Thursday, April 29, 2010

My View

Random thoughts from a warped and fevered mind...

There is an amazing uproar that is occurring across the land over the new immigration law that has been passed by the State of Arizona. There are claims that it results in profiling peoples of certain races and that it is similar to what the Nazis did in Germany prior to and during World War II in requiring certain groups of people to show "papers" proving they are here legally and who they say they are. There are two salient points that are being ignored by the national media in the furor over the Arizona law. First, a law enforcement officer cannot just stroll up to someone and ask if they are here legally. Here is what the law actually says: "For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official... where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person." The operative words are "lawful contact". This means that a police officer in Arizona is NOT going to arbitrarily walk up to someone and ask them to prove they are an U. S. citizen. It does mean that when, for example, a traffic stop occurs, the law enforcement officer can ask for proof of citizenship. Lawful contact simply means in the course of doing their job. No shaking down people on the street because they don't look like they belong here. The second point is that all of us are required to produce "papers" to prove we are here legally and are who we say we are. Ever tried to board an airplane without proper identification? Ever tried to vote without proper I.D.? (Well, excluding Chicago). There is much media hysteria focused on the recent enactment of this law in Arizona. Perhaps the media outrage should be directed toward the failed enforcement of the immigration laws currently on the books by the federal government.

My neighbors claimed that my dog chased someone on a bike. Stupid neighbors- my dog doesn't have a bike.

Remember the great fanfare when the $787 billion stimulus plan was passed by Congress? It was supposed to jump start the economy and the White House estimated that it would create or save 3.5 million jobs? Guess what? The latest quarterly survey of the National Association of Business Economists showed that the stimulus package has had no impact on the economy. 73% of those surveyed said that employment at their company is neither higher nor lower as a result of the stimulus. Imagine that. When you parse out the uses of the dollars allotted to the stimulus- at least those you can find- you see that much of the money was spent perpetuating state and federal government programs, not being used to spur job creation. I have said it before, but it bears repeating- government does NOT create jobs. Business does. This is a fact that government at all levels cannot seem to grasp. To add insult to injury, the NABE projects economic growth as measured by GDP at slightly more than 2%. That is anemic growth in the U.S. economy. And that does not bode well for a sustained economic recovery in this country.

My wife reminds me of an angel. She is always up in the air harping about something.

You may recall that once socialized medicine was passed by Congress, several major U.S. corporations announced they were taking significant write downs in earnings because of changes in the tax provisions of the bill and the necessity to account for those changes. There was an interesting response from the White House when the companies announced these changes, which were cumulatively in the billions of dollars. The White House accused these companies of "exaggerating" the effects of the tax changes. In fact, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke said the companies were being "premature and irresponsible" in taking these charges. Dutifully following the White House lead, Representatives Bart Stupak (D) and Henry Waxman (D) initiated an investigation of the companies (Deere, AT&T, Caterpillar, and Verizon) and demanded these companies supply documents detailing their analysis of the tax effects and an explanation of their accounting methods. The hearings were canceled when Representatives Stupak and Waxman were informed by their staff that the elimination of the tax deduction these companies had enjoyed resulted in a corresponding tax expense that had to be properly accounted for under accounting rules.This was confirmed by the Financial Accounting Standards Board. The problem with this entire situation is that we have leaders in this country making laws without any hint of the real impact of these laws. This is both shameful and embarrassing.

If the world were really a logical place, men would ride horses sidesaddle.

And that, my friends, is my view.

ReView and PreView- A look at the 1st and 2nd Round Playoff Predictions

It's time to take a look back at the first round predictions of the View and see how his prognosticating skills measure up. Lets see here... uh... I hope none of you used these to wager your hard earned  dollars in Vegas.

San Jose vs. Colorado

The Prediction: San Jose in 5

The Outcome: San Jose in 6

At the outset of this series, it looked as if the Sharks were going to choke in the first round again. However, they righted the ship in spite of giving the Avalanche an overtime victory by shooting the puck into their own net. Too much firepower eventually wore down the Avs Craig Anderson, and the Sharks escaped to the second round.

Nashville vs. Chicago

The Prediction: Nashville in 6

The Outcome: Chicago in 6

Wow, this one still hurts, as the Predators conceivably could have fulfilled my prediction and still be playing. As it was, they could not overcome their mistakes and gave away a hard fought series to their Central Division rival.

Vancouver vs. Los Angeles

The Prediction: Vancouver in 6

The Outcome: Vancouver in 6

Well, waddya know, blind hogs will find an occassional acorn. The offensive horsepower of the Canucks and the super powers of the Wonder Twinkies eventually got the best of the L.A. defenders and goalie Jonathan Quick. Roberto Luongo looked solid in net and the Vancouver defense did a good job of limiting a potent L.A. attack.

Phoenix vs. Detroit

The Prediction: Phoenix in 7

The Outcome: Detroit in 7

This series was a hard fought affair that saw each team make statements on the other's home ice with big wins. Tied at three games apiece, it came down to a one game match in the desert. The Desert Dogs proceeded to get walloped 6-1 in the 7th and deciding contest. Way to show up for that one, boys. Ilya Bryzgalov, who was outstanding in the series, was hung out to dry by the team in front of him, and the Yotes never mounted a serious challenge in the game to rookie netminder Jimmy Howard. Playoff experience versus playoff neophyte, and the experienced team won this one going away.

Washington vs. Montreal

The Prediction: Washington in 5

The Outcome: Montreal in 7

Ha-ya-lak me now? The Caps ran into a goaltender that was Superman and the Great Wall of China rolled into one as Jaroslav Halak led the Habs back from a 3-1 deficit to a stunning upset. In winning three straight games, Halak stopped 131 of 134 shots for a .978 save percentage. This upset is one for the ages, but the Caps can take solace in sipping champagne out of the President's Trophy for most points in the regular season. What? You mean you can't...

New Jersey vs. Philadelphia

The Prediction: New Jersey in 7

The Outcome: Philadelphia in 5

Martin Brodeur played well in this series, but the team in front of him was absolutely manhandled by the tough and physical Flyers. (Philly tough and physical? Go figure!). Flyer netminder Bobby Brian Boucher was more than just a water boy in this series as he thwarted most of the offensive chances that the Devils could generate. This could have very well been Brodeur's last run at the Cup.

Boston vs. Buffalo

The Prediction: Buffalo in 7

The Outcome: Boston in 6

I really did not think that the Booins would have enough offensive juice to solve Ryan Miller. As it turns out, the injuries to the Sabres roster had a greater negative impact on their squad than did the loss of Marc Savard for the B's. The Beantown Bad Boys just kept unrelenting pressure on Ryan Miller and the Buffalo defense until they broke.

Pittsburgh vs. Ottawa

The Prediction: Pittsburgh in 5

The Outcome: Pittsburgh in 6

The Senators were certainly feisty in this series, winning game one in Pittsburgh and taking the fight to the much heralded Pens. In the end, however, the Penguins just had too much on the offensive front for the Senators to contain and Pacal Leclair was not Jaraslov Halak in this series. Although Marc-Andre Fleury looked shaky at times, he settled in to turn in some solid goaltending for the Penguins. And yes, I am an expert.

And so the View was a rather weak 3 correct predictions for the series outcome against 5 incorrect ones, for a shabby .375 percent correct. Ouch.

But will that daunt me from making fearless second round predictions? Is the mainstream press unbiased? Wait...

Anyway, on to the second round and some bold prognostications.

Pittsburgh vs. Montreal

Once again, the Canadiens are matched up against an opponent that brings a high powered offense to the rink. The question in this series is can Jaroslav Halak and the defense in front of him continue to play out of their minds? In this series, I think not. The Penguins bring a more team approach to their attack, unlike the Capitals that preferred to let their stars try to create individually.This will present more problems for the Canadiens and will severely test Halak and their defense. At the other end of the ice, I expect Fleury to be strong and the Penguin defense to contain the Smurfs. This will be no cakewalk, as the Habs are playing loose and with confidence.

Prediction: Pittsburgh in 6

Boston vs. Philadelphia

Hide the women and children for this one. Chris Pronger will be busy getting his nasty on and the Bruins will counter with the big Z, Zdeno Chara, who is about 7 feet of surly. This is the series that could get ugly fast, with both teams determined to establish physical superiority. What remains to be seen is if either team can generate offensive chances with the carnage that will occur through neutral ice and in the attack zone. I believe the winner of this one will be the one that makes the fewest mistakes, and if the Bruins can irritate the Broad Street Bullies just enough, the Flyers will be the ones that let their emotions take over and take them out of the game.

Prediction: Boston in 7
Bonus Prediction: Body Count will be 5

San Jose vs. Detroit

Perennial choker against perpetual powerhouse. Can this be the year that the Sharks finally shed that label and start to play to their potential? Will this be the year that Detroit finally succumbs to an offense that can light it up? No. Unfortunately for the Sharks, they will not get past the poise and the talent of the Wings, which is peaking at the right time and playing some of the best hockey of the season. Evgeni Nabokov will experience much more pressure and attack than he did against Colorado and his own D-man Dan Boyle. Once again, the Sharks will falter and leave their fans something to grouse about besides jets flying into the airport late at night.

Prediction: Detroit in 6

Chicago vs. Vancouver

This back alley fight is another series that has the potential to get nasty early. The Canucks have had a year to think about getting put out of the playoffs by the Blackhawks, and they want revenge. The Blackhawks have had a year to think about new ways to rattle Bobby Lou, and he should get ready to smell Dustin Byfuglien's cologne for a good part of this one. Can the Canucks defense slow down the potent Blackhawk forwards? For a while, but not for the entire series. Can the Hawks forwards stop the Twinkies, Mikael Samuelsson, and Alex Burrows? Not entirely, but just enough to swing the series to their favor. For Chicago, their biggest question is can Antti Niemi handle the pressure that the Canucks will bring. He is going to face a more potent offense than he faced in the first round against Nashville. Perhaps the most important question is can Duncan Keith squirt the Green Men with Gatorade while he is sitting in the penalty box in Vancouver?

Prediction: Blackhawks in 7

So there you have it. More fearless predictions that you should not in any way use for gambling purposes. Recall that .375% success rate in the first round by the View.

The second round should provide some entertaining and exciting hockey for all fans. Sit back and enjoy, and in a couple of weeks, we will look back and see if the View sharpened up his predicting skills

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda... Predators Playoff Post-Mortem

The Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Nashville Predators 4 games to 2 in their first round matchup of the Stanley Cup playoffs. For the Predators, this series will be looked upon as one of missed opportunities that cost them a shot at a first round upset.

There is no doubt that the Blackhawks are a powerful and potent team, one that presented challenges to the Predators. The Predators showed that they could handle those challenges and had the potential to make this a very interesting series. A 4-1 win in the United Center in game one served notice that the Predators were going to make this a difficult series for the highly favored Blackhawks.

Trailing 1-0, the Predators scored what can be deemed a fluke goal as J.P. Dumont lofted a soft backhand shot toward the net. The puck took a funny bounce and squirted past Chicago goaltender Antti Niemi to tie the game. The Predators would build on this momentum and take a 4-1 victory with a rebound goal by Dumont and empty net goals by Jerred Smithson and Martin Erat.

The interesting aspect of this win was that this was the Predators first road playoff win in the history of the franchise.

The keys to this victory were solid goaltending by Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne; solid play by the Nashville defense, and an aggressive forecheck that kept Chicago from setting up effectively in the offensive zone.

All those positive characteristics disappeared in the second game of the series as Chicago turned the tables on the Predators and played the Predators game in a 2-0 shutout win. Rinne made some outstanding saves for the Predators to keep the game from getting out of hand, but the Predators never mounted a serious offensive challenge to the Hawks and Niemi.

Tied at one, the series shifted to Nashville as the Predators were in good shape against a putative Cup favorite.

The Predators would take a 2-1 series lead with a 4-1 victory over the Hawks. This time, there were no empty netters. Instead, there was balanced scoring and an aggressive attack that prevented the Blackhawks from entering the zone with speed. Once again, Rinne was very good in net, the defense exerted their will on the Blackhawks, and the offense got balanced scoring. Joel Ward, David Legwand, Shea Weber, and Martin Erat tallied for the Predators. Tied at 1 at the end of the first period, the Predators would notch two goals in the second and one in the third to ice the game.

Ahead 2-1 in the series and with game four at the Bridgestone Arena, the Predators had an opportunity to put the Hawks down two games and in a very difficult position.

Instead, it was the Blackhawks that rose to the occasion with a 3-0 win over the Predators. Once again, the Blackhawks turned the tables on the Predators and stymied their offense with solid defense and an aggressive forecheck. When the Predators got scoring opportunities, Niemi was able to clean up any chances.

Now tied at two games, the series shifted back to Chicago, and in game five, Chicago dominated for the first half of the game. The Predators opened well, with David Legwand getting the first goal of the game with a beautiful shot to the far side post with Joel Ward screening Niemi. From there, things fell apart for the Predators as the Blackhawks scored the next three goals and outshot the Predators 24-8.

With the Predators on the penalty kill late in the second period, the potent Hawk offense was swarming and looking to add to their advantage. A funny thing happened on the way to cruising to what appeared to be an easy victory for the Hawks. They gave up a short handed goal on the power play to make the score 3-2. The Predators were able to go in to the second intermission with a successful penalty kill, a score, and a bit of momentum.

That momentum carried over into the third period as Martin Erat tallied two goals to give the Predators a 4-3 lead. As the time in the period evaporated, it was apparent that Chicago was gripping their sticks tightly and the Predators were improbably going to win this game for a 3-2 series lead.

That all came crashing down in the final :20 seconds of the period. With Marian Hossa in the box for a five minute major for boarding, the Predators controlled the puck and appeared ready to burn up the remaining time on the clock. Martin Erat had the puck behind the Chicago net, and instead of just eating the puck and letting the time run off the clock, he amazingly threw the puck into the slot where it was controlled by Chicago. The started a breakout, and with :13 seconds on the clock, Patrick Kane scored as Joel Ward lost coverage on him at the side of the net. 13 seconds away from an amazing win, and instead the two teams were now headed to overtime.

The Predators had 3:37 of power play time (the carryover of  Hossa's penalty) to begin the overtime period. As it was, the Predators abysmal power play once again shot blanks. Hossa was able to cme out of the box and score the game winner just :10 seconds after his penalty expired. What should have been a 4-3 win for the Predators in regulation was now a heartbreaking 5-4 overtime loss.

In game six, the Predators fell behind in the first period 3-1. One of the goals was a freak goal, as Brent Seabrook was just attempting to dump the puck in the zone. Pekka Rinne, seeing this, skated behind his net to stop the puck. Instead, the puck hit the skate of Patrick Kane, who was going off the ice for a line change. The puck radically changed directions, and before Rinne could react back to the front of the net, found its way into the goal.

The Predators battled back to tie the game at 3, but Chicago would once again reclaim the lead with a power play goal. They would later add an empty net goal to make the final margin 5-3 and capture the series 4-2.

For the Predators, the series will be remembered as a series that presented opportunities to win games that were lost because of failure to capitalize on their advantages. Losing game five was heartbreaking. This was a game that the Predators should have won.

The Predators only managed one power play goal on 26 attempts. A timely goal with the man advantage could have swung momentum to the Predators in several of these contests.

The Predators will also rue the lack of production from some of their offensive stalwarts. Jason Arnott tallied two goals, both in game six. Otherwise, he was invisible in the first five games. Steve Sullivan competed hard, but was held without a goal. After scoring two goals in the first game, J. P. Dumont was held scoreless for the rest of the series.

Leading goal scorer Patric Hornqvist missed most of the series, playing ten minutes in game one and the entire game in game six. It was revealed after the series that Hornqvist had a broken left hand. Losing the leading scorer from the regular season certainly hurt the Predators offensive effort.

As painful as the loss of this series was, it was part of the learning experience for this team. They notched their first road playoff win. They found out they could not only compete with, but defeat one of the best teams in the Western Conference in a pressure packed playoff environment.

It is now time to look back on the pain of the loss of this series and realize what could have been.

It is also time to build on the potential and the growth that this team has shown. Use the pain of this loss and the lessons learned to get back to the playoffs and finally break through and win a series.

It's now time to take the next step. It's time to stop wondering about what could have been.

Predator's Barry Trotz Named Finalist for the Jack Adams Award.

Nashville Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz was today named a finalist for the Jack Adams Award, given by the NHL to the Coach of the Year. Trotz is a finalist along with Dave Tippett of the Phoenix Coyotes and Joe Sacco of the Colorado Avalanche.

Trotz has been the only head coach in the history of the Predators franchise, and is the second longest tenured Head Coach in the NHL, just a few months behing Buffalo's Lindy Ruff.

Looking at players and coaches in the NHL, we as fans often focus on the statistics or wins and losses. It is instructive to go beyond the numbers and take a look at this head coach that consistently turns out a great team regardless of the components that he has been given.

If you listen to Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz after a game, it is difficult to tell from the tone of his voice if the Predators have just won or lost a game. Trotz is an even keeled coach that has piloted the Predators since their inaugural season, and the coach of the playoff bound Predators sounds the same as the coach that guided an expansion franchise through its formative years.

Yet underneath that calm demeanor there is a drive to excel that pushes Trotz- and subsequently his players- to consistently exceed the expectations of the hockey world. As the Coach of a team that doesn’t spend as freely as some of the large market competitors, Trotz is called upon to squeeze everything out of the talent that he is given.

And squeeze he does.


The Predators will have made the playoffs in 6 of the first 12 years of their existence, and 5 of the last 6 years. This is despite having a smaller budget for payroll than most teams. This is despite having a roster purge as former owner Craig Leipold was attempting to sell the team and being forced to re-assemble a team that could be competitive. This despite turmoil that has occurred with both current and past owners.

So who is this coach that has quietly built another contender out of the Predators?

A native of Manitoba, the 48 year old had a career as a player that ended with the WHL Regina Pats in 1982. Trotz was never known as a star, but was a rugged and steady player who overcame serious injury to achieve success in the minors. Trotz began his coaching career at the University of Manitoba in 1984 as an assistant coach. His career has seen him as a Head Coach and General Manager (Dauphin Kings); a scout for the Washington Capitals; and Head Coach of the Portland Pirates, the Caps AHL affiliate. He was named as Head Coach of the Nashville Predators in 1997 and the Predators played their first season in the NHL in 1998.

Trotz is a coach that respects his players and puts the responsibility for the play on them. Although he will “call out” a player in the media, it is more of an exhortation to bring their game back to a certain level of performance rather than berating the player in public. This approach is appreciated by the players, and because Trotz respects them, they in turn respond to his coaching.

This is not to say that Trotz can’t light up a player or the team when necessary. I travelled with the Predators on a Western Canada road trip several years ago, with the first stop in Vancouver. The Predators played an uncharacteristically lifeless game and lost 2-0. I caught up with Coach Trotz the next day in Calgary, and we talked about the game. He told me that once the doors were closed, he had some choice words for the team, and that he called out several of the “stars” on the team. His comment was that if you want to be treated like a big dog, then play like a big dog.

And therein lies, I believe, the foundation of the success of Barry Trotz. He respects his players as players, and more importantly, as people. The fact that the team had to be chastised never even made it to the beat reporter from Nashville following the team. This was family to Trotz and he dealt with it behind closed doors. He did not embarrass the players. He clearly defined expectations and in turn expected his players to respond to him.

They did then.

And they have consistently over the years.

Trotz continually preaches the value of resiliency to his team. He tells them there will be moments in a game, and stretches in a season, where things don’t work, where the individual or the team suffers a setback. Trotz continually coaches his team to focus not on the breakdown or the tough patch, but to focus on the comeback. Take the punch, get off the mat, and fight back. This has been bred into the DNA of the team to the point that players often bring this up when talking to reporters. The philosophy of Trotz- and by extension the Predators- is not to dread the setbacks. They know they will come. Instead, have the fortitude and the ability to overcome adversity.

Trotz has framed his coaching style with a healthy dose of reality, and in turn, has imparted that to his players. When the Predators opened the season 2-6-1, it appeared as if the pundits would be right and this team would not remotely come close to the playoffs. 73 games and 95 points later, the Predators had secured a 7th seed in the highly competitive Western Conference with 100 total points. When asked about the turnaround of this team, Trotz gave a very telling answer. “They (the players) stopped trying to be who they wanted to be and started playing like who they were.” Trotz has said all along that the current edition of the Predators will not have some of the flash of teams past, but that they can be very successful by doing the little things, the hard things that lead to wins. Going to the net, winning puck battles, and playing fundamentally sound hockey would lead to a successful season. When this squad embraced that reality, the wins and the points began to pile up.

Trotz has often been described by many adjectives- stoic, hard working, underappreciated. All are accurate. But if you want to really understand the success of Barry Trotz and his ability to get the most out of his team, it starts with these three characteristics: respect; resiliency; and realism.

Quietly and steadily, the resilient Barry Trotz molds realistic expectations for his team and helps them achieve their maximum potential.

And now, he has the respect of his peers.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hawks Close Out Series with a 5-3 Victory

Missed opportunities will be the theme of a series the Nashville Predators had an opportunity to win against the Chicago Blackhawks as the Hawks closed out the series with a 5-3 win at Bridgestone Arena. Missed opportunities in the form of a power play that was awful throughout the series. Missed opportunities in failing to close out the Hawks with 13 seconds remaining in game 5. Missed opportunities by allowing a couple of untimely and freakish goals in game six.

Missed opportunities.

Now the Predators have an off season to think about what could have been.

In a game that saw both teams go back and forth in the first period, the Hawks claimed a 4-3 lead at the end of the first period. Given the way that the period played out, one could expect the final score to be something atrocious like 10-9. Instead, after the explosive scoring of the first, both teams settled in to a defensive struggle.

Duncan Keith opened the scoring at 6:38 of the first period with his first goal of the series when he wired a shot past a screened Pekka Rinne for the tally.

Shea Weber would answer at 8:50 of the first with a shot from the blue line that eluded Chicago goaltender Antti Niemi.

With the home crowd roaring at full volume, Chicago proceeded to score the next two goals and threatened to blow the game wide open. 20 Cent tallied at 9:54 with a fluke goal. Looking as if he was going to dump the puck behind the net for a change for the Hawks, his shot caromed off the side board and past an out of position Rinne for one of the strangest goals I have seen. Patrick Sharp added another goal at 12:03 as the Hawks swarmed Rinne and the Predators defense. The Predators were in trouble and needed to answer.

Answer they did.

Jason Arnott finally got off the schneid and tallied a power play goal, taking a nice feed from Patric Hornqvist, who was seeing his first action since the first game of the series. Great to see the Captain finally contribute.

Arnott would tally his second goal at 19:05 to tie the game at three with a deflection of a Dan Hamhuis shot. The home crowd was in full throat and the momentum was with the home team.

That would be quickly short circuited as the Hawks went on a power play, and as they had often done in this series, tallied within just a few seconds of going to the man advantage.Jonathan Toews was crashing the crease and gathered in a rebound and knocked it past Rinne at 19:29 to give the Hawks a 4-3 advantage going into the first intermission.

That 4-3 score would stand through the second period as Chicago would have 10 minutes of power play time and would out shoot the predators 16-4. The penalty kill was successful, killing off all the Hawks man advantage situations, but it certainly took the energy out of the team and killed the opportunity to build any momentum.

The third period would see the Predators out shoot the Hawks 15-3, but the Predators could not solve Niemi. The Predators would have six minutes of power play time, but once again the special teams reverted to form and went scoreless. The Hawks would add an empty netter by John Madden for the final score of 5-3.

The Predators will look back on this series and see numerous missed opportunities. Failing to close out Chicago in game 5 was a punch in the gut. Kudos to this team for coming back and giving a valiant effort in this game. Lesser teams would not have shown up.

The Predators missed opportunities to bury shots throughout the series. Failing to finish scoring chances cost the Predators. The power play was an abysmal failure, scoring one time in 25 chances. These are areas that have to improve in the coming season.

It would be easy to focus on these shortcomings and the disappointment of another first round exit. Instead, focus on the positives about this team. This team was picked by some to finish 14th in the West. Instead, they recorded 100 points and finished 7th. This team has a young core of players that got their first taste of playoff experience, and they acquitted themselves very well. This team exceed all expectations and surprised the so called experts with their performance.

The loss is disappointing. Losing another playoff series in the first round is disappointing. That's good. We should expect more. As painful as this is, it is a learning experience and part of the growth process.

This team has a bright future. Focus on the positives. Sure, I wish the outcome were different, but I feel that this team is building in the right direction.

There is more to come, Predator fans. Good things.

And the Predator nation will be there to witness those successes.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

7th Man- Are You In?

Game 5 in the Predators-Blackhawks series was a punch in the gut to the Predators and their fans. 13 seconds away from an improbable comeback victory over the highly favored Hawks saw the game get tied up and then lost in overtime.

This loss was painful. You can dissect the reasons for the loss all you want, but the fact is that the Predators had an opportunity to take control of the series and gave it away. The hurt from this one is palpable.

After the game, I had an opportunity to read a lot of "tweets" on Twitter that said many of the Predators supporters had given up, that the series was over. There is only one thing to say:

No, it's not.

Time and again over the course of this season, we have asked, no, demanded, that our boys bounce back. We have asked that they get back to their winning ways. And they have responded. A team that was picked to be last, or very near the bottom in the Western Conference, refused to give in to conventional wisdom and the challenges of a grueling season and continually rebounded. They fought and scraped their way into the playoffs and logged an unbelievable 100 point season. They did not quit.

And now 7th man, the call to you is not to quit either.

The call is to overcome the pain and frustration of a bitter loss and get ready to bring it on Monday night. The call is to be there for our boys and rise as Predator nation in support of the team that has laid it on the line all season.

It's no secret our barn is a tough place for visiting teams. It's tough because of you, 7th man. When we bring the energy and the noise, we are an intimidating and unstoppable force. This game is our challenge, our time to bounce back and bring the volume in support of the team we love.

Whatever happens Monday night, the 7th man has to be right there alongside the Predators, exhorting and encouraging them, yes even willing them to a win.

This series is not over. The hurt of the loss in game 5 has to be turned into energy and enthusiasm for our boys.

I expect them to bring it Monday night.

7th man- will you bring it?

Are you in?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Preds Give Away Game 5 in a Heartbreaking Loss to the Hawks

13 Seconds.

Thirteen seconds away from capturing game 5 and putting the pucker factor in Chicago off the charts. 13 seconds and with the man advantage.

Yet at the 13 second mark, 20 Cent Kane scored the game tying goal to send the pivotal contest to overtime. The Predators would fall to the Blackhawks in overtime as Cup Whore Marian Hossa would tally the game winner for a 5-4 victory for the Blackhawks. A victory that frankly should have never happened.

This loss hurts for a lot of reasons. The Predators battled back from a 3-1 deficit to take a 4-3 lead. The aforementioned prostitute for the Cup- Marian Hossa- was off for a boarding major. The Preds just needed to control the puck and run out the clock.

They didn't.

This is the kind of loss that can rip the heart out of a team. A team that is of lesser character will lay down in game six and the series will be over. This team will not do that.

Kudos to Marty Erat for showing up offensively. His two goals were huge today.

Also, props go to David Legwand, Joel Ward, Denis Grebeshkov, and Ryan Suter, all who played strong games.

As to the Predators power play... well to say it was- and is- abysmal is a compliment. Now 0- for 22, the power play has been a joke, and the futility with the man advantage is costing the Predators.

So here we are. The Predators and their fans have had their heart ripped out and now face the prospect of having to win two games against the powerful Hawks. How do we- yes the fans AND the team- respond?

Right now, as I write this, it is so easy to hang one's head and say it is over.


Look at this realistically. Down 3-1, it would have been easy to say it was over. This team didn't quit and didn't stop battling. Joel Ward's shorty at the end of the second period breathed new life into the Preds. Erat's goal to tie it up showed the Preds they could still compete and comeback against the Hawks. His second goal should have won it.

There was no quit in the team. They showed heart and battled. Yes, they should have won this game, and the loss is heartbreaking, but this team has shown they have the ability to rebound.

It will take focus. It will take passion. It will take heart. These things didn't disappear at the end of this game.

And, Predator fans, it's going to take heart and passion from us as well. Hear this- if you don't have it, don't show up.

Now it becomes a matter of the Predators laying it all on the line. You know there is no tomorrow. You have to play like it.

Time to bounce back.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Predators Playoff Perspectives

After the Blackhawks defeated the Predators 3-0 in game four of their first round series, it was easy to feel deflated. A win would have sent the Predators back to Chicago needing just one win in three game to secure the series. Instead, it is now a three game series with two of the games at the boisterous home ice of the Hawks.

It is important to look honestly at these first four games to determine the Predators chances against a very good opponent. Here is my view of some of the critical aspects of this series and how the teams compare.

Play on the ice

On paper, the Blackhawks are a vastly superior team with an explosive offense that is capable of lighting up an opponent.

On paper.

The game is played on the ice, and here the Predators have more than held their own. In the series, the Predators have outscored the Blackhawks 8-7. More importantly, the defense and the goaltending of the Predators has done a good job of limiting the scoring opportunities and effectiveness of the big guns of the Blackhawks. This series points out the validity of the the Predator way- building a team from the net out. Pekka Rinne has been solid and the defense has overall been very good. There is no doubt that the Hawks have talent in the offensive zone, but the Predators have done a good job of limiting the scoring threats from the Hawks' stars.

Offensively, the Predators have gotten strong play from unlikely heroes. David Legwand has stepped up his play in this series. Joel Ward, Steve Sullivan, and J.P. Dumont have had their moments. The Predators have to have improvement in two key areas: power play and scoring from some of the big guns.

The Predators power play is a woeful 0-fer. This has to improve as the Predators have had ample opportunities with the man advantage. Chicago will take penalties and the Predators must make them pay for their transgressions.

Scoring has to come from Jason Arnott, Colin Wilson, and Marty Erat. This is the top offensive line for the Predators and they have been invisible throughout this series. For the Predators to win this series, these guys are going to have to generate some offense. Three games, boys. Three games to step up and play like you are capable.


It was apparent early in this series that the Hawks would try to out hit the Predators and take them out of their game. Instead, the Predators pounded the Hawks into submission. The Predators have brought the thunder in the hitting department, and in the fourth game of the series, the Hawks were not inclined to hit very much. The Predators have to continue to pound the Hawks with discipline and intensity to take them out of their game.


The Predators have stayed in this series with heart. Chicago has won with talent. When the Predators play with heart, the Hawks cannot beat them. Call it work ethic if you want, but heart will win out over talent every time. We have seen the talent of the Hawks wilt when faced with the force of the Predators heart. The Predators are going to have to play with heart, laying it all on the line in the next two games. If they do, then good things will happen. 


The Blackhawks have been practically giddy just to get this series tied. From the word go, the Hawks have been a favorite to get to the Stanley Cup Championship. Great expectations are a heavy weight, Win this next game, Predators, and the Hawks will skate in game 6 with refrigerators on their back. Take the fight to them and watch them grip their sticks a little tighter. No one expected you to be here, and no one expected you to put up this kind of fight. As gratifying as that is, it is not enough. Seize this opportunity and defy expectations. And make the weight on the backs of the Hawks a lot heavier.

Is it a stretch to think the Predators can win this series? I think not. Sure, the Predators have to play sound hockey. When they have, they have won. When they haven't, they have given the game to the Blackhawks. It will take a solid effort on the ice and playing with heart to capture the next game. We have to outwork, outhit, and out-character the Blackhawks.

It can be done.

And we can defy the expectations. 


My View

Random thoughts from a warped and fevered mind...

Pay attention to what is going on in New Jersey. Newly elected Governor Chris Christie came into office with an existing deficit of $2.2 billion dollars and a projected deficit for the coming year of $10.7 billion dollars. This was based on projections of government spending continuing to grow at the average growth rate that has occurred over the past decade. What typically happens when government at any level overspends? "Tax the rich", "Raise property taxes", "Raise all taxes" are the typical and knee jerk responses. A funny thing has happened in Joisey, however. Governor Christie has told public employee unions and various departments of the state government that in the last 8 years, the State has raised taxes in some fashion 115 times. It was now time to start reining in the runaway spending and living within a realistic budget. And guess what? The State of New Jersey is doing it! In eight weeks, Governor Christie cut $13 billion dollars in waste and programs that provided little tangible benefit to the citizens of the State. Governor Christie has shown that the growth of government- at any level- does not have to continue unabated and that the most constructive use of financial resources are not in the hands of the government, but the citizens.

They say women find a "six pack" sexy. Well, I've been drinking them for a long time now and frankly, it's not working.

"Because of the internet, there is this vast echo chamber and our advocacy reaches into corners that never would have been possible before." So says former Predsident Bill Clinton, who warned that free speech was dangerous and could have tragic consequences. Huh? Apparently, criticism of the current admisnistration is taboo. However, it was permissible to call former Predsident Bush and his administration "nazis", "facists", and show pictures of an assassinated President Bush. The hypocrisy of the left is beyond laughable. This country was founded on reasoned discourse and thoughtful dissent. Heavy emphasis on "reasoned" and "thoughtful". Until we return to those precepts, there will just be lots of shouting and our national dialogue will continue to descend into coarseness.

Men are like a box of chocolates. Wait too long to pick one out and all that is left is the weird, nutty ones.

An interesting characteristic of the current administration is to subtlely and slowly erode the rights of the individual in favor of centralizing power and control in the federal government and its bureaucracies. Don't believe me? Take a look at this example. On March 18, Predisent Obama signed the Hiring Incentive to Restore Employment act, a $17.5 billion dollar stimulus bill designed to create jobs (apparently the $787 billion dollar stimulus package last year didn't do the trick). Tucked neatly away inside the bill is a provision called Foreign Account Tax Compliance. In short, it is designed to crack down on tax evaders that use off shore accounts to avoid paying taxes. Fair enough. But this bill allows the IRS to force banks to withhold 30% of all funds going to foreign accounts if the IRS, not the courts, deems the taxpayer "recalcitrant". Now I don't know about you, but it seems to me that all of us would get to be a bit recalcitrant when the IRS starts poking around in our affairs for no apparent reason. There are legitimate uses of off shore accounts, but balking at turning over all bank records both here and abroad can arbitrarily result in the confiscation of 30% of your assets. Wow. Notice that in this piece of legislation, and in others since the Obama administration came into office, that due process is missing. One of the foundational principals of this great nation is slowly disappearing in these legislative monstrosities.

If all is not lost, where is it?

And that, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Chicago Claws Their Way Back Into The Series With A 3-0 Win

With an opportunity to go up 3-1 in their series with the Chicago Blackhawks, the Nashville Predators shot blanks in a 3-0 loss in the Bridgestone Arena. The series is now tied at two and heading back to Chicago.

The Predators knew that Chicago would come out with desperation and intensity, and early on, the Predators matched the effort of the Blackhawks. The tide of momentum would swing to the Blackhawks at 10:57 of the first period as the Hawks went on the power play with Francis Buillon in the box for interference. Just :10 seconds into the power play, the Hawks would tally as they swarmed the net and overwhelmed Pekka Rinne and the Nashville defense. Patrick Sharp would bat the puck out of the air into the net after several stops by Rinne. The score came when Rinne stopped a shot by Jonathan Toews, but the rebound off his shoulder spun into the air. Sharp, at the top of the crease, was able to knock the puck past Rinne for a 1-0 Chicago lead.

The Predators generated some chances, but as in game 2, they could not finish. Chicago netminder Antti Niemi made some good stops, but more importantly for Chicago in this contest, the defense thwarted good entry into the offensive zone by the Predators and never let the offense set up efficiently. When the Predators got scoring opportunities, they could not finish.

The Predators had an opportunity to get back into the game with nearly two minutes of 5 on three power play time in the first period. They generated some chances, but could not solve Niemi, and the two man advantage was short circuited 1:07 in when David Legwand was called for goalie interference. For the night, the Predator power play was ineffective, going 0 for 5.

In the second period, Chicago tallied again when Marian Hossa took a shot that Rinne could not control and Jonathan Toews knocked in the rebound at 12:55 of the second. Patrick Sharp would tally his second goal as he beat Rinne with a wrister at 16:17 of the period.

With the 3-0 lead, the Blackhawks spent the rest of the game choking the life out of the Predators. As the Predators did on Tuesday night, the Blackhawks controlled play in the neutral zone and prevented the Predators from setting up their offense. The net result was a shutout for Niemi, even though both teams totaled 30 shots on goal. Unfortunately for the Predators, the offense did not generate many quality chances tonight and di not sufficently pressure the Hawks D or Niemi.

Tonight, the top offensive players for the Predators were non-existent. J.P. Dumont was moved to the top line in place of Colin Wilson after the first period, but it failed to produce any offensive pop. It is time for Arnott to show up in this series. Captain, you are without a point, and the team needs you to step up.

When you look at this game, you see three breakdowns that wound up in the back of the net. Otherwise, this team played a very good Blackhawk team evenly for the rest of the game. Take solace in that fact. Take comfort in the fact that Chicago cannot out work us and cannot beat us physically. Be aware that a team that was a Stanley Cup favorite is overjoyed to be tied with us at two games apiece.

This was a big game for the Predators. They came up short. The most important thing for the Predators now is to have, as Head Coach Barry Trotz said, short memories. Forget about this game. Be prepared to go to war in Chicago and take back the momentum in this series.

This game proved to the Predators that they have to bring the maximum effort every shift, every game. Tonight, that did not happen.

Learn from this, and be prepared to bring it Saturday.

The pundits will say that it is just a matter of time before the Blackhawks dispose of the Predators.

Screw the pundits.

The next game is the time to show what you are made of, to show the hockey world your heart and character

Time to claw your way back into the lead..

It's time to show them Predator hockey.

Time for a War. 7th Man- Are You Ready?

There will be a war at the "Bridge" tonight. A team that thought they were entitled to the cup has now found itself in a desperate struggle to stay alive in the competition for Lord Stanley's chalice. The Nashville Predators have outplayed the more glamorous Chicago Blackhawks by being tougher, more disciplined, and more aggressive.

Tonight, the Blackhawks will try to be the team with those attributes.

Whether they are sucessful is dependent on our coaches preparing the players for this battle and the players themselves answering the call.

I believe they can.

I also believe that the 7th man- you and I- played an important role in the outcome of game 3. I sit where I can see the faces of the players and coaches for both teams. There were two reactions to the roaring ovation that the Predators got during the second period TV timeout.

On the Predators bench, you could see some smiles and an acknowledgement that the 7th man was into the game and was willing to sacrifice their vocal cords to will their team to victory.

On the Chicago bench, there were looks of dismay as the volume swelled. Coaches struggled to be heard. Hawk players looked around in astonishment as they had never been a part of something like this.

Kudos to the Predators 7th man for a job well done.

But that was then, this is now.

As I said, it will be a war tonight. And in a battle, you bring all your resources to bear to secure victory. For the Predators, they have to be hard on the puck and disciplined. They have to hit and shoot the puck. The coaches have to adjust to the ebb and flow of the game.

And for you and me- the 7th Man? Tonight, we bring it like we have never brought it before. We make our 17,000 roar like the United Center in Chicago has never roared. We intimidate with the sound and the fury of Predator fans rising as one to exhort our team to victory.

7th Man- this is your time.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Predators Handcuff the Hawks 4-1 to Take a 2-1 Series Lead

The Predators looked to rebound from a lackluster effort in their second game of their matchup with the Chicago Blackhawks in a pivotal game three in the Bridgestone Arena. The task before them: shut down the potent Hawks offense and generate offensive chances that challenged Antti Niemi. More importantly, bury those chances.

Mission accomplished.

The Nashville Predators played a full 60 minute game, defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 to take a 2-1 series lead in the first round contest against a putative Stanley Cup favorite.

In the Predators first home playoff game, the intensity was evident from the start. Penalties were handed out in abundance- mostly to Chicago- for elbowing and roughing. The Predators showed early on that they would match the physicality of the Blackhawks and dish it out just as well as they were taking the hits.

The difference was that Nashville would and could be more physical throughout the night without taking unnecessary penalties.This was important as the Predators could not afford to put the potent Hawks power play on the ice. For the night, Nashville took four penalties and killed three of them.

Just :49 seconds after a Hawks penalty had ended, Joel Ward got the Predators on the board as he batted home a rebound of a Steve Sullivan shot over the pads of Niemi to give the Predators a 1-0 lead a t 13:00 of the first period. As Coach Trotz said after the game, each night a new hero has stepped up to play a major role for the Predators. Tonight, that early hero was Wardo, who broke through for the Predators.

Chicago would tie the game at 1 just :15 seconds into a power play as Tomas Kopecky scored at 17:35 of the first with a backhand off a rebound that beat Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne. Rinne had survived some early scares in the period, nearly turning the puck over as he played it on a power play. Rinne was victimized on the power play, however, and despite some quality saves, the Predators found themselves tied with the Hawks at the end of the first period.

The start of the second period was going to be important for the Predators. It was important not to let Chicago seize momentum and take control of the game. Rinne, and the defense in front of him, were solid throughout the period. They limited the scoring chances for Chicago, and when the Hawks had opportunities, Rinne cleaned up. The Predators did an especially good job of thwarting the speed of the Blackhawks through the neutral zone, and as they did in the first game, frustrated the potent offensive attack that Chicago can bring.

The question for the Predators was could they generate offensive chances, and more importantly, could they finish? The answer? A resounding "Yes"!

David Legwand scored at 4:00 of the second as Kevin Klein gained control of the puck along the boards in the defensive zone and flipped the puck out to Steve Sullivan. Sullivan used his speed to drive down the ice into the offensive zone, where he saw David Legwand streaking to the net. Sullivan sent a beautiful pass to Legwand, who tipped it past Niemi for the game winner. Legwand did a great job settling down a bouncing puck to pot the goal.

The Predators would extend their lead to 2 goals as Shea Weber unleashed a patented blast from the blue line that hit Marian Hossa's stick and went through Niemi five hole for the score at 9:52.

Leading 3-1 going in to the third, the Predators knew that the Blackhawks would attempt to exert their will, and this would be a test of character. The Predators passed this test with flying colors as Rinne made some great saves and the defense did a great job of shutting down the Hawks attack. The Predators exerted their will. They took the body. They were more physical. The fact is that the Predators wanted this game more than the Blackhawks.

The important aspect of the third period was that the Predators did not take their foot off the gas offensively. They continued to press the attack, and the result was Martin Erat getting hooked down by Dustin Byfuglien on a breakaway. A penalty shot was awarded to Erat, and he buried the shot high glove side to extend the Predators lead to 4-1 at 14:25 of the the period.

Game over.

The Predators shut down the Hawks for the remainder of the game, and for the first time in the history of this franchise, the Predators had a series lead 2-1.

This was a solid 60 minutes of hockey by the Predators. They were sound in all zones and got outstanding goaltending from Rinne. They kept up the attack throughout the game and refused to yield to the physical pressure of the Hawks.

This was Predator hockey.

The Predators should expect the Hawks to come out in game 4 with desperation. They should expect another physical game. The expectations on the Blackhawks are off the chart. They are fearful of disappointing.

It will be incumbent on the Predators to continue to play disciplined, sound hockey. It will be imperative that the Predators take the punch that Chicago will deliver and respond. Expect the challenge. Be prepared for battle.

It will be a war.

And this is a war that you can win, boys. No one expected you to be here. No one gives you a chance. No one believes that you can do it.

Except those guys in the Predators locker room. And your fans.

This is your time. Take advantage of the the pressure on Chicago. Take the attack to them. Take it back to Chicago with a 3-1 lead.

And prove the experts wrong.

Monday, April 19, 2010

An Analysis of the Predators Season Attendance Numbers

Matthew Collier, in an article here reports that league wide attendance for the just completed hockey season was down 2.2% from the previous year. According to the article, attendance was down 5% at the the end of December, but recovered nicely in the second half of the season. This could be attributable to the popularity of the Winter Classic, interest generated by the Olympics, and the fact that a number of teams were involved in tight playoff races, according to Collier.

The Nashville Predators have always struggled with attendance numbers early in the season, and many attribute this to interest in college and professional football in our area. True to form, the Predators average attendance increased 7% in the second half of the season. Here are the attendance numbers for the Predators for the first half of the season along with percentage of capacity compared to the second half of the season:

First Half of the Season

Attendance: 13,731     Percent of Capacity: 80.2

Full Season Average

Attendance: 14,979     Percent of Capacity: 87.5

The Predators average attendance for the season was higher than the Avalanche (13,947); Coyotes (11,989); Thrashers (13,607); and Islanders (12,735). The average attendance was very close to the Devils (15,546); Panthers (15,146); and Blue Jackets (15,416).

How does the recently completed season compare to previous seasons? I'm glad you asked. Here are the year by year numbers for the franchise back to 2001:

2009     15,010

2008     14,910

2007     15,259

2006     14,428

2005     Lock out season

2004     13,157

2003     13,228

2002     14,788

2001     15,767

The growth of the Predators attendance in this "non-traditional" market has admittedly occurred in fits and starts for many reasons, not the least of which has been an absentee owner through the formative years of the franchise and a subsequently unsettled ownership position with the new ownership group. Also missing throughout the history of this franchise has been a strong base of corporate support. Unlike many franchises, the Predators rely heavily on ticket sales to individuals rather than corporations, which tend to be somewhat more consistent in their year over year purchase of tickets.

I had a conversation with Derek Perez before he left the Predators and his position as Director of Marketing, and he brought up an interesting point in our conversation. His point was that a hockey team had to survive and grow their fan base for about 15 years before there was a steady and consistent level of season ticket purchases on a year over year basis. According to Perez, a franchise needed at least one "generational turn" in its fan base to solidify the franchise. He went on to explain that the children of families that went to games had to get old enough to launch their careers and begin to buy their own tickets- the generational turn. Every franchise, according to Perez, sees a bump in their ticket sales around the 15 year mark, and he attributes this to the generational turn.

We all know that we are approaching the 15 year mark in the story of this franchise. More importantly, we as fans are seeing a growth in corporate support and a consistency in the renewal of individual ticket packages. This bodes well for the future of this team in this market.

Yes, the Predators have had to overcome some obstacles, perhaps more than any other new franchise. Those difficulties are not completely gone (think: Boots Del Biaggio's 27% interest in the team that is tied up in bankruptcy court). Yet this team continues to plug along and be successful on the ice, and that success is now translating to deeper and stronger ties to the Nashville business community and the team's fan base.

There is still progress to be made.Ties to the business community have to be strengthened and more corporate support is needed. Individual ticket sales have to remain strong. New fans must be developed. Inroads still have to be made into all areas of the community. Know this, that progress is being made.

To the naysayers that continue to parrot the tired mantra that hockey will not work in the south, that it won't work in Nashville, there are only two words to say to you:

You're wrong.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Hawks Even Series With Predators With A 2-0 Win

The Nashville Predators knew that they would be in a battle in the second game of their playoff series with the Chicago Blackhawks. Embarrassed 4-1 in their first game, the Blackhawks were going to come out with a better push and with more aggressiveness in an attempt to even the series. That aggressiveness and drive was on display all night as the Hawks blanked the Predators 2-0.

Frankly, the score could have been much worse except for the outstanding play of Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne. He made some unbelievable stops tonight to keep the game from getting out of hand. Unfortunately, the Predators wasted this effort from Rinne as the offense could not solve Hawk netminder Antti Niemi.

The game opened with the Blackhawks flying and putting pressure on the Nashville defense the entire first period.The Hawks kept Nashville on their heels for most of the period and outshot the Predators 13-5. It was a relief to hear the horn sound at the end of the first knowing that the Predators had taken the best effort from the Blackhawks and had weathered a ferocious storm.

The Hawks continued their pressure in the second, and in that period outshot the Predators 13-7. The Hawks were finally able to crack the wall that Rinne had put up when Dave Bolland scored on the power play at 8:44 of the period. Rinne was able to make a stop but could not control the rebound. Bolland was able to find the puck in a scramble a slide it into the net.

Chicago used the penalties that the Predators committed to get on the board first. Uncharacteristically for the Predators, they took seven penalties in this game, and it seemed to take the wind out of the sails of the Predators. Although they were able to kill off 6 of the seven man advantages that the Hawks had, it killed the offensive flow and momentum that the Predators needed.

With the score 1-0 heading in to the third period, there were hopes that the Predators could repeat their performance from the first game when they erupted for four goals. That would be thwarted when Dan Hamhuis was caught pinching on the boards and Patrick "20 Cent" Kane was able to control the puck and start up the ice with a two on break. Kevin Klein was back and got caught in no man's land as he neither took the pass or the shooter. 20 Cent ripped a shot that went under the arm of Pekka Rinne for the second Hawks goal, and that was all they would need to put on the board for the victory.

The troubling aspect of this game was that the Predator offense did not generate many chances tonight. In the third period, they outshot the Hawks 11-7, but for the game were outshot 33-23. Save for one glorious scoring chance by Dustin Boyd on which Niemi made a spectacular save, the Predators didn't challenge the Chicago netminder to make great saves.

Here are the shot totals for the game for the forwards: Arnott 3: Tootoo 3; Smithson 2; Wilson 2; Boyd 2; Sullivan 1; Erat 1; Dumont 0; Legwand 0; Ward 0; Goc 0; Spaling 0. This is unacceptable.

This team has to shoot the puck and get the dirty goals off rebounds and work in front of the net. Tonight, that was mostly non-existent.

Yes, Patric Hornqvist was missing due to injury, but Hornqvist makes his living by getting those dirty goals. Frankly, guys, if you don't shoot the puck, no one gets the dirty goals.

This effort was definitely not the effort that you put forth in game 1. You know they effort has to be better. You know you have to be stronger. You know your heart has to be bigger.

Face it, you are playing a more talented team, but you have shown that not only can you play with this team, you can beat them.

So now you come back home with a split of the games in Chicago. You have learned to win on the road in the playoffs. You have learned that you can absorb the Hawks best punch and still survive. You have learned that this is a series you can win.

Come back into your barn and take control of this series. Play with fire, play with effort.

Most of all, play with heart.

It's time to bring it on your home ice.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

800 Pound Gorilla Off Their Backs, Preds Get First Road Playoff Win 4-1

The Nashville Predators opened the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in Chicago with a 4-1 win over the heavily favored Chicago Blackhawks.With this win, the Predators have notched their first road win in five years in the playoffs and have stolen home ice from the Blackhawks in this first round matchup.

After a scoreless first period, Patrick "20 Cent" Kane got the Hawks on the board in the second period with a garbage goal. Pekka Rinne made the save on a shot by Patrick Sharp, but Rinne couldn't control the rebound, which was sitting in the blue ice of the crease. 20 Cent knocked home the rebound to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead and send the United Center crowd into delirium.

The Predators evened the score in the third period with a garbage goal of their own. J. P. Dumont flipped a backhand toward the net that took a funny bounce and beat Antti Niemi to to tie the game. A garbage goal, but unlike the Chicago goal, the Nashville goal seemed to shake the Hawks.

Dumont would record his second tally off a shot by David Legwand, He fought for control of the puck on the rebound, gained control, and fired it high over a sprawling Niemi to give the Predators a 2-1 lead at 10:37 of the third period.

Jerred Smithson would add an empty netter at 19:12 of the third. Marty Erat would finish the scoring with another empty net goal at 19:46 of the third, and the Predators would finally get the 800 pound gorilla off their back as they recorded their first road win in the history of this franchise.

The Predators played a great road game, clogging the neutral zone and refusing to let Chicago enter the offensive zone with speed. This forced the Hawks to set up in the offensive zone, and when they did, the Predators defense was solid. limiting chances in front of Rinne.

Everyone knew that Chicago would bring a strong offensive effort, and tonight the Predators played a sound defensive game. They frustrated the offense of the Hawks and gave them very few quality chances.

When the Blackhawks did get a scoring chance, Pekka Rinne was outstanding in net. He made several quality saves, and for the night stopped 25 of 26 shots.

Kudos to the Predators for playing a composed, patient game. They stymied the potent Hawks offense all night. They weathered the push that everyone knew would come from Chicago. They showed maturity and poise in a hostile environment.

Chicago outshot Nashville 10-7 in the first and 12-6 in the second. One would think the tend would continue in the third, but the Predators outshot the Hawks 13-4. Turning up the pressure offensively was critical for the Predators, and it paid off with four goals.

More importantly, the Predators shut down the Hawks in the third period, limiting them to four shots in the  period. This shows the heart and composure of this squad. In a hostile arena with a quality opponent, it would have been easy to crumble under the pressure. Instead, the Predators exerted their will and changed the outcome of this game.

Tonight, heart and character was on display, and it was shown by the Predators.

This is just one game in what will be a tough series for the Predators. No one thinks the Predators can or will win four straight games. This game shows, however, that the Predators can compete with the talented Blackhawks. This game shows that the Predators have the heart and the skill to win this series. This game shows the Predators what they have to do to win the series.

Now the Predators have the gorilla off their back. The 800 pound primate is gone. Now the Predators know they can win on the road. Now the Predators know they can compete.

It's now time to put the second road win in the books.

It's now time to start to make history and win a playoff series.

You have made the big first step, boys.

Time to take the second one on Sunday.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Game Day Thoughts

It's time to get this party started, as the Predators face the Balckhawks in the first round of their Stanley Cup tilt.
some thoughts on game day:

The Predators have been playing playoff hockey since the Olympic break, as they have fought their way in to the top eight in the Western Conference and a playoff berth. This will serve the team well in an intense series. They are used to playing pressure packed hockey. They are used to playing one goal games. Use this experience to your advantage.

It will be important for a veteran player to step up in this series. Not only on the ice- that is imperative- but in the locker room as well. The Predators will face adversity and challenge in this series, and they must respond on and off the ice. The youth on this roster will be looking to the veterans for their cue. Arnott, Sullivan, Dumont, are you listening?

The top lines have to produce. That is obvious. For this team to vanquish the Blackhawks, however, the third and fourth lines are going to have to score. Throughout the season, these lines have chipped in with timely goals. They must continue to do so in this series.

The Predators have to withstand the initial push of the Blackhawks, especially in this opening game. The crowd will be in full throat and amped to the max. They must maintain their composure and play sound hockey. The longer they thwart the potent Hawk offense, the more they take the crowd out of the game. Force them to play Predator hockey and minimize the home ice advantage.

Shoot the puck! Make Niemi make saves and put the pressure on him. Both goalies are not playoff tested, but I will put my money on Pekka Rinne to handle the pressure.

Chicago will score. Make them work for every score. No defensive breakdowns, no dumb penalties, no half-assed efforts. When they score- respond!

Draw on the experience and presence of the coaches.Their calm demeanor belies a fire that burns within. Play with composure, and play with fire in your belly.

It's time to bring it, boys. You put up with an 82 game grind for this. This is what it is all about, and when you skate off the ice, know that you left everything you had on that ice. You can win this series. It won't be easy. There will be challenges and set backs, but this is yours for the taking.

You live for the playoffs.

It's time to play Predator hockey.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

My View

Random thoughts from a warped and fevered mind...

The tax day has now come and gone, and most of us feel the pain of the growing tax bite that the Federal government extracts from our income. Realize this, no matter how much the government collects in taxes, it will not be enough to cover the rapidly growing federal expenditures. And because of this, Congress will be looking for additional sources of revenue from the 53% of the citizens that earn income. Listen to this quote from Michael Linden, Director of tax policy for the Center for American Progress, a Democratic think tank, "It's equity... but it's also about responsibility. We have a big problem we are facing in this country in terms of a large budget gap (read: deficit) going forward. And I believe that the wealthy in this country have the responsibility to solve this problem." Oh, really? Who created this problem? To address this "problem" the President is going to propose raising tax rates for singles making more than $200,000 per year and for couples making more than $250,000. Your income taxes are going up, because it will not just be these top brackets that are increased, but all brackets. Also, look for capital gains taxes to go up from 15% to at least 20%, perhaps higher. And look for a Value Added Tax (VAT) to be proposed later this year. A VAT is nothing more than a national sales tax. Want to solve this "problem"? The first place to start is to control government spending.

I can't afford to go on a vacation this year. I just paid my taxes. I will just stay home and let my mind wander.

Within the next ten years, there will be a shortage of primary care physicians in this country. It is estimated that there will be a shortage of approximately 45,000 primary care doctors by the year 2020. Why is this? There are two reasons. First, primary care physicians are being squeezed by insurance and Medicare cuts, meaning that, in many cases, they will lose money by seeing a patient. This is simple economics: if a doctor loses money by seeing a Medicare patient, or an insured patient with insurance that does not cover costs, why continue to see those patients. Many medical school students are opting into specialties rather than general medicine for the simple reason that they make more money as a specialist than a general physician. The recently passed socialized medical bill boosts Medicare payments to primary care physicians by 10%, but this is not enough to cover the rising costs of a medical practice. The second reason is there is a shortage of resident positions at teaching hospitals. Medicare funding pays a large portion of the costs of a residency position at these hospitals, but Congress imposed a funding cap on medical residencies in 1997. Consequently, teaching hospitals have not expanded the number of residency positions. This means that an aging population will face a shortage in primary care doctors, and this will translate into longer wait times and more limited access to health care. And this will hurt the quality of healthcare that you and I receive.

I asked God for a bike, but really, I know God doesn't work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.

Pushed to the back burner, but lurking in the halls of Congress is the Cap and Trade bill. Simply put, this bill will impose much higher fees and taxes on utilities and business that are deemed to be polluters. Those businesses are those that use coal (most utilities) and energy companies such as oil producers and refiners. Ostensibly, this is designed to get businesses to reduce their greenhouse emissions. Realistically, this bill, if it passes, will result in a massive tax increase on you and me. It is estimated that if this bill passes, the price of gas at the pump will go up by .27 per gallon immediately due to a tax on motor fuels, according to Point Carbon, an energy consulting company. It is also estimated that the average U.S. household will see a $3-6,000 annual increase in total utility costs. You read that correctly. Also affected will be thousands of jobs in the energy and transportation industries. It is apparent that our  Congressional leaders and the White House are divorced from economic reality.

Is IHOP where all the one legged waitresses work?

And that, my friends, is my view.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The View of the Playoffs: Fearless First Round Predictions

The playoffs are here, that magical second season that energizes the fans of each team that made it into final eight for each conference. The first round shapes up to present some interesting battles and compelling hockey.

The matchups are set and so it is time for the View to present his much anticipated first round picks. Let's start with the Western Conference games.

#1 San Jose vs. #8 Colorado

The San Jose Sharks, perennial disappointments in the playoffs, captured the number one seed in the West with a 51-20-11 record, good for 113 points. The Colorado Avalanche fought their way into the eighth spot with a 43-30-9 record and 95 points. The Avalanche rode the strong play of goalie Craig Anderson throughout the season, and early on, Anderson was spectacular. The concern was that Anderson was tiring after the Olympic break because his play started to fall off. The Avalanche have been led by rookie sensation Matt Duchense and were bolstered by the acquisition of Peter Mueller from the Phoenix Coyotes at the trade deadline. Unfortunately for the Avs, Duchense is nicked up with a torso injury and Mueller is out with a concussion. The Sharks bring an explosive offense to this contest, with Danny Heatley, Joe Thornton, and Patrick Marleau leading the charge. Evgeni Nabokov anchors the net for the Sharks. Although he has played a number of games during the regular season and the Olympics, his play has been strong. The teams split the regular season series, with each team winning two games. Look for the Sharks to overwhelm the Avalanche in this series.

Prediction: Sharks in 5

#2 Chicago vs. #7 Nashville

Two central division rivals square off in what should be one of the most compelling matchups in the first round. I expect this series to be a war. Chicago captured the season series 4-2, but the teams have not played each other since December 27th. On paper, the Blackhawks look to be the dominant team, and they have an offense that can put the puck in the net. Their defensive corps has been dinged with the loss of Brian Campbell and Kim Johnsson, forcing some younger players into contributing more minutes. The Predators have not won a road playoff game in the history of the franchise. This will be the year that dubious distinction disappears. Look for the Predators to play sound defense and continue to score by committee. If they can turn this into a grind it out series instead of a wide open, run and gun series, the Predators have a good chance of winning. Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne must continue his strong play to give the Predators a chance. I think he will. This series will be the upset of the first round.

Prediction: Nashville in 6


#3 Vancouver vs #6 Los Angeles

This will be an interesting series as the Canucks bring a potent and balanced offense to the ice to face a young and talented Kings defense. The Kings have offensive firepower as well and this series could become one of the highest scoring series of the first round. The Canucks went 49-28-5 for 103 points; the Kings were 46-27-9, good for 101 points. Vancouver took the regular season series 3-1. The Canucks boast one of the best netminders in the game in Roberto Luongo, and when he is on his game, he is very hard to beat. The Kings counter with young netminder Jonathan Quick, who had a very good season, although he struggled at the end. The confidence level of Quick could be an issue with his late season struggles. The Canucks have the dangerous Sedin twins and surprising goal scorer Alex Burrows leading the offense. The Kings are led by Anze Kopitar, Ryan Smyth, Fredrick Modin, and Michael Handzus. For L.A. to have a chance in this series, the defense has to control the Vancouver offense. In a seven game series, I don't think that is going to happen.

Prediction: Vancouver in 6

#4 Phoenix vs #5 Detroit

The surprising Phoenix Coyotes against perennial playoff competitor Detroit. Underdog and outcast competing against the gold standard of hockey franchises. Phoenix had an outstanding season, riding the strong goaltending of Ilya Bryzgalov to a 50-25-7 record and 107 points. The Wings found a stellar netminder in rookie Jimmy Howard, and compiled a 44-24-14 record and 102 points. Early in the season, the Wings contended with a multitude of injuries, but started to get healthy in the second half of the year. As their health improved so did their play, and the Wings have hit the playoffs playing their best hockey of the year. By contrast, the Coyotes were strong all year long. New Head Coach Dave Tippett has brought an aggressive forechecking style to the Coyotes, and they pressure the opponents into turnovers and subsequent scoring opportunities. The Coyotes are playing confident, loose hockey right now, and the team that gets the early advantage will win this series. These teams split the season series 2-2. In a battle of goaltenders, Ilya Bryzgalov bests the rookie Jimmy Howard.

Prediction: Phoenix in 7

And now to take a look at the Eastern Conference:

#1 Washington vs #8 Montreal

The most explosive offensive team in the playoffs meets a team that clawed their way into the playoffs in the last week of the season. The Capitals are led by offensive stars Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, and Brooks Laich. The Canadiens counter with the "smurfs"- Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez, and Michael Cammalleri . Jose Theodore will anchor the net for the Caps, and the only question surrounding the Capitals and their quest for the Cup will be his play. If he is strong in net, this will be a short series. Look for the Capitals to attempt to be physical and exert their will on the Canadiens. Defensemen Hal Gill, Andrei Markov, and Roman Hamrlik will have their hands full trying to contain the Caps forwards. Jaroslav Halak will keep the Canadiens in the series, but eventually, the Caps should prevail. The season series was split 2-2, but I do not think this will be indicative of the level of play in this playoff round.

Prediction: Caps in 5

#2 New Jersey vs #7 Philadelphia

The Devils finished the regular season 48-27-7 for 103 points; the Flyers finished 41-35-6 and 88 points. Interestingly, the Flyers took the season series with the Devils 5-1. The Flyers have talent and can put the puck in the net. They can be very undisciplined, as well. If the Flyers can contain their emotions, avoid dumb penalties, and play sound hockey, they will have the ability to win this series. Those are very big "ifs" for this team. The Devils have future Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur in net, and although he has had a very strong regular season, he has had a tendency to be very average in the playoffs over the past several seasons. Look for the Devils to trap the Flyers throughout the series and shut their offense down. I expect Brodeur to play with a chip on his shoulder and show that he is still an elite playoff goalie. This series will be a ferocious, physical series, and the team that shows the most discipline will be victorious.

Prediction: Devils in 7

#3 Buffalo vs #6 Boston

Boston won this season series 4-2, and this is telling, because most of these games were played when both teams had a full complement of healthy players. This series opens with both teams suffering injuries to key players. The Bruins are without Marc Savard, undoubtedly the most potent offensive weapon on their squad. The Sabres have Thomas Vanek nicked up and Tim Connolly and Patrick Kaleta doubtful for the first round. The Sabres rode the goaltending of Ryan Miller to a 45-27-10 record and 100 points while the Bruins Tuuka Rask led them to a 39-30-13 record and 91 points. It's no secret that as goes Miller, so goes the Sabres. If he is solid in net, the Sabres should win the series. Likewise, if Rask is on his game, the Bruins will make it a series and could possibly steal a first round win. I expect this series to be a war of attrition, and the team with the healthiest players and best goaltending will be the survivor.

Prediction: Buffalo in 7

#4 Pittsburgh vs #5 Ottawa

The surprising Senators came on strong to claim the fifth spot in the East with a 44-32-6 record and 94 points. The prize for this effort- meeting the Penguins and their explosive offense. Pittsburgh finished the season 47-28-7 and with 101 points. These teams split their season series 2-2, and on the surface, it would appear that the Pens should take care of business in this matchup. Expect the Sens to give the Pens a serious challenge as they have some offensive pop in the form of Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredson, and Mike Fisher. The key to this series will be the ability of the Ottawa defense to keep Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and company in check. The edge in goaltending should go to the Penguins with Marc-Andre Fleury  in net. His experience in the playoffs and in handling the pressure of a series should give him over his counterpart Brian Elliott. I look for the Pens to wear down the Senators and have too much offense for them to handle.

Prediction: Penguins in 5

And there you have it, the fearless predictions of the first round from the View. My advice: don't bet the rent money on these predictions.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Predators and Blackhawks: A Look at the First Round Matchup

The Nashville Predators will take on Central Division rival Chicago Blackhawks in a first ever playoff meeting between the two teams. The series begins Friday night at the United Center. During the regular season, the Blackhawks were victorious in four of the six contests with the Predators.

If one were to view this matchup on paper, the advantage would go to the Hawks. This series will not be played on paper, but will be a war waged on the ice between two familiar rivals.

So how do the two teams compare? We will look at goaltending; defensive corp; offensive firepower; coaching; and intangibles.


Pekka Rinne against Antii Niemi, a battle of two Finnish countrymen, both getting their first taste of playoff experience. This matchup of two goalies that zero playoff experience will be interesting to see how each handles the pressure of the playoff race.

Both goalies came on strong at the mid point of the season to claim their respective team's starting job in net. Here is how they stack up statistically:

Pekka Rinne     32-16-5     2.53 GAA     .910 Save %

Antti Niemi       26-7-4       2.25 GAA     .912 Save %

Statistically, a very even matchup. Athletic goalies that have played solid hockey and are fundamentally sound in net. The difference will be the confidence and steadiness that each will bring to the net. Predator fans know that the team in front of Rinne play with a great deal of confidence when he is net. The Hawks have adapted to Niemi in the net after he won the starting job from Cristobal Huet, and they too, are playing a confident game in front of him. Rinne is playing with a tremendous amount of confidence right now, and it has translated into a strong stretch run to the playoffs for the Predators. Rinne is often called upon to keep his team in very low scoring affairs and has thrived in that type of pressure.

Advantage:     Even


The Predators boast a very solid blue line, with Olympians Shea Weber and Ryan Suter anchoring the defensive corps. The pairings of Dan Hamhuis/ Cody Franson and Francis Buillon/Kevin Klein have been solid. Should Dennis Grebeshkov be able to return from injury, he will add depth to the blue line. Chicago has some stalwarts on the defensive unit as well, led by their Canadian Olympic team members Brent Seabrook and  Duncan Keith. The defense of Chicago has taken a hit with the injuries to Brian Campbell and Kim Johnsson, who was acquired at the trade deadline from Minnesota. Brent Sopel and Nick Boynton have stepped in to take more minutes and provide solid play.

Comparing the top six defensemen reveals statistical similarities:


Weber          78 GP     16G     27A     43 points     +/- 0

Suter             82 GP     4G      33A     37 points      +/- +4

Hamhuis        78 GP     5G      19A     24 points      +/- +4

Franson         61 GP     6G      15A     21 points      +/- +15

Buillon           81 GP     3G      8A       11 points      +/- +5

Klein             81 GP     1G      10A      11 points      +/- -13


Keith             82 GP    14G     55A      69 points     +/- +21

Seabrook      78 GP     4G      26A       30 points     +/- +20

Hjarlmarsson 77 GP     2G      15A       17 points      +/- +9

Sopel             73 GP    1G       7A         8 points        +/- +3

Boynton         49 GP    1G       7A         8 points        +/- +5

Hendry           43 GP    2G       6A         8 points        +/- +5

The top two defensemen for the Hawks have had a stellar season, as have the top D pairing of the Predators. The advantage for the Predators will be the fact that the second and third pairings have more game experience and have been somewhat more productive than the similar defensive pairings for the Blackhawks.

Advantage:     Predators


The Blackhawks offense is explosive, led by Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. All the forwards for Chicago bring speed and talent to the ice, and these two stars are augmented by Marian Hossa, Kris Versteeg, and Patrick Sharp. By contrast, the predators present a balanced attack that can produce points from all four lines. The Predators have been characterized as scoring by committee, with ten players tallying 30 or more points. The Predators are lead by Patric Hornqvist, who had 30 goals this season while Patrick Kane lead Chicago with 30 goals. The comparison of the top six forwards for each team highlights the disparity between the offensive production:


Hornqvist         80 GP     30G     21A     51 points

Sullivan            82 GP     17G     34A     51 points

Erat                 74 GP      21G     28A     49 points

Arnott              63 GP     19G     27A      46 points

Dumont            74 GP     17G     28A      45 points

Legwand          82 GP     11G     27A      38 points


Kane                82 GP     30G     58A     88 points

Toews              76 GP     25G     43A     68 points

Sharp               82 GP     25G      41A     66 points

Hossa               57 GP     24G     27A      51 points

Versteeg           79 GP     20G     24A      44 points

Brouwer           78 GP     22G     18A      40 points

The Hawks have the ability to score prolifically throughout their lineup. The Predators are much more workmanlike in their offensive game. Where the Hawks can score highlight reel goals and tie a defense in knots, the Predators are a grind it out offense and create scoring chances off rebounds and winning battles for the puck.

Advantage:     Blackhawks


Both Joel Quenneville and Barry Trotz are proven coaches and excellent bench bosses. Both manage the game well. Trotz has the ability to coax the most out of the talent he has and has done a masterful job of getting a squad with middle of the road talent back to the playoffs. Quenneville has managed a very talented team well, keeping their focus on the ice and satisfied with playing time. It would be easy to say that Quenneville is the better of the two coaches, but when you look at the talent on the ice and the corresponding record, the argument can be made that Trotz has done the better job of coaching. At the start of the season, the conventional wisdom was that Chicago would contend for the Conference crown and the Predators would be out of the playoffs. Conventional wisdom is batting 50%.

Advantage:     Nashville


Special teams and faceoffs can often decide the outcome of a game or a series. The teams compare as follows:

Penalty Kill:     Chicago 85.2%     Nashville 77.1%

Power Play:     Chicago 17.6%     Nashville 16.4%

Faceoffs:          Chicago 52.3%     Nashville 49.2%

There are other intangibles to factor into the equation. Nashville won 28 one goal games this past season. That is significant because it gives the Predators a sense of confidence in a tight contest, as many playoff games become.

The major hurdle that the Predators have to get over is winning a road playoff game. In four previous trips to the playoffs, the Predators are yet to win a road playoff game. For this team to have any chance of advancing to the second round, the Predators are going to have to get this monkey off their back. Should the Predators falter in the first two games of the series, then it will be difficult for them to overcome that deficit and win the series.

There are several young players for the Predators that play key roles that have never experienced a playoff. How they react to the pressure of a playoff series and the games played in front of a large and vocal home crowd for the Blackhawks will be an important factor in the possibility of winning this series. Perhaps being young and not knowing better will be a good thing for players like Cody Franson, Colin Wilson, Cal O'Reilly, and Nick Spaling.

Advantage:     Slight Edge to the Blackhawks

The series will hinge on three factors for the Predators: they must get outstanding goaltending from Pekka Rinne; the defense has to contain the potent Blackhawk forwards; and the offense has to produce. Of these factors, the one that is most questionable is the offensive production. It is critical that the top six forwards step up and be productive. In fact, their production has to improve from the regular season. Steve Sullivan, Patric Hornqvist, Jason Arnott, J.P. Dumont, and Marty Erat have to shoot often and finish their chances. The Predators also have to continue to get timely goals from third and fourth line players like Marcel Goc, Joel Ward, and (hopefully) David Legwand. If the offense does not produce, it will be a short series and another early exit for the Predators.

So who will win this series? Time to make the prediction and put the reputation on the line. Conventional wisdom says that this is a series that the Blackhawks should win easily. I believe conventional wisdom is wrong. The Predators will get their first road win in one of the first two games in Chicago. The defense and goaltending will stymie the potent Blackhawk offense. You can call this a homer pick, and it probably is, but my view is that the Predators pull the first round upset and take the series in six games.