Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Predators Blank Coyotes 3-0

Sometimes you play a game and do everything but win on the scoreboard. Sometimes, you play a less than stellar game but skate away with the victory. The Nashville Predators have experienced both extremes recently, but tonight, they skated away with a 3-0 win over the Phoenix Coyotes, playing an game that could generously be described as ugly..

Part of the ugliness was due to lines that had been juggled, and it was apparent early on that the chemistry between the forwards needed time to coalesce. The revamped lines did provide some jump at times, but there were numerous occasions where passes were missed and the lines just flat out looked disjointed.

The victory by the Predators snapped a four game losing streak, and handed the Coyotes their first back to back losses this season. Phoenix has just won twice in their last eleven trips to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne got the start for the Predators, and he out dueled Ilya Bryzgalov for his 17th career shutout. Rinne was sharp and made some key saves to keep the Coyotes off the board. For the game, Rinne made 33 saves.

The Predators opened the scoring at 3:26 of the first period while on the power play. Shea Weber came in from the blue line and was left alone low and to the left of Bryzgalov. He attempted a cross crease pass that was blocked back to him and he beat Bryzgalov low to the short side post.

The Predators would notch their second goal at 12:48 of the second period while on a 5 on 3 power play. Steve Sullivan sent a crossing pass to a wide open Cal O'Reilly, who had an open net in which to deposit the puck.

The 2-0 lead of the Predators did not seem safe in the third period as the Coyotes pressed the attack and generated some quality scoring chances. Rinne was sharp in net and the defense stepped up to limit second chances for the Yotes.

The Coyotes generated some of their best chances in the third period while a man down. The Nashville power play, potent in the first two periods, shut down and had trouble entering the offensive zone. This allowed Phoenix to gain control of the puck in the neutral zone and get some very good scoring chances. Fortunately for the Predators, Rinne came up with some big stops to hold the Coyotes off the board.

With Bryzgalov pulled for the extra attacker, Jordin Tootoo would add an empty netter to complete the scoring at 19:35 of the third period.

It's no secret the Predators offense has struggled. Tonight, they generated some scoring chances 5 on 5, but could not finish. This has been, and continues to be a problem for the Predators that must be solved for this team to be successful.

Tonight's game highlights the importance of special teams. The Predators dormant power play awoke to tally two goals on seven attempts. The penalty kill continues to improve and play well. Tonight, this unit killed all three man advantage chances that the Coyotes had. The PK has now killed 31 consecutive penalties. The play of the special teams has been and will continue to be critical to the Predators winning games.

This team has been pressing, and there is no secret about that. It has been reflected in their play of late. This is the type of game that will give the team some confidence and hopefully cause them to relax and just play hockey.

This is part of the learning experience for this team. They are learning that losing is not a pleasant experience. They are learning that doing the little things can mean the difference in winning and losing; little things like winning battles on the wall and killing penalties. They are learning to relax and just play hockey.

This team has gone through a rough month in November, yet they find themselves just 2 points out of a playoff spot. The struggle that this team has gone through can make them tougher. They can take heart in the fact that even with the struggles they have endured, they are still in the hunt in the tough Western Conference race.

Time to take the lessons that have been learned and build on them.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Steve Sullivan

3. Cal O'Reilly

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Rangers Squeak by the Predators 2-1 in s Shootout

The Nashville Predators played another shootout game, this time with the New York Rangers, their fifth of the season. They lost the shootout 1-0 to drop a 2-1 decision and fall to a record of 9-8-5. With the point, the Predators now stand at 23 points on the season.

The Predators opened the scoring at 5:10 of the first period as Colin Wilson beat Henrik Lundqvist high glove side to stake the Predators to a 1-0 lead. That lead would stand until 13:04 of the third period when Ryan Callahan would take a shot that hit the stick of J.P. Dumont and changed direction and skidded by Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne to tie the game.

Neither team would solve the others netminder for the remainder of the third period and the overtime session.

In the shootout, Eric Christensen would tally the only score. Cal O'Reilly, Marcel Goc, and Martin Erat could not beat Lundqvist, and the Rangers skated away with the victory.

There have been times this season where the Predators have not competed with their opponent. That was not the case tonight, as the Predators challenged Lundqvist on numerous occasions and matched the physicality of the Rangers. The Predators answered the bell tonight and were physical and played solid defense, elements of their game that had been missing in previous contests.

There are times where a team hits a rough stretch and just does not get the bounces and breaks they need to win a game. Right now, the Predators are going through that type of stretch. The way you come out of a period like this is to compete- compete hard- and show character and battle. Tonight, the Predators did those things.

I normally don't comment about officiating. I think the calls have a way of evening themselves out, but tonight Don Van Massenhoven and Dean Morten called an absolutely atrocious game. Cody Franson was sent to the the hospital for evaluation after being hit in the throat with a high stick and there was no call. Pekka Rinne was called for delay of game for playing a puck outside the trapezoid when it was clear that he was inside the box. The officiating did not decide this game, but it was awful. Kudos to the Predators for overcoming an horribly officiated game.

The Predators are not getting any breaks right now. They are not making their breaks. This is a time for the leaders of the team to step up and keep the boys positive and battling every night. This is how you get out of the funk that the team finds itself. This is how you reverse your fortunes.

There is no respite for any team that goes through these stretches. There is, however, another game, another opportunity to reverse the fortunes that have beset this team. Compete hard and the puck will start to bounce your way. Compete hard and fortune will smile on this team.

Time to keep your head up and bring it on Tuesday night.

My three stars:

1. Henrik Lundqvist

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Eric Christensen

At the Quarter Pole- A Predators Report Card





21 Games into the season, the Predators stand 9-8-4 and have 22 points, good for 13th in the Western Conference. The Predators are 3-1-4 at home and 6-7 on the road. They have 50 goals for and 58 goals against. Time to give a report card on the performance of the team so far this season, so let's see how they grade out.

FORWARDS

Grade: D

The Predators once again fit their description of "offensively challenged" with their play so far this season. It is known that the Preds have to score by committee, but sometimes the committee seems to show up and sometimes it doesn't. Granted, the Predators have battled injuries up front. Notably, they lost their biggest off season acquisition- Matthew Lombardi- after only the second game with a concussion. David Legwand is currently on IR with a lower body injury. This has forced some guys to step up, and in particular, Cal O'Reilly has risen to the challenge, leading the team with 16 points (4G-9A). Steve Sullivan leads the team in goals with 6 and has 11 points on the season. The problem with this group is that several key players that were expected to contribute have yet to kick it in gear. Marty Erat, Colin Wilson, Joel Ward, Shea Weber, and Sergei Kostitsyn all have only 2 goals. J.P. Dumont has 3. That scoring has been a problem for this team is obvious. The problem, in my view, is that this group is not doing what has brought them success in the past. They are losing battles on the board and for the puck and they are failing to get to the hard areas to score goals. With the exception of Patric Hornqvist, who battles in front of the net every night, this group seems loath to go into the tough areas. This group is not skilled enough to to dance on the outside an make things happen. Shooting the puck and crashing the net are the essentials for success. To date, in this season, there has been too much inconsistency in this area. The players that have stood out for me for their level of play have been the aforementioned O'Reilly and Hornqvist along with Jerred Smithson and Marcel Goc.


DEFENSE

Grade: D

Inconsistency is the hallmark of this group. Losing Ryan Suter early in the season discombobulated the pairings and seem to fluster this group. There are times that the defense can lock down another team's forwards and times where they inexplicably let them run loose. Losing coverage in the defensive zone happens, but when it happens with regularity it is unacceptable. This group was to be the foundation of this team, and it has been shaky at best. Cody Franson (+4), Ryan Suter (+3), and Kevin Klein (+1) are the only D men with a plus rating. Shea Weber (-8), Shane O'Brien (-6), Alexander Sulzer (-3), and Francis Buillon (-2) have struggled in the defensive zone. This is a talented group, but their cohesion has been virtually non-existent. For the Predators to have success, this group is going to have to steady their game and elevate their level of play.

GOALTENDING

Grade: B-

Pekka Rinne has a .911 save percentage and a 2.61 GAA; Anders Lindback has a .913 save percentage and a 2.78 GAA. Given the way this team has played in front of them, these stats are impressive. Rinne battled a knee injury suffered in the first game against Anaheim, and Lindback came in and played very well. With these guys in net, this team has a chance every night, but at times they have been under siege. Rinne in particular has let in some goals that he would like to have back, but generally can be counted on to come up with some great saves. These guys have to be at the top of their game every night for the Preds to have an opportunity to win, and for the most have answered the bell.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Grade: Split grade: PP: F PK: C


Let's face it, the Predators power play is anemic at best, clicking at only 11.5% (thanks to 2 PP goals in the Minnesota blowout), good for 27th in the league. This unit has trouble entering the zone, and once in the zone, either seems loathe to shoot the puck or content to take shots from the perimeter. Gaining the zone, putting shots on net, and getting the "greasy" goals around the net are how this unit will succeed. For some reason, the PP units don't seem to grasp this concept. Head Coach Barry Trotz has taken over the duties of coaching this unit, but his efforts have not translated to success on the ice. I don't know if the players are not getting the message or are unwilling to execute, but the Preds power play has hurt the team to date.

The PK struggled early, but has improved their play of late. This group is killing penalties at a rate of 82.5%, good for 19th in the league. This group has to continue their strong play for this team to have an opportunity to win games. Losing Legwand for a period of time due to his injury has not hurt this unit- yet. As Coach Trotz has said, this is a matter of "want to" when a player is on the ice for the PK. The "want to" factor has improved and is being reflected in the kill percentage.


COACHING

Grade: B-

This group continues to squeeze the most out of the talent they have been given. Frankly, the talent they have is not top flight, but the staff does a good job of getting them ready to play. If there is a significant criticism, it would be sticking too long with players that are not producing. The staff seems to be unwilling to call up players from Milwaukee  and insert them into the lineup for players that are not playing the way necessary to win games. The players seem to respond to the message that the staff delivers, and I don't think there is an issue of the coaches having lost the team. The issue is execution on the ice, and in this, I think the staff is probably too patient with some of the players that are playing to their maximum.

OVERALL TEAM GRADE: C-

The Predators are one game over .500 and have struggled throughout the first quarter of the season. They have given some games away (think: Phoenix and Toronto) and they have not been competitive in others (think: LA). In others, they have played Predator hockey and come away with the win. Consistency is a problem for this team, and for success to come, they have to consistently elevate their game night in and night out. Until that occurs, this team will continue to hover around the .500 mark and find themselves on the outside looking in when the playoffs roll around.

















Friday, November 26, 2010

Weak Effort Against the Wild Dooms the Predators

The Nashville Predators put up an effort that can only be charitably characterized as weak against the Minnesota Wild in dropping a 5-2 decision in an afternoon matinee in the XCel Energy Center.

Pekka Rinne got the start in net for the Predators and was left defenseless for the most part, allowing 3 goals on 9 shots in the first period. Rinne was pulled to start the second period and Anders Lindback took over in net to finish out the game.

Marek Zidlicky, a former Predator defenseman, opened the scoring for the Wild at 12:22 of the first period. He was allowed to walk out the corner and skate in on the net. His first shot went off the side of the net, but he was unchallenged by the Nashville defense and gathered in his rebound and flipped a shot over the pads of Rinne for the first score.

The Wild continued to challenge the Nashville defense and they continued to fail to respond. Andrew Brunette made them pay for their breakdowns in coverage as he was able to corral a rebound at the top of the crease and flip the puck over a sprawling Rinne. Throughout the game, the Predators consistently failed to help their netminder and clear the front of the net. Frankly, their play in front of Rinne and Lindback was inexplicable.

Martin Havlat was a force all game, controlling the puck and generating numerous scoring chances. Havlat made the Predators pay for his effort with his fourth goal of the season at 18:12 of the first.

The Predators had some chances offensively. Shea Weber rang a blast off the post. The Predators buzzed the net and generated some chances, but as has been their wont, they could not finish those chances. Jose Theodore was able to shut down the offensive challenges the Predators mounted. 

Three goals on nine shots. The Predators had looked as bad on defense as they did in the Toronto game. A weak, inexcusable effort.

Anders Lindback came in for the Predators to start the second period and was immediately greeted with a goal from defenseman Nick Schultz just 48 second into the period as Schultz was the beneficiary of an odd man rush. He buried a rebound of a shot from Martin Havlat into a wide open net as Lindback was out of position from the initial save.

The Nashville defense was guilty of turning over the puck at the blue line, poor coverage, and inability to clear the front of the net all night. What is usually a solid component of this team was absolutely miserable in this game.

Nashville cut the lead to 4-1 at 3:55 of the third period as Steve Sullivan took a beautiful pass from Colin Wilson and tallied on the power play.  The Predators anemic power play (3 for their last 61 attempts) had clicked. Finally, the Predators had a spark.

That spark would be snuffed out as Martin Havlat tallied his second goal of the contest at 14:02 of the third. Havlat's goal would happen because Francis Buillon lost the off side coverage of the net and allowed Havlat to put the uncontested rebound back on goal.

Martin Erat would score his second goal of the season on the power play at 19:51.

Too little. Too late.

It is beyond me as to how this team can come out unfocused on the defensive end of the ice. The Wild are a team that struggles and are not what one would call an offensive force. Today, we made them look like the Oilers in their prime.

The Predators are a team that can win when they play a TEAM game. This means all the parts have to clicking: defense; offense; goaltending; and special teams. When one component breaks down, this team is in trouble. The offense has been a problem lately. Today, it was the defense.

Unbelievable.

The Predators are going to have to get their focus and start executing on both ends of the ice. They are going to have to get an edge to their play. Too often, they appear docile on both ends of the ice.

Continue to put up weak efforts like today, and this will be a long, painful season.

My three stars:

1. Martin Havlat

2. Marek Zidlicky

3. Jose Theodore

My View



Random thoughts from a warped and fevered mind...


Thanksgiving has come and gone, but it is still good to reflect on the blessings that we enjoy in this great country of ours. The recently completed elections are but one of the freedoms that we enjoy. Many people throughout the world are not free to vote and express their will at the ballot box. We had an election that was free of coercion and resulted in an orderly changeover of our government. Many nations cannot, or will not, allow this to happen. Our freedoms are enumerated in our constitution and protected by our system of laws. All of this is under girded by a strong military that protects our great nation. We live in a land of plenty and each person has the opportunity to succeed or fail based on their efforts. This is truly a great nation, and we are blessed.

I went to the store to buy a goose feather pillow, but I couldn't afford the down payment.

While we enjoy a plethora of freedoms in this country, our government continues to attempt to encroach on those freedoms. Watch the Federal Communications Commission. They will be undertaking a vote at their December 15th meeting that could have a major impact on the use of the internet. Their vote, if successful, will be a power grab of historic proportions if it is successful. Chairman Julius Genachowski is  asking the FCC commissioners to vote on a "net neutrality" amendment that will force internet providers to submit to government regulation regarding the content that is carried over their system. Specifically, the government will force carriers to not favor sites, content, and platforms when making their business decisions. If an internet service provider invests in a system and builds it out, they would have no control over the content that is carried over the system or who has access. If your internet is slowed because of the inability of your provider to limit downloads or because they have to provide free access to any entity that requests it, well too bad for you. This is overt government intrusion into private enterprise under the guise of making the internet "fair" for all. This proposal gives no regard to the investment that ISP's have made in their network or what you as a paying customer should expect from your provider. Just another example of gross government overreach.

I just poured some super glue into a non-stick pan to watch them fight it out.

Pay attention to the bi-partisan deficit commission. One of their proposals to reduce our cancerous national deficit is a national sales tax at 6.5%. This will be on top of any state and local sales taxes that are collected, and would be collected on any transaction that occurs. Additionally, the commission has proposed an elimination of mortgage interest deductions and the deduction of charitable contributions. These would be replaced by a 15% credit. There is no denying that we must reduce our deficit. However, most proposals have targeted raising taxes and other sources of revenue. Very few proposals discuss reducing expenditures. It is time to focus on the profligate spending that occurs in Washington and begin to rein that in before we start extracting more money from our pockets. No discussions of raising taxes should happen until we have serious discussions about curtailing spending. To this point, Washington has shown an unwillingness to address that side of the equation.

Last Thanksgiving, I stuffed a few turkeys. This year, the relatives ate somewhere else.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Blues Best Predators in a 2-1 SO Win

The Nashville Predators dropped a 2-1 shootout decision to the St. Louis Blues in the Bridgestone Arena as Andy McDonald accounted for both the Blues goals. His first tally came just nine seconds into the game as his shot hit the stick of Kevin Klein and fluttered over the glove of netminder Pekka Rinne. McDonald would slip a puck through the pads of Rinne for the game winner in the fifth round of the shoout.

The Predators dominated the game on the shot count with a 30-15 advantage but struggled to solve Blues netminder Jaroslav Halak. The Predators only goal came 22 seconds into the second period as Joel Ward drove strong to the net and fired a shot that came off the pads of Halak to Jerred Smithson in the low slot. Smithson drilled the puck into the open net for the game tying marker.

The Predators had three power plays, but were unable to convert on any of them, failing to even get a shot off on their third attempt with the man advantage. The Predators power play is now clicking at an anemic 9.5% for the season.

After a rather listless first period, the Predators controlled the puck and did an excellent job of limiting the Blues offensive effort. The Predators limited the offensive chances for the Blues and rarely allowed a second chance. Rinne was called upon to make a few quality saves to keep the Blues off the board, but the Predators generally did a great job of neutralizing the Blues offense.

The Predators offense generated some chances, but very few second chances around the net. Halak was only seriously challenged a few times, but was equal to the task.

In the shootout, Halak stopped Cal O'Reilly, Marcel Goc, Martin Erat, and Steve Sullivan as these shooters missed the net with their attempts. Sergei kostitsyn had to hit his attempt to keep the shootout going, but hit the post.

Rinne stopped Matt D'Agostini, Brad Boyes, Eric Johnson, and Alex Steen before McDonald got the game winner.







St. Louis evened their record against the Preds to 2-2 with this win.

Ryan Suter returned to the lineup for the Predators after missing the last two games with a sore knee and the birth of his first child.

The Predator offense generated numerous shots on goal, but few genuinely challenged Halak. This is a team that is struggling offensively and desperately needs to get its confidence back. For all their effort, they could not finish their scoring chances. This is a team that thrives on getting the "dirty" goals, and right now, they are not coming.

There are definitely positive aspects to this game, even with the loss. The team generated chances, and they have to do this night in and night out to win games. Sooner or later, those chances are going in the net. They controlled the puck in the offensive zone, which they did not do in their previous two games. Keep it up, boys, and good things will happen.

Jerred Smithson deserves a stick tap. He is playing solid hockey, aggressive on the forecheck and getting timely goals. He has been the best player on the ice the past few games.

The defensive effort tonight was outstanding. To limit the Blues to 15 shots for the game is a testament to their effort. Having Suter back in the lineup allowed the coaching staff to put solid pairings on the ice and it was obvious that the D partners were comfortable with each other. Hopefully Suter will stay healthy and allow the D to settle in with the current pairings.

The energy that Patric Hornqvist brings to the ice every night is exceptional. Hornqvist tied Shea Weber with 5 shots on goal tonight and was a strong presence around the net.

This was a disappointing loss after the effort tonight. Sometimes that happens. You dominate a game that you should win but come up short on the scoreboard. The focus should be on the effort, which was solid.

The failure of the power play and the offense to get the puck in the net is disappointing. This team has to continue to do what they did tonight; shoot the puck and crash the net. Eventually, the pucks will go in.

The Predators cannot afford efforts like the one in Columbus, where they did not challenge the net at all. Play like you did tonight, and more often than not, the scoreboard will be in your favor.

My three stars of the night:

1. Andy McDonald

2. Jaroslav Halak

3. Jerred Smithson

Scenes From the Road- Carolina and Columbus

The View recently traveled to Raleigh and Columbus to see the Predators in action. Here are some scenes from the road.


The RBC Center sits outside of town and at the northern boundary of the campus of North Carolina State University. The parking is very ample around the arena.




Carter Finley Stadium, the home of the N.C. State Wolfpack, sits 100 yards from the ticket office and main entrance to the RBC Center.


The Caniacs are famous for tailgating before the game. There were numerous tailgates occurring throughout the parking lot. Here are our hosts, John, Kendra, Dawn, and Karla. John and Karla were gracious enough to pick up the View and his guest and give us a ride to the game and back to our hotel. Very nice folks and avid hockey fans.




The Caniacs were also gracious hosts to fellow Predator fans Amands DiPaolo (Predlines), Jackson and Buddy Oakes (Preds on the Glass), and Ryan Porth (RLD Hockey).


The inside of the RBC Center from the main level concourse. Notice the Pred fans starting to assemble  on the glass for the pre-skate.





I would like to say that the members of the Storm Squad couldn't keep their hands off me, but the truth of the matter is they were trying to hide the Preds logo on my sweater.


The Predators pre-skate in the RBC Center.




The main entrance to the Nationwide Arena in Columbus. The arena offers easy access and multiple entrances.





The Arena District around the Nationwide Arena has been rebuilt and offers an abundance of restaurants as well as theaters and other entertainment venues. This view is looking across the street from the concourse of the Arena at the entrance to the 343 Club, one of the local establishments. On the top right of the building is an LCD jumbotron screen that plays Blue Jacket highlights as well as announces upcoming events at the arena.


The View and Mark Blake along with Joe Maggard, who owns a restaurant and another bar in the Arena District. Joe has invested substantial funds in the area and has two thriving venues, and was is one of the entrepreneur's that have made an early investment in the revitalization project around the arena.



As the Arena District was built, parking was at a premium. This garage was built over an actively used rail line. It was certainly unusual to hear a train blowing its horn and rolling through the garage.






This is a side view of Nationwide Arena at the Tower entrance. The pro shop is to the right. A practice rink is to the left.


This practice rink adjoins the arena and is used by the Jackets for practice and by the public for league games and public skate sessions. This is the view from the main concourse.


This is the inside of the Nationwide Arena. It has great sight lines and is a beautiful venue. The seating in the lower bowl is surprisingly cramped.



The Predators during the pre-skate before the Columbus game.




Getting ready for the opening face off. Notice the number of empty seats. There were maybe 10,000 people in attendance for a big rivalry game. The crowd was surprisingly docile and quiet until the last few minutes when it was apparent that the Jackets were going to win the game. In talking to several of the locals, they mentioned that attendance was a problem and a concern for the franchise.


And there you have it, friends. My view from the road.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tables Turned, Predators Bullied by Blue Jackets

Look at the history of the Nashville Predators and the Columbus Blue Jackets and you see that Nashville has dominated Columbus much like Scut Farkus dominated Ralphie Parker and all the little kids in "A Christmas Story". Always beating them up and striking fear in their hearts. That is, until one day, deep in the recesses of the collective mind of the Columbus Blue Jackets, flickered a faint ember of... well, you know the story.

Nashville has won 40 of the 58 games that they have played against the Jackets. They have another 4 overtime victories and 1 tie. That is a .733 winning percentage. Last night, Nashville got owned in a 2-0 contest that wasn't as close as the score indicated.  Columbus controlled the game from start to finish. Maybe the Predators are like Scut Farkus, who threw just one too many snowballs.

I sat behind the benches for the game in Columbus and have a few thoughts about what I witnessed:

Columbus is a big team. A BIG team. They used their size very well against the Predators. I spoke with Coach Barry Trotz after the game and he told me that with the exception of Patric Hornqvist, the Predators did not have anyone who could "will" their way into the hard areas in front of the net. As such, most of the shot from the Predators came from the perimeter and never really challenged Steve Mason.

Coach Trotz said that Columbus was committed to a defense first philosophy, and that was certainly evident against the Predators. They were very aggressive on the forecheck and challenged Nashville puck carriers all night. Their forecheck was very reminiscent of the Nashville forecheck when it is working well- disruptive and excellent at neutralizing speed through the neutral zone. Once the Predators got in the zone, the Jacket defense packed in around Mason and did an excellent job of limiting chances.

Offensively, Nashville needs a "disruptor", someone who has the skills to disrupt a defensive scheme and force the opponent to adapt. We are missing that from our lineup. We are also missing the size necessary to compete against a team like Columbus. The size differential wore down the Predators as the game went on and allowed Columbus to dictate play in their zone.

Nashville got caught on a couple of bad line changes that nearly resulted in Columbus scores. Rinne made some great stops to keep them off the board.

Rinne nearly got the Nash goal on the 4 on 2 break that Columbus had. Even if he had gotten it and kept the score at 1-0, I do not believe that Nashville could have gotten the equalizer last night. Mason was solid and we weren't challenging the net.

Both Columbus goals came on breakdowns. Our margin of error between winning and losing in the ultra competitive Western Conference is razor thin. Our guys have to come to the rink mentally focused and physically prepared for a war each night. If not... well, unfortunately, we have already seen several times this year what will happen.

Interesting conversations with the Blue Jackets fans before the game. They know that Nashville has dominated them, and they hate it. They look at our team and our town as a peer, and the fact they have only made it once to the playoffs versus the five trips for us eats at them. They want to beat us- badly. Right now, they feel like Ralphie being chased down the street by Scut Farkus. They are looking to turn the tables.

Bob Boughner is a great add to the Jackets staff. He brings self confidence and poise to the team, and it is reflected in the play of the guys on the ice.

The development of some of the younger players in the Jackets lineup has taken a major step forward. Guys like Derick Brassard, Jakub Voracek, and Kyle Wilson have elevated their games this season. Rick Nash has always been a star, but he has never had the talent around him to compliment his efforts. Now, the talent level around him is starting to catch up.

The Jackets have indicated, like Ralphie Parker, that they are ready to fight back. Nashville took a punch last night, and the team gets a chance to respond when they travel to Columbus on December 1.

That faint ember of anger and resentment threatens to grow in the heart of the Blue Jackets. We will watch with interest to see if the Predators can snuff it out.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Predators Grind Out a 2-1 Shootout Win Over the Hurricanes

The Nashville Predators played their third road game of a four game road trip as they faced the Carolina Hurricanes at the RBC Center, prevailing over the Canes by a 2-1 margin in a shootout victory. This was the Predators third shootout win in the past five games.

The game was a defensive contest from the outset. Both teams were checking hard and often, disrupting the other's offensive flow. There were some thunderous checks delivered by Shea Weber for the Predators and Tim Gleason for the Hurricanes. The aggressive checking did not allow either team to get in an rhythm in the offensive zone.

The Predators did a good job of establishing puck control in the offensive zone for much of the night, but were forced outside by the Carolina defense. When they got good scoring chances, Carolina netminder Cam Ward was able to clean up any chances.

Head Coach Barry Trotz told me before the game that he was concerned that Carolina would use their size to cycle and control the puck in our end during this contest. The Predators did an excellent job of working hard on the boards and neutralizing Carolina's cycle game for much of the night.

Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne got challenged early on a couple of quality chances when the Predators turned the puck over in the defensive zone, and he made some excellent stops to keep the Canes off the board.

That would change on a fluky goal at 9:22 of the first period by Joni Pitkanen. He sent a centering pass toward Eric Cole, who was moving toward the net. The puck hit Shane O'Brien's stick and changed direction. The puck bounced on the ice, took a funny hop, and skittered past Rinne for a 1-0 Canes lead. The score came on the second shot of the game for Carolina.

Indicative of the defensive nature of this contest was the shot totals after the first period: Nashville 5; Carolina 3.

Nashville would get the tying tally at 3:53 of the second period. Jordin Tootoo forced a turnover, and with the Carolina defenders surrounding him on the boards, found Jerred Smithson alone in the slot. He slid a pass to Smithson, who patiently beat Cam Ward with a high wrist shot.

This would be the only scoring for the remainder of regulation and overtime. Both teams generated a few quality chances, but both netminders were equal to the task. Ward was especially strong in overtime, as Nashville controlled the puck for much of the extra session. He turned away all four Nashville shots, while Rinne was only tested once.

Carolina chose to shoot first in the shootout. Jeff Skinner scored with a nice wrist shot over Rinne's stick side.

Cal O'Reilly continued his mastery in the shootout with a beautiful forehand backhand move to beat Ward high glove side.

Rinne stopped Jussi Jokinen and Ward stopped Marcel Goc in the second round of the shootout.

Rinne stoned Patrick O'Sullivan in the third round.

Marty Erat was the third shooter for the Predators, and he buried his attempt to give the Predators the victory, lifting a shot over Ward's blocker.

The Predators limped in to this contest without Ryan Suter, who returned to Nashville to have his knee evaluated and to be with his wife, who is expected to deliver their first child any day. They were also missing David Legwand, who is out with a lower body injury.

With these key players out of the lineup, it was going to be imperative for others to step up. Tonight, that was Jerred Smithson and Jordin Tootoo. Their line, along with Joel Ward, were very strong tonight in both zones.

This was by no means a pretty game to watch. It was a grind it out, gritty hockey game. The team that was going to lose this game was the team that would flinch first.

The Predators didn't flinch.

In a long season, there will be these types of games. tough games. Games that are a grind. Games that test character.

Tonight, the character of the Predators was on display.

My three stars of the game:

1. Jerred Smithson

2. Jordin Tootoo

3. Pekka Rinne

Predators Roll into Raleigh to Battle the Hurricanes

The Nashville Predators look to build on their strong outing in Montreal by taking on the Carolina Hurricanes at the RBC Center in Raleigh. The Predators are coming off a 3-0 shutout of the Canadiens on Thursday night. The Hurricanes dropped a 5-4 shootout decision to the Pittsburgh penguins on Friday night in Pittsburgh.

The Predators will be without the services of Ryan Suter, who has returned to Nashville to have his injured knee re-evaluated. Suter and his wife are also expecting their first child, and the birth is imminent. Because of these factors, the team decided to allow him to return to home. The worrisome aspect is that Suter's knee is still continuing to swell and give him problems. According to the coaching staff, an MRI has revealed no damage, but there is still a problem that must be addressed.

David Legwand will also miss tonight's game with a lower body injury. He did not skate at the morning skate as the injury he suffered against Montreal is more severe than first thought. Legwand was checked and went awkwardly into the boards in the first period. He did not return to the game after the hit. According to the coaching staff this morning, there is a good possibility he will also miss at least the Monday game against Columbus.

Tuumo Ruutu was injured late in the game for the Hurricanes in their contest with the Penguins. The extent of his injury is unknown and it has not been determined if he will play tonight.

Pekka Rinne is expected to get the start for the Predators. Cam Ward is expected to start for the Hurricanes.

With the loss of Legwand, Colin Wilson is expected to move off the wing and back to a center position.

Nashville enters the contest with a record of 8-6-3. Carolina is 9-9-1. Both teams are very similar over the past ten games, with Nashville logging a 4-6 record; Carolina is 4-5-1.

The puck drops at 7:00.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My View







Random thoughts from a warped and fevered mind...


One of the little discussed but very interesting aspects of the mid-term elections earlier this month is the confirmation that the out-migration from high tax states to states with a much more favorable tax structure
has accelerated. Eight states will gain Congressional seats under the mandated reapportionment after the 2010 census. Those states are: Texas (four seats); Florida (two seats); and South Carolina, Georgia, Arizona,
Nevada, Utah, and Washington (one seat each). According to a study by Americans for Tax Reform, the top average personal income tax rate in those states is 2.8%. Compare that to New York and Ohio, which will lose two seats each; and Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Missouri, Michigan, Massachusetts Illinois, Louisiana , and Iowa, which will lose one seat each. The average top personal tax rate in these states? 6.05%.Government at all levels has failed to realize that people- and businesses- will act in their own economic self interest. These states have attempted to confiscate higher and higher levels of income from
their citizens, and those that can are moving out. The other interesting characteristic of these states that have experienced net population outflows is that in 7 of the eight states, workers can be forced to join
a union as a condition of their job. High taxes and  union coercion have fundamentally changed the demographics of these states and they are changing the political landscape of our nation for years to come.


A mime can walk the walk, but they never talk the talk.

If you travel by air, there is the distinct possibility that you will encounter the "junkture" of a TSA agent's hands and, uh..., well, ...your "junk". The absurdity of the TSA pat down process is beyond words and defies any form of logic. This demeaning procedure is causing great consternation among travelers, not to mention the threat of lawsuits for the invasion of privacy of the individual. The disruption of normal travel and the angst experienced by fliers is ostensibly in the name of making air travel more secure. I disagree. It is designed to
keep an ineffective TSA work force employed. Want to really secure air travel? Then take a look at what Israel  does. No one will deny that Israel is surrounded by nations that are hostile to them and would like
to see them cease to exist. With this kind of threat environment, how does El_Al, the Israeli airline, maintain their superb safety record and reduce the threat of terrorism? There are a number of reasons, but two
distinctly stand out. First, they have admitted there are people that would like to do them harm, and those people are a constant threat.Israel's militant Arab neighbors have been identified as a credible threat that wants to do them harm. Contrary to the political ideology now prevalent among our leaders in Washington, Israel  acknowledges that they have enemies and those enemies are not nice and would rather see
them destroyed. If our leaders fundamentally acknowledged that there are enemies of the United States that wanted to do us harm, and those enemies for the most are radical Islamists, then we would go far toward
securing our nation and its public transportation. Hand in glove is the fact that using this knowledge that they have enemies, Israel eschews any form of political correctness and profiles those coming through their public transportation system. I know that is  not acceptable here in the United States, but terrorism doesn't give a flying fig about political correctness. It's time our leaders and our law enforcement officials started doing the same.

The closest I ever got to a 4.0 in college was my blood alcohol content.

The "nanny state" mentality of Washington is simply amazing in its pomposity and overreach. Think I'm exaggerating? Take a look at Senate Bill 510, which is scheduled to come to the floor of the Senate any day.
This bill, introduced by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin is the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010.Supposedly, this bill is designed to make our food supply system safer and was crafted after several e-coli and salmonella incidents last year. In reality, and in typical Congressional fashion, this bill does nothing to address any deficiencies in the chain of food supply in this country; instead, it give the Food and Drug
Administration broad regulatory powers over the entire food produce and consume. Under this proposal, not only can the FDA regulate the food supply, but also any nutritional supplements like vitamins or herbal
supplements. This law will govern the food that you grow in your garden and require a hazard analysis of any chemicals or fertilizers that may have been used. This will affect the small farmer that grows crops for
re-sale at farmer's markets and makes the individual gardener a legal target should someone get sick. And it does all of this (a probably a lot more that we don't know about) without any oversight or checks on
the power of the FDA. This bill is an abomination and an unnecessary invasion of our privacy by our legislators. Tennessee's Lamar Alexander is a co-sponsor of this bill. Just thought any of my readers in the
Tennessee area might want to know.

Some mornings I wake up grumpy. Other mornings, I just let her sleep.


And that, my friends, is my view.

Le Bleu Blanked by the Predators 3-0

How do you get rid of the stench of a horrid loss to Toronto two nights ago? More importantly, will the Predators regroup after an effort that could be generously characterized as weak?

The Predators emphatically answered those questions with a solid 3-0 shutout of the Montreal Canadiens in the Bell Centre.

Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne got the start and stopped 30 shots for his second shutout of the season. Rinne looked very strong in net and made several quality stops to keep Montreal off the board. Rinne kept the Habs off the board early in the contest when they were swarming the net. His play seemed to deflate the Canadiens as the game went on, and the team responded well to his play. When he is on his game, the team in front of him seems to settle down and play with confidence. That was the case tonight.

The Predators lost the service of David Legwand at 14:18 of the first period when he was checked by Roman Hamrlik and went awkwardly into the boards. The team is calling it a lower body injury, the extent of which is unknown.

After a scoreless first period, the Predators drew first blood at 1:19 of the first when Francis Buillon cruised low with the puck, and just before going behind the net, slid a pass to Marcel Goc. Goc, camped out at the top of the blue paint, got the pass on his stick and quickly whipped a backhander past Cary Price.

The second period started to devolve into the Toronto nightmare as the Predators took three straight penalties, one of which gave Montreal a 5 on 3 for 28 seconds. This time, the PK was solid and choked off most chances. When the Habs threatened, Rinne was there to clean up any chances. Fortunately for the Predators, they did not tempt fate any further and did not incur any penalties after the 11 minute mark of the second.

Cal O'Reilly continued his stellar play with his fourth goal of the season. He took a cross ice pass from Steve Sullivan and was able to tap the puck past Price from the side of the net at the 8:55 mark of the second.

As the game wore on, the aggressive forecheck of the Predators took the Canadiens out of their offensive rhythm and began to force more turnovers. Tonight, the Predators looked like the Predators, playing solid hockey in all zones.

Marcel Goc struck once again as he carried the puck out of the Nashville zone and came through the neutral zone with speed. When he got to the Montreal blue line, he fired a wrist shot through the legs of a Habs defenseman that beat Price at 11:17 of the third. Price never seemed to see the puck until the last second, but it was too late as Goc found the twine.

The Predators were able to control play for the remainder of the game and skated away with a much needed win. A much needed win for the points, and a much needed win to restore the confidence of this team.

The coaching staff conducted a lengthy team meeting after the Toronto debacle. Although it is not known what was discussed, I'm certain that one topic was focus and mental toughness, characteristics that were absent in the Toronto game. Tonight, this team played with intensity, toughness, and focus.

These are the traits this team must consistently bring to the ice to be successful.

The Predators will have to continue to be resilient, to exhibit these traits. They continue on the road against another tough Eastern Conference foe in the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night. They will have to play Predator hockey.

This team has shown the ability to beat any team when they play their game. Tough, aggressive opportunistic hockey.

Predator hockey.

My three stars of the night:

1. Marcel Goc

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Cal O'Reilly

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Predators Stink Up the Joint in a 5-4 Loss to Toronto

There are losses and then there are losses. Tonight, the Nashville Predators stunk up a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs with their worst period of hockey in the history of the franchise, giving up four- count 'em FOUR- power play goals to blow a game in a 5-4 loss.

The Predators jumped all over the Maple Leafs in the first period, going up 3-0 on goals by J.P. Dumont, Jordin Tootoo, and Marty Erat. The Predators dominated the majority of the period, forcing turnovers and making the Leafs pay. Dumont's goal came from great puck movement as he had an open net to shoot the puck into. Tootoo got on board with a great hustle goal by driving to the net. Marty Erat was the beneficiary of a turnover that he buried. Toronto netminder J. S. Giguere was under siege for most of the period and the Predators looked as if they were going to dominate the night.

The Predators continued their annoying habit of giving up a goal late in a period as Luke Schenn cut the lead to 3-1 with a goal at 19:30 of the first.

The Predators would take the first of SIX penalties in the second period as Francis Buillon was in the box for holding. The Predators PK would make Toronto pay as Marcel Goc poked the puck away at the blue line and beat Giguere on the break away to make it 4-1 Predators.

It was at this point that the Predators would completely fall apart and begin a parade to the penalty box with a  slew of penalties, the result of undisciplined play.

Toronto would score on four of the next five power plays, and what should have been a commanding lead for the Predators disintegrated into a 5-4 deficit. Without a doubt, this was a disgusting and disappointing display of hockey by a team that usually plays with much better discipline.

Giguere was injured in the third period, and Jonas Gustavsson would come into the game to finish it out for the Leafs. The Predators generated several chances, but could not solve The Monster. When the final horn sounded, the Predators limped off the ice with an utterly embarrassing loss on the books.

These are the types of games that this team cannot afford to give away. The Maple Leafs are a sorry team, having lost nine games in a row. The Predators made them look like a playoff team with their play tonight. These are the kinds of losses that are haunting.

This game points to the lack of mental toughness of the Predators. I can't argue with any of the penalty calls. We were undisciplined. The penalty kill, always a prime indicator of the toughness of any team, looked inept and lost. Any time you have a team down 3-0 and 4-1, you should put your skate on their throat and not let them up. The Predators were, unfortunately, soft, letting the Leafs claw back into this game.

This is unacceptable and embarrassing.

An 82 game season is a physical grind. It is also a mental grind. It requires a team to be mentally strong and tough. I have my doubts about the Predators mental toughness.

It is time for this team to get tough mentally. The mental aspect is as important as the physical aspect of the game. Mental toughness often decides the outcome of a contest.

Coach Trotz talks about the resiliency of this team. That is a good characteristic to have, and this resiliency is now going to be tested. Coming back from a loss like this is difficult. It will be interesting to see how mentally tough this team will be, to see if they can put their game back together.

Here is a thought: play tough for sixty minutes and put teams away. Don't let them back into the game. Don't get embarrassed like you did tonight against a lesser opponent.

Then you won't have to test that resiliency so much.

My three stars of the night:

1. Kris Versteeg

2. Clarke McArthur

3. Marcel Goc

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Predators Win Second in a Row with a 4-3 SO Win over Chicago

When a team endures a losing streak, one of two things can happen. They can hang their heads and limp along; or the losses can be extremely clarifying, causing a team to focus on what it takes to win games and get back to those fundamentals.

For the Nashville Predators, the latter has occurred, as they won their second straight game, beating the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 in a shootout at the Bridgestone Arena.

For Nashville, this was their second consecutive shootout victory.

It is obvious that the Blackhawks are an explosive team, and for the Predators to have an opportunity to win this game, they had to be sound defensively and limit the chances of the Hawks dangerous offensive players. For most of the night, the Predators did an excellent job of controlling the big guns of the Hawks, holding Kane, Toews, Hossa, and Sharp off the board.

The Predators did a great job of controlling play in the neutral zone and not allowing Chicago many opportunities to enter the offensive zone with speed. When the Hawks gain the zone, the Predators blocked numerous shots and clogged the lanes, limiting secondary chances.

That is not to say that the Hawks didn't challenge Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne. Rinne made some big saves to keep Chicago off the board. Rinne was solid in net during the regulation and overtime period, and was brilliant in the shootout.

Chicago is not without offensive prowess, and shutting down the big guns doesn't mean that they cannot score. Jack Skille proved that tonight with two goals, the first coming at 19:07 of the first period. Skille took a nice pass from Brian Campbell and beat Rinne stick side with a shot that went just inside the post to stake the Blackhawks to a 1-0 lead.

Nashville would answer at 2:37 of the first period on a nice tic tac toe passing play.Shane O'Brien took a nice pass from Marcel Goc and beat Chicago netminder Marty Turco with a quick wrister that went top shelf. Turco could not get across his net fast enough to stop the shot from O'Brien, and his goal sent the Nashville crowd into a frenzy.

That energy would amp up as Shea Weber unleashed a shot on the power play that went through Turco to give the Predators a lead at 5:37 of the second. Turco was in good position, but couldn't handle the velocity of the cannon shot that Weber sent to the net.

Chicago would tie the game at 2 at 6:51 of the period as Viktor Stalberg would beat Rinne high stick side.

The Hawks would once again regain the lead as Skille scored his second of the night at 9:10 as he fired a wrist shot from just inside the faceoff circle that would beat Rinne high glove side.

The Predators looked to have tied the game as Patric Hornqvist scored early in the third, but the goal was waved off as it was ruled that Hornqvist had kicked the puck into the net in a goal mouth scramble.

The tie would come for the Predators at 10:23 of the third period as Cody Franson sent a wrist shot from the point low along the ice. The puck went in cleanly, and Turco had his eyes taken away by Hornqvist who was screening in front of the net. The puck found the far post and the Predators had evened the score.

Neither team could solve the others netminder for the remainder of the period, and once again the Predators were heading to overtime.

With Patrick Kane in the box for tripping, the Predators had several good scoring chances, but Turco bailed out the Hawks.The power play showed good movement and generated scoring opportunities, a positive sign for this unit that has struggled at times this season.

In the shootout, Pekka Rinne stopped Jonathan Toews. Cal O'Reilly buried the first attempt for the Predators as he roofed a shot to the top corner over Turco's glove. Rinne stopped Patrick Kane. Turco stopped a weak attempt by Steve Sullivan. Rinne then stoned Patrick Sharp, and the Predators skated off with their second win in a row and their second in two meetings with the Blackhawks.

The Predators welcomed Marty Erat and Ryan Suter back to the lineup tonight after both had missed games due to injury. Their presence was positive for the team and they logged quality minutes. Erat picked up an assist tonight. The team needs them back in the lineup consistently.

Did you notice the regulation scoring for the Predators? All three goals were from defensemen. Opportunistic scoring, a hallmark of Predator hockey, was evident tonight.

The Predators did a good job of pressuring Turco tonight. They were aggressive and effective on the forecheck. They limited second chances. They got solid goaltending.

They played Predator hockey. Winning hockey.

Losing several games in a row leaves a bad taste in your mouth. It also teaches painful lessons. Lessons that if taken to heart can turn around a team and their fortunes.

My three stars of the night:

1. Cal O'Reilly

2. Jack Skille

3. Cody Franson

Friday, November 12, 2010

My View



Random thoughts from a warped and fevered mind...


The mid-term elections have focused the attention in Washington on reducing the deficit, making it clear that the taxpaying public is serious about getting the nation's fiscal house in order. The President appointed "deficit commission" called the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform with the charge to find ways to reduce the deficit. This commission is led by former Congressmen Erskine Bowles, a Democrat, and Alan Simpson, a Republican. The intitial draft of their proposal has just been released, and it is shocking. The proposal calls for tax hikes over the next ten years of nearly $1 Trillion (I capitalized that on purpose). These tax hikes would not just be on the "rich, but in nearly every tax bracket. Additionally, there is included in the proposal a substantial increase in the gasoline tax; a provision that automatically raises taxes if the budget is not balanced in any year (Yikes!), raising the age to collect Social Security, and substantial cuts in government spending (non-defense) and military spending. Our government has spent us into a precarious financial situation, and to remedy this will require some painful choices. The debate about the solution is just starting. It is important for all of us to be engaged in this process, be cause it will have a significant impact on our personal financial situation.


I told my wife I would go through anything for her. She said, "How about the door?"


If one looks at the voter map after the mid-term elections, the pockets of blue that depict Democratic strongholds are evident on both coasts and in most major metropolitan areas of the country. The interesting aspect- and little discussed fact- is that these are the same areas, either individual cities or entire states, that are facing a substantial budget crisis. Budget problems are limited to those that lean to the Democrats, but they are concentrated in them. There are lots of reasons for this: the economy has tanked, resulting in less tax revenue coming into state coffers, but spending has not declined; funding exorbitant public sector pensions; and rising healthcare costs are just some of the contributors to this situation. States were able to smooth over this problem when Federal stimulus money rolled in, but the day of reckoning is now at hand for many of these governments. Governors and state legislators are being forced to cut spending in an attempt to balance their budget.Given the dire financial condition of states like New York and California, it would not surprise me to see some defaults occur in state debt. Municipal bond buyers should be very cautious in this environment.


After 18 years, I have started to play golf again. I will confess, it takes a lot of balls to play golf the way I do.


The interesting aspect of the discussion about bringing our financial house in order is that, until just recently, the discussion has centered on "raising revenue". Friends, that means taking more of your hard earned money and giving it to the government. There has been scant mention of cutting back the size and cost of government at any level, state or federal. The conversation about getting our states and our country back on sound financial footing is no different than the conversation a family has to have in the same situation. The first step to financial health is to get spending under control and live within the means that you have. This fact, this reality, has for too long been lost on politicians at all levels. As such, we have now put our nation in a situation that will require drastic measures to correct and great political will to make those corrections. And it will require you and me to get involved  and realize that the changes that we will see not be easy. Regardless, this is the way to reverse the negative financial situation and creeping socialism that we face in this country. Guard your wallet and demand that government start to downsize to bring the deficit and spending levels under control.


My shampoo promised me extra body. So far, I've gained five pounds.


And that, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Predators End Losing Streak With a 3-2 SO Win Over the Blues

The Nashville Predators showed much better spunk and fight in a 3-2 shootout win over the St. Louis Blues to end a horrid five game losing streak. With the win, the Predators run their record to 2-1 against the Blues in their season series.

This game was more like the style of hockey that wins games for the Predators. They went strong to the net all night, had an aggressive forecheck, and got great goaltending from Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne.

The Predators played much more fundamentally sound defensive hockey than they did in their five game skid. After being outshot 9-4 in the first period, the Predators limited the Blues to just 11 shots over the final two periods. St. Louis outshot the Predators 3-0 in the overtime period as the Predators spent the last 1:19 killing off a tripping penalty by Alexander Sulzer.

The Blues opened the scoring at 18:22 of the first period as the Predators failed to clear a puck in their zone as the Blues were swarming the Nashville net.David Backes ran over Steve Sullivan as he was trying to control the puck and the puck squirted through the slot. The puck came back to Backes and he buried the shot to give the Blues the advantage.

The Predators would even the game at 1 when Cal O'Reilly tapped home a shot from Francis Buillon. O'Reilly was camped at the top of the crease, and when Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak could not control the rebound, O'Reilly cashed in for the tying score at 13:44 of the second period.

The Blues took the lead once again at 5:44 of the third as Kevin Klein took a bad angle on a stretch pass to Matt D'Agostini. This allowed D'Agostini to get in alone on a breakaway against Rinne, and he buried the shot low glove side.

The Predators answered at 13:08 of the third period when David Legwand fired a puck into the Blues zone and off the end board. The rebound came out to the side of the net and J.P. Dumont was driving hard to the net. He got his stick on the puck and lifted a quick backhand over a surprised Halak for the equalizer.

Pekka Rinne made some quality saves in the remainder of the period to preserve the tie. He stopped Vladomir Sobotka from in close and made a nice save on Patrick Bergland with traffic in front. As the game went on, Rinne looked more solid and comfortable in net, and that is a great sign for the Predators. They need the old Rinne back, one who is tracking and playing the puck well.

In the overtime period, David Legwand and Jerred Smithson won some key face offs in the predators zone that allowed the Preds to clear the puck on the penalty kill. These are the little aspects of the game that the Predators had not done very well during their five game losing streak. It's great to see them doing the little things well again as the little details often lead to big results.

In the shootout, the Blues opted to go first, and Matt D'Agostini beat Rinne blocker side to give the Blues a 1-0 lead. Cal O'Reilly smoothly beat Halak high stick side to tie it at 1.

Brad Boyes and Steve Sullivan were both stoned by the goaltenders, as were Andy McDonald and David Legwand.

Going to round 4, Rinne stopped Patrick Bergland. Marcel Goc was the fourth shooter for the Predators, and he mad a nice move to open Halak up and beat him with a shot that went between his skate and the post.

Game over. Losing streak done.

It feels good for the Predators to get the 800 pound gorilla of a five game losing streak off their backs. In this victory, they went back to basics and they did them well. The forecheck ramped up in the second period and kept the Blues out of their offensive flow for most of the rest of the game. The defense was much more sound than it had been in the five losses. When the Blues got scoring chances, Rinne was solid.

A special stick tap to Marcel Goc. He played a tremendous game, generating chances and was strong on the puck all game. He even made a save in the first period when the puck slid through Rinne and was laying on the goal line. Goc swept the puck to the corner to save the goal and keep the scoreless.

Now that the losing streak is over, the predators have to build on this win. They have to stay focused on what brought them victory tonight- sound defense, solid goaltending, aggressive forecheck, and opportunistic offense. This is Predator hockey. This is what the team has to do to win games.

The losing streak is over. It's time to start a new streak. One that puts wins on the board by playing Predator hockey.

My three stars of the game:

1. Marcel Goc

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Cal O'Reilly

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Standing in the Breach


Somewhere, amidst the din and clutter of our daily lives, we know there are soldiers that are fighting a war on foreign soil. We may disagree about the impetus for the war; we may be vague about the reasons for the conflict, but troops are there fighting and sacrificing.

They are standing in the breach.

"Standing in the breach" is not a phrase we often use in modern vernacular. The origins of that phrase go back to Biblical times and the relationship of God to his chosen people, the Israelites. Ezekiel 22:29-30 says,

"The people of the land (the Israelites) have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy and have extorted from the sojourner without justice. And I (God) sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land that I should not destroy it, but I found none."
The chosen people of God had turned their back on Him, and God was looking for a righteous man to "stand in the breach"- literally to fill the gap in the wall that protected the city- to stave off the wrath that was to come.

This post is not a Bible lesson, but the principal that someone should "stand in the breach" to protect a people is still relevant to our lives just as it was in Biblical times.

We still have those that stand in the breach today. Parents stand in the breach for their children. All of us that have raised children or are raising children fight daily to keep the evil and the corrupt influences of this world away from our young and innocent offspring.  Those loving parents are wall around their children, fending off the unwanted attacks of those that would despoil their innocence or worse. Churches often stand in the breach for the downtrodden of our community. Anyone that has steered someone away from harm, emotional or physical, has stood in the breach.

Our world today is an evil world, one filled with people that resent the freedoms that so many enjoy and, too often, take for granted. Those hate filled people are like the enemy armies in the days of the ancient Israelites, looking for weakness to exploit, looking for a breach in the wall.

And there are breaches.

Into those gaps have stepped valiant servicemen and women, whom we honor on this Veterans Day.

Stepping into the breach is no easy task at best. It always demands sacrifice- time away from family, physical privation, and sometimes the laying down of  life. Stepping into a breach is not something done lightly; no, those that do so are prepared to make, if necessary, the ultimate sacrifice.

I received an e-mail on November 6th from Colonel Andrew Poppas, commander of the 327th Combat Brigade out of Ft. Campbell. He and his unit have been boots on the ground in Afghanistan for the past six months. At this time, their tour is open ended. He and his men are currently operating in the Pech
Valley, and they have encountered the Taliban forces on numerous occasions. The Taliban documents and information that have been recovered  by these soldiers indicate that the assault on free people around the world  by the Taliban will not end soon. The encounters have been ferocious and not without bloodshed and loss of life.

This day, these men and women stand in the breach, protecting us, preventing harm and malevolence from encroaching on our nation, our homes, and our families.

Our great nation and the freedoms we enjoy are made possible by someone who answered the call like the forces in the 327th. Someone who, with immeasurable courage and sacrifice, was willing to protect our nation, its freedoms, and you and me.

Someone willing to stand in the breach.

To those that have gone before, we remember and honor your sacrifice.

To those that have stood in the breach and are with us now, we offer our sincere gratitude.

To those that are currently standing in the breach, thank you and Godspeed to you.

We will never forget that you are there, protecting us from the evil in this world. And we are thankful that you are willing to stand in the breach.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Predators Heart Ripped Out by the Ducks 5-4

Let's just be honest.

The Nashville Predators are not a good hockey team.

Good hockey teams find ways to hold leads. Good hockey teams find ways to win games. Good hockey teams don't keep facing deficits throughout games from which they have to recover. Good hockey teams fight to the very end of the game for precious points.

That is not the Nashville Predators.

Mercifully, the Predators do not play again for another three days. Frankly, the way they are playing right now, this is the only thing that will prevent another loss.

The Predators continue the annoying, disturbing- pick your favorite adjective, trend of giving up an early goal. Not once, but twice, at 52 seconds of the first period and 49 seconds of the third, the puck found its way into the back of the net against the Preds. Poor starts to the period put the Predators into the hole right off the bat. The hill is steep enough for this team and its anemic offense. Spotting the opponent early and quick goals is not a formula for success.

Unlike the contest the night before against the Kings, the Predators forwards looked energized and ready to play. The play of the Sullivan, O'Reilly, Hornqvist line was stellar tonight as the netted three of the four goals that the Predators tallied. Unfortunately, no other line could muster much in the way of quality chances against the Ducks Jonas Hiller. This was evident by another lopsided shot tally as the Ducks outshot the Predators 37-24.

While the offense has struggled in this skid, the defense has been inexplicably weak. Coverage was lost on the Ducks forwards on numerous occasions and it resulted in scores by Saiku Koivu and Jason Blake. The defense of the Predators was considered one of the cornerstones of this team, but has not played to the level that this team has to have to win games.The only Predator D-men that were a plus on the night were Cody Franson and Alexander Sulzer, who were both a +2.

Cody Franson has a great night offensively, scoring a goal and setting up Cal O'Reilly with a beautiful assist.

Anders Lindback got the start for the Preds tonight in net, and I cannot fault Lindback for any of the Ducks goals. On most, he was hung out to dry by the defense in front of him.

The heart was ripped out the Predators on a broken play. Bobby Ryan corralled a bouncing puck and slid a pass underneath a diving Shea Weber. Paul Mara gathered in the puck and slapped it into a wide open net with 1.7 seconds left on the clock as Marcel Goc was late getting back in coverage and Lindback had played Ryan coming to his left.This play typified the futility of this road trip for the Predators.

So where do the Predators go from here?

This is a team that has the ability to win, but the margin is razor thin. If everyone- from the first line of forwards and the top D pairing- to the fourth line players are not laying it on the line every night, this team will not win. Against L.A., this team quit. Against the Ducks, they battled.

That is a good sign.

The problem is that they battled not only the Ducks, but their mistakes. Blown coverages and poor puck control. Lack of offensive pressure from secondary lines. When you play any team in the NHL, these kinds of mistakes make a win improbable.

You certainly don't win the Cup in October or November. But you can certainly lose it. Dig a deep enough hole early on and you will not climb out.

The Predators are digging a deep early season hole in the ultra competitive Central Division and Western Conference. You hate to say that games are becoming "must win" this early in the season, but they are becoming just that for the Predators. The gap between the top of the Central and the Predators is growing game by game.

Three days off. Three days to re-tool the effort and re-focus the players.Practice should be interesting this next few days. It will be time to get the defense back in the groove. It will be time to get the offense back on track.

It will be time to find some heart.

My three stars of the night:

1. Saku Koivu

2. Lubomir Visnovsky

3. Cody Franson

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Predators Whipped 4-1 by Kings

The Wheels have officially come off the wagon for the Nashville Predators as they showed no fight in a loss to the LA Kings by a score of 4-1.

The Kings had their way with the Predators as they were able to do whatever they wanted in the offensive zone. By contrast, the Predators were impotent in their offensive and never mounted any serious pressure on Kings netminder Jonathan Bernier.

This continues the disturbing trend that the Predators have displayed in their previous three losses. Defensive breakdowns were the norm tonight. Many times, Kings were running loose in the Nashville zone. They were offensively dominant all night, and the Predators did not respond.

Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne made some great stops, but also let in some goals that he would like to have back. Rinne was pulled after the fourth L.A. goal midway of the second period, a goal on which he had no chance as he was being swarmed at the net.

Offensively, the Predators showed little grit and consistency. Passing was not very crisp and there was not much pressure in the Kings zone. Nashville continues the annoying trend of getting outshot in games by a large margin. Offensive "stars" have been invisible.

Here is a blinding flash of the obvious: that is not a formula for winning hockey.

Yet that is the type of hockey the Predators have played over their last four games, all miserable losses.

This is not the type of hockey that we expect out of the Predators.

This team is better than the effort they have displayed in these losses. I will not fall back on the injury excuse. Every team faces injury problems. This is a matter of heart and desire.

Characteristics that have been lacking in the last four games

There is no doubt that the Predators have faced quality opponents in this rough stretch. Good teams playing good hockey. Losing to a quality opponent happens.

Losing with a poor effort is unacceptable, however.

And our effort has been poor.

So it's up to you, boys.

Are you going to show heart and grit and effort?

My three stars:

1. Jonathan Bernier

2. Ryan Smythe

3. Anze Kopitar

Thursday, November 4, 2010

My View



Random thoughts from a warped and fevered mind...


Toss 'Em Out Tuesday- otherwise known as the mid-term election of 2010- was certainly interesting and has shocked the mainstream media and a number of pundits. The ramifications of this election will reverberate throughout government and our society for quite some time. Let's talk a bit about what happened Tuesday, shall we?

This election brought to the surface what many in this country have felt- that Washington has become completely disconnected from the citizenry that they are, or should be, representing. The vote on Tuesday was, among other things, a reminder to elected officials that they work FOR us, not the other way around. It was amusing yet somewhat disconcerting to see long time incumbents voted out of office and then express their shock over the outcome of the election. In almost every case, polls revealed that their constituents were overwhelmingly against some of the legislation that has been passed over the last two years and yet the representative voted the party line. Shouldn't be a shock to those that were defeated, but it was. It is indicative of how insular many in Washington have become.

If you want to get a sense of how the mainstream media thinks about you and me, go no further than the insipid Katie Couric, who said that she was going out to the "unwashed masses" in middle America to gauge their mood before the election. That is exactly how liberals and the mainstream media- but I repeat myself- think of anyone that does not share their view and does not live on either coast. And that is another reason why they are becoming increasingly irrelevant.

I was on Twitter on election night and reading the comments of those that I follow. May I offer a piece of friendly advice to those on the left? Those that voted your candidate(s) out of office exercised their freedom in this great country to do just that. And because they did, they are not "racist", "inbreds", "morons", "stupid", and the list of pejoratives goes on, but you get the sense. No more than liberals were "mush brained" "Marxist", "ball-less" "idiots" for voting in a socialist to the White House in 2008. You see what I did there? I immediately shut off any dialogue with someone that doesn't hold the same view as I. And my liberal friends, you are absolutely the best at that. As we move forward, we will continue to miss the opportunity to craft solutions that are workable and move our nation forward if we lack civility on both sides.

With that being said, the fact that I reject most liberal positions as being bad for me personally, for my family, and for this nation, does not make me evil, racist, or any other negatives that liberals might spew. Neither are our elected Representatives evil because they do not agree with the President. The results of this election should indicate that a great majority of Americans don't agree with the President.

Remember early on in Obama's term, and the Republican minority was opposing the socialization of healthcare? What did Obama famously say about opposition to the bill? "I won", meaning I have the supposed mandate from the people and we will do it my way. Now that the Democrats have gone into the minority in the House by an overwhelming margin, and the Senate is virtually even on each side of the aisle, what has been the response of Obama? "We must compromise." Guys, I'm here to tell you, the American electorate has spoken and they don't want to compromise. They want healthcare repealed- at least this monstrosity in its present form, and they want a smaller government that is less intrusive and one that brings spending under control. Compromise is a trap when principles are forsaken for political gains. Compromise on the mandate that the public has given them, and Republicans will become irrelevant.

Marco Rubio said it best on election night. Rubio, a newly elected Republican Senator from Florida, said this (the massive Republican victories across the country) is not about celebrating, but realizing the Republicans have been given a second chance. He is exactly right. The Republican office holders that have been elected, along with their incumbent bretheren, have to not just oppose the creeping socialism that is coming out of the White House and the Democratic Party. They have to offer a clear vision about their direction for the country. They have to offer viable alternatives to achieve those goals. And they have to be fiscally responsible. If this incoming class of legislators does not work to significantly- SIGNIFICANTLY- reduce government spending, then they, too, will be gone at the next election cycle.

This election was a call back to the fundamental relationship between the citizens of this great country and our government. It was a call to reconnect. For too long a disengaged electorate has allowed a ruling elite to lead our country in the wrong direction. The call of this election is to change course- not "compromise", not "tweak", but to turn around and go in another direction.

Incoming legislators and incumbents- are you listening?


And now, a few relevant political quotes:

"In my many years I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a Congress."
                                                John Adams


"I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself by the handle."

                                               Winston Churchill


"The government is like a baby's alimentary canal, with a healthy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other."

                                               Ronald Reagan


And that, my friends, is my view.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Predators Struggles Continue in a 4-3 Loss to the Coyotes

The injury riddled and struggling Nashville Predators journeyed to the Arizona desert to take on the Phoenix Coyotes in the first game of the a west coast swing. The struggles continued for the Predators as they dropped their third straight game by a score of 4-3

The disturbing aspect of this loss is that the Predators lead the game 3-2 going into the third period and failed to hold the lead, giving up two power play goals to a weak Coyotes power play.

The Predators also managed to make Ed Jovanovski look like the second coming of Wayne Gretzky as Jovo got the hat trick against the Predators.

Jovanovski opened the scoring for the Coyotes just 1:08 into the first period as he fired a shot from the point that got past a partially screened Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne.

The Predators tied the game at 8:58 of the first as Francis Buillon walked off the half wall and wristed a shot past Ilya Bryzgalov.

The Predators would take a 2-1 lead just 30 seconds later as Sergei Kostitsyn took a pass from Jordin Tootoo and fought off a Coyotes defenseman and, running out of rink and room, flipped a shot past Bryzgalov glove side. That goal was a beauty and was attributable to Kostitsyn not giving up on the play.

Jovanovski would strike again at 1:08 of the second period as he took a shot off the boards that appeared to hit a stick and ramped up over the shoulder of Rinne.

Amazingly, the Coyotes missed several attempts at an open net as Rinne was scrambling all night and was occasionally caught out of the net. Fortunately for the Predators, the defensive checking thwarted most of those opportunities. Unfortunately for the Predators, Rinne looked skittish all night and was not as sharp as he usually is.

Nashville would once again regain the lead at 12:44 of the second period as Patrick Hornqvist was in his "office" at the top of the crease and poked a rebound of a Colin Wilson shot past Bryzgalov while the Predators were on the power play.

That lead would stand until 4:23 of the third period when Lee Stempniak would tie the game on the power play. Nick Spaling was called for delay of game for shooting the puck over the glass. It appeared that there was simultaneous contact between Spaling's stick and the stick of a Coyotes player. It didn't matter whether the call was accurate or not as the Predators could not kill the the power play. This would prove the Predators undoing in this game.

Jovanovski got his hat trick at 5:38 of the third period on the power play (again!) with Cody Franson in the box for holding the stick. Jovo snuck in from the back side and wristed a shot on net. Rinne got a good piece of the puck, but could not control it and it squirted into the net for the game winner.

The Predators had a glorious opportunity to take a 2 goal lead early in the third period as Steve Sullivan found himself alone in front of the net . He beat Bryzgalov high glove side but rang the shot off the crossbar. That summed up the Predators effort in the third period. They did not mount much in the way of consistent offensive effort and when they did have chances, could not finish.

This is a painful loss for the Predators. Failing to kill penalties, less than stellar goaltending, and inability to create offense in the third period lead to this loss.

Marcel Goc returned to the lineup, along with Frankie Buillon. Both contributed quality efforts tonight. The Predators are still without Ryan Suter, Matthew Lombardi, and now Marty Erat due to injuries.

This team has to now regroup and get back to the basics of winning hockey. This team cannot skate with an attitude of "not to lose". They have to skate to win. Right now, this team is not doing that.

The Predators have to right the ship and commit themselves to Predator hockey. Injuries cannot be a crutch.

The road trip continues. It's time to refocus, regroup, and start winning.

No more struggling.

No more painful losses.

My three stars of the game:

1. Ed Jovanovski

2. Sergei Kostitsyn

3. Francis Buillon