In this shortened season, it will be an almost every other night affair of games and Nashville gets kicked off with another at the friendly confines of Bridgestone Arena when they take on the St. Louis Blues Monday night at a special start time of 5PM Central.
It is a day where we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. and the advances of love, freedom and human rights he preached and taught to a world in desperate need of change. Huge thanks and remembrance go to MLK and all the sacrifices he made in making this world a better place.
Tonight’s game can be heard on the Predators flagship station 102.5 the Game with Willy Daunic and Stu Grimson on the call and can be viewed on FS Tennessee with the legendary Pete Weber (Happy Belated Birthday Petey) and Terry Crisp.
The Predators dropped their first game to the Columbus Blue Jackets who have only won 2 games in 22 tries in Nashville. The Blue Jackets needed the shootout to nab the extra point on a Derrick Brassard goal and Craig Smith post ringer. Many who pegged the Blue Jackets to roll over and fail miserably this season would be hard pressed to find that attitude in their play. Columbus played a hard fought game with decent fore-checking and early chemistry showcasing a deeper lineup than they have had in recent memory.
The Predators came out well against the Blue Jackets potting an early goal :39 seconds into the first period, but all the momentum shifted after Shea Weber got mixed up with Jared Boll and escorted to the sin-bin for a 7 minute penalty (2 roughing, 5 fighting). The Predators had many an opportunity to get the win but couldn’t capitalize after the first period against Sergei Bobrovsky who seemed to get better and better the more rubber he saw.
The St. Louis Blues, to use the parlance of our times, trounced the Red Wings Saturday 6-0. Halak didn’t necessarily have to stand on his head for the shutout either. Detroit put only 14 shots on net and the St. Louis Blues had all their snipers in top form. T.J. Oshie lead the Blues with 3 points and the Blues first round pick from 2010, Vladimir Tarasenko, had a two goal night along with Chris Stewart.
Looking at the Blues: The Blues are starting right where they left off last season and prompting many to re-admit that the Blues could be the favorite to win the Central Division, possibly the Western Conference. St. Louis is a young team with the right combination of veteran leadership dotting the lineup card.
Backes is still a mean draw to play against and if he doesn’t beat you with his offensive skills, he can wear you down physically with big hits and grinding play (just ask Red Wings Captain Henrik Zetterberg). Shattenkirk and Pietrangelo have the makings of another Weber/Suter or Keith/Seabrook. They are in sync and their offensive/defensive talent could put them as one of the best defensive tandems in the game this season.
To top it of, the Blues brought up Tarasenko and he delivered out of the gate with a two-goal night. Oshie continues to be one of the most underrated wingers in the game, but his stock is rising every year due to his physical play and eagerness to deposit the puck in the net.
Looking at the Predators: The Predators looked to knock some of the rust off last Saturday and they will have to bring their best to tackle the challenge from the St. Louis Blues. Trotz alluded after the first game that he knows what Nashville needs to improve upon and now that he has game-speed film to look at expect the Predators to make those changes expediently.
Roman Josi played very well alongside Captain Shea Weber. Hannan played a solid game with his new defensive partner Kevin Klein and even stood up for him after what Hannan thought was a questionable hit (Klein would later reveal on the post-game show that he told Hannan that the hit was good and clean). Craig Smith, on which so much hype and anticipation of greatness has been heaped upon, did not live up to Coach Trotz’ standards and saw his ice time diminish considerably in the third period, finishing with less ice time than Yip on the night. Also, kudos to Pekka Rinne for getting an assist last night.
The expected lineup for the Predators (based on Saturday’s lineup):
Yip/Spaling/McGrattan(possible start for Clune)
For the Blues to win: Continue the Hitchcock way of playing hockey. The Blues make it miserable to play against them. They press hard in the offensive zone, are stingy in the neutral zone and have a steady game plan for pushing the puck out of their own zone. This zone awareness is the core of what makes Hitchcock’s system work and the players have all bought into this philosophy.
Halak and Elliott made the most formidable wall of goaltending in the NHL last season. The ability to have not just one, but two lights-out goaltenders in the NHL is a scary proposition for any team they face. Halak wasn’t tested much last game so he will probably get the green light for Monday night. If he can continue his impenetrable visage between the pipes, the St. Louis Blues offense can play a looser game with ample time and space to fire at will on their opponents.
For the Predators to win: Shake off the shootout loss on Saturday and give the Blues everything they can handle. The Predators are perennially a team that plays to their opponents. Case in point: the Columbus Blue Jackets. Many games against Columbus have gone to extra time or a shootout when Columbus could have easily been beat in regulation. (and numerous times the Predators had to come back from 3 goal deficits). Another example is the St. Louis Blues. The Blues won the Central Division last season, but the Predators owned the Blues pretty much all year with a 4-1-1 record in 2011-2012.
Rinne played well and the defense came up big against Columbus, but the Predators need to step up offensively. Rather than checking for that extra pass, Nashville needs to put more rubber on net. Also, the Predators need to set up shop in the opponents defensive zone. Too many times the Predators would only get one shot or a simple dump in that would get pushed out the other way for a Columbus neutral zone push. The Predators very rarely gave Hornqvist enough time to set up shop in front of the goaltender so he can do what he does best, put in the garbage or tip home a shot. More offensive zone pressure is the key to disrupting St. Louis’ game plan and testing Halak early and often is the only way to crack his code.