Friday, October 31, 2014

Predators Fizzle In Loss to the Flames

A Halloween matchup between the Nashville Predators and the Calgary Flames saw the Saddledome turn into a house of horrors for the Predators as they blew a one goal lead going into the third period and dropped a 4-3 decision.

The game featured two hot goaltenders as Pekka Rinne dueled with Jonas Hiller. Rinne entered the game with a 1.71 GAA and a .936 save percentage; Hiller boasts a 1.63 GAA and a .943 save percentage.

After a scoreless first period that saw both teams get some quality scoring chances, the Flames would tally first on the power play as Sean Monohan got loose in front of the net and banged home a rbound that Rinne could not control. Monohan beat Shea Weber to the front of the net and had an easy tap in to give the Flames a 1-0 lead at 4:23 of the second.

The Predators answered at 5:30 of the second period as Craig Smith worked himself open at the side of the net and fired a wrist shot past Hiller to tie the game at 1.

Mike Ribeiro won a face off in the offensive zone back to James Neal, who whipped a wrist shot through traffic that beat Hiller at 11:09 of the second period. Neal got the shot off quickly and Hiller had no time to react as he couldn't pick up the puck through the tangle of bodies in front of him.

The Flames tied the game at 2:36  of the third period as Rinne was under assault and made two saves but gave up a rebound that Jiri Hudler tapped into the open net. Hudler got lost in all the scramble around the net and was all alone for the easy score.

With Mattias Ekholm in the box for tripping, T.J. Brodie tried to pass the puck across the slot, but the puck caromed off the glove of Shea Weber and past Rinne to give the Flames a 3-2 lead at 4:23 of the third.

The wheels were wobbly, but they came off when Johnny Gaudreau scored high glove on the short side to make it 4-2 at 6:37.

Three goals in 4 minutes.


The Predators cut the lead to 4-3 on a James Neal power play goal at 10:47.

That would be all the scoring for the Predators and a game they should have won slipped into the loss column.

Some observations:

  • A very weak goaltender interference call against Colin Wilson led to the Flames first power play, which they capitalized upon. So far in this young season, the officiating in the NHL has been inconsistent at best.

  • The Predators generated some quality scoring chances, and it looked like Hiller was going to put on one of those performances that would thwart the Predators all night. Fortunately, Craig Smith broke Hiller's spell with his third goal in the last two games. good answer just 60 seconds after the Flames had scored and looked to be seizing momentum. it is good to see the Honey Badger starting to heat up.

  • I really like the way Seth Jones has been playing. he has been quietly solid on the blue line and has shown very good offensive instincts. Jones looks stronger physically and is playing with confidence, all of which bode well for his game and for the team.

  • Johnny Gaudreau- "Johnny Hockey" - is a special player. Speed, hockey sense, and a wicked shot. He absolutely undressed Anton Volchenkov with a sick one on one move and forced Rinne to make a great save.
  • James Neal gas a nose for the net and a scorer's mentality. Oh yes, it helps that he can snipe the puck. Refreshing to see, and I think Neal's presence in the line up has helped the other forwards as everyone is firing the puck. I years past, the Predators would frustratingly pass up shots. Not now. And yes, I know part of that is the change in coaching philosophy, but also part of it is the example of a scorer like Neal.

  • The Predators got back on their heels and the Flames took it to them in the third period. Yes, the Predators got some bad breaks, but the Flames jumped on them and took control of the game. That is disheartening, but what I do like is that the Predators fought back and didn't fold.

  • That said, these are the games this team has to win. The Flames have been beset by injuries and have been inconsistent in their play. The Predators need to jump on a team in this situation and get the two points.

  • Giving up three third period goals is just... awful. Gotta have the mentality of locking down an opponent, and more importantly, going out there and doing it. Neither happened tonight.

  • Calgary blocked 36 shots. Wow.

  • The Predators did not kill a penalty tonight, giving up two power play goals in two attempts. The Preds were 1-1 on the power play. Special teams are definitely going to have to improve, and quickly, for this team to have continued success.
This was a game that the Predators gave away. And frankly, they do not have the luxury of doing that in the ultra competitive Central Division.

My three stars:

1. James Neal

2. Jonas Hiller

3. Johnny Gaudreau

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Predators Start the Long Road Trip With a 4-1 Win Over the Oilers

The Nashville Predators began a two week road trip at Edmonton to face off against the suddenly hot Oilers, who came into the game winners of four straight contests.

For the Predators, it was going to be critical to get not only this game but this road trip off to a good start.

They accomplished both objectives as they defeated the Oilers 4-1.

Although the first period was scoreless, the Predators outshot the Oilers 10-3 and out skated and out chanced the home team.

In the second period, the Predators scored two goals in 1:26 to take control of the game.

Craig Smith notched his second goal of the season as he beat Ben Scrivens short side through traffic at 6:23.

Taylor Beck fired a puck into a wide open net off a nice cross ice pass from Colin Wilson at 7:49.

The third period would be critical and the Predators would need to keep up the pressure and not allow the Oilers to seize momentum. They did just that as Shea Weber launched a rocket from the blue line that Scrivens never saw to make it 3-0 just 24 seconds into the period.

The Oilers finally broke through against Pekka Rinne at 8:54 of the third perios as Taylor Hall banged home a rebound of a Ryan Nugent Hopkins shot.

Craig Smith tallied his second goal of the game and third of the season off a 2 on1 rush with Matt Cullen. Cullen saucered a pass to Smith, who blew the puck past Scrivens to make it 4-1 at 12:24 of the third period.

Rinne and the defense locked down the Oilers for the remainder of the game, and the Predators recorded their 6th win of the season.

Some observations:

  • The Predators were victimized by the "intent to blow" call by referee Ian Walsh in the first period. Craig Smith jammed a puck in on Ben Scrivens and into the back of the net. However, the goal was waved off immediately by Walsh, and his explanation was that he was intending to blow the whistle, even though the puck was in the back of the net.

  • Matt Cullen returned to the line up after missing 8 games with an injury. He looked very good on a line with Derek Roy and Craig Smith, skating well and creating some chances. That line showed some jump all night and got the first goal of the game by Smith off of nice pressure on the net. This was Smith's third goal of the season.

  • After being a healthy scratch the past few games, Gabriel Bourque returned to the line up and looked good, skating hard and getting some scoring chances. the Swedish Chef needs to get his game going if he wants to stick in the line up, and the team can certainly use some production from him.

  • Taylor Beck got his first goal of the season off a nice assist from Colin Wilson. Wilson moved to center the line with Beck and Olli Jokinen and looked comfortable in that role. Wilson is probably more suited to being a set up man than a pure goal scorer, and if he can settle into this role with some consistency, it will benefit his game and his line.

  • The Oilers started the season 0-4 before winning their last 4 games to bring their record to .500. Interestingly, all their losses came against Western conference teams, while all their wins have come against Eastern Conference teams.

  • Rinne made some good saves tonight, but in my opinion looked a bit "scrambly" and not as relaxed tonight.

  • In games last season, the Oilers used their speed and attacking style to overwhelm the Predators defensive system. Tonight, the Predators turned the tables and attacked all night and forced the Oilers to go into defensive mode. The effect was to curb some of the offensive explosiveness of the Oilers and create the opportunity for offensive chances by the Predators. The Predators also did a good job of selectively activating the defense in the offensive zone and putting pressure on the Oilers defense.

  • The Predators out shot the Oilers 35-27.

  • The Predators blocked 24 shots by the Oilers.
This was a solid game from start to finish, and it is good to see the Predators dominate a team that had owned them last season.

The start to the road trip was just what the Predators needed. Now they have to continue to build on that effort. They will have their chance on Friday night in Calgary.

My three stars:

1. Craig Smith

2. Roman Josi

3. Pekka Rinne

Sunday, October 26, 2014

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

There is no secret that the Federal government has too much debt. In fact, by all reasonable definitions, our country is broke, with too much debt and not nearly enough income to service those debts.

So what are our options as a country to deal with this situation?

We could default. We have seen countries such as Argentina do that, and the results have been disastrous not only for the economy of that country but for its people as well. Standards of living have crashed and the ability of Argentina to borrow in world markets to support its economy has been severely hampered. Slower growth has been the inevitable result, further depressing the standard of living of its people.

We could begin a period of austerity, curtailing spending and paying down debt. This is painful, but the long term results are ultimately healthy for the economy and result in a better standard of living for our country. With nearly 50% of the population receiving some form of government benefit, this option is not palatable to our elected leaders since it would mean that those benefits would have to be severely curtailed to make this option work. Our elected leaders do not have the cajones to even propose this, much less implement this course of action.

We could do nothing and wait for the financial train wreck to happen. The consequences of that would be unimaginable, resulting in a tremendous decline in our standard of living and opportunity in this country.

We could implement policies that create inflation, allowing our debt to be repaid with dollars that are worth less. We could couple that policy with artificially low interest rates that result in negative real rates (negative rates occur when savers- those that deposit money into savings accounts, certificates of deposit, or buy Treasury notes and bills)- are paid an interest rate that is less than the rate of inflation (which represents the increase in the cost of living).


That's exactly what we are doing.

How does this work?

Negative real interest rates erodes the value of the government debt. Inflation allows the government to pay creditors with dollars that are worth less than what they ere when they were originally borrowed. Basically, the declining purchasing power of the average citizen is being used to pay or reduce the amount of the debt of our federal government.

At its core, the results of this policy, known as financial repression, results in a tax on those that have been diligent enough to save and on those whose income fails to keep up with the rising costs of living. Since 2008, real household incomes in this country have fallen 10%; nominal interest rates have been pushed to record low levels through the Federal Reserve's Zero Interest Rate Policy (ZIRP); and real inflation (counting food and energy costs) is running around 6%, far above the Fed's measurements of below 2%.

The bottom line of financial repression is that it destroys household wealth of most people; redistributes wealth form the majority of people to those that already have wealth and are able to take advantage of the current circumstances; and allows the government to continue to spend profligately without having to face the consequences of those actions.

Getting out of the dire circumstances that we face will require an honest discussion and assessment of where we are financially in this country. It will require courage to make the necessary changes to put our country back on sound financial footing. And it will require exemplary leadership to make it happen.

Sadly, all those things are lacking at the Federal Reserve and in Washington.

So you and I bear the brunt of these oppressive and misguided policies.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Predators Blanked by the Penguins 3-0

The Nashville Predators knew a regulation loss would eventually happen.

It did at the Bridgestone Arena as the Predators fell 3-0 in a lackluster effort against a very good Pittsburgh Penguins team.

The Predators gave up a first period goal to Sidney Crosby on a shot from in close with lots of traffic around Pekka Rinne.

They gave up two power play goals in the first six minutes of the third period, one to Evgeni Malkin and Pascal Dupuis.

Game over.

After an energetic first period, which saw the shots in favor of the Penguins 10-8, the Predators offense was dominated by the Penguins defense and rarely challenged Marc-Andre Fleury. The Predators were out shot 12-4 in the second period and the offense was non-existent.

Although the Penguins only had 4 shots in the third period, they capitalized on two of them for scores on the power play. The Predators had 13 shots in the third, but few quality scoring chances.

The Penguins employed a heavy and aggressive forecheck and used their speed to totally discombobulate the Predators. The Predators rarely had a clean breakout through the neutral zone and could not find any offensive flow in the zone. As a result, their offense never got going the entire game.

Some observations:

  • The Predators are the last team in the NHL to absorb a regulation loss. They are now 5-1-2.

  • In six of their 8 games, the Predators have given up the first goal. While they have shown resilience and have been able to overcome those deficits (until tonight), this is not a trend that needs to continue.

  • The Predators have shown that they have difficulty handling an aggressive forecheck. tonight, the Penguins controlled the play throughout the game by pressuring the puck and disrupting the breakouts. If the Predators can't get a clean break through the neutral zone, the offense really struggles. This is an area that is going to have to improve.

  • The Predators anemic power play, which was connecting at only 8.7% of their chances coming in to this game, was 0-3 tonight. There just isn't a lot of movement among the players on the man advantage unit, and it makes it very easy to defend. Here is a blinding flash of the obvious- the power play unit is going to have to improve quickly if this team is going to have success this season.

  • No shows: Olli Jokinen, Calle Jarnkrok (8 games), and Viktor Stalberg (5 games) do not have a point this season. For the amount of ice time they are receiving, these players are going to have to start contributing.

  • Almost no shows: Colin Wilson and Craig Smith have not been productive of late. These guys are too talented not to produce and they have to get their game going quickly.

  • The Predators welcomed back Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling with a nice tribute video. Hornqvist and Spaling were traded to the Pens for James Neal.

  • The Predators were 42% in the face off dot. Paul Gaustad won 71% of his face offs (5 of 7). Roy ( 1 of 6), Jokinen (3 of 10), and Ribeiro (5 of 14) continue to struggle.

  • Rinne didn't get a lot of help tonight. Fleury was rarely challenged. This speaks volumes to the talent of the Penguins and to the play of the Predators. While the Predators don't have the talent of the Penguins, when they play as they did Thursday night against Chicago, they have shown they can compete and win games. tonight, they were completely stymied and did not elevate their game.
The Predators now go on the road for the nest two weeks due to the CMA's and their events at Bridgestone Arena. This will be a real test for the team and we are going to find out a lot about this group.

They have the potential to make some noise in the Central. the game tonight proves that this group has to play at a high level to have a chance to win games.

We are going to find out if they can consistently do so.

My three stars:

1. Sidney Crosby

2. Evgeni Malkin

3. Pascal Dupuis

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Neal's Hat Trick Leads the Predators to 3-2 Win Over the Blackhawks

How about that trade for James Neal?

The Predators, who acquired Neal from Pittsburgh to add scoring punch, got what they were looking for as Neal had a natural hat trick to lead the Predators to a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks at Bridgestone Arena.

Ben Smith had given the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead at 12:21 of the first period by beating Pekka Rinne with a flip over his pads from in close.

Neal answered by beating Antti Raanta from the left face off circle with a snap shot over the stick at 19:12 of the first period.

Neal gave the Predators a 2-1 lead 16:12 of the second period as he blasted a shot  from the right side of the slot that Raanta had no chance. Neal showed that he can scorch a shot, and although he was unscreened, Raanta could not get the glove up fast enough on that heater.

Neal gave the Predators a 3-1 lead at 1:52 of the third period as Raanta could not control the shot from Ryan Ellis from the left face off circle. The puck trickled out to the right side and Neal was driving the net. He was able to tap the puck into the open net before Raanta could get back into position.

Chicago is a talented team and everyone in the building knew they would be making a strong push in the third period.

They did just that, out shooting the Predators 17-6. Rinne made some incredible saves to thwart some very scoring chances by the Hawks.

The Blackhawks made it interesting when Andrew Shaw knocked a puck out of mid-air and over the shoulder of Rinne at 12:36 of the third (it looked for all the world like that puck was played with a high stick, but the officials let the play stand).

Rinne was called upon to shut the door, and he and the defense did so in the face of some good pressure by the Hawks, including the final 1:25 with Raanta pulled for an extra attacker.

Some observations:

  • Going back to last season, the Predators are 5-2-1 against the Blackhawks. The Predators are 43-39-2-9 all time against the Hawks. They are 24-16-6 against the Blackhawks at Bridgestone Arena.

  • The line of Neal, Ribeiro, and Forsberg has become a legitimate threat for the Predators. With the hat trick tonight, Neal leads the team with 5 goals. Ribeiro has picked up points in five straight games. Forsberg leads the team in points (1G-6A) and assists, with 6.

  • The last hat trick for the Predators came on January 1, 2012 by Sergei Kostitsyn.

  • Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford did not make the trip with team due to an upper body injury.

  • The Predators power play was 0-2, continuing their struggles. I will say that the two power plays looked much better tonight with more movement and traffic in front of Raanta. This is an area that the team obviously has to improve upon.

  • The Predators committed only one penalty, which they successfully killed. One of the keys to winning was to not give the potent Hawks power play opportunities and tonight the Predators played very disciplined hockey.

  • Rinne was outstanding, making some great saves, especially in the third period when the Hawks turned up the pressure. He is playing with confidence and the team feeds off that confidence.

  • The Predators continue to struggle in the face off circle, winning only 45% of the draws. Paul Gaustad was 50% (12 of 24), the best among the forwards that took more than one face off. Mike Ribeiro was a woeful 5 of 16.

  • The Hawks had not given up a third period goal all season until tonight.
This was a huge win for the Predators, not only because it was against a divisional foe, but because this is a win that the team can build upon. It has to boost their confidence and let them know they can not only play with the best teams in the NHL, but they can win those games.

It feels good to get this win, but it is just a step in a long season.

But this is learning it can take those steps.

My three stars:

1. James Neal

2. Pekka Rinne

3. fillip Forsberg

  • The Predators are the only team not to have a regulation loss this season.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Predators Sneak Past the Coyotes In A Shootout 4-3

The Nashville Predators faced off against the Phoenix Arizona Coyotes at Bridgestone Arena in a contest that would prove to be quite a battle.

The Predators defeated the Coyotes 4-3 in a shootout.

And frankly, they were fortunate to secure the win and the two points.

The Yotes opened the scoring off a 2 on1 break. David Moss carried the puck in the offensive zone on the right side and slipped the puck to Rob Klinkhammer. The Colonel tapped the puck past Pekka Rinne at 3:21 of the first period.

The Predators answered off an odd man rush of their own. Mike Ribeiro carried the puck into the offensive zone with the Predators on a 4 on 1 rush. Ribeiro sent the puck to Ryan Ellis in the high slot and got a return pass that he put through the wickets of Devan Dubnyk to tie the game at 12:05 of the first period.

Ellis gave the Predators a 2-1 lead at 5:12of the second period, just 3 seconds after a Predators power play had expired. Ellis beat Dubnyk short side from the top of the face off circle, sneaking the shot just inside the post.

The Coyotes tied the game just 3 seconds into a power play. With Calle Jarnkrok in the box for unsportsmanlike conduct, Antoine Vermette won a face off back to Keith Yandle and he beat Rinne glove side at 11:18 of the second period.

Former Predator Marty Erat gathered in a rebound at the side of the net and scored at 7:42 of the third period to give the Coyotes a 3-2 lead.

That goal was answered by James Neal, who blasted a slap shot past Dubnyk from the circle at 8:03 of the third period.

After the remainder of the third and the overtime period ended with neither team able to score, the game went to a shootout.

Derek Roy scored in the first round for the Predators, while Antoine Vermette scored in the third round to tie the shootout.

Ryan Ellis scored off a sweet move in the fourth round, and Rinne was able to stop Erat to secure the win.

Some observations:

  • In three of their past four games, the Predators have shown alarming inconsistency in handling an aggressive forecheck. Tonight, the Predators had difficulty throughout the game in dealing with the aggressive, attacking style of the Coyotes. The pressure the Coyotes put on the Predators disrupted their breakouts and their cycle once they got in the offensive zone. On several occasions, the Coyotes forecheck forced turnovers in the Predators defensive zone, resulting in Rinne having to make some quality saves.

  • The Coyotes turned up the intensity in the third period, and the Predators could not match their effort. The Yotes out shot the Predators 17-5 in the third, and 36-26 for the game.

  • Ryan Ellis had a monster game, recording a goal, two assists, and the shootout winner. this was Ellis' first three point game of his career.

  • How sweet must this game have been for Mike Ribeiro. He had a goal and an assist against the team that dumped him last season. Ribeiro now has points in his last 4 games.

  • Former Predator Marty Erat had a goal and played with energy all night. Where was that game from Marty in his last year as a Predator?

  • The goal from James Neal was a blast that he just blew past Dubnyk, Neal now has two goals in his last three games. Good to see him starting to heat up.

  • The Predators are now 18-10-3 all time against the Coyotes at Bridgestone Arena.

  • The Predators struggled in the face off dot all night, winning just 45% of the draws. Paul Gaustad led the team, winning 11 of 18 draws for 61%. This is going to have to improve especially in the offensive zone.

  • The Predators power play did not look good at all. They were 0-5 tonight, and the PP unit just looks too static without much movement. Especially troubling was the lack of net front presence. No one was taking away the eyes of Dubnyk, and he had some rather routine saves when the Preds had the man advantage.

  • Shea Weber led the team with 33:18 TOI. Roman Josi was the leader in blocked shots with 6.

  • The Predators are now 4-0-2, good for 10 points and first place in the Central Division.

While winning the game feels good and getting points is important, the reality is that the Predators, while working hard, have caught a few breaks. There are facets of their game that have to improve if they want to continue to win games and pile up points.

But for now, enjoy the win and get ready for another test against Chicago on Thursday night.

My three stars:

1. Ryan Ellis

2. Mike Ribeiro

3. Keith Yandle

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Predators Fall In OT to the Blackhawks 2-1

The Nashville Predators played their second road game of the year, the second of a back to back, against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Predators went with Carter Hutton in net while the Hawks had Corey Crawford between the pipes.

The Blackhawks opened the scoring on the first shot of the game as Johnny Oduya blasted a slapshot between the pads of Hutton at 1:49 of the first period.

Certainly not the way you want to start a game against a high powered team like the Blackhawks.

The Predators would answer at 11:17 of the first period as Shea Weber unleashed a bomb from inside the blue line that beat Crawford over the shoulder.

Both teams would make those scores stand up for the remainder of regulation. it was not for lack of effort by the Blackhawks, however, as they attacked all night and kept the Predators on their heels. The Hawks peppered Hutton with shots and had numerous quality scoring chances. Hutton had to make some excellent saves to keep the Hawks off the board.

In the overtime, the Predators had a power play, but Craig Smith tried a blind back pass to Roman Josi that was picked off by Jonathan Toews. Toews broke in alone on Hutton, who made the initial stop but Toews was able to gather the rebound and slide it into the net for the game winner.

After not giving up a shorthanded goal all last season, the Predators were victimized by this turnover and goal and it cost them a point.

Some observations:

  • Carter Hutton got his first start of the season and was scored on with the first shot he faced. Johnny Oduya blew an unscreened shot through the legs of Hutton. Game speed must be different than practice speed. That said, Hutton was under siege all night and made some great saves to keep the Predators in the game.

  • The first period saw the Predators revert to last season's form as the Blackhawks totally dominated possession and shots on goal. The Blackhawks out shot the Predators 11-3, and the Predators were extremely fortunate to escape with the game tied. For the game, the Hawks out shot the Predators 34-17 in regulation and 3-1 in the overtime period.

  • Anton Volchenkov continues to deliver big and timely hits and is a strong physical presence for the Predators. he absolutely blew up Brandon Saad at the blue line in the first period.

  • The Blackhawks speed created problems all night for the Predators, resulting in them taking too many penalties, five in all. Playing a talented team like the Hawks a man down is not a formula for winning a critical divisional contest.

  • The Predators finally got their legs going in the third period and created some good scoring chances, most notably a shot by Craig Smith at a wide open top half of the net, but he was not able to lift the puck over the pad of Crawford. That is a shot that Smith has to bury.

  • Frankly, the Predators were lucky to steal appoint in this contest. Whether it was fatigue from playing the night before (I hope this was it) or that the Hawks clearly have a superior talent advantage (in reality), the Predators could not find an offensive rhythm and were backed into their zone most of the night. The Hawks did a good job of disrupting the Predators breakouts and shutting them down in the offensive zone. Admittedly, this team does not have the talent of the Hawks, but this team has to have a better effort from the forwards to create scoring chances if they want to compete in the division.

  • Shea Weber led the team in TOI with 28:21.
As badly outplayed as the Predators were tonight, they still managed to pick up a point and have not lost in regulation this season. This team is going to have to scrap and fight for every point.

So far, they have shown they will do that.

My three stars:

1. Jonathan Toews

2. Carter Hutton

3. Shea Weber