Dec 12, 2013
Last week, the buzz around the Nashville Predators was more about what was needed to change the team in order to find a solution to their on-ice downfall rather than the on-ice product itself. It seems for the time being that talk has been squashed, mainly coming from the play of Carter Hutton in net for the Predators.
Stopping 28 of 29 shots against the Rangers on Tuesday night in Madison Square Garden and stopping 33 of 34 shots tonight against the Dallas Stars in his first set of back-to-back outings since early November, Hutton gave the Predators a breath of fresh air in goal for a team that is struggling to find any sort of consistency.
“We’re here to win games. It’s not that we were playing bad hockey, we just find a way to get our game. Tonight was similar to the game in New York, we played very structured,” said Predators goaltender Carter Hutton. “Dallas is a really fast team and we stuck to our game and waited for our chances. Our powerplay was huge tonight, getting two like that back to back to end the first period, it got us rolling into the game.”
The skilled playmakers for the Stars couldn’t seem to get anything past Hutton after Erik Cole’s backhander with less than two minutes to go in the first period gave Dallas a 1-0 lead, a lead they would very quickly relinquish. Hutton credited the defense in front of him with keeping his path to the puck as clear as possible.
“That’s something we strive for. Our D is so solid and getting key blocks at key times. That’s the way we need to play and our D-corp knows that, especially me not being the biggest goalie. I have to battle to see pucks. The more traffic there is, the tougher it is to block them,” said Hutton.
Maybe playing his two best games of the season so far, Hutton’s key and timely saves against both the Stars and Rangers have proved to be the difference maker for Nashville. With the Predators scouting specifically against the Stars and their constant stream of pucks to the net, Nashville seemed to be one step ahead of Dallas all night.
“They really put a lot of pucks at net. How we scouted them, with their high tips and shooting everything on the powerplay, they did exactly what we thought they were going to do,” said Hutton. “It’s one of those ones where you just battle to find the puck and see it. If you lose the puck, just make sure you’re in a good position. That’s where your defense really helps out.”
With Pekka Rinne out since late October, Hutton was originally slated to take the majority of goaltending duties until Rinne’s return. Faltering with a high goals-against-average and two back-to-back 5-0 shutouts against, rookie goaltender Marek Mazanec took over for the next 13 games.
With Hutton getting an all-important second chance for the Predators, head coach Barry Trotz emphasized the importance of not only finding the right mix of goaltending, but for his goaltenders to take advantage of their second chances and to not get down on themselves in the meantime.
“I think both of [Hutton and Mazanec] will be able to carry the ball. One of the things we talked about in the morning scrum was [Hutton] coming in when [Rinne] went down and he really did a good job for us and then he fell off. The biggest thing for goalies in their situation is they go, ‘Well I blew it,’ and they didn’t really blow it. They just have to get ready for the next opportunity because it’s going to come,” said Trotz.
“Carter went through a span where Mazanec came in and did a really good job and you could tell in the back of his mind he was probably going ‘I had my opportunity and I’m not getting another one,’ and that’s not the case,” Trotz continued. “The reality of the whole thing is you have to prepare yourself that when you get another chance, you take advantage of it. Carter’s come full circle, there. He’s getting another chance and he’s trying to make the best of it.”
Photo Credit: Kristen Jerkins