Jan 15, 2014
On the back of a two-point game from defenseman Ryan Ellis, the Nashville Predators downed the Calgary Flames 4-2 on Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena.
In the opening minute of the third period, Ellis broke a 1-1 stalemate with a rocket from the point that beat Flames netminder Karri Ramo to give Nashville the lead.
“Our forwards did a good job driving the net, which as a defenseman, I know it’s tough to get up there and hold off because there’s always going to be a guy behind you if he’s due,” Ellis said. “I just pumped once and got it off and luckily it went in.”
Ellis tacked on an assist on Nashville’s fourth goal when Viktor Stalberg got a piece of another shot Ellis unleashed from the point.
“The kid’s been great,” Nashville forward Craig Smith said. “He’s got a great shot and he was obviously using it a lot today. He has done a good job of getting himself open around defenders and getting it to the hole.”
Three of Nashville’s four goals were either scored by defensemen or on redirected shots from defensemen. In addition to the two goals Ellis had a part in, Shea Weber opened scoring in the first period with a power play goal.
“Our team, we have to score as a whole and everyone has to chip in for our team to be successful,” Ellis said. “If the defense have to do it, if the forwards have to do it, it’s nice to spread it around.”
Drafted in the first round in 2009 by Nashville, Ellis has been up and down between Nashville and Milwaukee and has seen his share of healthy scratches. However, it seems like the young defenseman might have finally turned the corner that head coach Barry Trotz has been waiting for.
“He’s playing very confidently and I think he’s finding his offensive game,” Trotz said. “Defensively, he’s fine. I just think he’s not worried about everything around him any more – how everyone else is doing, ice time and all that. He’s just concentrating on his game. He’s focusing on his game being really good and he’s getting good results. He’s shooting the puck a lot more confidently now. He’s all of the things you want. He’s gotten stronger in the last couple of years. He’s playing with more pace. His hockey IQ is very high. I think those are all starting to come around and I think he’s been a good pairing with Kevin Klein right now.”
Part of Ellis’ improvement could be his pairing with veteran defenseman Kevin Klein.
“It’s been great,” Ellis said. “Playing left side, I thought was going to be tough and an adjustment because I haven’t done it for quite a while. Having a veteran guy like that is a very calming influence back there. He’s very talkative, which helps out the transition to the other side.”
“It gives him a little weight because Klein is a strong defender,” Trotz said. “It’s an easier read for Ellis, whereas if you put Ellis and Ekholm or Ellis and Jones, they like to get up in the play a little bit more and sometimes they both go up at the same time. I think Klein is more of a stay-at-home guy which lets Ellis do his thing, move around a little bit and be a little more creative on some of the things he does. Klein is a good veteran to have with a young guy and Ellis knows he’s going to be back there.”
Photo: Sarah Fuqua