The Nashville Predators polished off a clinical three game winning streak last night with a 3-0 shutout win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. With the win, there are some signs that this team is finally putting it all together just in time for the playoffs to start.
In the win, Brian Boyle, Wayne Simmonds, and Filip Forsberg all scored for the Predators, while Pekka Rinne handled things at the other end. Rinne finished with 22 saves and recorded his 55th career shutout. It was also his second shutout of the season against the Maple Leafs.
“I feel like both of these games against Toronto have been great team wins,” Rinne said after Tuesday’s win, alluding to the fact that he only had to face 40 total shots in two games against the Maple Leafs.
Holding guys like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and John Tavares off the scoreboard for 60 minutes is no easy task, but the Preds made it look relatively easy. Deploying an effective neutral zone trap, the Preds didn’t allow much of anything in the middle of the ice. Both teams combined for only 42 shots on goal and 91 total shot attempts.
It was still an exciting game for the Bridgestone Arena crowd, as the teams combined for 13 high danger attempts. The heat map from Natural Stat Trick shows this game didn’t have much action, but when it did, the action was intense:
But last night’s win wasn’t just about last night. It was a culmination of three straight impressive performances and a suggestion that the Preds have turned a corner.
It started last Thursday night in Los Angeles, with the Preds surging ahead in the 2nd period to win 3-1 over a bad Kings team. At the time, it was probably more of a relief to win that game than anything else. Having lost to the Ducks two nights before, the Preds just needed to get their legs back.
Then on Saturday, the Preds went into San Jose and won for only the 14th time ever in 37 games. The 4-2 win was arguably the Preds’ best road win of the season. Juuse Saros played a key role, stopping 24 saves for his 16th win of the year.
Then came last night. Though it was a home game, keeping that offense off the board yet again is an impressive feat.
You have to wonder if the Preds have found another gear here. All four phases of the game, offense, defense, power play, and penalty kill, have looked better over these last three games. Key players like Ryan Ellis, Craig Smith, and Pekka Rinne have looked much better.
And now the new guys are contributing. Simmonds and Boyle scored the first two goals last night. Mikael Granlund has helped guide the power play, though he hasn’t scored yet.
This would be the perfect time for the Preds to hit their stride. With eight games remaining in the schedule, the Preds just need to get up to playoff speed with everyone healthy.
The next two games will be a heat check for Nashville, facing the Penguins at home and then the Jets on the road. If the Predators can come away with four points in those games, I’d say it’s time to call the fire department.
— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —