The Nashville Predators handed the San Jose Sharks their first loss of the year on Feb. 2nd ending a 7-game win streak for the Teal and Black. The game was won in a shootout by Craig Smith on the back hand and Pekka Rinne stoning all three Shark attempts. Since then, the Sharks have yet to win a game going 0-3-1 in the last four contests.
Nashville enjoyed a four game winning streak and a five game point streak going into Sunday’s tilt against Chicago where the Blackhawks remain unbeaten blanking the Predators 3-0. Nashville will be looking for their fifth consecutive sellout against a very tough West Coast team in the Sharks.
Game time is at 7 P.M. Central and can be heard on the Predators flagship station 102.5 the Game with Tom Callahan and Stu Grimson. FS Tennessee has you covered in True HD quality with Pete Weber and Terry Crisp on the horn.
Nashville got beat up by the class of the NHL (hockey-wise) on Sunday 3-0 with Kruger, Toews and Kane all getting markers for the Blackhawks. An even-score first period (with an unfortunate post-ringer by Spaling) would lead to a two-goal second and a one goal third sealing the Predators fate and giving Chicago a very impressive 10-0-2 start to the season.
Nashville only mustered 7 shots through the first two periods and this has been a true concern for the Predators who are dead last in the NHL in goals and SOG per game. Even with the 6-1 drubbing of St. Louis and the 3-0 win over the Kings, Nashville’s anemic shot production has them putting all the pressure on the goaltenders to play above and beyond to preserve leads and keep the other team off the scoreboard.
Mason played brilliantly against the Wild and because of him the Predators were able to get at least one point in the overtime loss. Against Chicago, it was turnover after turnover that forced Pekka Rinne to make every save attempt possible, but players of Chicago’s caliber are ever-ready to deposit the errant turnover behind the goaltender with a quickness.
The San Jose Sharks have been on a downward spiral since the Predators beat them in over time just over a week ago. Having lost their last 4 games (0-3-1), the Sharks are looking for answers. The goaltending has been inconsistent allowing for 5 goals against Chicago (understandable with the Blackhawks offensive prowess) and on Monday night allowed 6 goals against the Columbus Blue Jackets; who has a -11 goal differential on the year.
The expected lineup for the Predators (with 7 defenseman):
For the Sharks to win: Use the offensive talent in your arsenal. Patrick Marleau is still scoring and with players like Pavelski and Thornton, the Sharks have every weapon possible to make Rinne’s night unbearable. On top of this, the Sharks have one of the best Predator killers in Martin Havlat (scored the only goal for the Sharks in the Feb. 2nd game).
If the Sharks can get consistent goaltending from Niemi and some help on the blueline from Boyle, Stuart and Vlasic, the team can focus on putting up a ton of shots against the Predators while not getting many back in return. The Predators will have at least a little rest between games so the Sharks will have to have short memories for the Columbus game and come out fast and hard against the Predators to take the early lead where the Predators have a hard time coming back from such deficits.
For the Predators to win: SHOOT THE PUCK!! It can’t be stressed enough that the Predators need shots on goal in a major overhaul kind of way. Coming up at the bottom of the list in shots per game and goals per game is a staggering proposition for any team. It is quite the anomaly that despite the lack of offense, the Predators are still 5-3-4 with 14 points and 6th in the conference. Unfortunately, the law of averages will catch up to the Predators should this trend continue.
The Predators almost had a few chances to score in the third period against the Chicago Blackhawks. Albeit too little, too late the Predators put up 10 shots in the final frame and played with the urgency they should have used the entire game. Hopefully with a day off from playing three games in four nights, the Predators much needed rest will translate to on-ice success in front of a hopefully sold out Bridgestone Arena.