Sunday, November 1, 2009

Predators Dig Out of a Hole

At 2-6-1, the Predators looked to be digging a hole that would be difficult to overcome. Scoring was at a premium, and the defense looked shaky at best. Goal tending was spotty. In the powerful Western Conference, the Preds were falling quickly out of the race.

Then something happened for this team. Offense started to appear. Defense settled down and looked solid. And the Predators reeled off three straight wins to close October at .500.

Looking back over the play of the Predators in this first month of the season, it is apparent that for this team to have a chance at success they will have to continue the style of play that has brought them back to even. Defense has to be responsible and limit chances. When the D is on, they can make it very difficult to for other teams to get quality scoring chances. The addition of Francis Buillon has been positive for this team, and he has been sound in his play on the blue line. Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Klein have started to settle in as the second pairing and their play has improved significantly in the past few games. Ryan Suter continues to be quietly emerging as a star in the league, and his play has been exemplary. And Shea Weber, always a beast defensively, is heating up with his scoring, having notched five goals after a slow offensive start.

While still waiting for David Legwand and Marty Erat to get untracked offensively, scoring has come by committee. J. P. Dumont has elevated his game with eleven points in nine games. Scoring has also started to emerge from the second and third lines, which is critical for this team. Jerred Smithson has three goals, two of which are shorthanded. Joel Ward has started to round his game into shape after missing early season action due to a groin strain. Patric Hornqvist is showing that he belongs at the NHL level after a brief stint with the team last season. Jason Arnott, who has five points in seven games, is expected back after missing two weeks with a shoulder injury, and his return should bolster the offense.

This team has seen how lackluster offensive play and shoddy defense can cost them. They are not good enough to overcome an off night. Don't bring your best and expect to see a loss.

This team has also seen how playing their game- aggressively forechecking and creating turnovers, strong defense, and scoring by committee, can bring a victory. This team will never be flashy. Grind it out games will be the norm. That is fine. They don't grade wins on style points.

The month of October has been a learning experience for the Predators. They have seen what it is like being at the bottom of the standings looking up at other teams. They now know what it is like to be in the thick of the divisional race. Take the lessons learned and build on them.

You are out of the hole. Time to move on to higher ground.

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