No, I’m not ready to rescind my prediction of Preds in six, but we did see a lot out of the Red Wings that we haven’t seen since the end of the home winning streak.
For starters, heading into the series Nashville looked like the team that would be getting a boost from its bottom six forwards, but through two games the Wings have actually gotten the output from guys like Tomas Holmstrom (who skated better last night than I have ever seen him skate…) and Corey Emmerton.
Pavel Datsyuk had a very good night in the faceoff circle last night, something they’ll need moving forward because Paul Gaustad has been stellar for the Predators.
Jimmy Howard wasn’t just good last night, he was outstanding. In actuality he didn’t face a ton of shots but it seemed like just about all of the Predators’s 25 shots were legitimate scoring threats.
Perhaps the MOST important factor is that the Wings had the swagger and determination that has been so lacking for the last month and a half, and it had nothing to do with the Bertuzzi fight and everything to do with the smart plays Drew Miller was making in tight spaces, the crisp tape-to-tape passes, and Brad Stuart bearing down and performing like his mind got back from California, where it has been the last 15 games of the season.
The Predators are still playing good hockey, if Jimmy Howard wasn’t on the ball, last night could have been a much different story. Most noticeable to me is the play of Alexander Radulov, who looked to suffer no ill effects from playing in the KHL during his 10 game regular season stint with the Preds, but suddenly has a case of the Hudlers and looks soft in the corners and with the added tightness of playoff hockey has mostly been a non-factor. If the Preds want to continue deeper into the playoffs Radulov needs to find time and space.
Nothing makes less sense to me than a noon start hockey game. Hockey players are finely tuned athletes and starting a game at noon after an entire season of prime time starts is just bizarre. Not to mention when the game starts in Nashville it will only be 11am in Tennessee. Both teams have to deal with it, but I find it usually waters down the first few minutes of a hockey game.