NASHVILLE, Tenn. | Inspirational slogans are part of just about every NHL locker room. The Nashville Predators’ room has the line “Be hard to play against and even harder to beat.”
For this team, it’s the truth. Barry Trotz’s Predators are known for a tight-checking style and defensive prowess. There aren’t a lot of offensive superstars in Nashville, but there are shutdown defensemen Shea Weber and Ryan Suter and Vezina Trophy finalist Pekka Rinne in goal.
For the Capitals, facing the Devils over the weekend was a nice preview, but this is a whole new game.
“It’s like going from the frying pan into the fire,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “They’re both very tough defensive teams with great goaltending. We played Nashville twice in preseason; we didn’t solve them.”
That’s because the Predators are a hard team for any opponent to solve. They won’t play a whole lot of run-and-gun games, and they won’t Tuesday night.
Trotz talked about needing to bear down even more this time against a Caps team known for its depth.
“You’ve just got check well. You’ve got to check without the puck, you’ve got to be really good one-on-one,” Trotz said. “You don’t want them to enter the blue line and start coming laterally on you and then finding secondary waves and stuff like that.”
When the Caps have those waves of offense, which they can bring with several offensively talented lines, they not only run into a strong defensive system but Weber and Suter. At least that will likely be the matchup for the top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Troy Brouwer.
The Caps are prepared for Weber and Suter.
“They are the best pairing, I would think, in the National Hockey League,” Boudreau said. “They both play anywhere from 25 to 30 minutes a game and they’re both extremely good defensively.”
Boudreau’s praise for Weber and Suter included calling them one of the best pairings to come around in a “long, long time.”
That they’ve been so good together comes from not only their individual talents but playing together.
“There’s definitely chemistry there,” Weber said. “We’ve played together for quite a while now, so it’s kind of like a second nature – you just kind of know what each other are doing, and it makes things easier when you play together for a while.”