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Instant Analysis: Nashville's Weekend Sweep

by Jay Levin / Nashville Predators
Nashville’s sweep of the back-to-back set this weekend – Saturday vs. Detroit and Sunday at Buffalo – pushed the Preds into the top-eight in the Western Conference. Statistically, Blake Geoffrion stood out with four goals, Jonathon Blum netted the game-winner against Detroit, Martin Erat scored the overtime winner at Buffalo, but the results of the weekend go beyond the stats sheet.

Key Win By Anders Lindback On Sunday
Any points from a backup goaltender are huge. A 35-save performance on the road in the back end of a back-to-back set in the middle of a playoff push is immense. Anders Lindback’s performance on Sunday may turn out to be the linchpin to the Preds earning a playoff spot this season. Early in the second period Lindback made a handful of big stops, including a highlight reel toe save and lunging shoulder block on the rebound to keep the Preds up 1-0. In the third period, just moments after Blake Geoffrion tied the game, Lindback made a game-saving stop on Jason Pominville; a quick left pad save with 1:02 remaining in regulation, the final shot on goal the Sabres attempted in the game.

The short-term ramifications of Lindback’s starts are easy to see – two points in the standings. But longer-term, the mental and physical rest for Pekka Rinne as a result of the game off – Rinne had started 20 consecutive games from February 5 – March 19 – may pay even larger dividends over the final nine games of the season.

David Legwand’s Clutch Performance
Very quietly David Legwand has made some savvy veteran plays – the type of plays necessary for winning hockey games. Legwand skated 41:36 in the two games. He scored the empty-net goal to seal the win on Saturday over the Red Wings. And he assisted on the overtime winner at Buffalo on Sunday. He has 13 points (4g-9a) in his last 12 outings and 18 points (6g-12a) in 19 games since Feb. 9. Of Legwand’s 13 goals this season, two have tied the game, five have given the Preds a lead, and three have come with the Preds holding just a one goal advantage. His two-way play has been exemplary, despite consistently drawing tough match-up assignments, Legwand has posted a +12 plus/minus rating.

Offense From The Defense
Preds defensemen triggered the team’s offense this weekend. On Saturday, Jonathon Blum netted the game-winning goal with a power-play marker midway through the third period. Ryan Suter created the play on the empty-netter to seal the game, picking up the puck off the faceoff win, evading the wall of Red Wings attempting to strip the puck from him and creating a passing lane for David Legwand to earn the primary assist on the play.

Then on Sunday, with the Preds down 1-3 late in regulation, Blum joined the rush to give the Preds numbers entering the zone and then helped with a key one-on-one battle in the corner, freeing the puck out to Geoffrion. Geoffrion made a strong move to the nearside post and poked the puck under Ryan Miller to bring Nashville within one goal. A minute later, Geoffrion won an offensive zone faceoff and Sergei Kostitsyn shuttled the puck back to Cody Franson at the point. Franson snapped a low shot on net, allowing Geoffrion -- who was cutting through the high slot -- to deflect the puck past Miller and tie the game 3-3. First shift in overtime, Ryan Suter made a strong hold on a Buffalo clearing attempt, played the puck down low to David Legwand and jumped deeper in the zone. Legwand swooped behind the net and fed a pass to Suter out front. Suter pin-pointed a pass cross ice to Martin Erat at the bottom of the faceoff circle, who one-timed the feed home for the game-winner.

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