Its not often that I write about an individual game as I normally write about trends that I observe relating to the Preds. But I feel compelled to write about tonights game, especially since it was the back end of a home and away series against the Jackets. The Jackets, much like the rest of the Central, is a much improved team. And while I and many Preds fans will always consider Detroit our primary rivalry, Jacket games are developing their own reputation for their intense punishing and physical play. Granted, I think coach Hitchcock has a point that Columbus has to win a few games before it becomes a rivalry. I think the streak is at 12 game or so. But nonetheless the physical nature of these two teams makes for fun viewship. Plain and simple, Nashville and Columbus don't like each other.
Tonight though, I had my concerns. We were able to win a tough game on Saturday, with Columbus coming out of know where to score 2 goals in the 3rd and ultimately gain an overtime loss and 1 point. With the game in Columbus tonight, the Columbus fans were going to be amped up for our arrival.
All of this leads us to the game. Watching the game from home, the Preds came out fast, strong, and smart. There were some strong hits from both sides, but suprisingly, there were only 6 minutes of penaties in the first period. Credit both teams with focusing on scoring instead of retaliation. The first period ended with the Preds up 2-1. It was back and forth, great passing, shots from all over and both teams gave it their all. Both Mason and Leclaire made some amazing stops. My first period star was Martin Erat who had both a goal and an assist. Things go interesting at the end of the period with Tootoo and Boll going at it. No punches, but you saw what looked like was the start of serious tension b/w both clubs.
The second period was boring in terms of scoring as the defenses and goalies took over. No scoring but plenty of offense. Plenty of back and forth play with some long shifts for both sides. 2nd period star went to both goalies for keeping both teams in the game and the action flowing. The only excitement was a strange serious of hits and misses that resulted in 2 10 minute misconducts. One to Tootoo and one to Tollefsen. Nicols and Boll also got a fighting major, with Boll also getting an interference. Whats so interesting is that it all happened at the same time, but were separate incidents. Boll and Nicols was easy to understand, but I for the life of me have no explanation for the 10 minute majors.
The 3rd period is where I saw some of the best hockey I have seen this season. On at least 2 shifts, the action continued for over 2 minutes without stopage, with the puck never leaving the preds zone. Niether team had a chance to change lines and the Preds defense was all over the place. But the play of the game came when Jason Arnott was able to steal the puck in the jackets zone after one of thier D-man just fell over backwards on the ice. The play resulted on a 3 on 1 going towards the net. Arnott fired a great pass over to Erat who blasted the puck. Leclaire blocked it, but Dumont was there for the rebound and his second goal of the game. Throw in an empty netter a few minutes later and the game was over. My 3rd period star was Jason Arnott who was all over the place. Strong on the forecheck, big hits all over, great passes, and especially strong back in our zone keeping the Columbus forwards from scoring. One note about the 3rd period....One 1 penalty for either team and it was too many men on the ice.
Overall, a great tough game by both teams. With the bad blood between these 2 teams, it suprised me that there wasn't a good scrap or more boarding or roughing calls. Both teams played within their limits and focused on scoring. It makes for a great game when both teams are going hard and fast and holding back on dropping the gloves. I am sure they will be dropped before the season is over, but for the last two games at least, great hockey was put on display. We got our 4 points off of the Jackets in the last 2 games, and moved up with a tie in points with Columbus with 19. Back home for a tough game against Chicago next. Really looking forward to seeing their two rookie studs Toews and Kane.