Pekka Rinne, a goalie, scored a goal tonight. Let me be more specific- Pekka Rinne, a goalie who has, until tonight, never scored a goal in the NHL, scored a goal from 195 feet away against the Chicago Blackhawks in their home barn, capping the game at 5-2. Not to flex, but I, a Preds fan based in Chicago, saw it happen live. Did I mention it's the first NHL goalie goal since Mike Smith's in 2013? Yeah, that too.
Tonight’s game saw not only one, but two Predators score their first NHL goals. Colin Blackwell contributed to a massive three-goal first period with a pretty dish over Corey Crawford’s left shoulder.
Despite a pretty defense-heavy second period, the Preds played a very complete game in Chicago. You could almost tell there was a different vibe during the first few shifts; they played cohesive, smart, team-minded hockey. And yes, Roman Josi extended his point streak to a 12th straight game with a beautifully dangled assist on Viktor Arvidsson's early goal.
The storylines are so plentiful that John Hynes' first win as the coach of the Nashville Predators seems almost dull. But let's give credit where it's due- Hynes opted to substitute Blackwell for Austin Watson in the fourth line forward slot tonight, and it made a significant difference. Not only did Blackwell score, he also recorded a shot, a hit, four blocks, and a +1 rating all within the 10:46 he logged on the ice. Hynes clearly saw that Watson- who is averaging over a minute more time on ice than Blackwell per game- wasn't putting together nearly as productive a stat line as the guy who's played 11 games with the Preds this season and already has four points and a +6 rating. For reference, Watson has played in 40 games this year with just 13 points and a -2 rating. It was probably viewed by Hynes as a low risk-low reward swap, but it payed dividends.
The Preds were only outshot by a single shot tonight, but the Corsi For percentage still heavily favored the Blackhawks. This means the Blackhawks were able to create a lot of offensive opportunities, but were unable to convert on most of their possessions. The shot heat map from tonight shows that the Blackhawks successfully garnered their two goals from the center slot, but otherwise didn't venture out to the wings much. The Preds scored their non-empty net goals from close range, too, but were able to space their shots out a little more.
Tonight was fun. You should have been there *wink*! No, but really. Let's do that more often, boys.
The Preds will be in Winnipeg on Sunday to face the Jets. Since the Preds were able to surpass Minnesota in the standings after tonight's win and their loss, the Jets are the team to catch up to next in the Central. Winnipeg has 52 points on the season and are 10-9-2 at home. They lost in Boston tonight, but also won't have to play again until Sunday's tilt. Just remember, Kyle Connor is a menace for the Preds.