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Post-Game Musings: Game 1 vs Detroit

by Jay Levin / Nashville Predators
A very strange, very un-Preds/Wings type of game --- 14 power-play chances, only half the game was played five-on-five (actually 34:58, but close enough), both teams enjoying a five-on-three, both teams struggling to generate speed through the neutral zone --- but that’s playoffs hockey. And, despite having its top two lines held off the scoresheet, Nashville skated away with the win.

Pekka Rinne was outstanding, especially in the second and third periods, Ryan Suter and Shea Weber showed why they are both Norris-caliber defensemen, and the Preds team depth up front pulled it through. In short, it was Smashville hockey.

Now on to the musings…

Peks Takes Over: As the game went on, Pekka Rinne continued to get stronger. He made five saves in the first period, 15 in the second, and another 15 in the third period. In the third, Rinne was sensational, making several highlight-reel caliber stops, but perhaps none better than his sprawling stop of Henrik Zetterberg around 1:40 into the third period (click here to watch). While Nashville was the benefactor of two quirkier goals, Rinne didn't allow the Wings any similar opportunities --- made all the saves, the easy one, the tough ones, the ones off the bad bounces, the ones while set up, the ones while scrambling. He was the backbone for the Preds tonight.

Blue Collar Win: Nashville’s blue collar lines --- Spaling centering Bourque and Hornqvist & Gaustad centering Halischuk and Yip --- carried the way tonight. Bourque scored two goals, redirecting one high under nearside crossbar and snapping the other inside the far post, and Gaustad scored the other. Beyond the goals, those two lines drew most of Nashville’s power-plays and created a strong majority of the team’s best scoring chances. Interestingly, during his morning skate press conference Detroit's Coach Babcock commented on how he liked his third and fourth lines against Nashville's Spaling and Gaustad lines; tonight that battle was decidedly in Nashville's favor.

The Goose: Tonight was the reason why David Poile was willing to part with a first round pick to grab Paul Gaustad at the trade deadline. Gaustad was a game-changer tonight --- and he didn’t need the goal to be a game-changer, although it was a well deserved bonus (his first goal as a member of the Preds none-the-less). His attention to detail, his defensive play (he saw 6:27 of shorthanded ice time), and his dominance in the faceoff circle (he won 12-of-20 draws) was what set Gaustad apart tonight. He won arguably the three biggest faceoffs of the night --- the win with under 6 seconds left in regulation closed out the win, his win on the draw just before that (with 23 second left) allowed the Preds to get an easy clear and run more time off the clock, and his win on the three-on-five penalty kill was paramount the Preds ability to kill off the two-man portion of the penalty.

Head Coach Barry Trotz...
"You always talk about how you’re going to need contributions right through your whole lineup. The bottom part of our lineup did a pretty good job today. We had a little bit of fortune – we threw pucks to the net and they went in. We need to do more of that – we need to have more net presence."

Goaltender Pekka Rinne on his save against Henrik Zetterberg...
"Just desperation. You just always need luck too when you make that kind of save. They made kind of a criss‐cross kind of pass. First to [Pavel] Datsyuk and Datsyuk – amazing player – found [Henrik] Zetterberg and I was able to reach my hand. Big save at the time, but got a little lucky too. I knew half the net was open. I just needed to dive there and use my soccer goalie skills."

Forward Paul Gaustad on tonight's win...
"We’re happy with our performance and the win obviously, but again it’s a long series. We’ve got to just get the next one."

NSH G Pekka Rinne – 35 saves, 14 saves on the penalty kill
NSH F Paul Gaustad – 1 goal, +1 plus/minus; 12-of-20 on faceoffs, 6:27 shorthanded ice time, won both faceoffs in the final 30 seconds of play to allow the Preds to run down the clock
NSH F Gabriel Bourque – 2 goals, +2 plus/minus; GWG, team-high 4 shots on goal

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