After the communal self therapy that is the Luongo Love/Hate Conundrum over the time for the last game to this one, perhaps we have all had a collective breakthrough. We learnt something about ourselves and how we react to our "triggers". Became better fans as a result ( who am I kidding! ) This group outpouring from both sides of that question was fun, but now let us move on.
It is funny how a few breaks can make everything sunny, and a few against can make it so cloudy. Nashville might have felt hard done by in the first period, and certainly won't be sending the referees any fruit baskets. Might be hard to complain about most of the 10 power plays ( which was more like 8, but thats the NHL and how they count two man advantages ), but it certainly did not help their cause.
So, with no further adieu, lets see how they did after the break.
ESPN stats NHL stats, w/ video. Not loaded for sharing as of this writing, but what do you guys think? Want them dropped in, or a link good enough? Really? Bastards! Well, here's a link this time...we'll drop them in later NEXT time.
Tonight, I'm going to try to break it down by each line, the special teams, and the defenders. Maybe a few words on the goalie we spend so much time talking about, maybe not!
First Line Stars
Daniel and Henrik Sedin. Tonight it was on the power play ( we'll get to that shortly ) where they made the scoresheet, but I was impressed more with their play with Burrows at both ends. Their line was very good at coming back. Henrik and Daniel both broke up plays covering for defensemen tonight, and did it effortlessly. In our system, where the blue liners are told to jump at every opportunity, you need that from all four lines. They were dangerous all night as the offensive guys. The whole line was solid at both ends of the ice tonight. Combined for 9 shots, not missing the net once. A combined +3. Daniel a goal and two assists, Hank slacking off with just one and one.
Ahhh, A Second Line Again
Ryan Kesler is back, and back on the scoreboard. You can see a bit of rust still. But the goal on the power play from one of his Magic Shooty Spots was like old times. No chance for Lindback. But how about the growing chemistry with his two linemates. Cody Hodgson and Chris Higgins have something already, and once Kesler refines his role with them, look out. Tonight? All a +1 each, Kesler with 4 shots, 2 misses, and a hit. Silent G got two on net, and missed 3 more. Higgins was buzzing all night. Oh, to no longer have to worry about being a one line team! this line will definitely trend up the score sheet if they keep it up. Cody drew two penalties tonight.
Manny Malhotra and his third line were such a strong line against various teams last year? Dominant shifts and solid defense. Well, in it's current manifestation, with Jannik Hansen and Marco Sturm, and even in other ones, its still getting there. Tonight they were all a -1, as they were the guys on for the only goal for the Preds, along with Ballard and Bieksa. But there were shifts tonight where you saw it. Marco Sturm only had one shot credited, but am I alone in thinking that was the best game he has had as a Canuck? Hansen was sticking his nose in ( literally...Shea Weber, have you met Sheriff Shanny?), getting bloodied twice by the hit from behind and Wilson's stick. Money started out 5 of 6 on draws in the first, and ended up 8 of 14, with 2 shots, missed 1, had a block and two takeaways. Still feeling out each other a bit maybe? Hansen may have turned a corner tonight. That will help.
I don't care. I am loving this fourth line. Maxim Lapierre had himself a game. He was flying. and his linemates did well in his vapour trail. Its funny, you look at his stats line ( 1 A,+1, 2 missed shots, a fight and a hit, while going 4/10 on draws ), and say WTF. But he was faster than his check most of the night. The 2 missed shots, I don't know. I thought Lindback got a piece of one of his breakaways. Aaron Volpatti had a fight to calm down Jordin Tootoo ( maybe the best Pred tonight ) after he was running around a bit, had 5 hits and a shot in 9:39 TOI. He was very solid for the most part. But the biggest kudos have to go to Dale Weise. Scored his first goal on a nice tip from a ways out on a great play by Edler. 3 shots and 3 hits, some shifts after a PK with the Sedins. The kid must have thought he had died and went to heaven! Look at that Dale, Coach Vee rewards guys having solid games with ice time.
Blue Line Bombers
Its hard to say who was the best. As they all were good in various ways. So this is in no particular order...
Keith Ballard . If I have to start off with one, it might be the guy with the best game of the night from the back end. Yes, he was on for the Halischuk goal, but that was tough for any defender. The bounce was a sweet one, and the miss caught everyone flat footed. Apart from that giving him a -1, he had a shot, missed 1 ( and was solid on rushes all night. He knew when to jump ), blocked a game high 7 shots. His 3 hits included a beauty "Hips" check on an old school back and forth with McGrattan, where McG hit him high, he "Hips" him, then slickly steals the puck right off the one time Sen's stick. Keep it going Ballar'.
Kevin Bieksa . Had almost 6 minutes more than his partner, because Ballard is not on the power play yet. 3 shots and 3 blocks, and a hit. Played a team high 24:12. He was actually the one hanging back for Ballard, and they seem to be growing as a pair. The fact that he still can ( and did, a couple of his pinches were great, stopping the play out cold ) makes that a hard pair to play against. Am I the only one that thought they make the Sedins go better than Edler and partner?
Alexander Edler . The guy made a wonderful play on the Weise goal, holding the bouncing puck in under pressure and still getting the shot off for one of his 2 assists. He had 4 shots credited, and 2 as misses ( that seems low, I thought I saw him miss two on one power play shift! ) 1 block and 2 hits. I like him and Hamhuis together still. I just think that Hippy Juice have gelled better to start.
Dan Hamhuis . What an advantage it is for Bones and AV to have a set of defensemen that you can average around 19 minutes each ( Bieksa the aforementioned 24 +, and Alberts a little over 14 minutes ). He is getting it with Edler. Was credited 1 shot and 1 hit, and was on the right side for most the night. 4:46 on the PP tonight!
Sami Salo . The SaloBomb. The first one on the PP went screaming by Kesler's head. It sent a message, and he had 6 shots on and 3 off. The Preds blocked only 12 shots tonight, and you can bet that was in part because no one wants to get in front of the "Finnish MacInnis". The PP treated him like the #1 threat he is, setting up the Bomb as often as possible. Also blocked two in a pretty effective third pairing with Alberts.
Andrew Alberts . I am going to start calling him Zane Grey, because he is the quiet cowboy that does not say much, and then crunches you. He and Salo were both a +2, and in his team low 14:06 ( 3:03 on the PK ), he had 2 blocks, 4 hits and a takeaway. Quicker to the puck this year, and more confident with it.
The Man Of The Hour
Roberto Luongo . The Man, the myth, the legend. I had to turn off the post game on TEAM as I am writing this, as some caller complained about him AND chastised those that booed him. At the same time, and he argued with Blake when he was gently prodded keep the show going. ( It makes my head hurt! ) Something about being stuck with the guy. Anyhow, we are trying to make this a no "goalie controversy" zone, so, on to the game. How many of you bit it off when that puck went off the boards and onto the stick of the only guy hunting the puck? Halischuk made a nice play there, and it was an opportunistic goal, but about a minute and a half after the first goal, you knew someone in some bar in B.C was saying "See!?" He was good when he had to be, and made some saves in traffic that were tougher than they looked. Ended up with 25 saves and I did not see him on his belly once!
Power Play and Penalty Kill
The power play was wonderful,in the puck movement all night. It was just that the Preds could not stop giving us chances! I thought the guys did fine on it as a whole. I just think the stats guy gave us a break on missed shots. Salo and Edler both had open set ups to walk into and shot it wide.
Did you notice on the Henrik Sedin goal though? The way everyone was in a different spot, with his shot coming from the point because both Edler and Salo were going to spots down low? It was like watching the Globetrotters do "The Weave" vs the Generals. It will get more success than the 2 for 10 tonight. It just looked too good not to.
The penalty kill? Fantastic. The opposition was 0 for 4, looked to have only a few good chances, and were outworked to pucks by the penalty kill all night. I did not count them, but it seemed there were a lot of rushes going the other way with the man disadvantage. They took away the Weber shot all night.