Photo Credit: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images North America
Breaking a 4-game losing streak this past Saturday afternoon, the Nashville Predators (3-3-1) finished their western Canada roadtrip with a 1-2-0 record and head back home to the friendly confides of the Bridgestone Arena looking for their first home win of the season.
On the docket in their way? The San Jose Sharks (3-3-0). A team who went 1-3-0 in their first 4 while winning their previous two.
Last Year’s Series: 2-0-2 (1-0-1 Home, 1-0-1 Away)
Last Season’s Video Recaps:
Game 1 – December 15th, 2010:
Game 2 – January 8th, 2011:
Game 3 – February 15th, 2011:
Game 4 – March 8th, 2011:
Looking at the Sharks: Trading away Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley for Brett Burns and Martin Havlat hasn’t proved as effective as the Sharks hoped it would this early into the season for either Minnesota or San Jose. As the Sharks started out 1-3-0 to start the season, while winning their last two, San Jose has been having their early season problems just like Nashville has.
However, when visiting the Nashville Predators, San Jose seems to find ways to get the big win. In their 48-game history together, the record is near dead even with San Jose going 20-21-2-5 against the Predators. However, when visiting Nashville, San Jose is 12-10-1-1 (9-4-1 in the last 7 seasons) compared to an 8-11-1-4 in their own HP Arena.
Granted, that isn’t a big statistical difference, however it shows that San Jose finds ways to win inside the Bridgestone Arena.
Looking at the Predators: A big win on Saturday? Absolutely. A good win on Saturday? Not at all. Throwing only 14 shots on net at the Flames and producing a big 2-1 win to get off their losing streak may be what the Predators needed, but they’re still not out of the woods yet.
Nashville will play host to San Jose tonight, Tampa Bay on Thursday, and Anaheim on Saturday who are 1st/10th/21st overall in average shots on the net. Where does Nashville rank? Dead last at 30 (22.1 shots on goal, average). So, with the #1 team in the league with shots forced, what will budge for the Predators?
Will they simply allow a team who is putting up nearly 40 shots a night to do the same and possibly even more? Will they stand tall and try to control the pace of the game, like they did in Calgary? The only thing I really know is that tonight is going to be very interesting to see what plays out
For the Sharks to win: Pepper Pekka Rinne. San Jose is number one in the league in shots forced and number one in the league in shots allowed. The Sharks needs to send everything in their arsenal at Rinne. The way Nashville has been allowing shots on the net, San Jose could easily hit 60 with the pace they shoot the puck.
Expect Antti Niemi to backstop San Jose this evening, unless we hear any different. Niemi vs Rinne? Always a fun battle to watch
For the Predators to win: Pepper Antti Niemi and PLUG THE DEFENSE. Yeah, so, I copied the Sharks’ key to win. Why? Well, look at it this way: San Jose may be number one overall in shots forced and shots allowed…but Nashville is DEAD LAST in both categories. Yeah, it’s that bad. However, with Mike Fisher and Francis Bouillon possibly coming back from injury tonight, things could drastically improve on both ends.
Granted, Bouillon isn’t the end-all/be-all fix for Nashville’s defense, however he will be an added boost to a very youthful Nashville blue-line.
What about Mike Fisher? Coming back from his off-season shoulder surgery, a healthy Mike Fisher could drastically improve the 23rd-ranked Nashville offense. Although it didn’t get much higher than that last year, I have hope that the early season struggles will soon find their way out of the system.
If you like what I have listed out here or if you have any questions/comments/concerns, feel free to let me know at kris...@thepredatorial.com
Stay frosty, friends
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