Through the first few weeks of the season, Filip Forsberg and Pekka Rinne found themselves under the microscope for their lackluster play. Forsberg couldn’t seem to score a goal, despite racking up plenty of assists, and Rinne struggled with his rebound control and athleticism.
All of those narratives were put to bed on Saturday night when Forsberg scored his first goal of the season and Rinne earned his first shutout in a 5-0 win over the Anaheim Ducks.
Forsberg’s goal came late in the second period with the Predators already up 3-0. He got a phenomenal centering feed from Ryan Johansen and rifled the puck past goaltender John Gibson on the one-timer.
“A big part of my game is to score goals and produce offensively and obviously, the first one is tough,” Forsberg said. “I’ve been working hard for it.”
Head coach Peter Laviolette had the utmost confidence in Forsberg, despite the fact that he hadn’t scored up until tonight.
“I said it this morning that last game I thought he played a terrific game,” Laviolette said. “He was determined, bringing the puck to the net, and it was just a matter of time. Again, goal scorers that bring it to the net usually will end up scoring goals at some point.”
With his goal, and his tenth assist of the season on Ryan Ellis’ first period goal, Forsberg leads the team in points with 11. James Neal, who had two goals on the night against Anaheim, is close behind with 10 points (six goals, four assists).
For Rinne, who has let in just seven goals in the first six games of November, said he didn’t really change up much of his routine to right the ship.
“You always try to find a groove and just being myself, staying confident, the little things,” he said. “For me, everything starts from practices, working hard and just making sure my game is where it needs to be.”
In their eight games in the month of October, the Predators gave up an average of 3.25 goals per game. In their first six games of November, they’ve only given up 1.167 goals per game, excluding shootout goals against the Arizona Coyotes and Carolina Hurricanes.
Rinne said that his play can ebb and flow, but he feels confident in his abilities right now.
“It’s ups and downs, but my main goal is just to be consistent and be able to maintain a level where I feel like I’m playing my best game every single night,” he said. “This home stretch has been really good for me and my teammates, so hopefully I can keep it going. We haven’t been great on the road so far, but hopefully, now we have a chance to improve our record and also our play.”
He also knew that this shutout didn’t come easily. The Ducks peppered the net all night, especially with almost 11 minutes of power play time, forcing Rinne to make 27 saves throughout the game.
“It wasn’t your typical 5-0 game,” Rinne said. “I thought that Anaheim was really good, and then all of a sudden, we got some quick goals and turned the momentum. But, it’s always a dangerous and experienced team.”
It looked as if Anaheim was going to swing momentum in their favor when P.K. Subban took a four-minute high sticking minor in the opening minute of the period. But, Rinne and the rest of the penalty kill stood strong and kept the puck out of the net.
“We did a really good job on that four-minute penalty,” he said. “I made a couple of good saves, but they didn’t have too many quality opportunities. All night, we did a really good job on the PK.”
Laviolette was happy with Rinne’s shutout, and said that his confidence can be a boost to the rest of the team.
“I think that guys feed off of that,” Laviolette said. “When he’s on, it allows us to play our game. We know that what’s behind us is covered and it allows us to be aggressive.”
The Predators are now riding a six-game point streak heading into another road trip next week, and they may have turned a corner after their rough start to the season. Forsberg agrees, but knows his team can’t get complacent again.
“Yeah, I think so, but at the same time, we have to keep doing what we’ve been doing these past couple of games to keep getting the success,” he said. “It’s not going to come for granted, maybe that’s what we thought from the start. It’s changed a lot over the last few games, and I think that’s proved to be a good way to play hockey.”
The Predators hit the road to take on Auston Matthews, Morgan Rielly and the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:30 PM central.