Saturday, March 26, 2011

Preds 4, Stars 2: Fisher's Turn

When the Preds returned from their trip out west earlier this month, I wondered if they had what it took to make a run at a playoff spot. They were on the outside looking in, had lost 7 of their previous 9, and with teams that had been behind the Preds in the standings only days before suddenly passing them, I was thinking in the back of my mind that perhaps this wasn't the year. The year that looked so promising when Shea Weber was named captain in the offseason. The year that everyone thought would a Preds game being played beyond the first round of the playoffs. The year that has seen its ups and downs, with too many injuries to count, some being more devastating than others. Still, there was hope: 12 of the remaining 15 games were at home.

Two and a half weeks later, Nashville has won 8 of their past 9, including a 4-2 victory over the Dallas Stars tonight, and currently sit in sixth in the Western Conference standings. They're within striking of distance of 4th place, and with the way they've been playing at home as of late, home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs could be that decisive factor that pushes Nashville into the second round.

1st Period
  • For the second consecutive game against Nashville as a Dallas Star, Alex Goligoski scored a goal, as he pinched in and took a Loui Eriksson pass in the slot and rifled a shot past Pekka Rinne. The power play marker gave Dallas the lead at 8:49.
  • David Legwand got the equalizer at 14:26, as Martin Erat came out from behind the net and found Legwand cutting down the side of the net. Legwand's shot barely got past Kari Lehtonen, but it was enough, and the game was even.
2nd Period
  • Shot after shot. Chance after chance. Mike Fisher just couldn't buy a goal. He broke that long drought tonight at 2:33, taking a pass from Patric Hornqvist and sending a laser past Lehtonen, giving Nashville a 2-1 lead.
  • Brad Watson. Remember him? The ref that tossed Patric Hornqvist in the first period of last Thursday's win over Boston? He's at it again, as there was a controversial turned fluky goal for Dallas at 4:07. As play was exiting the Star's zone, Shea Weber appearance to get tripped by the stick of Jamie Been. Watson didn't make the call, and instead play continued. Seconds later, Brenden Morrow attempted to center a pass from behind the goal line; his stick came into contact with Blake Geoffrion's, the puck fluttered into the air, off the top of Rinne's head, and into the net. Controversial goal or not, the game was tied at two.
  • Fisher picked a good night to wake up offensively, scoring his second of the night at 9:57. A loose puck found its way back to Ryan Suter, who skated in a few strides and put a shot on net. The rebound came right out to Fisher, who had a wide-open net to backhand the puck into.
3rd Period
  • Nashville didn't have a four goal lead to protect tonight, but there was still a lead to protect, nonetheless. Survive they did, and David Legwand's second of the night of the shorthanded, empty-net variety iced the game at 19:56.
Other Thoughts
  • Along with their pairs of goals, Fisher and Legwand had a solid night in the faceoff circle, winning 50% (6-of-12) and 67% (14-of-21) of their draws, respectively. Surprisingly, Jerred Smithson was the only player winning fewer than 50% of his draws. Overall, the Preds won 57% of their draws, a solid night in the dot.
  • Fisher had two goals and five shots in 17:26 of ice time, but get this: Nick Spaling STILL had more ice time than Fisher (18:15). I have no idea why this is the case.
  • Blake Geoffrion's ice time was very limited again tonight, registering just over six minutes. He's registered over ten minutes of ice time only once this season, but only six days ago he was one of Nashville's main sources of offense. Why won't Barry Trotz play him? 
  • Matt Halischuk was a healthy scratch for the fourth consecutive game. Why is he here? Dumont isn't even playing that much, and if Halischuk isn't going to play, why not send him back to Milwaukee, where he'll get plenty of playing time?
Next up for the Preds, the Vancouver Canucks, as well as the long-awaited return of Dan Hamhuis to Nashville. Plenty of boo birds will be in the air on Tuesday night, as well as two more big points.

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