James O'Brien

Hey, the Predators just moved atop the West

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Are the Nashville Predators the best team in the West? That’s debatable, but it’s tough to deny that they might be the most underrated in that brutal conference.

One thing we can’t debate: as of the end of tonight, they’re sitting alone atop the West, only looking up at the Montreal Canadiens in the overall standings.

Nashville’s now 7-1-1 after holding on for a tough road win against the San Jose Sharks, prevailing 2-1.

Nashville will be a tougher team to deny if they keep grinding out wins during the four-game road trip they began on Wednesday.

They go to Los Angeles Saturday, Anaheim on Sunday and then wrap it up with a Nov. 5 contests against Minnesota.

After that, it’s an opportunity to stack points with a five-game homestand.

So, what’s the explanation for Nashville’s success?

Most obviously, Pekka Rinne‘s been looking like a $7 million goalie and that defense remains impressive.

James Neal and Filip Forsberg also stand as one of the league’s better under-the-radar duos. Those forces (not to mention timely scoring from their supporting cast) help explain their early +10 goal differential.

In more precise terms, they’re starting games off the way you win games. They haven’t allowed a first-period goal in 2015-16 and have scored the first goal of eight of their nine contests.

At some point, they’ll face more adversity … and it’s fair to point out that quite a few of their wins came against the East.

Still, you can only win the games in front of you, and the Predators are doing just that so far.

Steve Mason doesn’t like 3-on-3 OT, either

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It’s one thing for 3-on-3 OT to be a bummer for a full-ice threat like Dustin Byfuglien.

It’s not so surprising to hear a goalie express his displeasure with the overtime tweak.

Steve Mason is on the record of being less than a fan of the not-so-goalie-friendly change, according to Philly Voice.

“It’s just chaos out there,” Mason said in the locker room after Tuesday’s OT loss to the Buffalo Sabres. “I made a great save coming across, and then a couple of seconds later, they’re back on a breakaway. It’s tough out there. There’s just chance after chance, and it’s creating chances. That’s why so many games are being ended in overtime; there are just so many quality chances that guys just eventually score.”

For those who feel like the NHL needs a shot in the arm offense-wise, that last phrase in particular might sting a bit.

“There are just so many quality chances that guys just eventually score.”

You know, some probably want it to be like that before games go 3-on-3.

Just about everyone (including Jakub Voracek and Dave Hakstol) said they understood why Mason isn’t a fan, but maybe it’s a good thing.

Maybe life should be a little tougher for goalies in general?

Anyway, you can see the latest 3-on-3 OT goal allowed by Mason for an example of why he (understandably) dislikes that format.

Fleury picks up Pens’ slack, thwarts Caps for win

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For all the talk about Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, tonight’s Penguins – Capitals game was all about the goalies.

Ultimately, Marc-Andre Fleury bested Braden Holtby (shown best with Holtby slamming his stick against the bench after Nick Bonino‘s impressive empty-netter), and Pittsburgh bested Washington 3-1 on Wednesday.

Fleury’s efforts generated some well-deserved praise from onlookers.

It was a physical, nasty game at times, with all the missed shots maybe indicating that the two teams could use a few breaks to create more offense.

This leaves Pittsburgh in a strange spot.

Sidney Crosby and much of the offense is sputtering, even with Phil Kessel looking strong. The power play is … abysmal.

That would seem to spell disaster, yet the Penguins are now winners of five of their last six games.

Maybe it’s all about the positive spin, then. If Pittsburgh can generate offense on a regular basis, then perhaps the Penguins will be a contender once again?

That’s up to debate, but either way, a series against the Capitals would probably be a lot of fun, right?

WATCH LIVE: Predators at Sharks on NBCSN

Filip Forsberg, Melker Karlsson
AP

Want more NBCSN action on this Wednesday night? You’re in luck.

After the East showdown that’s about to end, we get treated to the Nashville Predators against the San Jose Sharks.

They may not have the same marquee names as Penguins – Capitals, but there’s plenty of firepower on both sides, so we should enjoy a fun West battle. You can stream it online via the link below.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Jonas Hiller, Bobby Ryan shaken up in collision

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The Ottawa Senators and Calgary Flames are engaging in an increasingly wild affair, and the collision between Bobby Ryan and Jonas Hiller may only turn up the heat.

Ryan received a goalie interference penalty for the incident.

Hiller seems especially shaken up by that collision so far, while Ryan left but eventually came back. Do you think Ryan was at fault for this despite getting pushed?

Video will be added when or if it’s available. For now, judge it based on this GIF via Stephanie “My Regular Face.”

Update: The Senators ended up winning 5-4 via a shootout. Sounds like Hiller’s status is currently up in the air.