The Nashville Predators remain the only undefeated team in regulation in the National Hockey League. Following the 3-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night, the Predators now carry a 5-0-2 record. In the victory over Chicago, star forward James Neal tallied a natural hat trick and defenseman Seth Jones helped contribute to Neal’s stellar performance.
“Honestly I thought I was alone at first because they were changing and we were changing,” said Jones on how the Neal goal developed. “I just came down the wing looking for something. At first I was going to throw it to the net, but then I saw him and made a touch pass. Good shot and a good goal.”
One of the strategies that has been a constant under head coach Peter Laviolette is for the team to shoot early and shoot often. Nashville tallied 14 shots in the first period alone. For the game, the Predators racked up 27 shots on net, with defenseman chipping in 10 of them.
“The more shots you put on net, the more opportunities you get,” said Jones. “That was one of the keys for us going into the game. Just throw it at the net. No matter the angle, no matter where you are, we’ll get it back and keep it in the offensive zone.”
Game planning against a team that can roll out multiple scoring lines can prove difficult, but through the majority of the game, the Nashville defense was able to limit opportunities of the Blackhawks forwards.
“I think you have to make them play defense,” said Jones. “That was another key we had. Stop the puck in the defensive zone and then make them spend more time in their defensive zone. Jam it back at them down their throat.”
Even with the victory, the Predators were still not able to score on the power play. Through two opportunities, Jones was on the ice for 2:20. He knows that when the unit finally clicks, it will be dangerous for the opposing team.
“I think we just have to get shots and bodies to the net,” said Jones. “We have to try to take the goalie’s eyes away. That’s something we’ve put a lot of emphasis on this year. If we keep shooting the puck, eventually it’ll come and it’ll come in waves.”
Head Coach Peter Laviolette has guided the team to an excellent start, and it’s the fruits of the team’s labor in training camp that is certainly paying off now in this young season.
“We worked pretty hard in training camp to get the new systems down,” said Jones. “I think we’re playing really good hockey right now. It’s a long season and we don’t want to get too high right now. We just want to be consistent.”
Nashville has been quite consistent to begin the season. The home crowds have been very appreciative of their efforts, including rewarding the team with multiple standing ovations Thursday night.
“[The crowd] was awesome as always,” said Jones. “It feels like a playoff atmosphere when they come to town. It’s awesome though. The fans are in it. Every TV timeout they’re cheering on. It’s just lots of fun.”
This fun brand of hockey is making for an exciting one. The Predators continue to pass the tests they are given early on in the season. By gaining three of four points from the Chicago Blackhawks within the first 10 games is a testament to how hard the team is working. If they are able to continue this pace and gain points Saturday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the hockey world will know just how real this team is.
Head Coach Peter Laviolette:
Photo credit: Kristen Jerkins