It was the kind of win the Nashville Predators needed. A win where they completely dominated the opposition. Getting the shutout was just an added bonus in the 3-0 over the Buffalo Sabres Saturday night. While it’s a win over the last place team in the NHL, it’s still a much-needed, confidence-boosting win for a team that had lost five straight at home. The last win for the Predators came on February 24th against the Colorado Avalanche.
“We know it’s important with how well we’ve played at home and our record,” said Mike Fisher. “Chicago and St. Louis lost tonight. Everyone is kind of scoreboard watching, but for the most part we just have to worry about what we’re doing and feeling good about ourselves going into the playoffs.”
With the win, the Predators moved back into a tie with the St. Louis Blues for the Central Division lead. The Blues however, maintain the lead because they have one game in hand on Nashville.
The victory followed a week where Nashville actually had three straight days without a game. Because of that, the team was able to take a day off on Wednesday and practice hard on Thursday and Friday.
“It felt real good,” said Fisher on having some extra time this week. “We haven’t had a couple days where we could work on the power play and other situations and get rest, too. It’s a nice little stretch where we could regroup. We don’t have as many games coming to the finish and we just have to make sure we’re using it the best we can and feeling good about ourselves in the last ten (games).”
In the past few games, the effort has been there for the Predators, but they just haven’t been able to finish strong. While it seems like other teams have found the playoff gear, Nashville has been struggling to dominate like they did earlier in the season. According to Natural Stat Trick, Nashville had 76 total shots compared to Buffalo’s 42. That’s good for a 64.41% Corsi For. In showing the dominance through the beginning, in the first period alone, the Predators held a 27-11 advantage in total shots.
“I thought we came out strong,” said Fisher. “I thought we played three really solid periods. It was still tied later in the game, but we just stuck with it. We were getting lots of chances and opportunities. We knew it would come, but I think we did a lot of good things, got a lot of shots and traffic. For the most part, I think we controlled the game. It was a good effort.”
Throughout the slump that Nashville has been experiencing, head coach Peter Laviolette had been making some changes in the lines to try and find the right spark in his offense. Saturday night, Fisher’s line controlled played whenever they hit the ice. He, along with Matt Cullen and Craig Smith contributed on the first two goals. Fisher was on the ice with Filip Forsberg and Viktor Stalberg when he scored the third goal for his 17th of the season from the high slot
“We felt good,” said Fisher on his line-mates.” We were getting some chances and zone time and it was just a matter of time before we could get a couple.”
It was a complete game by the team. The Predators tallied 43 shots on net compared to 24 for Buffalo. The faceoff battle was 37-22 in Nashville’s favor. Late in the first period and into the second period, the Predators even killed off a four minute double minor for hi-sticking call on Craig Smith. On the night, Fisher played 2:50 while the team was shorthanded. The double minor kill was an important moment in the game.
“That was a big one,” said Fisher. “Obviously, you don’t want to get down early. We’ve been doing too much of that lately. It was a big kill and we got some momentum from that. That was a huge part of the game.”
Nashville should have some confidence and momentum going into Tuesday’s game against Carey Price and the league-leading Montreal Canadiens. Get the win against the Canadiens and it’ll be safe to say that the Predators are getting right back on track.
“Now that we are in the final stretch…we have nine games now left,” said head coach Peter Laviolette. “We do have the opportunity for a day of rest and then two good practices. That might be more than we had in the entire past 27 games before. It’s an opportunity where we get a lot of repetition in on your system – on your own play, the power play and your goaltender gets reps. It’s all positive.”
View head coach Peter Laviolette’s post game press conference:
U.S. Astronaut Tim Kopra presents Rinne jersey from space & drops pucks:
Photo courtesy Christina McCullough