Thursday, May 12, 2016

Predators Don't Show Up, Drop Game 7 to the Sharks 5-0

The Nashville Predators have never won a playoff game on the home ice of the San Jose Sharks.

That unenviable trend continued in the 7th game of the Predators second round series against the Sharks.

The Sharks jumped on the Predators early in the game, out shooting the Predators 17-3 in the first period and tallying twice. Joe Pavelski scored on the power play and Joel Ward scored on a breakaway to make it 2-0 after 20 minutes.

Shea Weber had a brutal turnover to Logan Couture, who converted to make it 3-0 early in the second period.

Pekka Rinne was under siege, while Martin Jones had an easy night as the Predators offense never threatened through 2 periods, managing only 8 shots on goal.

Joe Thornton scored on the power play early in the third period to make it 4-0. Patrick Marleau added a goal to make it 5-0.

The Predators were out of gas and getting embarrassed.

Carter Hutton came in to finish the game in net for the Predators, which was just as well because the team in front of Rinne was getting him killed.

The Predators didn't bother to show up in what was arguably their most important game in franchise history and went down to an embarrassing defeat 5-0.

Some observations:

  • The Sharks power play has been lethal in this series. It doesn't help that the Predators often allowed Sharks forwards open ice in the low slot. Pavelski scored the first goal of the game from within 10 feet of the net. The Predators often did not seem to have an answer for the Sharks power play unit.
  • The Predators knew the Sharks would come out with jump to start the game. They did just that, and the Predators had no answer in the first period. through 17 minutes, the Sharks had 15 shots and the Predators only had 2.
  • Pekka Rinne was under siege in the first period (see bullet point above) and had absolutely no help. If he had not made some exceptional saves the game would have been totally out of control for the Predators in the first period.
  • Shea Weber was not good in this game. His awful turnover onto the stick of Logan Couture led to the Sharks third goal. When Weber is not good, this team is going to struggle.
  • Through 2 periods, the Predators managed only 8 shots and never challenged Jones. Not a formula for success.
  • The penalty by Ekholm at the end of the second period was a retaliation penalty and was stupid. it cost the Predators as they gave up their second power play goal to fall behind 4-0.
  • Rinne was just under siege and had no help. I really felt sorry for him because the team in front of him gave him absolutely no help.
It is incredibly disappointing to see this team fall  flat on their face. It doesn't take away from the great run they had, but the frustration and sense of failure is palpable with this lack of effort.

I will have a post mortem on the season in a few days.


They are going to have to find a way to win these types of games and have players that will step up in these big games.

I am still proud of this team.

And we all should be.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Lackluster and Lethargic, Predators Fall to the Sharks 5-1

After their 3 OT marathon, the Nashville Predators and the San Jose Sharks were at it again, this time at the SAP Center. The teams entered game 5 tied at 2 games apiece and both squads looking to play through fatigue and trying to solve the others stellar netminder.

Patrick Marleau gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead, sliding a pass under the stick of Mattias Ekholm and under the pad of Pekka Rinne.

The Predators tied the game after Marleau's goal as the line of Mike Fisher, James Neal, and Colin Wilson continued their torrid play. Fisher was the beneficiary of a fine play by Neal and he poked  a shot by Martin Jones.

The Predators left Joe Pavelski alone in the slot and he beat Rinne with a blistering wrister to make it 2-1 heading into the intermission.

A horrible line change and defensive breakdown sent Logan Couture in alone and he beat Rinne to make it 3-1 early in the second period.

Joe Pavelski scored on the power play to make it 4-1.

Melker Karlsson made it 5-1 when he scored in the final minute against Carter Hutton, who had come in for Rinne.

Some observations:

  • Mike Ribeiro drew back into the line up and centered Calle Jarkrok and Viktor Arvidsson on the third line. This was Ribeiro's first action since being scratched in games 3 and 4.
  • Tommy Wingels was scratched for the Sharks and Dainus Zubrus was inserted as a 4th line forward. Zubrus was seeing his first action since a game against the Arizona Coyotes on April 9th.
  • The Sharks opened the game with lots more jump than the Predators, who were back on their heels to begin the game. Not how the team wanted to start. Instead of taking the attack to the Sharks, the Predators started looking like they were just trying to hold on. That style of play led to the Sharks opening the scoring off a goal by Marleau.
  • The line of Fisher, Wilson, and Neal have gelled almost immediately. Their production has been superb and their play and chemistry have given the Sharks fits in this series. They have combined for 17 points since being put together for the playoffs.
  • Brutal defense by the Predators on Pavelski's goal. Left aloine in the low slot and Rinne never had a chance on the snap shot. The defense has to be aware of where the threats are, especially when the top line of the Sharks is on the ice. Instead, they completely lost the leading goal scorer for the Sharks.
  • What a brutal changes and sloppy defensive breakdown early in the second period by the Predators. That is the inept play that the Predators cannot have against a team the caliber of the Sharks. 
  • This is a disappointing game by the Predators in that they had no push back and no response to the push from the Sharks. Great teams answer, and the Predators were not even remotely close to answering.
  • The Predators won games 3 and 4 on the back of a relentless forecheck. Tonight, the forecheck was spotty at best and mostly non-existent. Letting the Sharks take the zone with speed is not a formula for success for this team, and tonight, that is exactly what the Predators did.
  • Pekka Rinne wasn't good, but the way this team played in front of him tonight, he would have had to be perfect for the Predators to have a chance. He wasn't and the team found itself in a hole from which they could not crawl out.
  • The Predators did not do a good job of getting to the prime scoring areas. The Sharks did a good job of forcing them outside and the Predators did not have anyone creating havoc in front. That has been their formula for success in the playoffs, and tonight, they showed no will or commitment to do that.
  • The Predators have NEVER won a playoff game in San Jose. Let that sink in for a moment.
A hugely disappointing effort by the Predators. You knew the Sharks would come out strong to defend home ice, but the lack of response and effort by the Predators is unacceptable.

With a chance to put the Sharks at a huge disadvantage, the Predators showed no fire, no will, no heart.

Now they have to turn it around and face a must win back at Bridgestone Arena.

Let's hope they have their hearts in it.

My three stars:

1. Joe Pavelski

2. Joe Thornton

3. Mike Fisher


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Predators Bite Back, Defeat the Sharks 4-1

With their backs against the wall and down 2-0, the Nashville Predators needed an attacking, aggressive game to get back into their series with the San Jose Sharks.

Mission accomplished.

The Predators attacked all night and defeated the Sharks 4-1 to cut the Sharks series lead to 2-1.

After a fluky goal by Patrick Marleau, a play in which both Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne misplayed the puck, the Predators scored 4 consecutive goals to secure the win.

And the Predators power play finally woke up, with 2 of those tallies coming with the man advantage.

James Neal opened the scoring with the Predators on the power play with a snipe from below the face off circle that beat Martin Jones high glove side.

Shea Weber made it 2-1 with a howitzer from the slot that Jones is still trying to find.

Up 2-1 going into the third period, the Predators couldn't sit bakc and let the Sharks take the play to them.

The Predators didn't turtle, instead forcing the play in the Sharks zone.

Colin Wilson banked a puck off the back of Jones to make it 3-1.

Filip Forsberg finished the scoring with a power play goal for the final margin of 4-1.

Some observations:

  • Pekka Rinne has been a steady presence in this series but was outstanding tonight. Outside of the crazy play that led to the Sharks only goal, Rinne was a rock between the pipes. He tracked the puck well, especially through traffic. His positioning was sound and his rebound control was excellent. He did a good job of frustrating the Sharks all night. This was big and hopefully gives the team confidence and gets in the head of the Sharks.
  • Mike Ribeiro has had an awful playoff series, both in round 1 and through the first two games of this series. He was a healthy scratch tonight, and frankly the Predators looked better for it. They won the face off battle 36-25 and had more speed and jump with the remixed lines. I don't expect to see Ribeiro back in the line up again for the remainder of the playoffs.
  • With Ribeiro out, the forward lines were: Johansen-Neal-Forsberg; Fisher-Smith-Wilson; Jarnkrok-Aberg-Arvidsson; and Gaustad-Sissons-Salomaki.
  • Pontus Aberg played in his first NHL game on the line with Calle Jarnkrok and Viktor Arvidsson. I can only imagine the butterflies that he must have had, but he acquitted himself well. He used his speed to find open ice and made no glaring defensive mistakes. Aberg has a lot of upside, and this will be a confidence booster for him.
  • Craig Smith isn't 100% healthy, and it shows. he didn't find the score sheet, but he played with a lot of heart and gutted it out tonight. Big props to the Honey Badger for his effort.
  • Colton Sissons was run into the net and I thought he had broken his leg. He was taken to the locker room for x-rays, which were negative, and amazingly, he was back on the ice after missing a shift. That is a hockey player, friends.
  • Woeful officiating tonight. No penalty on the Sissons play; Colin Wilson high sticked in front of the refs and no call. The League is going to have to make a commitment to quality officiating or they will continue to be an embarrassment among professional sports leagues.
  • With his goal, Shea Weber has tied David Legwand for the most playoff goals in team history with 13 goals.
  • Weber, James Neal, Ryan Johansen, Colin Wilson, and Mattias Ekholm are tied for the team lead in playoff goals with 3 each.
  • The Predators blocked 19 shots tonight.
  • Good to see the power play finally start to click. They were 2-5 tonighht, and it is critical that this unit get going. They did tonight and will need to do so with consistency in the upcoming games.
  • The Sharks entered this game having burnt the Predators by going 3-5 on the power play in the first 2 games. Tonight, the Predators PK was excellent, killing all 4 of the Sharks man advantage attempts.
  • This was the Sharks first road loss of the playoffs.
  • Mattias Ekholm led the Predators in TOI with 24:35.
This was undoubtedly a confidence building win for the Predators. They have seen that when they attack and use their speed, the Sharks have difficulty handling the attack.

Now they have to do the same thing again on Thursday.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Shea Weber

3. James Neal

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Predatoes Have Their Chances But Can't Finish, Fall to the Sharks 3-2

The Nashville Predators looked to steal home ice  at the Shark Tank the second game of their series with the San Jose Sharks. The Predators are going to need a full 60 minutes of play and contributions from the top lines to accomplish that task, something that didn't happen in game one.

The Predators played a full 60 minutes with jump and energy this game. Unfortunately, they still came out on the short end of the score by a 3-2 margin.

The Sharks lethal power play capitalized in the second period as Logan Couture tallied to make it 1-0. Pekka Rinne made the initial save, but Couture was left all alone to pick up the rebound and pot a goal into a near empty net.

In the third period, Mattias Ekholm launched a shot through traffic that beat Martin Jones top shelf to tie the game at 1.

Joe Pavelski broke the tie as he was alone to gather in a rebound to make it 2-1.

Joe Thornton hit an empty net goal to make it 3-1.

Roman Josi scored with 3 seconds left to make it 3-2, but there was not enough time for the Predators to tie the game and they will return home down 2-0 in the series.


Some observations:

  • After missing the first game of the series, Craig Smith returned to the line up. The Predators are 4-0 when the Honey Badger is in the line up. They are 0-4 without him. You can't underestimate what Smith brings to the line up. When healthy, his speed and attacking style of play opens up the ice for his line mates, and it is a positive to have him back in the line up.
  • Lots more intensity and jump by the Predators and the Sharks in the first period. The hitting was better by the Predators and they were moving their feet better than in the first game. Now they have to do it for the next 40 minutes.
  • The Predator forwards are going to have to work harder to get to the prime scoring areas. The Sharks do a good job of clearing the front of the net, and this is going to be a matter of want to for the forwards to put pressure on Jones.
  • Some great saves by Rinne early in the second period. The Sharks do a great job in transition and on the rush, and Rinne came up with some huge saves to keep the Sharks off the board.
  • The Sharks scored on the power play after Rinne made the initial save but gave up a rebound. Problematic with that goal is that Logan Couture was allowed a free ride in front of the net with no defenders challenging him. Rinne has to have some help and the Predators defenders have to make life miserable for the Sharks around the net. They did not on that power play.
  • Matty Ek's goal was a perfectly placed shot. But did you see who was taking all sorts of punishment to screen Jones? The smallest guy on the ice- the Aardvark, Viktor Arvidsson. Small guy but perhaps the biggest heart of anyone on the team.
  • This was a full 6o minute game by the Predators, but they are going to have to finish some of their chances. They had some great chances but couldn't finish some of their scoring chances. The guys that are counted on to finish are going to have to do just that if this team is going to have a chance to come back in this series.
  • There was some uncharacteristically leaky D in front of Rinne on the first two goals that the Sharks scored. Having the opponents forwards left alone to have unmolested tap ins is not a formula for success for the Predators.
  • Rinne made some outstanding saves to keep the Sharks off the board and the level of play by the big metminder has given this team an opportunity to win. 
The onus is on the Predators to capture the next two games at Bridgestone Arena. They are going to have to come out with the jump and energy that they displayed tonight.

And they are going to have to finish some of their chances.

My three stars;

1. Joe Pavelski

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Logan Couture


Saturday, April 30, 2016

Predators Wilt In the Third Period, Fall to Sharks 5-2

The Nashville Predators looked to continue their road success in the playoffs with a second round match up against the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center. The Predators won 3 of 4 meetings against the Ducks at the Honda Center and were attempting to build on that momentum.

A scoreless first period saw both teams probe but neither would find the back of the net.

That would change in the second period as Mike Fisher sent the Predators into the second intermission with a power play goal.

The Predators seemed content to sit back and lost their attacking mode, and it cost them. They gave up power play goal to Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture, which were sandwiched around an even strength goal from Joel Ward.

The Predators pulled Rinne for the extra attacker and a Roman Josi shot deflected off Ryan Johansen to make it 3-2 with 1:49 remaining in the game.

Any hopes of a comeback were dashed by an empty net goals by Couture  and Tommy Wingels to make it 5-2.


Some observations:

  • Craig Smith re-aggravated his injury suffered in game 3 of the Ducks series and was out of the line up. Pontus Aberg was called up, but did not play.
  • Eric Nystrom drew back into the line up and was on  the 4th line with Paul Gaustad and Colton Sissons.
  • Good to see the power play finally convert. The man advantage unit was 1-26 against the Ducks and definitely needed to get their groove back. Getting one on their second attempt hopefully gets their mojo going in this series.
  • Both teams had spurts of intensity surrounded by tentative play. The Sharks were backing off defensively and allowed some room for the Predators in the offensive zone. The Predators had moments where they went into a shell and the Sharks peppered Rinne in net. First game jitters...maybe. Rust by the Sharks...perhaps. Look for the intensity and continuous action to ramp up in this game and in this series.
  • The Predators tempted fate by putting the Sharks on the power play and it bit them. A dumb penalty by Johansen allowed the Sharks to get back in the game and get momentum early in the third period. The penalties will happen, but they cannot, CANNOT, be silly penalties.
  • When the Predators get tentative and lose their attack mode, they are not a very good hockey team. The Predators have all season long turtled when they have a lead, and they did again tonight. And that allowed the Sharks to take the game to them and take the lead. This team is going to have to develop a killer instinct and forget going into the shell and hoping Rinne can bail them out.
  • And when you dig a hole with a soft, passive game, it will cost you when you scramble to try to get back in. This is exactly what the Predators did in the third period. Losing their offensive effort and then being forced to chase cost them this game. 
The Predators were in this game, and in fact controlled this game until they decided they could sit back and hope Rinne would be able to hold them off. Letting the Sharks attack and pour shots on the Predators net was not going to succeed.

That style of play didn't work in the regular season. It certainly isn't going to work now.

This team can win this round. They have the talent to do so.

But they will not win if they continue to be passive.

My three stars:

1. Logan Couture

2. Joel Ward

3. Brent Burns

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Predators Step On the Ducks 2-1, Advance to the Second Round

The Nashville Predators were going into the hostile environment of the Honda Center to play their first game 7 in their history. The Anaheim Ducks were trying to exorcise their recent failures in a game 7 match up.

And the Predators are making history.

The Ducks are still trying to exorcise those Game 7 demons.

The Predators came out strong with two first period goals by Colin Wilson and Paul Gaustad to take a 2-0 lead going into the first intermission.

The Predators spent the next 40 minutes absorbing the frantic push by the Ducks. They gave up a power play goal to Ryan Kessler early in the third period to exponentially increase the pucker factor for Pred nation.

Frederick Andersen was outstanding after giving up the first period goals. As good as Andersen was, Pekka Rinne was even better.

No, Rinne was absolutely outstanding.

He was under assault throughout the game, especially in the final 40 minutes. And the big Finn was up to the task. He made some outstanding saves, got some help from a crossbar, and from his D that cleared the puck out of danger.

That effort secured a 2-1 win and a second round match up with the San Jose Sharks.

Some observations:

  • Cody Bass was out of the line up after being injured in game 6. Colton Sissons drew into the line up to replace Bass.
  • This is the first game 7 that the Predators have ever played.
  • Heck of an effort by Colin Wilson to settle the puck and place a perfect backhand under the crossbar. Wilson has been my whipping boy this season, but I have to give him props for stepping up his game in the playoffs. Teams that go deep in the playoffs have to get contributions from their bottom 6 and Wilson has been the best producer for the Predators in the playoffs.
  • How about Paul Gaustad stepping up his game? He has been using his big frame to screen in front of the net and he was rewarded for going to the hard areas with a sweet redirect of the Shea Weber shot just after a power play had ended. This was a huge momentum swing for the Predators and you could hear the air suck out of the Honda Center after that score.
  • Rinne had to come up with some huge saves in the first period to keep the Ducks off the board. The Ducks are talented and they were pressing after going down 2, and Rinne was scrambling but shut the door on the Ducks.
  • The Predators had 4 first year players in the line up. The experience these youngsters are getting is invaluable to their development and bodes well for the future of this team.
  • The best you can say about the second period is that the Predators weathered it. The Ducks had sustained pressure and several quality chances. The Preds are going to have to get their attack mentality back for the third period.
  • Too many times tempting fate and the Ducks finally cash in on a power play. Ryan Kessler perfectly placed a shot past Rinne inside the far post to cut the lead to 1.
  • This game was a perfect example of shoddy officiating. The refs swallowed their whistles and allowed anything short of severing a limb go. And it is a reason that the League continues to struggle with credibility.
  • Goodness gracious, Pekka Rinne was a beast! He made save after save, some spectacular. Rinne was poised and strong between the pipes and was the difference in this game and this series. The Ducks poured pucks on Rinne, totaling 37 shots on net.
What a character win and comeback by the Predators! After losing 3 straight and being given up for dead, the Predators roared back to life and captured the series.

It was a long, tough series. Yet it is a series win that should really boost the confidence of the Predators.

Bask in it, Pred Nation.

It feels good.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Colin Wilson

3. Paul Gaustad

Monday, April 25, 2016

Predators Show Life, Down the Ducks 3-1 to Force Game 7

After looking inept and off their game, the Nashville Predators resurrected Predator hockey and took the game to the Anaheim Ducks at Bridgestone Arena, winning 3-1 and forcing a game 7 in Anaheim on Wednesday.

The first period was a tight checking, scoreless affair.

That changed in the second period when Mattias Ekholm carried the puck behind the net and back out to the face off circle before launching a seeing eye shot through traffic that Frederick Andersen never saw to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.

The Predators extended their lead to 2-0 when Ryan Johansen broke in on a 2 on 1 with James Neal. Johansen drew the defender toward him and made Andersen respect his shot before slipping the puck to Neal, who buried it in a wide open net.

The lone Ducks goal came off a horrid call against Ekholm. After being held for about 6 seconds by Hampus Lindholm, Matty Ek was called for a touch foul. On the ensuing power play, Rinne stopped a shot from the face off circle by Corey Perry, but the puck leaked through his pads and Ryan Kessler was able to tap it in to cut the Predators lead to 2-1.

The third period saw a furious push by the Ducks and occasional counters by the Predators. The play of the game came when Rinne stopped Perry, who was alone in the slot and fired from point blank range. Rinne was positionally sound and kicked the puck out with his pads.

Shea Weber sealed the win with a long range empty net goal.

Some observations:

  • For the first time in team history, the Predators will play a game 7.
  • Also for the first time in team history, the Predators won a game 6 when facing elimination.
  • Shea Weber led the Predators in TOI with 26:34. Roman Josi led the team with 5 blocked shots.
  • Mike Ribeiro has been awful in this series, but I have to give him credit. His play tonight was disciplined and generally solid. He is going to have to play that way in game 7. However, he continues to brutal in the face off dot, going 0-6 tonight.
  • Craig Smith was back in the line up and took his regular spot on the second line wing. You cannot overestimate the value of Smith to this team. His speed and strength on the puck opens up the ice for his line mates. The Predators really missed him over the last 3 games.
  • The Predators did a much better job of attacking the net and going to the hard areas. This is how you are going to score in the playoffs and tonight, they made a commitment to do hard hockey. They will have to do it again on Wednesday night.
  • A sign seen in the Predators locker room after the game: "Noon flight tomorrow. Pack for 6 days." I like the confidence, because if the Predators win on Wednesday, they will open the second round in San Jose.
  • The Predators blocked 21 shots. The Ducks had 11 blocks.
  • The Predators lost Cody Bass in the first period when he went for a big hit, missed, and crashed hard into the end boards.
  • After all the penalties in this series, especially those taken by the Ducks, this game saw only 2 power plays, one by each team. As mentioned earlier, the call against Matty Ek was one of the worst I have seen in any post season game.
This was the Predators team that showed it can compete with the best in the NHL. Attacking hockey, solid goaltending, and sound defense secured this win.

It's a great feeling.

Now they have to build on this and bring in game 7 on Wednesday.

My three stars:

1. James Neal

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Mattias Ekholm