Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Predators Blow 2 Leads and 2 points, Fall In Shootout to the Canucks

The Nashville Predators had a prime opportunity to extend their Central Division lead to 5 points by taking care of business against the Vancouver Canucks at the Bridgestone Arena.

The Canucks had played a hard game against the St. Louis Blues the night before, while the Predators had the day off.

The Predators pissed away a point, however, blowing leads twice in the game before losing in a shootout 5-4.

I frankly am pretty disgusted. If you want the box score, you can get it here.

Some observations:

  • This team continues to amaze me at their lack of killer instinct. After a dominant first period that saw the Predators go to the locker room with a 2 goal lead, they were terrible in the second period. The Canucks first goal never should have happened as Pekka Rinne was beaten five hole on an easily stoppable shot. And to give up a shorthanded goal after a brutal Seth Jones turnover at the start of the third is inexcusable. When you have a team, a tired team, down you don't let them back into the game. This is a matter of will over skill, and the Predators lack of intensity and will is disturbing. The playoffs are all about will and grit, and this team seems to be coming up short in that area.
  • That said, it seems that this team isn't comfortable playing with a lead but will battle like hell to get back into a game. I appreciate the compete level when they are behind, but when you have leads, don't get behind. Protect those leads and amp up your intensity level. Instead, the Predators seem to sit back and let Rinne stop shots (think the Ducks game earlier this month). And when Rinne struggles, like he did tonight, this team is in trouble.
  • Rinne was not sharp tonight. Both of the second period goals were goals that Rinne usually eats up. This team leans so heavily on Rinne, and when his game is off, they struggle mightily.
  • The power play continues to baffle me. We score a power play goal from Cody Franson and then the man advantage unit goes cold. This killed the team when they had a 5 minute power play late in the third and one minute into overtime. Five minutes of power play time and we managed 4 shots. This unit continues to worry me and I still feel that this will be a serious problem in the playoffs. One aspect of this unit that puzzles me is the continued inconsistency of getting traffic in front of the opposing goaltender. The Preds tried using Taylor Beck and Gabriel Bourque on the power play to do that but there were long stretches where they weren't on the ice. Bombing shots from the point toward an unscreened netminder is rarely going to get you a goal, but this seems to be the only strategy for this unit.
  • Vancouver played a chippy game and Kevin Bieksa was a classless piece of crap, yapping at an injured Paul Gaustad. Bieksa was given a game misconduct for his classless antics.
  • Mike Fisher had a 3 point night with a goal and two assists. Fisher now has 19 goals on the season. If you had told me that the team would get that kind of production from Fish after rupturing his Achilles tendon in the offseason, I would have seriously doubted you. I am impressed with the effort Fisher brings to the ice every night. Some other players need to follow suit.
  • Seth Jones is...an adventure. He will make an outstanding play and will next shift make a brutal play. His turnover at the Predators blue line while on the power play set up Alex Burrows shorthanded goal. Consistency is definitely an issue for Seth.
  • Shea Weber missed his third game with a lower body injury.
  • Roman Josi continues to impress. His level of play has been solid all season and he has elevated his game of late. Josi had 8 points (4G-4A) in his last 9 games. he had 30:16 of ice time tonight.
  • The Predators were 6-7-2 in March. This trend has to get back on an upswing before the playoffs.
I continue to believe this team has the potential to go far in the playoffs. But if they cannot hold leads and up their intensity level for 60 minutes, the time in the playoffs could be short.

My three stars:

1. Eddie Lack

2. Mike Fisher

3. Alex Burrows

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Predators Burned By the Flames 5-2

The Nashville Predators were playing their third game in 4 days.

It showed, as the Calgary Flames dominated the Predators at Bridgestone Arena, taking a 5-2 victory and sweeping their season series.

It started well for the Predators as Roman Josi opened the scoring with a well placed shot that beat Jonas Hiller to give the Predators a 1-0 first period lead.

That lead evaporated when Lance Bouma was able to gather a rebound in the slot and slip the puck between the pads of Carter Hutton.

Kris Russell gave the Flames a 2-1 lead when his shot hit the skate of Paul Gaustad and deflected past Hutton.

The Flames tacked on two more second period goals. The Predators defense let Michael Ferland alone at the top of the crease and he beat Hutton to make it 3-1.

Jiri Hudler let a shot go that Hutton appeared to stop between his pads, but the puck squirted out and trickled over the goal line to make it 4-1.

Seth Jones gave the Predators some life in the third period when his bullet from the blue line beat Hiller over his shoulder to make it 4-2.

The Predators pulled Hutton for an extra attacker, and predictably gave up an empty net goal by Bouma for the final 5-2 margin.

Some observations:

  • When  you looked at the schedule and saw 4 games in 6 days against some top flight competition (Montreal, Tampa Bay, Washington, and Calgary) and told me that the Predators would take 6 of 8 points, I would have gladly taken that. The Predators played some good hockey during this stretch, and frankly, looked like a tired team at times against the Flames.
  • I don't fault Hutton on the first 3 Calgary goals, but goodness, he has got to stop that 4th goal. That was incredibly soft and dug a hole too deep for the Predators.
  • When the Norris trophy discussions are held, Roman Josi's name has to be mentioned. Josi continues to play at a very high level against the opposition's best forwards and is doing a stellar job. He just brings it every game. His goal gives him 55 points for the season, one shy of the all time record for a Predators defenseman.
  • Seth Jones tied a career record for points (25) with his first period goal. Seth has been up and down this season, but I like the way he has stepped in on the first D pairing with Shea Weber out due to an injury. I have to keep reminding myself that Seth is still a young player and in just his second season in the NHL. He shows lots of upside potential, and patience will be required as he continues to develop.
  • Weber missed his second game with a lower body injury.
  • Mike Ribeiro picked up an assist on the goal by Jones, giving him 499 for his career. He also set a single season mark for assists by a Predators center with 45, passing Jason Arnott.
  • The Predators defense was leaky at times, allowing the flames to have free access to the slot. That may be a fatigue factor, but the Flames are a desperate team and once again, the Predators had difficulty in matching the intensity of a hungry opponent.
  • This was the last set of back to back games in this season for the Predators.
  • The Predators had one power play in the game, and did not score. Once again, the unit continues to struggle to gain the zone and generate quality scoring chances. Same song, same verse.
  • As of tonight, the Predators have 5 games remaining. They have 102 points and lead St. Louis by 3 and third place Minnesota by 7 in the Central Division. Anaheim leads the Western Conference and the League with 103 points.
The Predators play Vancouver at home on Tuesday and are then off until Saturday when they play Dallas at home.

This will give the team an opportunity for some practice and rest and recovery.

They can use it as they sprint toward the playoffs.

My three stars:

1. Lance Bouma

2. Jiri Hudler

3. Roman Josi

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Predators Clinch Playoff Spot With 4-3 Win Over the Capitals, and Scenes From the Road

The Nashville Predators were looking to continue their winning ways going into their game with the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center.

The task was going to be a bit more difficult as Shea Weber was out of the line up and called day to day with the dreaded "lower body injury".

The Predators proved they were up to the task, scoring 3 first period goals on the way to a 4-3 victory.

Moments after killing off a 55 second 5 on 3 advantage for the Caps, Mattias Ekholm, who was one of the Preds in the box, took a puck that was muffed by Curtis Glencross at the Capitals blue line and beat Braden Holtby with a sweet backhand shot to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.

Mike Fisher made it 2-0 with a wrist shot through traffic.

The Capitals former first round pick, Filip Forsberg drilled a wrist shot past Holtby for a 3-0 first period lead and that ended the afternoon for Holtby. He was lifted for Justin Peters after giving up 3 goals on 13 shots.

The Caps scored just 19 seconds into the second period as the Predators got scrambly in their end and Troy Brouwer lifted a puck over a fallen Pekka Rinne.

Brouwer would score a short handed goal as Forsberg made a blind drop pass in the neutral zone that Brower picked off and beat Rinne low to the stick side.

Mike Ribeiro gave the Predators a 4-2 lead after Forsberg won a battle on the wall and passed to Ribeiro in the low slot. He redirected it past Peters to give the Predators some breathing room.

That goal was the game winner because the Caps stormed out and scored just 20 seconds into the third period to make it 4-3. Mike Green scored from the blue line through traffic to cut the lead to 1 and increase exponentially the pucker factor of every Preds fan.

Rinne and the defense were able to shut the door on the Caps to secure the win and a playoff spot. The Predators have now won 4 straight games, including 3 over Eastern Conference playoff contenders (Montreal, Tampa Bay, and Washington).

Some observations:

  • With Weber out of the line up, the defensive pairings were: roman Josi and Seth Jones; Mattias Ekholm and Cody Franson; and Anton Volchenkov and Ryan Ellis. The blueliners were very good today, and I have to give kudos to Volchenkov and Ellis in particular. They got caught several times with Ovechkin's line on the ice and handled themselves very well. And what can you say about Roman Josi? He handled some tough minutes and continues to impress with his poise, solid play, and ability to move the puck.
  • I also really like the play of Mattias Ekholm. He is playing with confidence and has shown some offensive flair. His goal was a beauty, completely fooling Holtby with a quick backhand.
  • I saw Weber in the hotel before the game and spoke with him. He did not appear to be in pain and was moving well. Hopefully he returns to the line up quickly.
  • Filip Forsberg picked up a goal and 2 assists (thank you former Caps GM George McPhee!). But the play that really stood out to me was his work on the wall the win the puck and get it to Ribeiro for the game winning goal. One of the underrated aspects of his game is the strength that he has and his ability to use that strength to win puck battles. That goal was a direct result of his strong effort on the boards.
  • Pekka Rinne was once again solid in net. He stopped 23 of 26 shots and picked up his 41st win of the season. Rinne looks confident and smooth in the net, and there is no doubt the team feeds on that condidence that he brings.
  • The Predators held Alex Ovechkin without a goal. He had 2 goals in their contest against the Predators in Nashville. Ovi has now gone 7 straight games without a goal.
  • The Caps had 45 hits to the Predators 17. That is an indication of how the Predators possessed the puck and forced the Caps to chase.
  • Once again, the penalty kill was excellent, killing off all 5 of the Capitals power plays, including 55 seconds of a 5 on 3. The Caps have a potent offense and power play and the Predators did a good job of foiling their entries into the zone and disrupting their offensive flow.
  • Likewise, the Caps did the same thing to the Predators power play. The Predators even managed to give up a short handed goal off a bone headed drop pass to no one by Forsberg. This unit has got to start performing at a higher level quickly. Please!
This was a very big win by the team, not only for clinching a playoff spot but for meeting the challenge of playing a quality playoff contender and taking care of business in a hostile environment.

Now they have to keep it rolling. Going into the playoffs on a roll is certainly preferable to limping into the postseason.

My three stars:

1. Filip Forsberg

2. Troy Brouwer

3. Mike Ribeiro

Here are some scenes from DC:

The Verizon Center is right in the middle of downtown. The 20 year old barn is a nice facility, but inside is starting to show its age a bit. While Verizon has the naming rights on the facility, notice the big T-Mobil LED ad on the corner of the building.

A view of the arena before the game.

The ladies just can't resist sharp dressed men wearing gold.

My hockey pal and traveling companion Mark Blake on the right and Pete Weber. We had an opportunity to tour the historic National Press Club and have dinner there on Friday night. The history in that facility and some of the exhibits there were amazing.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Predators Defeat the Lightning 3-2, and Scenes From the Road

Boy, it's fun to win hockey games again!

Even if they are the nail-biting, sweat it out to the end kind of games.

The Nashville Predators did just that as they took on the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena. The Predators knocked off the Lightning 3-2, beating a top ranked Eastern Conference team for the second game in a row.

The Lightning opened the game with lots of jump and controlled play in the Predators end of the ice, outshooting them 9-3 through the first ten minutes of the first period.

The positive for the Predators was that they scored on 2 of those three shots.

Mike Ribeiro redirected a shot from the point by Roman Josi that eluded Ben Bishop. Just 40 seconds later, Paul Gaustad batted a puck out of the air off a rebound of a Taylor Beck shot past Bishop to give the Predators a 2-0 lead.

The Lightning cut the lead to 2-1 with just 39 seconds remaining in the the first period as Vladamir Namestnikov beat Pekka Rinne on a wrap around.

Mike Santorelli got his first goal as a Predators as he followed the rebound of his shot and jammed it between the skate of Bishop and the post to make it 3-1.

Brian Boyle cut the lead to 3-2 as the Predators defense completely forgot about him standing in the low slot. He took a pass from J.T. Brown and beat Rinne and give the momentum to the Bolts.

That set up a third period where the game rested on the broad shoulders of Rinne. Rinne didn't disappoint as he made some great saves and got some help from the defense in front of him. Rinne stopped all 11 shots he faced and the Predators captured a confidence building 3-2 win.

Some observations:

  • With the win, the Predators are the first team in the Central Division to reach 100 points. They currently have the Division lead by 1 over the Blues.
  • Rinne was outstanding tonight. He was in control and moved well in the crease. The only time he was caught out of position was on the goal by Namestnikov, and it appeared that he was tangled with one of his defensemen when he tried to push off and come back to the post. Rinne was in control of the game and his team in front of him fed off that effort.
  • Goodness, the power play is just awful. I have no words for this unit and their inability to generate some quality chances. Watch out, because this is going to be an Achilles heel for this team. 
  • Good to see Mike Santorelli finally get on the score sheet. Hopefully this gets him going.
  • Calle Jarnkrok was a beast on the penalty kill and his forechecking frustrated the skilled Lightning forwards and disrupted their offensive rhythm all night. Great effort in a roll that is often overlooked.
Just a brief update, but here are some pictures from the road:

 Amalie Arena is downtown and is a beautiful facility. This is a view of the main entrance and the
The home crowd gathers here before the game and it is a festive atmosphere.

The plaza area is called "Thunder Alley, and this is a view of it before the crowds gather. The band stage is to the right.

 The statue of Phil Esposito on the plaza. Phil was the first General Manager of the Lightning and still does radio color for the team.

 The statue of Dave Andruchuk, the Captain of the Lightning when they won the Stanley Cup. As you can see, it is at the entrance to Thunder Alley.

The massive scoreboard inside of Amalie Arena. You almost feel like you are in Jerry World in Dallas when you see the size of the scoreboard.

 The Arena doesn't have a band stage, but they have a huge organ that is played throughout the game. This is a shot of the stage where the organ sits at the top of the arena.

The arena has two Tesla coils that fire off lightning bolts when the Lightning come on the ice. I have to say, it is one of the coolest things I have seen in an arena.

A huge win for the Predators, one that will hopefully give them more swagger as they sprint to the end of the season.

A final thought: big, BIG ups to the number of Predators fans that made the trip down to support the boys. There was a noticeable amount of gold spread throughout the arena.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Brian Boyle

3. Paul Gaustad

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Predators Return the Favor, Defeat the Canadiens in OT

The two best goaltenders in the NHL as well as two of the best teams went head to head at the Bridgestone Arena as the Nashville Predators dueled with the Montreal Canadiens.

In their first meeting, the Canadiens won in overtime.

The Predators returned the favor, defeating the Candiens 3-2 on a Filip Forsberg power play goal.

Forsberg's heroics were set up by a tripping penalty on P.K. Subban for the Predators 5th power play goal of the night.

Mattias Ekholm opened the scoring with a highlight reel goal. Ekholm stole the puck, split the defense and was tripped. Ekholm got up off his belly, got to his knees, and flipped the puck past Carey Price to make it 1-0 for the Predators.

The Candiens came back strong in the second period, scoring twice to take a 2-1 lead. The Predators failed to clear a puck that Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne should have covered. The puck squirted out into the slot and Brendan Gallagher slammed the puck past Rinne to tie the game at 1.

David Desharnais gave the Habs the lead when the Predators defensive coverage broke down. Desharnais was left alone at the side of the net, and P.A. Parenteau found him with a perfect pass. Rinne had no chance as Desharnais banged home the puck into a wide open net.

Ryan Ellis tied the game in the third period when his flip from the blue line hit the ice 10 feet in front of Price. Filip Forsberg was in front screening Price and the puck took a high bounce and into the net over the shoulder of Price for a 2 all score.

In the overtime, Forsberg stole the puck from Subban and was off on a breakaway when Subban tripped Forsberg. On the ensuing power play, Mike Ribeiro mad a nice pass across the slot and Forsberg buried the game winner over an out of position Price.

Some observations:

  • Mattias Ekholm scored a beauty of a goal. He stole the puck, split the defense, was tripped, and still had the presence to get his stick on the puck and lift it over Price. That goal was the first goal that Price had given up in 166:10 of play. Ekholm has been solid in the defensive end and has shown some surprisingly good offensive flair. That goal had to lift the Predators as it showed they could score against the best netminder in the NHL.
  • Price leads the league with 40 wins. Pekka Rinne is right behind him, picking up his 39th win tonight. Rinne was strong in the net and made some quality saves. Both goals that the Canadiens scored occurred off defensive breakdowns by the team in front of him. The Desharnais goal was especially egregious, as the forward responsible for Desharnais was no where to be found on that scoring play. Rinne was solid and made some very good saves on quality scoring chances by the Habs.
  • Ryan Ellis scored his career high 7th goal with what could be charitably called a fluke goal. The puck took a high bounce over the shoulder of Price, but full marks to Ellis for getting it on net and to Forsberg for doing a good job battling in front of the net and screening Price.
  • Kevin Fiala, the Predators first round draft choice in 2014, made his NHL debut. He logged 11:25 in ice time and put 3 shots on net. The 18 year old has had quite a year, playing in the Swedish Elite League, the World Junior Championships (representing Sweden), the American Hockey League, and now the NHL. And he is not even close to being old enough to buy a beer.
  • Fiala was a call up because Viktor Stalberg was injured in the morning skate. Matt Cullen was also scratched. No word on his status.
  • With the win, the Predators are now 14-8 in overtime.
  • Colin Wilson picked up an assist on the goal by Ryan Ellis, his 100th assist.
  • Mike Ribeiro had 2 assists, giving him 497 for his career.
  • Filip Forsberg picked up his 22nd second goal of the season with his overtime tally. This was his 6th game winning goal of the year.
  • This is the first time that the Predators have won back to back games since February 22nd and 24th.
  • Props to the Predator fans. Tonight's sellout crowd was the 26th of the season, setting a franchise record.
  • Although the game winning goal came on the power play, the Predators power play unit continues to struggle. They were 1-5 tonight and often had trouble just entering the zone. The Predators are going to have to get the power play fixed and become more of a threat with the man advantage or it is going to bite them in the ass in the remainder of the season and in the playoffs.
  • The Predators were 60% in the faceoff circle. Mike Fisher led the way, winning 16 of 20 draws.
  • The Predators out shot the Canadiens 31-29.
The Predators sit 1 point behind St. Louis and Anaheim with 98 points and 4 points ahead of Chicago. With the point tonight, the Canadiens are the first team in the NHL to reach 100 points.

It doesn't get any easier for the Predators as they will have a 2 game roadie with Tampa Bay and Washington, two teams that will look to avenge earlier season losses to the Predators.

Play like you did tonight and you can win those games, boys.

My three stars:

1. Filip Forsberg

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Carey Price

Sunday, March 22, 2015

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

For some time, I have been telling you that the numbers that we get on T.V. and the proclamations from the media talking heads and government officials as to the state of our economy should be taken with a grain of salt.

A very large grain of salt.

Now I want to share an article with you from Michael Snyder of the Economic Collapse blog. Snyder gives you the same information that I have been sharing and makes a cogent case that things are so rosy in our economy.

Here is his blog:

If you believe that ignorance is bliss, you might not want to read this article.  I am going to dispel the notion that there has been any sort of “economic recovery”, and I am going to show that we are much worse off than we were just prior to the last economic crisis.  If you go back to 2007, people were feeling really good about things.  Houses were being flipped like crazy, the stock market was booming and unemployment was relatively low.  But then the financial crisis of 2008 struck, and for a while it felt like the world was coming to an end.

Of course it didn’t come to an end – it was just the first wave of our problems.  The waves that come next are going to be the ones that really wipe us out.  Unfortunately, because we have experienced a few years of relative stability, many Americans have become convinced that Barack Obama, Janet Yellen and the rest of the folks in Washington D.C. have fixed whatever problems caused the last crisis.  Even though all of the numbers are screaming otherwise, there are millions upon millions of people out there that truly believe that everything is going to be okay somehow.  We never seem to learn from the past, and when this next economic downturn strikes it is going to do an astonishing amount of damage because we are already in a significantly weakened state from the last one.

For each of the charts that I am about to share with you, I want you to focus on the last shaded gray bar on each chart which represents the last recession.  As you will see, our economic problems are significantly worse than they were just before the financial crisis of 2008.  That means that we are far less equipped to handle a major economic crisis than we were the last time.

#1 The National Debt
Just prior to the last recession, the U.S. national debt was a bit above 9 trillion dollars.  Since that time, it has nearly doubled.  So does that make us better off or worse off?  The answer, of course, is obvious.  And even though Barack Obama promises that “deficits are under control”, more than a trillion dollars was added to the national debt in fiscal year 2014.  What we are doing to future generations by burdening them with so much debt is beyond criminal.  And so what does Barack Obama want to do now?  He wants to ramp up government spending and increase the debt even faster.  This is something that I covered in my previous article entitled “Barack Obama Says That What America Really Needs Is Lots More Debt“.

Presentation National Debt

#2 Total Debt
Over the past 40 years, the total amount of debt in the United States has skyrocketed to astronomical heights.  We have become a “buy now, pay later” society with devastating consequences.  Back in 1975, our total debt level was sitting at about 2.5 trillion dollars.  Just prior to the last recession, it was sitting at about 50 trillion dollars, and today we are rapidly closing in on 60 trillion dollars.
Presentation Credit Market Instruments

#3 The Velocity Of Money
When an economy is healthy, money tends to change hands and circulate through the system quite rapidly.  So it makes sense that the velocity of money fell dramatically during the last recession.  But why has it kept going down since then?
Presentation Velocity Of M2

#4 The Homeownership Rate
Were you aware that the rate of homeownership in the United States has fallen to a 20 year low?  Traditionally, owning a home has been a sign that you belong to the middle class.  And the last recession was really rough on the middle class, so it makes sense that the rate of homeownership declined during that time frame.  But why has it continued to steadily decline ever since?
Presentation Homeownership Rate

#5 The Employment Rate
Barack Obama loves to tell us how the unemployment rate is “going down”.  But as I will explain later in this article, this decline is primarily based on accounting tricks.  Posted below is a chart of the civilian employment-population ratio.  Just prior to the last recession, approximately 63 percent of the working age population of the United States was employed.  During the recession, this ratio fell to below 59 percent and it stayed there for several years.  Just recently it has peeked back above 59 percent, but we are still very, very far from where we used to be, and now the next economic downturn is rapidly approaching.
Presentation Employment Population Ratio

#6 The Labor Force Participation Rate
So how can Obama get away with saying that the unemployment rate has gone down dramatically?  Well, each month the government takes thousands upon thousands of long-term unemployed workers and decides that they have been unemployed for so long that they no longer qualify as “part of the labor force”.  As a result, the “labor force participation rate” has fallen substantially since the end of the last recession…
Presentation Labor Force Participation Rate

#7 The Inactivity Rate For Men In Their Prime Working Years
If things are “getting better”, then why are so many men in their prime working years doing nothing at all?  Just prior to the last recession, the inactivity rate for men in their prime working years was about 9 percent.  Today it is just about 12 percent.
Presentation Inactivity Rate

#8 Real Median Household Income
Not only is a smaller percentage of Americans employed today than compared to just prior to the last recession, the quality of our jobs has gone down as well.  This is one of the factors which has resulted in a stunning decline of real median household income.
Presentation Real Median Household Income
I have shared these next numbers before, but they bear repeating.  In America today, most Americans do not make enough to support a middle class lifestyle on a single salary.  The following figures come directly from the Social Security Administration

-39 percent of American workers make less than $20,000 a year.
-52 percent of American workers make less than $30,000 a year.
-63 percent of American workers make less than $40,000 a year.
-72 percent of American workers make less than $50,000 a year.

We all know people that are working part-time jobs because that is all that they can find in this economy.  As the quality of our jobs continues to deteriorate, the numbers above are going to become even more dismal.

#9 Inflation
Even as our incomes have stagnated, the cost of living just continues to rise steadily.  For example, the cost of food and beverages has gone up nearly 50 percent just since the year 2000.
Presentation Food Inflation

#10 Government Dependence
As the middle class shrinks and the number of Americans that cannot independently take care of themselves soars, dependence on the government is reaching unprecedented heights.  For instance, the federal government is now spending about twice as much on food stamps as it was just prior to the last recession.  How in the world can anyone dare to call this an “economic recovery”?
Presentation Government Spending On Food Stamps

So you tell me – are things “getting better” or are they getting worse?

Snyder makes some compelling points that all of us would be wise to keep in mind the next time you turn on the television and hear someone say everything is fine and getting better.

It's not.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Predators Get A Much Needed Win Against the Sabres

You hate to say that the Nashville Predators game at Bridgestone Arena against the Buffalo Sabres was a must win game for the Predators.

But it was.

The Predators were looking to snap a 3 game home losing streak and to get back to the type of game that propelled them to the top of the NHL for a good portion of this season.

The Predators brought the effort, and more importantly, they brought the finish to the game and secured a 3-0 victory in front of a sellout crowd.

The Predators came out firing and poured 17 shots on Sabres netminder Matt Hackett in the first period, but could not find the back of the net. Pekka Rinne had relatively little work in the first as he faced only 6 shots.

The Predators finally broke through on the power play late in the second period as Taylor Beck redirected a Shea Weber shot past Hackett. The power play goal came just 5 seconds into the man advantage.

The Predators tacked on 2 more goals in the third period.

Craig Smith banged home his 23 goal of the season as Hackett kicked out a rebound of a Ryan Ellis shot to Smith, who was driving hard to the net.

Mike Fisher added an insurance goal as Viktor Stalberg found Fisher in the high slot and Fisher beat Hackett stick side to make it 3-0.

That was a big goal for the Predators because although the Sabres had not mustered much offense to the third period, they would up the intensity and Rinne made some huge saves to keep the Sabres off the board.

Some observations:

  • James Neal missed his third game with an upper body injury. Colin Wilson, who is listed as day to day, was out with a lower body injury.
  • With those players out of the line up, the Predators called up Viktor Arvidsson from Milwaukee. Arvidsson doesn't have the size of Wilson or Neal, but the kid has some wheels and showed that he is not afraid to go to the hard areas. Arvidsson played on a line with Mike Ribeiro and Gabriel Bourque and finished with 12:52 of ice time, 3 shots, and 1 hit.
  • Craig Smith continues to play some solid hockey. He is not afraid to go to the net and has a nose for the puck. His goal was a direct result of driving the net, blowing past a Sabres defender and his own teammate (Mike Fisher, whom he bowled over to get to the puck) to score.
  • Once again, the Predators faced an opponent who turned it up in the third period, but this time, Pekka Rinne shut the door. He was outstanding in the third period, making some very big and athletic saves, and he stopped Tyler Ennis on a breakaway to keep momentum with the Predators. Rinne was a rock for the Predators and kept Buffalo from seizing momentum in the third, something the Predators have failed to do in previous games. This was Rinne's 4th shutout of the season and his 38th win of the year.
  • Ryan Ellis played a strong game in the defensive zone and picked up 2 assists tonight. The Predators get more dangerous when Ellis can contribute offensively, and it is good to see him back to 100% after missing 21 games.
  • This was the Predators first win on home ice since February 24th against Colorado.
  • The Predators out shot the Sabres 43-24 and out shot them in every period. It was certainly good to see the Predators keep up the effort and intensity for a full 60 minutes.
  • One troubling aspect of this skid has been the tendency for the Predators to give up the first goal. Tonight the Predators got on the board first. How important is that to this team? The Predators are 24-2-4 when they score first.
  • Matt Hackett kept the Sabres in the game and was very good in net. He was under attack all game long, and this game had the makings of another hot goalie stealing a game from the Predators. Full marks to the Predators for their relentless attack all game long.
  • And big ups to the fans of Smashville. This was the 7th consecutive sellout and the 25th of the year, tying a franchise record.
  • The Predators were outstanding in the faceoff circle, winning 63%. Paul Gaustad won all 13 faceoffs he took. This is so important for possession in the offensive zone in particular, and the Predators had their best game of the season in the dot.
  • The Predators PK did a good job, shutting down the Sabres power play including a 4 minute double minor to Craig Smith for high sticking. They did an excellent job disrupting the Sabres offense and limiting scoring chances.
Like I said, this was a must win game for the Predators, and it was good to see the team take care of business.

Nine games are left and it will be against some stiff competition. 

The Predators control their destiny and where they will wind up in the playoffs.

It's up to this team to determine where they will wind up.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Craig Smith

3. Ryan Ellis