For the majority of this season, the Nashville Predators have been probably rightly criticized for a lack of scoring touch around the nets of their opponents. But in an effort to strike quickly in Thursday night’s game against the Phoenix Coyotes, they were maybe a little too aggressive in trying to get that game’s first goal.
Just three minutes into the opening stanza, four Predators were caught low in the Phoenix zone around Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith. The major problem with this attempt at offense was the fact that former Predator Steve Sullivan had the puck and was quickly headed the other way.
Caught low in the Phoenix zone were forwards Paul Gaustad, Brandon Yip, and Rich Clune, along with pinching blueliner Kevin Klein. Left all by his lonesome in front of goaltender Pekka Rinne was second-year defenseman Roman Josi.
Recognizing that they had a good opportunity in transition, all four of Sullivan’s teammates on the ice at the time decided to join in the rush to try to get the early lead.
That’s right, it was the not often seen and tough to defend against 5-on-1 rush headed into the Nashville zone.
“The first period, we were maybe too offensive,” Predators head coach Barry Trotz said with a laugh. “I haven’t seen a 5-on-1 in a couple of years. That was new. It was like a flock of seagulls coming at our net.”
And no, it was not A Flock of Seagulls, as that would have been original band members Michael Score, Paul Reynolds, Frank Maudsley, and Ali Score heading down the ice, it was Sullivan, along with Antoine Vermette, David Moss, Rostislav Klesla, Keith Yandle, and Derek Morris.
“I Ran,” – no. They skated – yes.
And even at 38-years-old, Sullivan can still skate.
“I was hoping he wasn’t going to score against us to be quite honest, but I was hoping he had a good game and he did,” Trotz added.
As he came down the left side, Sullivan read Josi and decided to take the shot rather than attempt a pass.
“I’d have to go back and look, I didn’t realize there were so many guys coming up the ice,” Sullivan said following the game. “I looked at it more as a 2-on-1. When the defenseman took my pass away, I decided to take it to the net and try to shoot. Rinne was there for the save.”
Not recognizing he had four teammates with him is no fault of Sullivan’s. After all, it is not something that happens, well pretty much ever at the NHL level. And since he was leading the break, the rest of his teammates were all following.
Sullivan did what he should have when he saw that his pass option was taken away.
Rinne did what he does so well too. He gloved down Sullivan’s shot and held it for a whistle. If there had been any semblance of a rebound there, Sullivan’s teammates would have gladly cleaned it up for him.
“He seems to be tracking pucks very well, rebound control, everything,” Sullivan said. “He’s in the zone right now for sure.”
In posting his second consecutive shutout and third in his last four starts, Rinne certainly is in the zone.
If he keeps this up, he may run away with the Hart Trophy when it is handed out this summer. We can only hope there is a little glam rock playing in the background when he accepts.