Preds 2, Blues 4
The Nashville Predators 2013-14 season didn’t get off the start everyone had hoped for, but there were some positive things to take away from Thursday night’s 4-2 loss in St. Louis.
Pekka Rinne got off to a bumpy start after allowing three goals on St. Louis’ first six shots of the game. Rinne is still recovering from offseason hip surgery, but there were several defensive breakdowns that led to the early goals. A positive to take away from the early breakdown was the play of Carter Hutton in relief of Rinne – see below for my note on Hutton.
The line of Mike Fisher, Nick Spaling and Eric Nystrom was everything Preds fans could have hoped for on Thursday night. They were aggressive, hard on the forecheck and created several decent scoring changes early on. That early chemistry paid off as the trio connect for the first goal of the 2013-14 season. Nystrom battled down low to push the puck to Spaling, who found Fisher wide open in front of the net. Fisher was able to bury the Spaling feed past Jaroslav Halak to cut the Blues lead to 3-1.
David Legwand picked up where in left off in 2012-13, when he led the team with 12 goals, as he tipped a Patric Hornqvist pass over Halak’s shoulder to pull the Preds within one. But the Blues would regain the two goal lead just minutes later on the power play as a shot from Alex Steen trickled past Hutton.
Despite the loss, the Preds showed several positive things, but they also displayed some areas to work on. The offensive was noticeably more active tonight – they were forechecking hard, they were active in front of the net, they put a lot of shots on goal and everyone worked to generate as many scoring chances as possible. On the negative side, the youth along the Preds blueline showed early, although their defensive play did solidified as the game went on. That should be an area of interest for Preds fans going forward in 2013-14.
Two Big Things And Some Notes:
Me and Mr. Jones: Rookie Seth Jones celebrated his 19th birthday by making his NHL debut last night in St. Louis. Jones becomes the first Preds rookie to make his NHL debut in a season opener since Craig Smith in the 2011-12 season. The 6-4, 205-pound defenseman played a total of 18:35 of ice time, including 3:52 on the power play. Jones fired three shots on goal and posted a +2 rating on the night.
Jones looked strong all game long. He was composed under pressure, made smart decisions with the puck and is quickly earning the trust of the coaching staff as evidenced by both his total ice time and power-play time. As I wrote during the preseason, Jones has come as advertised and has done nothing but impress during his short time with the Preds.
Back-Up Plan: Goaltender Carter Hutton was called upon early in the 2013-14 season, after Pekka Rinne allowed three goals on six shots in St. Louis. Hutton, making just his second NHL appearance, allowed one power-play goal on 22 shots against in 50:15 of work after the change. Prior to last night, the Thunder Bay, Ont., native had only played one NHL contest – the final game of last season with Chicago, a 3-1 loss to the Blues.
Some have questioned Hutton’s ability to be a reliable back-up for Pekka Rinne going into this season given his limited NHL experience. He posted a couple up-and-down performances during the preseason, but I think the composure he showed coming on early for Rinne on Thursday night says a lot about Hutton’s character and his skill set. If he continues to post solid outings like he did in St. Louis, fans can rest easy that Hutton will be able to shoulder the limited workload in relief of Rinne.
• Mike Fisher opened the scoring on the 2013-14 season with his goal at 10:42 of the first period.
• David Legwand tallied a goal in a season opener for the fifth time in his career and the first time since Oct. 9, 2010. Legwand led the Predators in goals a season ago with 12.
• Paul Gaustad won 12 of 18 face-offs (66.7 percent) on the night. Gaustad led Nashville and ranked third in the League in face-off efficiency a season ago (57.7 percent), his fourth season finishing among the League’s Top 10 in the category.
• Shea Weber led the Preds with 26:59 of total ice time. Weber led the team in ice time in 37 of 48 games a season ago and logged more than 25 minutes on 33 occasions. No Preds player logged less than 11 minutes against the Blues.
• Eric Nystrom’s 10 PIM (a game misconduct penalty) were his most penalty minutes since March 6, 2009 when he posted a career-high 17 minutes as a member of the Flames.
• Nashville outshot St. Louis 30-28. The Predators only outshot their opponents 19 times last season, going 7-9-3 in those contests. Patric Hornqvist and Roman Josi led the Preds with a game-high four shots apiece.