Happy New Year to all The Predatorial readers out there. Nashville came into the New Year on a high note winning the last two games against the Blues and the Wild in a shootout. The Calgary Flames, however, ended the year going 0-1-1.
In the month of December, the Flames did not relinquish many points; recording only 4 regulation losses going 8-4-4 on the month. The Predators, thanks to some stellar goaltending, went 9-5-0 in December and have sole possession of 7th place in the Western Conference.
These games are always tight scoring affairs and a great goaltender duel between arguably the two best Finnish netminders in the world.
This Year’s Series: 2-1-0 (1-0-0 Home, 1-1-0 Away)
Looking at the Flames: The Flames boast some impressive offensive numbers with Iginla, Jokinen, Glencross and Bourque sporting over ten goals each. The problem still lies with their 5 on 5 play and the fact that even with their higher than average rate of points, these players are all in the negative of the plus/minus rating.
Miikka Kiprusoff has played in 32 of the 39 games so far for the Flames as per usual. His elite level of goaltending is what keeps the Flames in the hunt for the playoffs from year to year. Kiprusoff is managing a GAA of 2.40 and a Save% of .918 (His GAA is better than his counterpart, Rinne, as of this writing).
Looking at the Predators: It was apparent in the Blues game that the Predators got the message to shoot the puck. The Predators put 34 shots on goal, almost totaling the number of shots combined over their last two meetings with St. Louis. It was a hard fought game that went to a five round shootout before deciding the winner.
Not having Colin Wilson in the lineup certainly shortened the bench when it came to finding the shootout top 3, but Martin Erat stepped up and buried a wrister top right corner for the win. Rinne played out of his mind and stoned St. Louis at every turn (the post and crossbar also helped in their unique way).
For the Flames to win: Goals are hard to come by in the Nashville/Calgary series this year so for the Flames to have a shot, they have to score early and take the hometown crowd out of the game. The Predators faithful have been filling the building to capacity and the Flames have a chance to eliminate any of that momentum by playing stingy defense and having Miikka Kiprusoff stand on his head.
Look for Iginla and Glencross to be spoilers against the Predators. Glencross scored a beauty of a backhand against the Predators in the only meeting at Bridgestone Arena. The Captain of the Flames, Jarome Iginla is also to be feared especially if the Flames catch Nashville making a parade to the penalty box. Glencross, Jokinen and Iginla have a combined 13 PP goals on the year.
For the Predators to win: The rookies must step up and play like veterans. Craig Smith has been called out on numerous occasions to score a goal. It’s time for him and all the rookies of the Nashville Predators to take that next step and start contributing offensively. Hopefully Colin Wilson will be back in the lineup against Calgary as his production (8 G, 14 A) is sorely needed. If the game goes to a shootout (which very well could happen) Colin Wilson’s savvy stick moves could prove to be the game winner.
A change back to original equipment has Pekka Rinne looking like the goaltender of last year who put up career numbers and earned a Vezina nod. In the last two games, Rinne has faced down 71 shots only letting in 2 goals. It is imperative that Rinne keeps up this play as the Predators are still having trouble lighting up the scoreboard. Going 0-10 on the PP over the last 3 games isn’t helping in this regard either.
If you like what I have listed out here or if you have any questions/comments/concerns, feel free to let me know on Twitter…@Preducated
Stay HardCore, friends