Saturday, January 30, 2010

Predators Snap Losing Streak, Top Thrashers 4-3

Five straight games that have gone in the loss column, and the Nashville Predators find themselves fighting for a playoff spot. A tough loss to Detroit the night before, and now the dangerous Atlanta Thrashers in town. Certainly a trap game for the desperate Predators. Certainly a game the Predators needed to win to end the losing streak and gather points on home ice.

The game started well for the Predators as Joel Ward worked hard around the net and chipped a puck over Johan Hedberg's shoulder for a 1-0 Predator lead. Welcome back Joel. Your presence has been missed in the lineup and on the ice. Wardo continues to work hard, and his efforts were rewarded with the first goal of the game.

Jerred Smithson gave the Predators a 2-0 lead with a nice wrister after controlling the puck with his skate. Smithers may not score often, but when he does, it is timely. His 7th goal of the season staked the Predators to a 2-0 lead.

That lead was cut to 2-1 just seven seconds into a Thrasher power play as Bryan Little was alone in the low slot and fired a shot past Pekka Rinne. Once again, the Predators penalty kill failed to do their job, and Atlanta was back in the game at the end of the first period.

Martin Erat extended the Predators lead to two once again as he fired a shot past Hedberg at 11:12 of the second. Erat was strong on the puck and played a good game, with this goal and an assist for the night.

With Tobias Enstrom in the box for holding, the Predators went on the power play up 3-1 and had an opportunity to put the game out of reach. Instead, the Preds gave up a short handed goal to Chris Thorburn. Pekka Rinne stopped the first shot on the two on one break by the Thrashers, but could not control the rebound, and Thorburn had a virtually open net to slap home the puck.

Three minutes later, Atlanta struck again as Bryan Little tallied his second goal. Rinne could not control a rebound, and Little had an open net awaiting his shot. Suddenly, the Predators had squandered momentum and a two goal lead to go into the third period tied with the pesky Thrashers.

This is the point where the hockey gods have frowned upon the Predators. Momentum had shifted, and a few breakdowns had cost the Predators not only the lead but momentum as well.

That would change just seven seconds into the third period. The Predators won the opening faceoff, and Francis Buillon fired a pass to Jason Arnott breaking in on goal. The captain buried the shot, and the Predators had a lead they would never relinquish. Good to see the Captain find the back of the net again. It's been a long time, Jason. Don't be a stranger.

Pekka Rinne played well in net. The goals he gave up were goals on which he didn't have much of a chance. He made some huge saves to keep the Thrashers off the board. He made a brilliant glove save against Maxim Afinagenov, who was alone at the side of the net, and he stoned Ilya Kovalchuk on a breakaway. Earlier, I said that either Rinne or Dan Ellis had to step up and play like a champion. Tonight, Rinne did just that.

What I am about to say, I say in love. Our special teams suck. Giving up a power play goal just seven seconds into the PP is just unacceptable. Squandering a 5 on 3 power play is unacceptable. Heck, we couldn't even get the puck in the zone with a two man advantage. Giving up a shorthanded goal is unacceptable. This type of play is going to bite us in the ass at the most inopportune time. We are playing with fire here guys, and this has to improve.

Kudos to the Thrasher fans that made the trip up for the game. Two busloads of their fans were in attendance. I'm not sure that the Thrashers have many more fans in attendance at their home games in Phillips Arena. They were loud and supported their team, and it was good to see the "non-traditional" markets represented so well.

You have broken the streak guys, and you did it by working hard, winning puck battles, and shooting the puck. A good win. A necessary win. Learn from these games you lost, and learn from the game you have won. You know what it takes to win, and you have to continue to play with this sense of urgency and grit.

The Predators are still in playoff position. They have endured a low point, and now they have started a new winning streak. Build on this. Play with heart and with confidence.

You have seven games until the Olympic break. Capture the points that are out there. Believe in yourselves. We believe in you. The hockey gods looked down tonight and smiled on you. Continue to make them smile.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Predators Can't Convert Chances, Lose to Detroit 4-2

Chances. Lots of chances. And failure to convert those chances cost the Predators their fifth straight loss, this time to the evil Detroit Red Wings by a score of 4-2. This despite outshooting Detroit 48-29.

The Predators played with good jump, but couldn't overcome two power play goals and a goal by Henrik Zetterberg from an impossible angle that netminder Dan Ellis should have stopped- HAD to stop. Detroit also scored almost immediately after a power play, a goal that occurred just as J.P. Dumont was coming out of the box. Essentially a power play goal.

Francis Buillon tied the game at one late in the first period with a nice srister that beat etroit goalie Jimmie Howard to the glove side. Detroit took a two goal lead with a power play goal and the aforementioned even strength goal to go in to the third period leading by two.

Shea Weber cut the lead to one with a wrister from the face off circle, and the Predators were swarming and peppering Howard with pucks. Howard was exceptional, but the way the Predators were playing, one just felt that it was a matter of time before they would tie the game.

That feeling quickly evaporated as Zetterberg fired a puck off the end board and got his own rebound. He shot the puck at the net from behind Ellis, and it banked off his shoulder an in for the backbreaking goal. Ellis was slow getting to the post, and it gave a goal scorer like Zetterberg the opening he needed.

The Predators had numerous chances but just could not convert. Patric Hornqvist hit a crossbar on a breakaway. Cal O'Reilly had a wide open net and hit the crossbar. Jason Arnott, J.P. Dumont, and David Legwand all had point blank chances that they couldn't bury. Steve Sullivan couldn't convert on a breakaway. Chances. Lots of chances. The inability to finish. The result, the Predators have now dropped their fifth and are struggling to stay in the playoff race.

Ten points have now been left out on the ice. Ten precious points that we will need for the playoffs. Those ten points are history. It's time to get back to winning hockey. Keep playing like you did tonight and the hockey gods will begin to smile on you, boys.

Tonight, you saw what you have to do to win. Shoot the puck and crash the crease. You generated chances, now finish them.

Ellis or Rinne, one of you has to step up and say that you are the starter. The soft goals are unacceptable. Time for one of you to play like a champion.

You now have eight games before the Olympic break. Sixteen points. An eight game season, if you will. It's time to put the past five games behind you and go out and play Predator hockey. time to play with an edge. Dare I say, it's time to play with some desperation. No excuses. No slipping out of the playoffs. No quit.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

My View

Random thoughts from a warped and fevered mind...

One year ago, I thought it would be fun to try my hand at blogging. I considered the content that I would put in to a blog, and, as it says under the masthead, you have been given a fan's view of hockey, sports, and life. When I started the blog, I had no idea if anyone would read it, if this would be something that I would continue, or if it would fall by the wayside. I certainly had no idea how it would be received by you the reader. Over the past year, many of you have offered your gracious support and your kind comments as I have tried to grow into the role of a blogger. I want to thank the Predators blogging community who have been so helpful and supportive, and I want to thank each of you that reads the blog.

I wonder if the cannibals that ate the missionary got a taste of religion?

One of the favorite tools of the left is to attempt to kindle a populist fervor against big business- euphemistically and constantly referred to as "Wall Street". This may play well in the world of politics, but in reality it is is bad for Americans and the U.S. economy. Not for a moment do I believe that American business is pure. There have been egregious errors in judgement that have cost individuals their livelihoods and taxpayers money. The reality is, however, that big business is you and me, and Wall Street is entertwined with our daily lives. The vilified "big business" and "Wall Street" employs millions of Americans who labor honestly to support their families and the communities in which they live. And Wall Street is not a bunch of greedy investment bankers (although there are some of those out there); rather, it is investment in American business that has helped to generate untold wealth for us. It is the equity investments that we hold in our retirement accounts and that we are saving for our children or grandchildren's education or legacy. Rather than demonize American business, shouldn't our govenment be doing more to make it easier for companies to do business in this country and employ more people?

Would an eye doctor on an Alaskan island be called an optical Aleutian?

Notice this past week when we had several days of triple digit declines in the stock market? This was a result of the rhetoric coming out of Washington. The concern was that the onerous proposals for additional taxes on banks would cause banks to curtail much of their lending activity. Know this- if the banking system in this country grinds to a halt, there will be no economic recovery. We can guarantee ourselves double digit unemployment for years. Banks provide the capital that many small business need to grow and hire additional workers. Without that capital, there will be very little hiring from the main economic engine in this country- those same small businesses. And the electorate will not tolerate governance that relegates our economy to second tier status and prevents the growth of jobs.

The other day I was helping my ten year old son with his science homework, and he was telling me that protons have mass. Mass? I didn't even know they were Catholic.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Soft Goals Sink Slumping Predators

In a game that the Predators desperately needed, two soft goals doomed them as they fell to the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2. The losing skid is now four games for the Predators, who are seeing their playoff standing threatened with sloppy play and weak goaltending.

Pekka Rinne got the start for the Predators in net. After a scoreless first period, the BJ's got on the board as Rinne made several good scrambling saves. A weak clearing attempt allowed Columbus to keep the puck in the offensive zone, and Derick Brassard hammered a shot at the net that Rinne initially stopped. However, the puck slid between Rinnes pads and trickled over the goal line. Definitely a goal that Rinne should have stopped.

In the third period, a bogus hooking call sent Jason Arnott to the box, and Columbus executed the power play perfectly. Kristian Huselius buried a beautiful pass across the slot on a play where Rinne didn't have much of a chance.

However, Rinne let in his second soft goal just :39 seconds later as he went down in snow angel mode to stop the puck. Unfortunately, the puck squirted out from under him and Fredrik Modin opportunistically slapped the puck into the open net.

Down 3-0, the Predators looked as if they had completely imploded. Marty Erat changed the momentum as he wired a shot to the far post past a screened Steve Mason. With ten minutes to go, the Predators had life.

Erat fired a shot a Mason, who gave up a big rebound and the puck vacuum, Patric Hornqvist swept up the rebound and rifled it past Mason for a one goal deficit. Hornqvist's goal was his team leading 21st of the year.

The Predators could not get another puck past Mason, and lost their fourth game in a row.

When one looks at these four losses there are some positives and some negatives that emerge. From a positive perspective, the Predators could have won three of these four games. A bad call here, and breakdown there, and instead of a win, there is a loss. Three of the four losses were by one point; three of the four losses could have been wins with a break here or there or the officials not blowing a call. But anyone that has followed hockey knows that there are stretches like this.

The disturbing aspects of these losses are that the team has at times come out flat (think: Toronto); goaltending has at times been suspect (think: Columbus); and there have been periods where the team has just been plain bad  in the defensive end (think: all four games). These negative trends have to stop. NOW. this team is not good enough to survive these negatives.

The Predators have lost four in a row. As a fan, this irritates me. As a player, I hope this makes you mad as hell. The way these losses have come about has been unacceptable- sloppy play; weak goaltending; and disappearing offensive output by some of the players that have to produce.

Let this loss burn for a while. Let it make you angry, boys. Let it remind you what got you the wins you have and get you focused back on those positive attributes. You are better than you have been playing lately. I know there are injuries. I know the schedule is a grind right now. It's that way for every team in the league. No one feels sorry for you.

Time to get the hunger back. Time to stoke the fires. Enough losing. Enough with the excuses. Time to start playing Predator hockey. Time to start winning.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Critcal Games Upcoming

The Nashville Predators have ten games until the two week Olympic break begins. Twenty precious points on the line. The Predators aren't going to lock up a playoff spot in the next ten games, but they certainly could play themselves out of a playoff spot during this critical stretch.

The Predators play six of the ten games on the road, which, to date, has been good to them. It is important for this team to continue to play the style of hockey that has gotten them to this point: determined, gritty, lunch pail hockey. They have to shoot the puck and crash the net; they have to play sound defense; and they have to get top flight goaltending. This has been their formula for success. Don't stray from it.

The Predators need some guys to step up and start finding the back of the net. I'm talking to you Jason Arnott, J.P. Dumont, David Legwand, and Marty Erat. Shoot the puck guys. Good things happen when you do.

Pekka Rinne and Dan Ellis- you guys have been good but not great. Time for one of you to step up and declare that the number one goaltender job is yours.

And no more "flat" starts. That is unacceptable. Especially when you come back to home ice.

Currently, Nashville is tied for sixth in the West with Los Angeles. Both teams have 61 points. Phoenix has 63 points; Vancouver 64; and Colorado 66. These are the teams that we are chasing. We have a game in hand on Phoenix.

The teams that are chasing us are Calgary and Detroit with 58 points, and Anaheim and Dallas with 55. The tightness of the race emphasizes that you have to bring it every night. This is playoff hockey in January.

If you believe that it will take 95 points to secure a playoff spot, then the Preds need to go 17-14-1 over the remainder of the season. 100 points means the guys have to go 19-12-1.

It's difficult to believe that we are playing playoff hockey in January. This is the nature of the ultra competitive Western Conference. This is what you were built for, boys. Gritty, balls to the wall hockey. Not pretty, not flashy, ready for a war every night.

Injuries are starting to mount. Guys that have been contributors are out of the line up. So be it. Every team faces this fact of life in the game. When you put on that sweater, there are no excuses. It's time to bring it.

We believe in you. You have shown amazing heart and character to this point. You have had a season that no one expected, surprising everyone but the guys in that locker room. Know what got you to this point and build on that success.

Capture these critical games. Continue to confound the critics. And show the hockey world you are for real.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Penalty Plagued Predators Drop A Critical Game to the Avalanche

You hate to say that games are "must win" at this time of the season, but the game against the Avalanche could come close. The Predators were looking to end a two game slide and draw back into a tie for fourth place. Instead, the Predators uncharacteristically committed nine penalties and gave up two power play goals to fall to the Avs 2-1.

The Predators found themselves in a 1-0 hole as Matt Duchene scored on a 5 on 3 power play with Ryan Suter and Steve Sullivan in the box. Predator goalie Pekka Rinne had no chance on the play as the Avalanche moved the puck well, and Duchene was the beneficiary of a nice pass to chip the puck into a nearly wide open net.

With Wade Belak off for hooking, Brandon Yip found the back of the net, and once again, the Predators were trying to dig themselves out of another hole. After a tough game in Phoenix the night before and playing at the high altitude that is Denver, this looked to be a near impossible task.

Pekka Rinne was solid in net, giving up only the two power play goals on 23 shots, both of which were impossible for him to stop. Pekka was able to clean up some defensive breakdowns and kept the Predators within striking distance. Up for debate is whether the goalie rotation is preventing either Pekka or Dan Ellis from getting into a consistent rhythm in net.

Cody Franson cut the lead to one with a power play goal at 8:57 of the second as he unleashed a blast from just inside the blueline. Franson continues to settle in to the sixth d-man role, and his play shows maturity and improvement.

In the third, the Predators had a goal by Ryan Suter disallowed on a weak goaltender interference call on Patric Hornqvist. Weak. This is a family blog. That is all I can say.

Late in the period, Hornqvist was able to gather in the puck during a goal mouth scramble and put a backhand off the post over a sprawling Craig Anderson. That was the last good scoring chance for the Predators as the Avalanche held on for the 2-1 win.

In both the Phoenix game and the game tonight, the Predators had opportunities, but could not bury the puck. It is imperative that the Preds keep shooting the puck and crashing the net. Good things will come if this continues.

One could look at the officiating and lay the blame for the loss on the refs. They certainly had a hand in this game. The reality is that the Predators committed a number of dumb penalties and put themselves in a hole because of their play. The fact is that the officiating in this league will never be perfect. We have to play a better game than we did tonight regardless of the officiating.

A three game losing streak is not the end of the world. But a three game losing streak is troubling because the Predators are in a fight for playoff positioning in the ultra competitive Western Conference. Points are precious, and it is important to stop this slide now. It's time for the big guns to step up and for the team to begin to play Predator hockey once again.

Confidence can be a fragile thing; winning a fickle mistress. This team can win, and they know it. They also know what it takes to win- gritty hockey, solid defense, heart, and a determination not to lose.Winning favors the team that embraces those characteristics. The focus in the upcoming games has to be on those attributes, the character of this team.

Learn from the mistakes that cost you these three games. Remember how it feels when you lose. And change the direction of this team. Win by playing with discipline, focus, and heart. Win by playing Predator hockey.

My View

Random thoughts from a warped and fevered mind...

The stunning victory of Scott Brown, a Republican, over the Democrat's candidate, Martha Coakley, in Massachusetts to fill the seat held by the late Ted Kennedy should be seen for one thing: a repudiation of Obamacare and socialized medicine in the United States. In a Fabrizio, McLaughlin, and Associates poll, 78 percent of all the voters that voted for Brown said their vote was intended to stop Obamacare. And this was not fringe voters in a low turnout election. The vote in this race was the highest in any nonpresidential election in 20 years. When voters in the bluest of the blue states resoundingly reject socialized medicine and the backroom deals that have been cut just to keep it alive, reasoned people would say it is time to re-think the entire concept. This is Washington, however, where reasoned people are a rarity.

I have a hot dog philosphy of life- relish today and ketchup tomorrow.

The Obama administration continues to attempt to insinuate the government into more and more sectors of the economy. And with great cost to taxpayers. Lost in the debate over socialized medicine is the fact that the cap and trade sham is still alive and well. Supposedly, this effort will reduce carbon emissions by placing austere restrictions on companies that can only be waived by buying carbon credits. The reality of this scheme is twofold: global warming has been a falsehood from the gitgo, with made up science and falsified numbers driving the claim of anthropogenic global warming; and if a cap and trade system is enacted in this country, it will level crushing financial costs on utilities and business, which will get passed along to you and me. This is not about global warming, this is about control of the economy and money.

My wife is like nature. She abhors a vacuum.

In times of relative calm, do you ever notice the anti-America rhetoric that is spewed from various corners of the world? America (read: you and I) is evil, America is greedy, America  is bad. Yet when there is a natural disaster or a crisis- anywhere on the globe- who is in the vanguard bringing aid and relief? And who is expected to be there? America. Despite the vitriol and venom spewed at us, we continue to be the world's policeman, the world's hospital, and we do so at great cost and risk to our military, those who volunteer, and our nation. Maybe instead of apologizing for our nation and the heroic acts of selflessness that we have performed over the years, our current leadership should be bold enough, and dare I say proud enough, to point these facts out to our detractors.

They say when a man holds a woman's hand  before marriage, it is love. After marriage, it's self defense.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Desert Dogs Drop Predators 4-2

In a battle between two teams that are surprisingly vying for playoff positioning, the Nashville Predators fell to the Phoenix Coyotes 4-2 at Arena. Despite pouring 43 shots on goal, the Predators could only put two pucks past Coyotes goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.

After Phoenix took a 1-0 lead early in the second period, Nashville answered with a goal by Patric Hornqvist, his 20th of the year. Hornqvist continues to impress with his courage and work around the net. He was able to gather in a rebound and bank a shot off the back of Bryzgalov to tie the game. At the start of the season, how many Predator fans would have imagined the production we would have gotten from Hornqvist? He has been consistently impressive.

Just :40 seconds later, Ed Jovanoski turned the puck over and Marty Erat made the Coyotes pay, depositing the puck in the back of the net for a 2-1 lead. The game would remain tied going into the third period.

In the third, the Predators gave up three goals, all to former Predator Scottie Upshall. Failing to control the third, the Predators dropped a critical contest to the Coyotes. Both teams entered the contest with 61 points, and by virtue of the win, the Coyotes move into fourth place in the West, and the Predators drop to fifth.

The disappointing aspects of this game are that the Predators could not control play in the third period, and that some of Nashville's big guns have turned invisible. Going in to the third in a hostile environment and with the lead, the Predators wilted under the pressure of the Coyotes. Failing to get pucks past Bryzgalov seemed to energize the Coyotes, and they turned that energy into goals against the Predators. Phoenix exerted pressure and capitalized on their chances; Nashville exerted pressure but couldn't score.

The disappearance of players like Arnott and Sullivan is problematic for this team. These players have to start heating up offensively. Right now, they are cold. This cannot continue- these guys are too important to the offense to be as quiet as they are. It has been great to get the production from the third and fourth lines- that's a bonus for this team. The first line has to be consistently productive, and outside of Hornqvist, they have been erratic.

It gets no easier for the Predators. They have Colorado on Friday night. The Western Conference is going to be a dogfight. Time for the big dogs of the Predators to start playing like big dogs. No losing streaks. No quit. No backing down when you have the lead.

Put this one behind you, boys, and get back to your winning ways in Denver.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Toronto Tabloid Stirs Tempest in Tennessee Teapot

There are certain things in life that occur with striking regularity: the sun rising in the east; University of Tennessee athletes getting arrested for committing felonies; and the Toronto media attempting to cause havoc with the Nashville Predators. David Shoalts, writing in today's edition of the Toronto Globe and Mail headlines an article entitled "Nashville Eyes Tighter Leash on Predators", the gist of which is that the owners of the Predators may have to pony up additional assets to the City because their internal agreement in their partnership provides for more protection for the partners than for the City. Additionally, a consent decree signed by the owners favors the NHL over the City of Nashville in the event of a default.

The article can be found here:

Reading Shoalts' article brings to mind a bevy of questions, and I would love for Mr. Shoalts to provide some insight into the following:

What is your agenda here? It is apparent that there is one, and don't hide under the veil of "this is newsworthy". Horse manure. Why does the esteemed Toronto Globe and Mail deem it necessary to request documents related to the lease and inner workings of the relationship of the Predators and the City of Nashville? And who has supplied those documents to you- documents between a private partnership and the City of Nashville?

Once you had those documents, why did you seek out Rusty Lawrence? Ostensibly, he is Chairman of the Nashville Sports Authority's Finance committee; practically, he knows little to nothing about the lease arrangement.  C'mon David, getting a reasonable answer from Rusty regarding this lease is like asking you to endorse hockey in, say... Nashville. Frankly, using Rusty as a reliable font of information on this lease is a fool's errand. And yes, that is an indictment of Rusty, and by extension, the Nashville Sports Authority, but there ya go.

I'm telling you David, Rusty doesn't even know how many people are showing up at the hockey games, even though those figures are reported monthly to the Sports Authority. Does that give you a sense of confidence that this is a man with a real understanding of the lease? Or was Rusty just an easy mark for you and your paper? A real rube, right?

There is concern that the Predators could move after this season if the average attendance is below 14,000, according to Rusty. The clause in the lease actually says that it must be below 14,000 for two consecutve years. You might want to do a little research on this one, but the attendance has been above this mark since the new ownership purchased the team.

And the $20MM loss clause that provides an out is not in play. Not even close. Unless you asked Rusty about this information.

There seems to be some consternation on the part of Rusty that the guarantees executed by the partners limit their liability to the city to the percentage of their ownership in the Predators. By contrast, the owners guarantees to the NHL are stronger and they do not get an out if they file bankruptcy. Furthermore, there was a consent decree signed by the owners that gave the NHL the right to be named the primary creditor in the event of a bankruptcy or default and subordinate every other claim, including one that the City of Nashville might have.

I don't know about you, David, but it sounds like the owners negotiated a pretty nice deal with the City, better than they could with the NHL. And the problem with that is...?

Look, the City of Nashville can have a big concrete barn that sits empty most nights, or they can have a tenant that brings people downtown and generates hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenue over 41 nights a year. Smarter people than Rusty knew this, and they were accommodating in regards to the negotiated lease. Nothing wrong with that.

But now you have stirred up someone who really isn't attuned to what is going on and he wants to renegotiate. Again, what's your agenda here? Regardless of that agenda, the Predators are not in default and have met the terms of the lease as negotiated. Don't like your lease, City of Nashville? Then your time to change it is when it is up for re-negotiation, not in mid term.

Look, these owners believed in hockey in Nashville enough to put up personal guarantees. Now, I'm just a lowly blogger here, but I suspect you could use the vast resources of your tabloid to find out how many other owners personally guarantee the arena lease of their hockey club. I'm gonna offer you a bet. I think it is under five. If I'm wrong, I will buy you a steak dinner (caveat: you gotta come to Nashville to get it).

I know, David, that you are going to hang your hat on the fact that the majority owner, David Freeman, has a $3.3MM lien filed against him for underpayment of his 2008 taxes. This resulted, as Freeman has publicly stated, from the con that Boots Del Biaggio perpetrated on him to buy the 27% interest in the team. When the con came unraveled all of a sudden, there was a $46MM hole that had to be plugged because Boots couldn't pony up the money. Freeman did it, which indicates to me that the guy has a bit of financial horsepower. However, the transaction caused his taxes to be recalculated and he owes the aforementioned $3.3MM. Now, I know I can't just whip out the ol' personal checkbook and write a check like that, at least not without making a dent in my wife's grocery money allowance. How about you? No? Didn't think so.

So yes, there is a concern over a potential default, a technical default, perhaps, because an owner did not notify the City of a material change in his financial condition. I can tell you, after thirty years in the financial services industry, there are defaults, and then there are defaults. As long a Freeman rectifies his situation with the IRS, which he says he will this month, this is not a default that would cause the City to lose money or the Predators to leave Nashville.

So I go back to my original question, David- what's your agenda? Hate hockey in Nashville? Don't like the fact that the Predators are currently fourth in the Western Conference, while Toronto is, uh let me look waaaay down there in those Eastern Conference standings, oh, there they are, 14th? Don't want any hockey below the 49th parallel? Hell, just throw it out there. We hockey fans in Nashville have endured the baseless attacks and snide remarks before. We will continue to do so. And hockey will continue to grow deep roots and thrive in Nashville.

A friendly word of advice- you might not want to rely on Rusty for your insight and information about what is going on. Citing him as an authoritative figure might do lasting harm to whatever journalistic credibility you might have.

The optics on this look bad. The last time someone was getting documents from the city government and then feeding them back to selected officials was when that bottomfeeder Richard Rodier was stirring up trouble. Your article smacks of that.

I have read your writings for years- good stuff. You're a good writer. But this is a hack job, and it is not appreciated. And candidly, we don't want tabloids in Toronto stirring up tempests in Tennessee.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Predators Stink Up The Joint in 4-3 Loss

When you play a bottom feeder, you have to come out strong, put the hammer down, and put them in a hole. Apparently, that message was lost on the Predators as they fell to the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 on home ice. Another slow, and frankly inexcusable, start doomed the Predators.

Look guys, if you are not going to play sixty minutes of hockey, especially on home ice, then you owe me some money. Soft goals, losing battles on the boards, inability to get the puck through the neutral zone, all of these were characteristic of your effort tonight. And that is unacceptable.

Pekka Rinne got the start in goal, and he was atrocious. Two soft goals and a goal given up on a breakaway and the Preds found themselves in a 3-0 hole at the end of the first period. Rinne was pulled for Dan Ellis, and if Dan had not made some exceptional saves, the score could have been worse.

Props to Marcel Goc, Cody Franson, and Ryan Jones for scoring and getting the Preds back in to the game. But this effort on home ice was sorry, and frankly, I'm freakin tired of this team coming out  and being flat on their home ice. If you have to take the team to a hotel the night before and make them believe they are on the road, then do it Trotzy. This team sucks recently on home ice. Want to build attendance? Then don't come out and play sorry hockey at home.

Yes, I'm pissed. The effort in the first 30 minutes was unacceptable. This team cannot afford to give up points against bottom feeders like Toronto. This team cannot afford half assed efforts. This team cannot waste the energy of a home crowd that was into the game.

The points are too precious to waste on home ice. I guess, fortunately, for the Predators, that the road awaits. Apparently, they like playing better on the road than they do at home.

Boys, it's time to reward the fans that support you. It's time to bring the effort on home ice. It's time to stop stinking up the joint.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Predators Put Out Flames 1-0

When it's tough, how bad do you want it? How will you respond in a hostile environment? When the other team challenges you, how will you respond? The Nashville Predators would get a chance to answer all those questions at the Pengrowth Saddle Dome against the Calgary Flames.

Dan Ellis got the start and faced the Predators nemesis in net, Miikka Kiprusoff. Ellis was also facing a Flames team that was starting to play with a bit of desperation and frustration with their lack of goal scoring.

The first period was scoreless, but not for lack of opportunities by the Predators. They fired ten shots on net, and Kiprusoff was called upon to make some big saves to keep the Predators off the score board. The aspect of this period that was encouraging was the Predators were skating hard and cycling the puck well, thus generating quality scoring chances. Cal O'Reilly and Ryan Jones had glorious scoring chances that they could not get past Kiprusoff.

Neither team would yield in the second period as defense ruled the play. Calgary had eight shots on goal; Nashville had seven. It was not for lack of effort by either team, but both teams had a strong forecheck and solid defense which limited chances. Shots that got through were snuffed out by both goalies.

The second period has been the bane of the Predators this season, as they seem to come out of the intermission slowly and typically give up goals that force them to scramble back in to the contest. Not tonight. The Predators skated hard and were aggressive and played a solid period of hockey. The Predators put seven shots on net but could not solve Kipper.

The third period unfolded as the first two periods did, with neither goalie blinking. Ellis was aided by a post and Kiprusoff continued to make some quality saves.

That would change at 13:38 of the third, when the Predators controlled the puck in the Calgary zone. Steve Sullivan had the puck behind the net and made a great pass to Patric Hornqvist, who was driving the net. He fired the puck five hole on Kipper just as he was getting flattened by a Calgary D-man for the score. Hornqvist goal was his 19th of the year to lead the Predators. Would you have said that Hornqvist was going to lead the team in goals at this point of the year? I thought so.

Hornqvist has shown no fear going to the tough areas. Terry Crisp called the area in front of the net "Hornqvist's office" since that is where he makes his living. This requires courage and toughness, becasue Hornqvist is getting hammered by the defense every time he goes in to that area. These are the things it takes to win hockey games- the little things, the tough things. Predator hockey.

The Predators were able to choke off any Calgary threat in the remaining 6:22, and the Predators had swept all the western Canada teams on this swing. These arenas have typically been a house of horrors for the Predators. This season, they were 5-1 in their two western Canada trips.

Dan Ellis was solid in net all night, stopping all 22 shots he faced.

The points are essential- the Western Conference race is too tight to take any game lightly. The maturity and chemistry that this team is showing is, in my view, just as important. This is a team that knows that if they play their style of hockey, they have a good chance to win when they step on the ice. This is a team that has developed a grit, a resolve, that will carry them through the grind of the regular season.

The Predators are in sole possession of fourth place in the Western Conference with a 29-16-3 record, good for 61 points and continually confounding the hockey pundits everywhere but in Nashville.

Bottle this effort, build on the chemistry, and keep playing the game with the resiliency and heart that you have shown. And continue to confound the critics.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My View

Random thoughts from a warped and fevered mind...

A study by Carmen Reinhart of the University of Maryland and Kenneth Rogoff of Harvard University point out the perils of the level of debt we have in this country. Entitled "Growth in a Time of Debt", the study looked at economic data from 200 years of history and from 44 countries. The conclusion: when you owe as much money as we do in this country, the economy is not going to growth rapidly, if at all. The study showed that when a country's debt exceed 60% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is the value of all the goods and services we produce, growth rates drop dramatically. When debt as a percentage of GDP exceeds 90%, growth in the economy comes to a stop and in many cases, contracts. Where is the U.S.? Currently, our national debt is at 84% of our GDP, and that is before socialized medicine and an honest recognition of the true costs of Social Security and Medicare. This does not bode well for those that are out of work today and looking for a job. If the trend does not change, economic growth will be very anemic going forward. If you have children or grandchildren, be very concerned for their economic future.

Someone once said life is like a box of chocolates. I think it's more like jalapenos. What you do today can burn your ass tomorrow.

And while we are on a discussion of GDP, I think it is important to get right to the heart of the debate about the direction of our country. Remember that I said that GDP is the value of all goods and services that we produce. Now here is the critical point: we will typically produce those things we want to use or consume, those things that are beneficial to us. And this presumes that the free market-you and I- are going to make decisions about what we want and be in charge of what is produced and will be in charge of our money. What if less and less of the money is being spent by the people- by you and me- and instead, a larger and growing percentage is being spent by the government? In 1900, government spending accounted for just 3% of all economic output in this country; today it accounts for 46%. That means that the government is spending enormous sums of money that you and I no longer have to spend  and controlling more and more of the economy. And the simple fact is this: government spending does not raise your standard of living one bit. And when any government starts controlling a larger percentage of the economy, less resources are available for individual incomes and standards of living begin to fall.

We have a department of counter-intelligence in this country. How about a department of counter-stupidity?

So now I get to the last point of my economic rant (didn't intend for this post to turn out that way, but it did). Please don't misunderstand, there is a need for government programs. I, for one, am glad we have the best military in the world. The question has been asked over and over in these modern times "How do we control government spending?", and lip service has been given to sunsetting defunct programs (they are not) and eliminating waste (uh, get back with me on that one), but no real and effective measures have been implemented. And most of just roll along with this. Perhaps if we ask the question a different way, it would get our attention and stir us to action. I think the salient question to ask is simply this: "Who do we want spending OUR money?" Do we want a vast, inefficient government beauracracy and 535 members of Congress telling us- you and me- how to spend OUR money? Or do I want to control the spending of the money I earn on the things I want and need? Once each of comes to the realization this is OUR money that is being spent- money that you could spend to improve your standard of living and money that is coming out of your pocket, then it becomes more personal and we get more involved. And our involvement is desperately needed to reverse some very dangerous trends.

If you can smile serenely when everything is going wrong, then you already have someone in mind to blame.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Slick Win for the Predators

In recent games, the Predators have shown an annoying habit of starting slow, falling behind, and scrambling like mad to get back in the game. In tonight's game against Edmonton, the Preds reversed that trend, jumping out to a 3-0 first period lead en route to a a 5-3  road win.

The Predators opened the scoring at 4:59 of the first period as Shea Weber unleashed a blast from just inside the blue line that beat Oiler goalie Jeff Drouin-Deslaurier. This was Weber's second goal in as many games and his ninth of the year.

Just :28 seconds later, Marcel Goc gathered in a rebound and fired in a backhand for a 2-0 Predators lead.

J.P. Dumont completed the scoring for the Predators with a beautiful wraparound goal at 19:02 of the first, and the Predators had drained the life out of the Oil and the crowd.

Patric Hornqvist notched his 18th goal of the season at 6:40 of the second period. Marcel Goc controlled the puck behind the Edmonton net and skated out and found Hornqvist in the low slot. He ripped a shot past Deslaurier for a 4-0 advantage. That was the end of the night for Deslaurier as Devan Dubnyk took over in net for the Oil.

The game remained scoreless for the remainder of the second period and for the first seven minutes of the third, when Jean-Francois Jacques slid a puck through Pekka Rinne's pads to make the score 4-1 Predators. In looking at that goal, it was certainly stoppable, as Rinne got most of the shot, but it still managed to slide across the goal line.

Ryan Potulny tallied on a power play for the Oilers at 14:29 of the third, and suddenly, the Oil had life.That was snuffed out at the end of a Predator power play as Ryan Jones was in front of the net to gather a rebound. He backhanded the puck past Dubnyk for a 5-2 Predator advantage.

Dustin Penner closed the scoring on a 5 on 3 power play at the 19:39 mark of the third.The Oil hit a post as time expired, and the Predators had their second victory on this three game western Canada swing.

Pekka Rinne got the start for the Predators, and faced 41 shots, stopping 38 for a .926 save percentage. Pekka had several quality saves to keep the Oilers off the board, and did an excellent job of controlling rebounds.

In their last 13 road games, the Predators are 10-2-1. This is outstanding work in hostile environments and is one of the reasons the Predators are in the thick of the playoff race. This team has dramatically improved their road record this season, reflecting the maturity and confidence of this team.

With this win, the Predators now have 59 points, good for fourth in the Western Conference.Central Division leader Chicago has 66 points; Detroit is third in the Central with 52 points.

While this win feels good, and it certainly feels good to say the Predators are now fourth in the West, the fact remains there is a lot of hockey yet to play and the race in the West is a logjam. Fifth place Colorado has 58 points; sixth place Phoenix (Phoenix!) has 57 points; and seventh place Vancouver has 56 points.

The closeness of the West emphasizes that the Predators have to continue to play Predator hockey. This team cannot afford to let up and go on a losing streak. These points are precious.

Another road win; two more points; and one step closer to the playoffs. Yes, there is a lot of hockey to be played. Keep playing Predator hockey, and keep on getting those slick wins.

Did Auger "Get Back" at Burrows?

After the Predators 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks last night at GM Place, forward Alexandre Burrows went ballistic, claiming that referee Stephane Auger told him before the game that he was going to "get him back" for embarassing him (Auger) in an earlier Predators Canucks contest.

To recap, Predator forward Jerred Smithson was given a five minute major and a game misconduct for apparently boarding Burrows. Replays showed Burrows lying on the ice looking around until Auger skated over, when he feigned his injury resulting in the penalty. The League office, upon reviewing the replay, rescinded the misconduct penalty against Smithson.

There are a number of variables and unknowns at play here, and a tremendous amount of speculation as to what will be the outcome of a League investigation into the claims by Burrows. As it stands now, there is a "she said (Burrows)/he said nothing (Auger) situation. However, I think it is instructive to look at this from several perspectives.

The League office obviously reviewed the situation that was mentioned above regarding the Smithson/Burrows contact and subsequent misconduct penalty since the League rescinded (after the fact) the misconduct call against Smithson. One could reasonably surmise that Auger was critiqued, perhaps severely, for his call in that game.These critiques go in to an overall evaluation package for officials that determines their opportunity to continue to work in the post season.

So let's assume that Auger was called on the carpet by Terry Gregson, the Director of Officiating. Was it painful? Embarassing? Undoubtedly. Will it have an detrimental impact on Auger's ability to work in the post season? That is unknown. This is just one game in the body of work that is the season for an official.

However, when you look at the full body of Auger's work, you see an official that has been no stranger to controversy. He was the official that disallowed a potential game winning goal by the Red Wings in a game earlier this year. He accused Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan of using an ethnic slur offensive to Fench Candians in a game and gave him a game misconduct. And these two participants have crossed paths before, as Auger threw Burrows out of a game last season in Montreal.

So you have an official that has been involved in controversy, and he is going to go to a player with whom he has had run-ins before and forewarn him that he is going to "get him back" for embarassing him on a call? Look, Auger is human and obviously doesn't want to be shown up and remembers past slights, but is he going to jeopardize a career to get retribution against a player for one call? And tell him he is going to do so? Frankly, it just doesn't make sense.

Burrows is not the innocent victim in this situation, either. Sure, he embellished the play in December that got Smithson ejected. Burrows has been known to take cheap shots at other players heads, as he did last year when he ran J.P. Dumont. Bob MacKenzie of TSN calls Burrows "Sean Avery lite", and this is an apt description- a player that agitates but won't back it up with his fists. Burrows is yappy and annoying and I'm certain he has drawn the ire of not only opponents but officials as well. And when you have a reputation for being a pest and being yappy, sometimes officials watch you just a little more closely than they would other players (right, Mr. Tootoo?).

The final aspect of this game that should be brought out is that both Auger and fellow ref Dennis LaRue, uh, what is the technical term I'm looking for... oh yeah, sucked. These guys had some pretty shaky calls, and I'm being generous here. The tenor of any game can be controlled by how well the officials do their job, and last night both teams suffered because of questionable officiating.

So did Auger target Burrows and get him back for an earlier embarassment? On the surface, it doesn't look good for Auger, but once the bile from Burrows has subsided, enough questions emerge to cast doubt on the veracity of his statements. Was there an element of emotion on the part of Auger? I think so. Did he tell Burrows he was going to get him. I would be shocked if he did. Did he get him back? In my opinion, no.

What this incident points out is that an official that is consistently involved in controversy and controversial calls should be monitored closely by the League and an attempt made to improve performance. The League should also be honest and get those officials out that cannot, for whatever reason, perform at the highest level that this beautiful game demands.

It also points out that if you have a reputation, as Burrows does, of being an agitator-lite and taking liberties on the ice, expect to have extra attention paid to the way you play the game. If the officials call it a little more closely against you, remember that you bought that ticket. And if it is found that you fabricated this story, your suspension should be long and painful.

If it is found to be true that Auger had a vendetta against Burrows and did indeed "get him back" with phantom calls, he should be removed from the game. That is an intolerable situation.

It is imperative that the matter be resolved quickly. The League does not need to have every controversial call questioned by fans, wondering if there was an ulterior motive for the call. This great game needs fans to enjoy the speed, grace, and power that is on the ice every night in arenas all across the league free from worry about agendas deciding outcomes.

Predators Vanquish Vancouver 3-2

The Predators, for only the seventh time in their history, entered the hostile environment of GM place and skated away with a 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. This was a huge win for the Predators as they established a great tone for a three game western Canada road swing, but more importantly, leapfrogged the Canucks to move into sole possession of sixth place in the Western Conference with 57 points, one better than the Canucks.

Early in the game, with David Legwand in the box for hooking, Joel Ward stole the puck and broke in on Roberto Luongo and beat him him glove side for the shorthanded goal and a 1-0 lead.  This was his eighth goal of the season, and it certainly swung momentum for the Predators.Ward played a ton of quality minutes tonight, not only on the penalty kill but at even strength, and he is quietly putting together another solid season.

Alexandre Burrows tied the game at one as he beat Dan Hamhuis to the front of the crease on a defensive zone faceoff and put the puck past goaltender Dan Ellis at 16:42 of the period.

The Predators went back on the power play and made the Canucks pay for their on ice transgression. Cody Franson fired a shot from the face off circle that was tipped by David Legwand and then Ryan Jones to beat Luongo on the far post, and the Predators had once again seized momentum at the end of the period. This goal was the result of Jones being parked at the top of the crease, taking a beating to establish position, but his effort was rewarded with the power play marker. Predator hockey- doing the tough things necessary to score.

Alexandre Burrows struck again just 1:30 in to the second period by scoring his second goal of the night, this a power play goal. The score stood tied at 2 for the remainder of the period.

In the third, the teams traded scoring chances as both Ellis and Luongo made great stops to keep the score even. The tempo of this game was good, but really stepped up in the third. The positive aspect is that the Predators skated hard and generated chances. When this team skates like they are capable, they are dangerous and tough to play against.

Late in the period, the game turned in to a penalty fest, as first Ryan Jones was called for hooking at 15:11. Just four seconds in to the Canucks power play, Alexandre Burrows was called for interference. Eighteen seconds later, Henrik Sedin was called for tripping. The Predators had the four on three power play, and they made the Canucks pay as Shea Weber absolutely blew a shot past Louongo for the game winner. The Predators shut down the Canucks for the remainder of the game, with Ellis making some big saves, including an amazing save on a wraparound attempt.

For the game, Ellis was outstanding, stopping 30 of 32 shots, including some great scoring chances, for a .937 save percentage.

As improbable as it seems, the Predators came in to an hostile environment against a team that had been playing red hot hockey and left with the win. This is indicative of the potential of this team. They can play- and win- against the best teams in the NHL. This team is missing some key players in Arnott, Smithson, and Tootoo, yet they refused to yield to the injuries. They played Predator hockey.

It goes without saying that this is not the most talented team in the NHL. Not the fastest, not the leading goal scorers, not the headline grabbers. What this team has is heart and focus, a refusal to give in to conventional wisdom that they shouldn't be here. This is a group of guys that put on the sweater and believe in each other, and when they play with focus and drive like tonight, have a good chance of winning.

The formula for success is simple- grit, doing the dirty work to score, skate hard, and never back down. Tonight, you did that against one of the hottest teams in hockey and came away with the win. Bottle it up and bring it against Calgary. Skate away with another win.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Disjointed, Discombobulated, Predators Defeated by Ducks 3-2

Let's give the young pups for the Predators credit- they hustled and worked hard, but there was no chemistry tonight as the Predators fell to the Ducks 3-2. The Predators looked as if they were out of sync most of the night until the third period, when a valiant comeback fell short, and the Ducks skated away with their first road victory since December 22nd.

Down 3-0 on goals by Teemu Selanne, Matt Belesky, and Ryan Getzlaf, the Predators started the third period on the power play and quickly tallied as Patric Hornqvist continued his torrid goal scoring pace, notching his 17th goal :45 seconds into the period. Martin Erat scored off a deflection of a J.P. Dumont shot to cut the margin to 3-2 with three minutes left in the game. That was all the scoring and the Preds failed to make up any ground in the standings due to a lackluster effort.

Ben Guite said in remarks after the game that the Predators came out flat and didn't have energy until the third period. Okay, if this is a problem, I will buy this team a clock so they will know when the game begins. Guys, this is a sixty minute game, and playing 20 minutes of hockey is not going to get it.

Pekka Rinne got the start in net, and he is owed an apology by the defense. The first two goals the Predators gave up were due to defensive breakdowns. Shea Weber fell down in the corner trying to deliver a check and Selanne got open in the low slot to fire a puck over Rinne's shoulder.

The second goal from Belesky was a nice three on two tic tac toe passing exhibition as Belesky buried the shot off a nice assist from Ryan Getzlaf. Getzlaf stretched the lead to three goals with an unassisted wrister through traffic that beat Rinne on the short side of the net.

It was then that the Preds obtained the much needed sense of urgency. Going on the power play to start the third, Hornqvist quickly fired a wrister past Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller for his 11th goal in the last 13 games.

The Predators kept up the attack and had several good chances, but were unable to solve Hiller until there were three minutes left in the game. Erat deflected a shot by J.P. Dumont over Hillers's shoulder to cut the deficit to one, but the Predators couldn't put another shot past the Ducks netminder. They ended a four game home stand 2-2.

Coach Barry Trotz said after the game that the Predators played "nice" hockey and were back on their heels for much of the game. Frankly, nice doesn't cut it. This team needs to play to win instead of playing not to lose. This team needs to play with an edge. This team needs to play with a sense of desperation that has been lacking.

There were a number of new players inserted into the lineup due to injuries. So be it. Injuries are something that every team has to deal with during the course of the season. There was good hustle from Nick Spaling, Cal O'Reilly, and Andreas Thuresson. I don't fault the effort or the hustle. I fault the team for not sensing the importance of this game and having the drive and energy to bring it in their own barn.

I don't know what it takes to generate the sense of urgency that this team needs. The Western Conference race is too tight to coast through games. The points this team needs have to be obtained every time there is an opportunity. The Predators have to hit the ice every night with this sense of desperation and urgency.

No more "nice" games. No more coasting. Time to turn it up a notch, boys. Balls to the wall. These games are too important and the point too precious to be nice. Time to play with the end in mind- winning games, piling up points, and cementing a playoff position.

You're going to face adversity. Every team does. Injuries are a fact of life in this game. Every team deals with them. No one gives you sympathy. No one cares.

Disjointed, discombobulated efforts are unacceptable. No more waiting until the third period to start playing. Time to get that sense of urgency. Time to get a clock to let you know when the game starts.

Friday, January 8, 2010

My View

Random thoughts from a warped and fevered mind...

Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, he of the Fruit of the Boom exploding underwear and failed attempt at bring down an airliner, is a sign for us all. A warning sign that should be heeded. Try as we might as a nation, there are peoples and nations that despise our freedom, our lifestyle, and our way of life, and no amount of singing Kumbuya and trying to be friends will change that fact. This is an extremely dangerous world occupied by extremely dangerous, and yes, evil people that seek to do grave harm to innocents to make a statement about their beliefs. This world requires, no demands, recognition of that fact and commensurate preparation and vigilence to prevent this evil from carrying out its twisted plan. Contrary to what we have been told, the system did not work- unless the system is for passengers on every international flight to fend for their lives because of lax security. The sooner we honestly address the threats to our nation will be the first step toward increased safety for our citizens.

My wife wanted to go to one of those hotels with the rotating restaurant on top. I was too cheap to do that, so I took her to a merry-go-round and gave her a burrito.

Employers shed 85,000 additional jobs in December, and the stated unemployment rate is at 10%. The reality is that unemployment in this country is approximately 18% when you count in all those who have stopped drawing unemployment benefits and those who have stopped looking for work. Remember last year, the $781 biliion dollar stimulus package that was supposed to get the economy jumpstarted and people back to work? Nope, didn't happen, for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the gross amount of waste in that package that had nothing to do with jobs. Now there is talk of another stimulus package to create jobs. Good people, we cannot continue to have the waste and fraud in Washington without some dire consequences because of  our profligate spending. These so called stimulus dollars will not create lasting employment. It's time to pay close attention to what is happening with the financial affairs of our country and demand resposible action and accountablity from our government.

I'm tired of following my dreams, so I'm just going to ask where they are going and hook up with them later.

Paul Swaney has a blog called Stadium Journey, an interesting look at sports venues all over the country, written by people that have been in the stadium or arena. The blog is focused on the fan experience- everything from food, to sight lines and acoustics as well as the neighborhood surrounding the site. If you are planning a trip to see the Predators in another arena or the Titans on the road (uh, ahem, next season), this is a great site to visit to learn about the arena and the the attractions in the surrounding area. The site is and you will find LP Field and the Sommet Center reviews. You might even recognize the writer of those reviews.

Isn't every book a children's book if the kid can read?

And that, my friends, is my view.

*pithy quotes on this post from the late and great Mitch Hedburg

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Predators Chop Down Canes 4-2

It would be easy to overlook the Carolina Hurricanes if you were the Nashville Predators. An Eastern Conference opponent sandwiched in between Western Conference tilts. An opponent that frankly had been awful on the road. An opponent that was icing a depleted lineup. Yes, easy to overlook. And if not careful, an opponent that could do some damage to the Predators.

Carolina showed early on that they were here to play. Rod Brind'Amour gave the Canes a 1-0 lead at 2:52 of the first period when he slipped a rebound of a Jerome Sansom shot through Pekka Rinne's pads.

The first period then degenerated into a penalty fest as 14 minutes of penalties were assessed in the period. The Predators began to swing momentum their way as they killed off a Canes power play. With Patric Hornqvist and Ryan Suter in the box, Carolina looked to pad their lead and make the Predators climb out of another hole.Matt Cullen, however, was called for tripping Kevin Klein to negate the two man advantage, and the Predators were able to stave off the Canes while on the PK.

Just as Cullen was coming out of the box, J.P. Dumont skated in and fired a wrister five hole on Cam Ward for a short handed goal to tie the game, and the Predators had seized the momentum. Dumont skated hard tonight, and had a goal and an assist. A key player stepping up when the Predators needed it desperately.

With Cullen back in the box for another penalty, Patric Hornqvist corralled a rebound of a Shea Weber slap shot at the side of the net and knocked it in for his 15th goal of the year at 19:36 of the first. Hornqvist makes his living around the net, and tonight was a man around the crease, battling for position and pucks. Stepping up and doing the dirty work, the things that are necessary for this team to win games.

Hornqvist continued to assert himself, and at 18:50 of the second skated the puck out from behind the net and found Steve Sullivan alone in the low slot. Sullivan found the top right corner over Ward's glove, and the Predators capped off a solid second period with a two goal lead.

Hornqvist continued his strong play when J.P. Dumont found him alone in the slot and he blistered a shot past Ward at 11:16 of the third for his 16th goal. For the game, Hornqvist had 20:00 of ice time, two goals, an assist, and six PIM's. Tonight, Hornqvist dominated the ice and played a stellar game. He stepped up when the team needed someone to step up.

Carolina cut the margin to 4-2 with a shorthanded goal by Tom Kostopolous at 12:03 of the third, but never mounted a serious threat after that as the defense clamped down on the Canes and Pekka Rinne cleaned up any scoring chances.

There was a scary moment for the Predators and for Steve Sullivan as he was boarded by Andrew Alberts at 11:03 of the third. Sullivan lay motionless on the ice for several minutes and was assisted off the ice by the training staff and escorted to the locker room. He appeared to injure his shoulder, and x-rays were being taken. Head Coach Barry Trotz said after the game that it did not appear to be very serious, but that Sully would probably miss at least the Anaheim game on Saturday.

This was the kind of game that could have easily been a devastating loss for the Predators. Key players out of the lineup; rookies being plugged in to critical roles; an early deficit. This team fought and won an important victory. Players stepped up and put the team on their back. Players that needed to step up did just that. This team played Predator hockey and put another win in the books.

This game was not pretty or well played by any stretch. The Predators were very sloppy at times. There were defensive breakdowns. Pekka Rinne had to bail out the team on several occasions. Play this way against a healthy opponent and the outcome will be different. Play has to improve for this team to win against the opponents they will face in the next few days on their schedule.

The aspect of this game that this team can build upon is the fact that with a depleted lineup, they still played winning hockey. They fought and battled. They overcame a deficit, numerous penalties, and sometimes erratic play.

Every team goes through a stretch where the hockey is a grind, where the games pile up and they face adversity. This was one of those games. There will be more. They showed the heart, the drive, the determination to win a game they could have easily lost.

The battles continue, the grind gets no easier. This is the nature of this beautiful game. This is the opportunity for a player, and a team, to show their character and fight for the win. Time to keep fighting. time to chop down another opponent.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Missing Two D's Leads to D for Predators

Head Coach Barry Trotz said the Predators were missing two D's in their 3-1 loss to the Calgary Flames. Determination and desperation. Lacking those traits in their game lead to a "D" -defeat- for the Predators, snapping a three game winning streak and extending their home losing streak to the Flames to four games.

Give the Flames their due. They check and take away space. They make it difficult to enter the offensive zone. They can control the puck in their offensive zone, making the opponent work just to clear the zone. And they played this game to perfection tonight.

David Moss opened the scoring for the Flames after a scoreless first period, knocking in a puck in a goal mouth scramble past a sprawled Dan Eliis, who got the start in net for the Predators. It appeard that the puck had been covered, but it was laying in the blue ice when Moss found it and slapped it in to an open net.

That scored stood until :17 second remained in the second period when Ollie Jokinen corraled a big rebound given up by Ellis and knocked the puck into a practically open net. This goal was a back breaker for the Preds and created a deficit that they couldn't overcome.

The Predators tallied on their third power play of the night when Patric Hornqvist walked the puck out of the corner and waited until Miika Kiprusoff went down to the ice. Hornqvist roofed the shot for the score, and with five minutes remaining, the Predators had life.

That was snuffed out in the final minute when Daymond Langkow scored an empty netter, and the battle between the two teams tied for fifth in the Western Conference went the Flames way.

Calgary played an excellent road game: they were aggressive on the forecheck and kept the Predators bottled up for stretches at a time in their own zone. They limited quality offensive chances. And Kiprusoff was solid in goal. Unfortunately, the Predators couldn't meet the challenge tonight.

This was a test for the Predators, and they failed. They needed more determination. They needed more desperation, especially earlier in the game when it was in the balance. And they needed their best players to be their best players. Tonight, they were not.

It is imperative that the Predators get production from their top line. Tonight the top line was invisible. This team will not win on a consistent basis if Jason Arnott, Steve Sullivan, and J.P. Dumont do not generate quality scoring chances and pot some goals. Tonight, this line was not determined or desperate.

It goes without saying that for the Predators to climb in the standings, they have to play Predator hockey. Hockey that is characterized by drive, determination, and yes, desperation. There was a glimpse of that tonight in the third period when they were down 2-0. Show that determination and desperation before you are in a hole, boys.

Determination. Driving the net. Beating the forecheck. Being strong on the puck. Desperation. Refusing to fall behind. Knowing that these are the type of games that steel you for the playoffs. Absolutely not allowing your opponent to dictate play. Traits of a winning hockey club. Absent tonight.

Time to re-focus. Time to determine that you will put your best effort on the ice every night. Play with desperation and dertermination. And you will not have to deal with defeat.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Predators Mid Season Report Card

At the mid point of the season, the Nashville Predators have a 25-14-3 record, good for 53 points and tied with Calgary for fifth in the Western Conference. After opening the season with a 12-8-1 mark and tenth place in the conference, the Predators have improved over the next 21 games to 13-6-2 and have played themselves into the thick of the playoff race.

Once again, let's look at the components of this team and the individual player performance to see what has changed for this team:


It goes without saying that Head Coach Barry Trotz and his staff get the most out of the talent that they have put on the ice every night. Trotz attributed the turnaround in play to the simple fact that this team started to play like they are, not who they wanted to be.Translation: this is a blue collar team that will never win games with flash. They will win by playing sound, fundamental hockey and doing what Trotz call the "dirty work" to score goals- shoot the puck, go to the hard areas in front of the crease, and win the puck battles. This team has bought in to the message that the coaches have been preaching, and the results have been to pile up wins and points.

Grade: A


Pekka Rinne is still the putative number one goalie, and has a 16-7-2 record with a .906 save percentage and a 2.74 GAA. Pekka has been solid but not spectacular in his sophomore season, showing flashes of brilliance but also letting in the occasional stoppable goal. Dan Ellis, 9-7-1 with a .908 save percentage and a 2.79 GAA has been a very capable backup. Ellis provides the Predators with quality starts, and the team know that it can win when he is in net. With the compressed schedule due to the Olympics, it is going to be imperative that Ellis continue to provide sound goaltending.

Grade: B


Shea Weber and Ryan Suter are outstanding as the number one defense pairing. Both are sound in the defensive zone and move the puck well and log time on the first PP unit. Dam Hamhuis and Kevin Klein have righted their game after a horrific start to the season and both appear to be playing with a greater comfort level and confidence with each other in the second pairing. Francis Buillon continues to log solid minutes and is a stabilizing presence with his partner, rookie Cody Franson. Franson has settled in as the sixth D man and has played good hockey once he became a starter. Alexander Sulzer has split time between Nashville and Milwaukee, and shows promise, but has been unable to stick with the Predators. Outside of the first pairing of Weber and Suter, this group has begun to play to their potential, but they are not there yet.

Grade: B


This is the group that has shown the most improvement over the last 21 games. Specifically, the contributions of Martin Erat and David Legwand have picked up noticeably. Erat has discovered his scoring touch and is an offensive threat. Legwand has started to score, although he still show an annoying habit of passing up shots. Top forwards Jason Arnott, Steve Sullivan, and J.P. Dumont have tremendous talent but have a habit of disappearing for stretches of games. Arnott, for instance, scored his first goal in ten games in game 42. For the predators to continue to have success, these players have to produce more consistently.

The pleasant surprise for this team has been the scoring of secondary players. Marcel Goc has tied his career high in goals for a season (8); Jerred Smithson has scored a career high in goals (6); and Patric Hornqvist has set a career high in goals (13). Additionally, contributions are coming from other third and fourth line players, and this balanced scoring has resulted in an increase in goals per game from 2.28 in the first 21 games to 3.04 in the next 21 games.

Grade: B+

Overall team grade: B

Now it's time to take a look at the individual players.

Martin Erat (14G 13A 37 GP)

After a tremendously slow start, Marty has caught fire and has been showing the offensive prowess that was expected of him. He had ten goals in a 13 game span, and these came from using his speed, driving the net, and shooting the puck. These qualities were absent from his game early in the season. He has embraced his role as an offensive leader, and his productivity improved significantly when moved to the top line with Jason Arnott and Steve Sullivan.

Grade: B+

Jason Arnott (12G 14A 35 GP)

The captain possesses a wicked shot that he needs to uncork more often. Arnott has been a streaky scorer, showing the ability to get goals in bunches, but also showing the frustrating habit of disappearing for stretches of games. He recently snapped a ten game goal drought, and this team needs him to be much more consistent. A solid presence in the locker room and on the ice.

Grade: C+

J.P. Dumont (7G 19A 35 GP)

J.P. possesses great hands and good vision on the ice, and has the ability to be a consistent scorer. Unfortunately, J.P. needs to get better at finishing a play. He has been dropped down to the third line, which is reflective of the spotty nature of his play. He has great offensive skills, but has been unable to consistently become an offensive force for the team.

Grade: C-

David Legwand (10G 16A 42 GP)

David most always draws the shutdown role opposite of the the opponent's top line, and he has done a masterful job in this role. His offensive game was absent in the first quarter of the season, but in the second quarter, David began to drive the net and shoot the puck, and he has been rewarded for this type of play. At the end of the first quarter of play, he had 3 goals and 7 assists, so the offensive component of his game has improved. David still needs to shoot the puck more, and he has far too often passed up open shots in favor of the pass. His offensive game needs to continue to improve, but his production in the second quarter of the season has been welcome.

Grade: B-

Steve Sullivan (9G 16A 42 GP)

The good news for Predator fans is that Sullivan is showing great durability and no loss of speed from his back injury. The not so good news is that Sully is not the point per game producer that he was prior to that injury. Sullivan still has great offensive skills, but like Jason Arnott, has a tendency to disappear at times on the offensive end of the ice and can be streaky.

Grade: C+

Joel Ward (7G 15 A 40 GP)

Ward had 35 points in his rookie campaign last season and is and is on pace to surpass that mark. Ward does the dirty work for the line on which he plays- battling in front of the net and on the boards. Ward has scored the majority of his goals in the area around the crease where he uses his big body to get position. Solid on the PK, he logs a lot of quality minutes and plays his role well.

Grade:  A-

Patric Hornqvist (13G 9A 41 GP)

Hornqvist has emerged as a force in front of the net for this team, especially on the power play. He often draws the attention and ire of the opponent's defenders as he screens the goaltender. He has good hands around the net and the majority of his scoring has come on tip ins and rebounds. After a season split between Milwaukee and Nashville last year, he has matured nicely and has shown that he can handle the rigors of a full NHL season.

Grade: A

Marcel Goc (8G 8A 40 GP)

Goc has been a very pleasant surprise for the Predators as he has capably handled the third line center responsibilities as well as excelling in the face off circle. He also plays as one of the penalty killing forwards. Goc has also tied his career high in goals that was set in his rookie season with San Jose with eight goals. His responsible defensive play has made the coaches confident enough to play him in any situation.

Grade: A

Jordin Tootoo (2G 7A 19 GP)

When Tootoo has been on the ice, he has been very effective. He has played very responsible hockey and has been much improved in the offensive zone. Unfortunately, Tootoo has battled injuries all season, the latest being a broken bone in his foot suffered when he was hit with a Shea Weber slap shot. He needs to get in the line up consistently in order to continue to develop his game. His grade reflects his lack of playing time.

Grade: B-

Jerred Smithson (6G 1A 37 GP)

Smithson has already set a career high in goals, which has been a very welcome addition to his game. He has always been strong in a shutdown role and on the PK; getting the offensive production from Smithers has been a bonus for this team. Watching him play this season, I am impressed with his confidence in his offensive game. He is currently out due to a broken hand he suffered in blocking a shot.

Grade: A

Ryan Jones (4G 1A 23 GP)

After starting the season in Nashville, Jonesy was sent down to Milwaukee to work on his game. After his call up, he has played some good hockey for the Predators. At one point, he scored a goal in four consecutive games, and those goals were in the hard areas in front of the net. Jones has a big body that he uses well for positioning in front of the net and battling on the boards. His game is continuing to develop, and I would expect him to follow a path similar to Hornqvist as he matures. He has to become more consistent in the offensive end.

Grade: C

Mike Santorelli (2G 1A 23 GP)

Santorelli has shuttled back and forth between Nashville and Milwaukee, and while showing potential, has not achieved a consistent level of play.  I believe that he has the ability to play at the NHL level, but it is going to be a matter of making the most of his opportunities.

Grade: C

Andreas Thuresson (1G 2A 15 GP)

Called up due to injuries to several forwards, Thuresson has given the Predators quality minutes. Not afraid to throw his body around, he is tough on the boards and in the corners and will go to the front of the net. A young player that is playing with tremendous hustle, he must continue to adapt his game to the NHL level. Seasoning with the Predators will be important to his development.

Grade: B

Wade Belak (0G 2A 23 GP)

Belak has assumed the role of the enforcer for the Predators as Jordin Tootoo has continued to grow into a complete hockey player, and Belak is capable in that role. Unfortunately for Beeks, that role has diminished this season. Consequently, he sees fourth line action and limited minutes on the ice, and that is not expected to change over the course of the season.

Grade: C

Dave Scatchard (2G 3A 16 GP)

Scatchard has spent time both in Nashville and Milwaukee. When Arnott was out for several games, Scatchard was called up and, while not much an offensive threat, played solid minutes for the Predators. He is a seasoned veteran who can plug in at center or wing. Currently in Milwaukee.

Grade: C

Shea Weber (7G 16A 40 GP +3)

Weber continues his solid play in the defensive zone and he has the ability to shut down the opposing team's forwards with his physical and smart play. He has an edge and has shown a willingness to drop the gloves when provoked. When goaded by Ryan Kessler in a recent game against Vancouver, Weber pummeled the hapless Canuck forward. His hard shot is deadly from the point. The criticism of his shot would be that he he needs to get the puck on net with greater accuracy. Weber is only 24 and should become a truly dominant defenseman in the league.

Grade: A

Ryan Suter (2G 18A 42 GP +7)

The other half of the number one D pairing, Suter has quietly grown into the role of a number one defenseman. He has gotten physically stronger to go with his hockey sense. Suter is solid, and rarely does he make a mistake in the defensive zone. He has a sneaky hard shot from the point that is very accurate, and his shots have set up numerous scoring opportunities for the forwards. Suter is a steady presence on the blue line and he has great vision, which allows him to effectively move the puck.

Grade: A

Dan Hamhuis (4G 8A 38 GP +6)

Hamhuis had a horrific start to the season, and finished the first 21 games at -4. He has steadied his game and started to play like many thought he was capable. Hammer has become more physical in his play, and by doing so, it has settled his total game down. He has been able to chip in with some timely goals as well. The most frustrating aspect of his game is the ill timed turnover that often leads to great scoring chances for the opponent. Unfortunately, this seems to happen about once a game.

Grade: C-

Kevin Klein (1G 7A 41 GP -4)

Klein, like his defense partner Hamhuis, struggled in the first quarter of the season. Although his play has improved slightly, he has still been erratic. The frustrating part of this is that Klein has the potential to be a solid NHL D-man. The fact remains that he is going to be one of the top 6 blueliners for the Predators and his play has to improve.

Grade: D+

Francis Buillon (1G 5A 42 GP -4)

Buillon continues to be steady on the blue line, his -4 notwithstanding. That is more of a reflection of his D pairing than of his play. He is physically strong and unafraid to tangle with bigger opponents. He moves the puck well and is rarely caught out of position. He has often be paired with rookie Cody Franson, and his veteran presence has benefited the younger player.

Grade: B+

Cody Franson (3G 8A 31 GP +8)

Franson solidified his spot as the number six D man and has played well in that role. He is a big physical presence and uses his size well. As he has logged more games, he has grown more confident in his game. He has a good shot from the blue line and moves the puck well. Franson has the potential to be a very good NHL blueliner.

Grade: B+

Pekka Rinne (16-7-2 .906 Save % 2.74 GAA) 

Pekka has shown flashes of the form that made him an top flight rookie last year, and he is a goalie that this team can ride to the playoffs. He has to become more consistent, as he has had a tendency to let in the occasional soft goal. Pekka is a competitor and thrives on the challenge of being a number one goalie. The more he plays, the stronger he gets, and I would look for him to get the majority of the starts in the second half of the season.

Grade: B+

Dan Ellis (9-7-1 .908 Save % 2.79 GAA)

Dan is a capable back up that can provide quality starts. He is fundamentally sound, but has been prone to letting in stoppable goals. Dan will be called upon for some key starts due to the compressed schedule with the upcoming Olympics, and as Head Coach Barry Trotz has stated, the team knows it can win with Dan in net.

Grade: B

Incomplete Grades

Nick Spaling, Alexander Sulzer. Both have spent limited time with the Predators, but not enough to earn a grade. Both have potential, but it is too early to render a decision on their performance at the NHL level.

The turning point for this team came with a realization that they were lunch pail guys, players that had to shoot the puck and crash the crease to score. Players that had to win puck battles. Players that had to play sound defense and get solid goaltending.

Continued success for the Predators will come from adhering to this style of play.

Pretty. No. Winning hockey. Absolutely.

The Predators enter the second half of the season with a better record than the pundits thought possible. They find themselves in the thick of the playoff race. Keep improving, keep on playing your style of blue collar, winning hockey and the playoffs await. And the pundits will continue to be wrong about this team.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Quack Attack Quashed by Predators 3-1

The Nashville Predators faced the Anaheim Ducks in a contest that took on the appearance of a hard skating squad being stymied by a hot goaltender. Jonas Hiller of the Ducks faced a lot of rubber but was solid in net, turning away a number of shots by the Predators. One had to wonder if the Predators were going to be able to get a goal past the Ducks netminder.

With a one goal lead on a goal by Mike Brown at 7:45 of the first period, the Ducks were clinging to the one goal lead while Hiller was stopping numerous quality chances by the Predators. That would change in the second period as Shea Weber lasered a shot to the top corner at 15:27 of the second to tie the game. Weber lead all Predators with ten shots on goal. His blast brought renewed energy to the Predators and all of a sudden we had a game at the Sommet Center.

The Predators first score of the game came with the home team continuing to apply pressure on the Ducks. Weber's score came on the third shot on net in an eleven second span. The Predators kept pressure on the Anaheim net for much of the night, and were rewarded with the goal as they kept firing the puck on the net with traffic in front. Predator hockey had produced another score.

Jason Arnott potted his first goal in ten games at the 10:11 mark of the third period as he beat Hiller high to the stick side. Hiller had done a good job of taking away the lower part of the net all night, and the Predators were finally able to solve his goaltending prowess by shooting high. It was good to see the Captain get off the schneid and get the goal. Jason has had numerous scoring chances, but has been unable to bury them, so it was good to see the drought finally broken.

The Predators faced pressure from the Ducks for the entire third period, and were outshot 9 to 4 for the period. David Legwand iced the game with an empty netter at the 20:00 minute point of the third, scoring as the horn went off, and the Predators skated away with their third win in a row with a 3-1 victory.

If the Predators had lost another Saturday night game in their third jerseys, there should have been a ceremonial third jersey burning as suggested by my friend Buddy Oakes. Fortunately, that does not have to happen.

When you look at this win, several things stand out. The young guys that have been called up have played some quality minutes for the Predators. Andreas Thuresson impressed tonight. He was strong on the puck and aggressive on the forecheck, and he appears to getting more comfortable with his game. Patric Hornqvist continues to play strong in front of the net, and has become a serious distraction for other teams. Nick Spaling played some quality minutes on the PK. All of these players have contributed when called upon, and have played solid minutes for the Preds.Plug them in to the system, give them opportunity, and watch them respond. Predator hockey.

It goes without saying that this team is not fancy or flashy. They are workmanlike. They bring their luch pails and play blue collar hockey. And they win.

With this win, the Predators are now 25-14-3 and have 53 points. They are tied for fifth in the Western Conference with Calgary, who comes to town on Tuesday night. This from a team that doesn't excel on special teams and was not expected to be in the playoff hunt. Tonight, this team continued to play Predator hockey- they never stopped coming at Anaheim. That pressure, that relentlessness, paid off in another win for a team that isn't supposed to be where they are in the standings.

There is a lot of hockey yet to be played, and the Predators have to continue to play their style of hockey to be successful. This team has shown resiliency, they have shown they can deal with adversity, and they have shown that when they play their system, they can play with anyone.

Tough games coming up, boys. A lot of hockey to be played. Keep on playing the hard, relentless style of hockey that you are now playing, and chalk up the wins. And continue to surprise the hockey world when you make the playoffs.