On Thursday night, in front of a fourth sellout crowd of the season, the Nashville Predators won their third in a row, dominating the Anaheim Ducks in a 5-1 victory.
In what most thought would be the start of a very challenging week for Nashville, the Predators have turned out two victories against opponents that normally sit atop the standings. Thursday night, Anaheim came into Bridgestone Arena with a 1-3-1 record. Their only victory coming against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday. After a physical first period of back and forth play with the Ducks spending a lot of time in the Nashville zone, the Predators took control in the second period and never looked back.
“They’re a good team and a tough team to play against,” said Mattias Ekholm on the game. “The way we executed our game plan and the way we played tonight, everyone showed up. It was just a great team effort by everyone.”
The second period hasn’t been the strongest period so far this season for Nashville, but Thursday night, they entertained the fans, and quickly shut down the Ducks, netting three goals. Early in the third while on a four-on-four, Ryan Ellis broke Ekholm for a mini breakaway and the defenseman potted his first of the season.
“The bigger the spaces [on the ice], the more it suits me, I think,” said Ekholm. “I rely on my skating and my speed. Ellis made a great play and I had a half breakaway, so it was just nice to get the first one out of the way.”
Nashville just seems to be getting better with every game they play. On Tuesday against Tampa Bay, they had to be resilient against an offensive powerhouse along with adjusting play by having Barret Jackman and Ryan Ellis out. Against Anaheim, the team proved they can pile on the goals and not let up off the gas to dominate a game. Even though Anaheim is struggling out of the gate, they’re still a team loaded with dangerous talent. Getting both Ellis and Jackman back was an import piece not just for stability on the blue line, but for special teams.
“They’re two great defensemen,” said Ekholm. “The pairings we have now are pretty set. We all feel comfortable playing with each other. Me and Ellis going back to last year, we’re starting to find each other like we did last year. It’s always a learning process and a process to get into a new season, but I feel like we’re finding each other very well right now.”
Considering how even head coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t disappointed in the team’s play in their only loss of the season to the New York Islanders, there isn’t much more the Predators could ask for to start the season. They are tied with Dallas for not only the Central Division lead, but also the Western Conference. Nashville trails Montreal by two points for the league lead as well. Seven games in, Shea Weber and Roman Josi aren’t playing astronomical minutes, which will bode well for later in the season. Lastly, Carter Hutton has already had a start before the end of October.
“We really have gotten the results we’ve wanted,” said Ekholm. “We could always be better out there, making more plays and getting the system a little better for us. We can’t really say anything except we’re happy.”
For now, the team is continuing to gel in each game, and it can already be seen that the strategy has been adjusted from last season. This team is ready for the long haul, and it continues on Saturday when another offensively gifted team in the Pittsburgh Penguins visit Nashville.
Post game with Peter Laviolette:
Photo credit: Christina McCullough