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Friday, October 27, 2006

Preds edge Sharks

The Preds (5-3-1) edged the Sharks (7-4) by a score of 4-3 last night in a thrilling, fast and physical matchup. Here are my answers for yesterday's three questions:

  1. I don't think the Preds' five-day break between games or the Sharks' game on Wednesday night seemed to matter much on the ice. This was a hard-fought, physical game the whole way through, and it was really fun to watch.
  2. The Preds outshot the Sharks 29-27 and, most importantly, considerably reduced their shots against from 46 during their previous game. That's a good sign.
  3. The Sharks still outmuscled the Preds at times in the first and third periods, but the Preds' size upgrades were noticeable on the ice. They dominated the second period, too.
Here are a few other observations I had while watching the game. Both teams forecheck aggressively, and that made for a lot of back-and-forth skating. On the Sharks goal that opened the scoring at 1-0, Dan Hamhuis only partially connected on his signature hip check near the left boards, and Joe Thornton (who was a beast all night) shook it off and found Mark Bell for an easy goal.

Alexander Radulov's score to tie the game at 1-1 was a wicked wrister that caught Sharks goalie Vesa Toskala totally off guard. Not bad for Radulov's first NHL goal. As he should have, Radulov was exuberant in the wake of the score and leapt off the ice before being surrounded by his teammates. Radulov logged about 11 minutes of ice time and was all over the place during play. He looks to be a stud in waiting behind a talented set of Preds forwards. He easily slipped behind the Sharks defense a couple of times and was blazing fast at times. He played sound positionally on most shifts and had a couple of solid checks, too. He didn't hesitate to get in front of Toskala in the second period and attempt a redirect on a shot from the point, either.

Scott Hartnell was a force on the ice all night. His goal to make the score 2-1 came on a pretty tic-tac-toe passing play that left him alone in front of the net. His second goal late in the contest, the eventual game winner, was all hustle and a brilliant play, as he bounced the puck off Toskala from behind the goal. The Arnott, Kariya and Erat line played extremely well all night and continues to be huge for the Preds. Erat, in particular, stands out in my mind so far this season as the team's most improved player. Tomas Vokoun was exceptional in net, as usual, and he bailed the Preds out at times in the third. I am concerned that the Preds yet again surrendered a two-goal advantage in allowing the Sharks to tie the game 3-3, but they didn't buckle down the stretch.

All in all, this was a good way to wrap up a short homestand and head out for a long road trip on a high note. We'll see how the team plays as it makes the typically tough Northwest swing through Canada over the next week or so. Go Preds!

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