Sunday, December 27, 2009

Defensive Lapses Cost Predators a Critical Win

The Predators lost a heartbreaker to Chicago 5-4 as Patrick Kane scored the game winner with :43 seconds remaining in the third period. While the Predators showed more heart and a much better effort in this contest than in the one the night before, defensive breakdowns cost this team two vital points.

John Madden scored two goals for the Hawks by taking long lead passes and getting behind the defense to beat goaltender Dan Ellis. His first tied the game at 2, and his second gave the Hawks a 3-2 lead. Both occurred in the third period, a period that the Predators started with a 2-1 lead.

Marcel Goc opened the scoring for the Predators with his seventh goal of the season, one off his career high. Marty Erat continued his hot streak by notching 14th goal of the season early in the second, and the Predators maintained the one goal lead for the rest of the period.

The wheels came off for the Predators in the third, as the aforementioned Madden tallied consecutive goals and Brian Campbell added a power play marker with Dan Hamhuis in the box. With six minutes remaining in the game, and staring at  a 4-2 deficit, the Predators looked dead in the water.

This time, however, the team showed heart and refused to quit. With traffic in front of the net created by Joel Ward, Dan Hamhuis scored from the blue line with a knuckleball that went five hole on Blackhawk goalie Antii Niemi. The Predators kept the pressure up and :52 seconds later, Cody Franson scored to tie the game. This time, there was no quit in the Predators.

Kane (aka "Twenty Cent") ended the Predators hope for a victory with his late goal, and although the Predators had a flurry of activity in front of the net, they couldn't get one in the net to force overtime. Some rough stuff occurred at the horn as Brent Seabrook took a cheap shot crosscheck on Marty Erat, and several scrums broke out as a result. It remains to be seen if the League will review the extracurriculars for any supplemental disciplinary action.

The Predators have now lost three in a row. The positives of this game is that this team showed some heart and fight and stood skate to skate with a very talented team. The negatives are the defensive breakdowns, penalties at inopportune times, and the inability to hold a lead. Build on the positives and learn from the negatives, because it is not going to get any easier.

Tonight, this team, at times, exhibited the type of hockey that they need to play to win games. They shot the puck, crashed the crease, won battles on the boards. I have said this all season, and I will repeat it now- this is what you have to do to win. Play this way, and you will be fine.

A word to a couple of players. Jason Arnott, J. P. Dumont, Steve Sullivan, and David Legwand: this team needs you to start stepping it up. You guys are too talented to be this inconspicuous and too essential to the success of this team to be this invisible. You haven't been around much lately, and we miss you. And the team misses you.

It's not going to get any easier boys. Recognize that and get ready for the battles. They are a comin'. You have shown that you can win the battles, and now it is time to go out and get back on the winning side of the ledger. You showed that when you want to, you can play with the best.

Everyone that follows the game has been surprised by how well you have played to this point. That's history. Time to set your sights on beginning a new winning streak. No more breakdowns. No more lapses.

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