Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dallas Drops the Predators 3-1

The Nashville Predators 6 game win streak ended with a thud against the Dallas Stars, as the Predators dropped a 3-1 decision on home ice. Although the Predators outshot the Stars by a 35-14 margin, they were unable to solve Stars netminder Kari Lehtonen.

The Predators came out strong in the first period, outshooting the Stars 14-5 but didn't generate much in the way of quality chances. As Head Coach Barry Trotz said after the game, the Preds didn't work to get in the hard areas and create enough traffic to make it difficult on Lehtonen. This is the Predators game, and tonight, it just wasn't working. Many shots were from the point, and Lehtonen was able to see the puck clearly, making for some easy stops.

After a scoreless first period, Dallas got the first score at 8:10 of the second when Pekka Rinne fell on top of a puck and thought he had it smothered. Instead, the puck squirted out from under Rinne directly to Trevor Daley, who was alone in the low slot. It was easy pickings for Daley, who fired the puck into an open net while Rinne was still down on the ice.

The Predators would answer at 16:02 of the period as Shea Weber unleashed a cannon shot that blew past an unscreened Lehtonen. The score would remained tied at 1 through the end of the period.

The Stars took control of the game early in the third period as Loui Eriksson broke in on the left wing on rifled a shot over the shoulder of Rinne at 1:30 of the period. Just :30 seconds later, Dallas tallied again as Matt Niskanen shot the puck to the net with traffic in front. The puck got past a screened Rinne to give the Stars a 2 goal lead that the Predators would never challenge again.

The Predators jumbled their lines as Jason Arnott and Joel Ward were absent due to injury. Missing these two key players seemed to affect the chemistry of the lines as there were numerous breakdowns in the offensive zone and the Predators just didn't seem to click like they had during their winning streak.

One can give the Predators some slack because they were missing some vital cogs, but the troublesome aspect of this loss is that the Predators got away from doing what worked during their win streak. Tough, gritty hockey. Going to the front of the net. Doing the little things that turn the tide of a contest. Tonight, these characteristics of their game were missing.

It would have been beyond optimism to think the Preds would win out their regular season schedule. This loss points out that the difference between winning and losing is very fine, and the Predators can't get away from the type of game that produced the wins we have enjoyed.

The schedule doesn't get easier, with the red hot Phoenix Coyotes and Detroit Red Wings coming to town. The loss is in the books. So be it.

Learn from this loss. No more soft hockey. Remember that it is the tough, workmanlike hockey that you played to produce six wins in a row. Remember that it is not easy to win right now. Soft hockey is a formula for loss. No sustained pressure is a formula for loss. Less than 100% effort is a formula for loss.

The streak is over. It's now time to start a new winning streak

A streak built on heart, grit, and tough hockey.

It's time to start again.

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