fight before Game 3 even started … and then he ended it in overtime.
In a Tampa Bay Lightning win in which they just kept rolling with the New York Islanders’ punches, it only seems fitting that Boyle battled to land a big hit and then score the clinching goal for a 5-4 overtime victory.
This gives the Lightning a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4.
Also fitting? Boyle landed a big hit on Thomas Hickey, the guy who sidelined Jonathan Drouin for a chunk of this contest.
That sequence prompted a brief goal review, but it ultimately stood:
(Was that Boyle hit on Hickey dirty, by the way?)
Drama was in the air from the beginning, yet Drouin really stole the show when he came back from what some believe was a concussion to assist on Nikita Kucherov‘s last-minute goal, which sent the game to overtime.
In some ways, this win feels like a microcosm of the Lightning’s season. They keep getting hit in the mouth with injuries and near-injuries, yet they just won’t stay down.
The Islanders saw three leads disappear in this contest, but one would think that they won’t roll over, either.