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Mully's Musings: at Phoenix

by Bryan Mullen / Nashville Predators
Oh yeah, there was also a hockey game on Thursday.

The news of Pekka Rinne’s seven-year, $49 million deal dominated the headlines for most of the day. Later in the evening, Rinne and the Nashville Predators dominated Phoenix at Arena. The 3-0 shutout victory may serve as a catalyst for the Predators, who started their four-game West Coast road trip against the Coyotes.

Following Wednesday’s practice, forward Mike Fisher said the team obviously wanted to win every game on the trip, but if they won three of four, “it would be a great trip,” he said. Nashville --- which now has points in its last four games --- has put itself in position to achieve that mini goal.

There was plenty of good news from Nashville’s side. Forwards Mike Fisher (upper body) and Sergei Kostitsyn (lower body) returned to game action after battling recent injuries. Rookie Craig Smith continued to impress, providing a beautiful assist on Matt Halischuk’s goal in the second, and also totaling six of Nashville’s 10 shots on goal in the first. And the Predators’ defense and goaltending was stellar once again.

To the musings…

Rinne’s Day: There are good days and there are great days. For Rinne, his was at a whole different level. It was his 29th birthday, he signed the seven-year, $49 million deal, and he notched a shutout. No word if he saved a cat from a tree. Rinne stopped all 35 shots he faced and was on his game from the start. Midway through the first, the Coyotes’ Mikkel Boedker had a shorthanded breakaway, but Rinne kept his right pad down and made the save. Four minutes into the third with Phoenix on the power play, Rinne made a great save by stretching wide. In short, this is how the NHL’s highest-paid goaltender performs.

Blum bounces back: It was no secret that defenseman Jon Blum struggled to start the season. Coach Barry Trotz even admitted that the coaching staff put Blum in a position earlier this year that was difficult for him to succeed in. But Blum had been playing well in the past three or four games, and he notched his first goal of the season at 8:01 of the second. He wristed a shot from just inside the blue line and received a nice screen from Halischuk.

Looking to score: The line of Colin Wilson, David Legwand and Patric Hornqvist was excellent and had tons of scoring chances. They combined for 11 shots on goal and during the second and third periods were Nashville's most consistent unit. Legwand won 12 of 19 faceoffs, which gave them a leg up by starting the play with the puck. And they made little plays on the defensive end, too; Hornqvist raced down the ice to beat an icing rap when the Coyotes had the momentum and had the Preds hemmed in the defensive end. It was fitting that Legwand and Hornqvist combined for the empty-netter to seal it.

G Pekka Rinne: Stopped all 35 shots, third shutout of 2011-12
F Craig Smith: 1 assist, team-high 6 shots, +1 rating
F Matt Halischuk: 1 goal, +2 rating, created the turnover which led to Nashville's first goal

F Patric Hornqvist: “I think the whole team has played much, much better the past five or six games. We’ve been throwing a lot of pucks at the net. We’ve taken a few steps forward here so it’s nice to see.”

G Pekka Rinne: “It’s been an amazing day. One to remember, for sure.”
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