Sunday, February 27, 2011

Predators Break the Losing Streak against the BJ's

The Nashville Predators (finally!) snapped a four game losing streak, topping the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 at the Bridgestone Arena. The contest was a typical grinding affair against a team that has given the Predators fits this season. The Tire Barn has been a house of horrors for the BJ's, who lost their 16th straight game in Nashville.

The victory was not an easy one for the Predators, as the Blue Jackets trap nearly strangled the life out of the Predators. A sluggish and scoreless first period was not from lack of effort by either team, but neither the Predators nor the Jackets would yield any space in a tight checking period. Neither team could get their offense untracked against stubborn defensive pressure, with Columbus registering only six shots on goal while Nashville managed five.

It appeared as if Columbus notched the first goal on a goal mouth scramble early in the second period. The on ice officials immediately waved off the goal, but the play was reviewed by the replay booth and the War Room in Toronto. After the review, it was ruled that it was inconclusive as to whether or not the puck had crossed the goal line. Finally, the Predators had caught a break
Columbus would tally the first score of the contest at 14:17 and the Predators Shea Weber in the box for hooking. Matt Calvert converted with the man advantage as Grant Clitsome stimulated a rush into the offensive zone and slipped a pass to R. J. Umberger, who fired a shot on Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne. Rinne kicked out the shot with his right pad, but Calvert was driving the net and was able to slap the rebound past Rinne.

The Predators would tie the game at 1:47 of the third period as Shea Weber would record his 13th goal of the season on the power play. His blast beat Mathieu Garon to the stick side to the delight of the partisan crowd.

Nashville would take a 2-1 lead at 7:18 of the third period as Jonathan Blum found the back of the net for his first NHL goal. Blum launched a slap shot from the blue line that beat Garon through traffic, and the smile on Blum's face lit up the arena. The young blueliner has shown great promise since he has been called up and has filled in admirably on the back end.

Columbus would not go quietly, however. Nashville would go down a man at 10:50 as David Legwand was called for hooking. With just 16 seconds left on the power play, Kris Russell fired a slap shot that beat a screened Rinne to tie the game at 2.

Nashville managed to kill off a Shea Weber tripping penalty, and with Weber emerging from the box, he took a pass and fed it to Marty Erat. Erat fired a shot that Garon fought off but he left the rebound lying to the left of the net. David Legwand swooped in and lifted a backhand over a sprawling Garon for the game winner.

The Jackets style of play, trapping, holding, and clogging the neutral zone presented problems all night for the Predators. The Predators could have easily succumbed to the pressure and continued their downward spiral. Instead, they showed resiliency and mental toughness and battled all night against a tough opponent.

This is the kind of effort that will be required of this team in all their remaining games. It is playoff hockey, hockey that requires intensity and heart.

It will be a test throughout the remainder of the season.

It is time to show that you can pass that test.

My three stars:

1. Shea Weber

2. David Legwand

3. Jonathan Blum

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Predators Season Sliding Away, Fall to Stars 3-2

The Nashville Predators are watching their season slowly- and painfully- slip away. The slide continued today with a 3-2 loss to the Dallas Stars in the American Airlines Arena.

The Predators cannot catch a break, and they cannot manufacture enough offense to overcome a single mistake. This is a team that cannot seem to do anything positive to reverse their slide, wasting another solid goaltending effort by Pekka Rinne. Rinne made some amazing saves or the score would not have been as close as it was.

Tom Wandell scored the only goal of the first period, beating Rinne with a wrist shot high glove side.

The Predators would score two second period goals to take a 2-1 lead into the intermission. Ryan Suter would open the scoring at 5:00 of the period as he followed his shot and poked the rebound past Kari Lehtonen. Colin Wilson would score on a great hustle play at 13:32 as he beat a Dallas defenseman to gather in a rebound of a Cody Franson shot and knock a backhand past Lehtonen.

The wheels would start to come off (again!) in the third period for the Predators. Alex Goligoski flipped what appeared to be a harmless wrist shot from the point toward the net. The puck hit Jonathan Blum, took a crazy bounce, and hopped over the pads of Rinne for the tying goal.

It is apparent that the hockey gods are pissed at the Predators after a goal like that.

With the Predators down a man on a boarding call to Shea Weber, the Predators had a glorious scoring chance as David Legwand and Joel Ward broke in 2 on 1. Legwand flipped a nice saucer pass to Ward, who fanned on the shot. The Stars turned the puck back up the ice and Loui Eriksson buried a re-directed shot for the final margin of victory.

The Predators generated some pressure in the waning moments of the contest, but could not get a puck past Lehtonen.

The Predators have now lost four games in a row and have fallen from 4th in the West to 10th. This skid comes at the most inopportune time as teams are now starting to separate and establish playoff positioning. The Predators have been streaky all season, and if they are going to have a shot at the playoffs, the streak has to end now.

The offensive production of this team is struggling, and the players counted on to carry the load are not doing so. This team has the annoying tendency to watch Rinne bail them out time and again. As we have seen during this skid, one mistake is all it takes to wind up in a hole that this offense cannot overcome. The attack mode of the offense has disappeared, and it has been evident- painfully- during this losing streak.

How does it turn around?

When this team was winning games, they shot the puck and crashed the net. They scored dirty goals. They skated hard and forechecked aggressively, creating offensive opportunities.

It's time to get back to the basics, boys.

It is time to realize that your season is on the line. You can play yourselves back into playoff contention or you can watch your season go down the toilet. You can go balls to the wall or you can sit back and hope your goaltender steals a game.

I, for one, am tired of seeing you piss your season away. I hope you are, too.

The choice is yours.

My three stars:

1. Kari Lehtonen

2. Loui Eriksson

3. Ryan Suter

Friday, February 25, 2011

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

With all the eye catching news this past week, it would be easy to miss this item. But don't. What is it? The Obama Administration has stated that the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is, in their opinion, unconstitutional, and has subsequently ordered the Department of Justice not to enforce the law. The audacity of this tactic by the Obama administration is stunning. What it amounts to is a selective enforcement of the laws of our land based on the whim or political perspective of the occupant of the White House. The precedent that this establishes if frightful for our nation. Imagine allowing the Executive Branch to only enforce the laws it liked and disregard the laws it didn't? The DOMA is a legally enacted law- you can agree with it or not- and for the Executive Branch to tell the Legislative Branch it is instructing the Judicial Branch not to enforce this law is giving up representative government and replacing it with rule by fiat. In case you don't remember, the Executive Branch is charged with conducting foreign affairs, commanding the armed forces, and faithfully executing the laws of our nation. There is a process for repealing laws, and it is not by dint of the will of the occupant of the White House. I think rather than worry about selective enforcement of certain laws, the current administration should pay attention to the areas for which it is responsible, and which it has failed miserably in managing competently.

They say that genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Apparently, I have been riding the elevator with some very intelligent people.

Readers of this blog know that rule number one when looking at any situation is to follow the money. Why don't we follow the money in the Wisconsin brouhaha over collective bargaining? One of the claims is that the loss of collective bargaining privileges disadvantages state workers, notably teachers. Let's take a look at the sweetheart deal the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) has created under the current collective bargaining arrangement, shall we? One of the provision of the collective bargaining agreement with the WEAC, which is the largest teacher's union in the state, is that the identity of the insurance company that provides health coverage to the teachers is not made public. Why is this important? Because the WCEA has forced many local school boards in the collective bargaining process into purchasing  insurance from WEA Trust, an insurance company that was established by, you guessed it, the WCEA. The WEA Trust provides very comprehensive coverage to the teachers in Wisconsin. At an incredibly high cost. Paid for by the taxpayers. Some school districts have jettisoned the WEA Trust insurance, and have reported six figure savings in their insurance cost while still providing high quality coverage. This is about the money, folks. The public employee unions have ridden the financial gravy train that you and I have provided for years. It has to stop now.

I decided to go for a walk last night. My wife asked me how long I would be gone. I told her the whole time.

How close are we to $5.00 per gallon gasoline? This picture was sent to me on February 23rd, and was taken at a Shell station in California, and it is a harbinger of things to come:

There are a lot of reasons that we have gotten ourselves into this situation, not the least of which is an incoherent energy policy and the failure to develop our own resources. The next time you pull up to the pump and pay exorbitant prices for gas, think about the voting record of those in Congress that establish our energy policy. I have, and here is a compilation of the voting results from the House of Representatives on critical energy issues:

ANWR Exploration: Republicans 91% For; Democrats 86% Opposed

Oil Shale Exploration: Republicans 90% For; Democrats 86% Opposed

Increased Refinery Capacity: Republicans 97%  For; Democrats 96% Opposed

Outer Continental Shelf Exploration: Republicans 81% for: Democrats 86% Opposed

Historically, 86% of Democrats have voted against increasing the production of America's natural resources. Instead, they seem happy with 51% of our energy requirements being imported from the Middle East. Think about that the next time you pull up pump and pay these kinds of prices for gas. More importantly, think about it the next time you enter the voting booth.

I was going to buy a copy of "The Power of Positive Thinking", but then I thought; what good will that do?

And that, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Impotent Predators Fall to Blackhawks 3-0

The Chicago Blackhawks evened their season series with the Predators at three apiece with a 3-0 shutout at the Bridgestone Arena.Tomas Kopecky, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Sharp (empty netter) scored for the Hawks. No one showed up for the Predators on offense.

The shot totals for this game showed that the Predators outshot the Blackhawks by a 31-25 margin, but the Predators rarely made Corey Crawford work hard for a save. Yes, there was some desperation in the waning minutes of the contest, and Crawford had to make some key saves late. The fact remains that for the most, the Predators shot the puck right into the chest of Crawford and generated rare traffic in front of the net.

Pekka Rinne made some outstanding saves for the Predators, and without his effort, the score would have been much worse.

I feel badly for Pekka. He is an outstanding netminder that is getting absolutely zero offensive support in the last couple of games.

The Predators have fallen from 4th in the Western Conference to 8th, and run the risk of playing themselves out of the playoffs. The troubling aspect of the Predators play of late has been the impotent offensive effort. The offense has not challenged in the last two games- both shutout losses- and has struggled over their last 8 games, tallying a meager 12 goals over that span.

Here are the damning totals for the game tonight: Erat 3 SOG; Legwand 2 SOG; Fisher 2 SOG; Wilson 1 SOG; Dumont 1 SOG; Spaling 1 SOG; Sullivan, Tootoo, Kostitsyn, Spaling- all 0 SOG. The top line for the Predators mustered only five shots on goal.

This team is successful when they shoot the puck, crash the net, and score dirty goals. Inexplicably, the Predators have stopped doing that. This team has developed a mentality of pass first and shoot only when you have to, and boys, this is a formula for an early tee time in April.

This is a team that has currently lost its identity. There is not an edge to their play; the grit is gone. They have gotten away from shooting the puck and generating traffic. Yes, I know they outshot the Hawks, but they did not put pressure on the net. Traffic in front of these shots and in front of Crawford was virtually non-existent, and Crawford was given a clean look at the puck most of the night. With the offensive make up of this team, this type of play will not yield success.

So what to do?

In my view, this team has to shoot the puck. Stop passing up shots. More importantly, they have to crash the net and generate the traffic in front of an opposing goaltender. Make his life miserable. right now, they have it easy when they play the Predators.

Perhaps more importantly, this team had better develop a sense of urgency. They are risking missing the playoffs with this kind of play.

This is the playoffs right now guys.

And the question that all your fans are asking is "How badly do you want it?"

Frankly, I don't know the answer to that question.

I do know that you have the next few games to answer that question.

My three stars:

1. Tomas Kopecky

2. Patrick Kane

3. Corey Crawford

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Nashville Blown Away by the BJ's

Points in the Western Conference race are precious. Every game becomes a must win game with the standings jammed with teams competing for playoff positioning. Unfortunately, the Nashville Predators don't seem to grasp the necessity of winning games right now, as they stunk in a  4-0  loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The two teams engaged in a tight checking scoreless affair for two periods as Pekka Rinne and Steve Mason were solid in their respective nets. It would all fall apart for the Predators in the third period, however.

Rick Nash opened the scoring in the third period at 1:11 when he drove past Kevin Klein and poked the puck past Rinne to give the Jackets a 1-0 lead. The way the Predators were playing, one had the sick feeling that this goal would be enough.

It was.

The BJ's would make it 2-0 at 4:29 as Rinne had a mis-communication with his defenseman, Alexander Sulzer. Both went behind the Nashville net to play the puck with Nahville a man down. Neither played the puck and it bounced out the other side to Matt Calvert who stuffed the puck home into an empty net.

The BJ's would make it 3-0 as Antoine Vermette was left alone in front of the Nashville net and he had all day to jam a puck past Rinne.

Rick Nash scored at 19:10 on the power play to make it 4-0.

The Predator offense was invisible in this game, and that is extremely disappointing and unacceptable. The Predators did not do the tough things to win this game. They lost board battles all night; they did not put any traffic in front of Mason; and there was a general lack of toughness, both physical and mental.

In a word, the Predators did not have the desire to win this game. It showed in the third, in crunch time. This is a sign of mental toughness- or lack thereof. This team has shown the annoying habit of fading in crunch time.

Keep it up, and you will be on the outside looking in come playoff time.

It's time for this team to get some snarl, to play smart but with an edge. Right now, this team seems too content to sit back and absorb the punches from their opponent. The Predators have to be in attack mode to be successful.

There was no attack tonight.

And you were embarrassed and embarrassing.

You now have 22 games left. You are going to have to win, by my estimate, 15 of these games to make the playoffs.

It's time to understand how important these games are now. It's time to play with some edge and some desperation. It's time to stop making inferior opponents look great.

My three stars:

1. Rick Nash

2. Steve Mason

3. Matt Calvert

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Hockey in the "Non-Traditional" Markets is Alive and Well

The New York Times has an interesting graphic regarding the growth of hockey in the United States.

This graph from USA Hockey, the governing body of U.S. hockey, shows the growth in registered participants across the United States. These numbers show two interesting characteristics:

Notice the decline in registration in some of the more traditional markets. The New England states show a general decline in registration with U.S. Hockey, with the exception of Maine and Pennsylvania. Michigan and Wisconsin also show declines. The declines in these areas range from 10-50%.

There are more than likely two factors at work here. One is the economy. As the economy has struggled, it is most likely that families have curtailed expenditures for activities such as sports, and hockey is caught in this decline. These areas have been particularly hard hit as the economy has contracted.

Another factor may be the out migration of companies and their employees to other states. Many firms have relocated to the sun belt from the rust belt, and the population decline in these areas has no doubt affected the number of participants in all sports.

Notice however, the growth of registrants in the so called "non-traditional markets". While the above mentioned factors have been negative for the rust belt, they have conversely been beneficial to the south and many of the western states.

The presence of an NHL team has obvious benefits for growth of the sport in areas that would not be considered traditional hockey markets. One can look at the chart and see the growth in the Nashville, Atlanta, and Raleigh markets. Each of these locales has an NHL team, and this has had a positive affect on the number of youth that are now participating in hockey.

An area of surprising growth is in South Carolina. The state does not have an NHL team, but does have two minor league hockey teams, the Columbia Inferno and the Carolina Stingrays, both of the ECHL.

Jeff Cogen, President of the Nashville Predators, has spoken of the need to grow the game in the Nashville market. One of the strategies is to involve more children in the game. Getting youngsters to play will involve their parents in the sport and get them to games. Cogen spoke of needing a "generational turn" for a franchise to be successful. By that, he meant that kids needed to grow up with the game, go off to school, and start in the work force. Those now young adults begin their careers and the majority will become ticket holders- loyal ticket holders.

One can look at this graphic and see that although much maligned, the NHL's strategy of locating franchises in "non-traditional" markets is planting the seeds for the growth of the game. It does take time; it is a slow process. It is a process that will yield long term positive results for the game and its fan base.

The support for a franchise in the "non-traditional" markets requires consistent corporate support; a solid base of individual ticket holders; and a pipeline of future ticket holders. The numbers shown on this graph should be heartening to fans in the south and serve as a resounding rebuttal to the so called "hockey purists" who say that hockey doesn't belong in the sun belt.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Coyotes Want It More, Defeat the Predators 3-2

There are all kinds of statistical measurements in a hockey game: goals against; PK percentage; Corsi; and others. One measure that is not quantified is "want to", how bad do you want to win a tough game. The Nashville Predators were lacking in "want to" for two periods, and it cost them in a 3-2 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes at the Bridgestone Arena.

For two periods, the Coyotes kept the Nashville offense effectively off stride, limiting entrance to the offensive zone and thwarting chances once they were inside the zone. When Nashville did generate chances, Ilya Bryzgalov was very strong and cleaned up most of the opportunities that the Predators had.

After a scoreless first period which saw Nashville generate 4 shots and Phoenix just 5, the second period opened eventfully, with Alexander Sulzer hauling down Shane Doan on a breakaway. Doan was awarded a penalty shot just 10 seconds into the period, and he was stoned by Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne.

Phoenix would seize the momentum and the advantage in the tight checking contest by potting two goals in just 58 seconds. Keith Yandle launched a shot from the blue line that looked like it was tipped and went past Rinne for the first tally of the contest. The goal was awarded to Yandle by the official scorer.

Less than a minute later, Taylor Pyatt walked out of the corner against Ryan Suter, who had lost his stick. Pyatt got past Suter and was uncontested as he skated just inside the face off circle. His wrist shot beat Rinne high over his shoulder to give the Coyotes a 2-0 lead.

The Predators would cut the lead to one as Sergei Kostitsyn would tally on the power play at 6:37 of the second. Kostitsyn took a pass from Mike Fisher in the low slot and roofed a shot over Bryzgalov to make it 2-1 Coyotes.

Late in the second period, Ryan Suter was run behind the net by Shane Doan. Suter did not have the puck and took a serious hit from Doan, which should have been a penalty. Nothing was called on the play, but Suter was called for unsportsmanlike conduct as he chirped at referee Chris Lee. More importantly, Suter suffered an upper body injury on the play and did not return to the contest. His status is unknown, according to Head Coach Barry Trotz.

Lauri Korpikoski would wire a shot past Rinne at 7:32 of the third period to give the Coyotes a 3-1. lead. On the play, the Predators turned the puck over on a failed clearing attempt, setting up Korpikoski for what would be the eventual game winner.

Mike Fisher appeared to have cut the lead to 3-2 as he rifled a shot past Bryzgalov at 13:28 of the third. The goal was waved off however, as Shane O'Brien was called for high sticking as he drove to the net. The Predator fans were chagrined at the no goal call, but it was legitimate, as O'Brien got his stick up high on a Coyotes defenseman.

The Predators would cut the margin to one as Shea Weber would rip a shot past Bryzgalov at 19:10 for his 12th goal of the season.

It was too little too late.

For two periods, the Predators offensive effort was stymied by the very type of game they like to play. The Coyotes aggressive forecheck did not give the Predators an opportunity to establish offensive flow or speed in the neutral zone. The Coyotes did a good job for two periods of limiting the offensive flow of the Predators when they were in the zone. The Coyotes did to the Predators what the Predators had done to the Canucks in their previous game.

This was a "want to" game, a game whose winner would be determined by who wanted it more. Which team would answer the challenge of the other and would eventually exert their will. Tonight, it was the Coyotes that wanted the game more.

By no means am I implying the Predators quit. They did not. They just didn't want this game as much as the Coyotes did, and that was the difference.

This is the tough stretch run to the playoff positioning. There will be a lot of games that will call for the guys on the ice to muster up the extra effort, to do the tough things and the little detail things that determine the outcome of a contest. The take away from this game is that every game now is vital, every game is a war for two precious points.

And you have got to want to win those two points.

My three stars:

1. Ilya Bryzgalov

2. Lauri Korpikoski

3. Sergei Kostitsyn

Friday, February 18, 2011

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Remember when you and I bought General Motors? You know, that $50 billion dollar taxpayer bailout that was was arranged against your will and as a sop to the United Auto Workers for their support of Obama in the Presidential election. Ever wonder how your investment is doing? Currently, GM stock is trading for $36.58, which is about half the price it needs to trade at for the full $50 billion to be repaid to the American taxpayer. To pay back the government- and you and me- the stock has to increase in value, and this will occur as the company eliminates wasteful spending, operates more efficiently and cost effectively, and sells more cars thereby increasing their profitability. That is how it is done in the real world. But this ain't the real world folks, at least not when it comes to the UAW and their inter-relationship with Democrats in Washington. GM senior management will receive bonuses that approach 50% of their base salary; mid-level managers will receive 15-20% of their salary as a bonus; and salaried workers not in the management ranks are to receive upwards of $10,000. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley had this to say about the bonus program, "(the bonus program) sends a message that those in charge take shareholders, in this case the taxpayers, for a sucker." Ya think, Chuck? Doesn't matter to the UAW. According to their President, Bob King, the union wants to "reclaim" some of the concessions that auto workers made to help the company survive. Uh, Bobby, you only survived because your pals in Washington took money out of my pocket and the pocket of American taxpayer to bail out the company you and your union helped to bankrupt. It bears watching the relationship of the unions and the Democrats. The American taxpayer is going to get burnt on this bailout.

Forget world peace, I would just like people to visualize using their turn signal.

President Obama introduced his budget on Monday, and the annual brawl over funding pet programs and giving lip service to debt reduction has begun. Most of us pay scant attention to these budget battles, but I would encourage all of you to get engaged in this one. This budget will be particularly important, because it is going to be indicative of our seriousness as a nation to bringing order to our fiscal house. Politicians on both sides of the aisle are going to have to set aside partisan interests and for the first time in a long time put the interests of our nation above their party. This will mean that Washington has to critically assess every government program for cost effectiveness and not be afraid to eliminate or severely curtail funding for those that do not work optimally. And as a nation we must address out of control entitlement spending. This is painful for politicians and unpopular with many folks, but here is the bottom line: our nation is bankrupt. We will run a deficit this year of $1.5 trillion dollars. And it is only getting worse. Eliminating fraud, waste, and unnecessary government spending are essential and needed, but if were are really serious about reining in debt and making our financial future more secure, we are going to have to reform our entitlement programs as well.

Do you think the famous painter Van Gogh also had an ear for music?

Our national debt at the end of our fiscal year on June 30, will be just under $16 trillion dollars. While that is staggering, also remember that we are paying interest on our debt. When an investor buys a Treasury Bill, our government pays them an agreed upon rate of return for a specified period of time. There are many considerations about our nations financial situation, but I want to point out two salient items that frame the difficult spot in which we find ourselves. First, we all know that the Chinese government holds approximately $2.5 trillion of our debt, and as a nation we pay the Chinese nearly $700 billion dollars a year in interest payments. What is the Chinese government doing with this money that we send to them. Funding a massive buildup of their military hardware and developing new military technology. Remember about a month ago when the Chinese Air Force unveiled a new stealth aircraft and how our military and intelligence agencies were caught off guard? Well, we- you and me- helped to pay for that new piece of weaponry. Our tax dollars flow to the holders of our debt to pay our interest obligations, and our dollars are being used to help fund a new world super power. That is the real consequence of the United States being a debtor nation- our wealth is flowing outside our borders and funding enterprises that may not be in our best interests. That other point? Just this: we have a record amount of debt and it has been issued in a record low interest rate environment. What happens if interest rates- and they will- rise? For every 1% increase in interest rates, our country will pay an additional $140 billion annually in interest rate expenses at our present level of debt. These are two aspects of our fiscal crisis that have serious implications for our national security and our standard of living.

Curiosity killed the cat, but for a while I was a suspect.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Predators Vanquish Vancouver 3-1

The Nashville Predators overcame injuries, piss poor officiating, and the potent Vancouver offense to defeat the number one team in the Western Conference by a score of 3-1. With the win, the Predators have evened their season series against the Canucks at 1 and now stand at 70 points in the Western Conference with a 31-19-8 record.

The contest was a hard fought affair, with both teams trying to exert their will in the first period. Both Pekka Rinne for Nashville and Roberto Luongo for Vancouver were called upon to make some key stops early to keep the game scoreless. The first period saw both teams generate some chances offensively and make some solid defensive stands.

Nashville was called upon to kill out the remaining 3:28 of the first period with a man down. Patric Hornqvist was called for a (legitimate) slashing call at 16:32. Just as the Predators killed off that penalty, Ryan Suter was called for a weak and phantom interference call. Suter was close to a Canuck forward, who tripped on his own while driving to the net. However, a penalty was called by Rob Martell, who was out of position on the play. This was a weak call, the first of many on the night against the Predators.

The Predators killed off this penalty, but would have to kill off a goaltender interference penalty against Steve Sullivan, who whiffed past Luongo but nevertheless was called at 8:32 of the second. Once again, the Predators PK unit was stellar, killing off another phantom penalty and energizing the crowd in the process. The fans responded with a  television timeout standing ovation, unique to any crowd in the National Hockey League.The effect of the crowd involvement was evident, as the Predators were energized and the Canucks were definitely noticing the response of the fans.

That energy was converted into a Predator goal at 14:13 of the second period as Marty Erat got the puck in the slot and fired a shot on Luongo. Bobby Lou made the initial save but gave up the rebound at the top of the blue paint. Erat continued to fight to the net and got his stick on the puck and lifted it over the shoulder of Luongo for the first goal of the game and Erat's 10th of the season.

The Canucks would answer the Predators tally at 18:15 of the second on the power play as the Predators were called for too many on the ice. This was only the second power play goal given up by the Predators in the last 27 man advantage situations.

With the Canucks tying the game, it was going to be important for the Predators to answer and stave off the momentum of the Canucks.

Answer they did.

Nick Spaling would tally just 11 seconds after the Canucks score as he took a centering pass from Patric Hornqvist and lifted a backhander over the shoulder of Luongo. Momentum, which had been with the Canucks, had now swung back to the Predators on the sweet play by Spaling. In traffic, Spals had the presence of mind to control the puck and make a nice shot for the go ahead score.

Momentum would stay with the Predators as they kept the pressure on the Canucks. The Predators controlled the puck and Alexander Sulzer launched a shot from the blue line that Mike Fisher tipped past Luongo for his first goal as a Predator and his 15th of the season to give the Predators a 3-1 lead.

After the goal, Luongo was slumped on his knees and looking skyward in frustration. Frankly, there was never a sweeter sight in this game.

Going into the third period, one knew that the Canucks would come out and try to get their potent offense going. How would the Predators respond?

That response by the Predators was by playing one of the better periods of hockey that they have played all season. The Predators kept pressure on Luongo and the Canucks defenders, and more importantly, the Predators owned the neutral zone. They refused to let the Canucks gain the zone with speed and did a great job of limiting space and chances in the offensive zone. Rinne got clean looks at the puck and was solid in the net, thwarting any chances the Canucks could generate.

Although the Predators did not find the net in the third, their offensive chances were very good, and Luongo made some great saves to keep the Predators off the board. That offensive effort was strong and it was heartening to see that the Predators did not sit back on their heels as they have been prone to do. More importantly, the offensive pressure kept the Canucks from establishing their offensive flow. This was key to the win tonight.

The victory was not without a price. Mike Fisher took a puck to the face and played only 3:18 of the first period as he had to go to the locker room and get stitched. He returned and played a very solid game. Marcel Goc was lost in the second period as he went awkwardly into the boards and came up holding his arm. After the game, he was seen in the locker room with his arm in a sling. Hopefully, he has not re-injured the shoulder he separated earlier this season. Steve Sullivan took a puck to the face as a pass was deflected off a stick during action in the second period. Sullivan was taken to Vanderbilt Hospital for further evaluation after the game. It was reported that the puck did not strike him in the eye, but the injury did not look good.

Just a word about the officiating. It sucked. Rob Martell and Paul Devorsky were awful. Call me a homer- that's fine. However, it was apparent that Vancouver could crash into our netminder, could hold, and could trip and there was going to be no calls against them. There were several weak calls against the Predators, including Suter's interference call and Sullivan's goal tender interference call.

It speaks volumes that the Predators could overcome poor officiating and the high flying Canucks. Unlike the San Jose game, the Predators brought the effort and the intensity for a full 60 minutes tonight. Their play showed no signs of breaking, even in the face of adversity.

This is part of the maturing process. This is learning how to win the tough games. This type of contest steels a team for the playoffs.

Truth be known, with the Western Conference race as tight as it is, this is playoff time right now.

There will be more tough contests, games that will test the mettle of this team.

Play with the effort and the intensity that you brought to the ice tonight, and you will vanquish more opponents.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Marty Erat

3. Nick Spaling

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Did the NHL Contribute to the Pens/Islanders Brawl?

Much has been written about the Slap Shotesque brawl between the Islanders and the Penguins, with passionate viewpoints voiced about the the game, the surrounding events, and the subsequent fallout from the suspensions (or lack of suspensions if you're an Islanders fan). The pot was further stirred by the comments made by Mario Lemieux regarding his perception of the thuggishness, only to have heated rejoinder from other parts of the hockey world because Super Mario employs arguably the dirtiest player in the NHL in Matt Cooke.

This event will continue to play itself out in the court of public opinion, while the NHL has absolved itself of further involvement with the suspensions and fines handed down to the Islanders.

Or has it?

Has the NHL, in its inconsistent and sometimes head scratching pattern of justice, or lack thereof, created an environment where players and the coaches that put them on the ice feel they need revenge. Has Colin Campbell's "wheel of justice" (stick tap to Greg Wyshynski at the great Puck Daddy blog for this term) destroyed any relationship to cause and effect between dangerous behavior on the ice and subsequent punishment?

In my mind, they are questions that are worth asking.

There exists in the game today a gray area that is broad and indeterminate regarding discipline for questionable hits and actions on the ice. What results in a suspension for one player may not warrant even a second look by the League office for another player. A spin of the "wheel of justice". And therein lies part of the problem.

The inconsistent application of "justice" or discipline by the League office has created an environment of uncertainty for the players on the ice. What is allowed in the way of hits in the open ice or along the boards varies greatly. I have seen players speared in the face (Joel Ward against the Canucks) without a word said by the League office. I have also seen players suspended for less. All of us have seen the uneven application of discipline by Colin Campbell and the League. The boundaries of what is acceptable and punishment for what is deemed unacceptable is a moving target.

The game is played at a high pace. Decisions on the ice are made in a split second. When players have no clear boundaries, the doors are opened for questionable hits and ugly incidents that lead to injury and players knocked out of the game.

I have a son that is playing Pee Wee hockey. At the start of the season, team meetings were held and the players were told that fighting and dangerous stick work would result in their removal from the league. Guess what? Forty games have been played in his league without a single fight or unnecessary use of the stick by a player.Yes, this is Pee Wee hockey, but it is hockey and the boundaries were clearly defined for the players.

Don't get me wrong. I love a clean hit that separates a player from the puck. I think fighting has a place in the game. I love the physical nature of hockey.

In the NHL, as in my son's Pee Wee league, there has to be clearly defined boundaries for the play on the ice. By defining clearly what is acceptable play, the gray areas are greatly reduced if not eliminated. By doing this, players know what will happen if they cross the line and the punishment they will receive if they do so. This is the basis for establishing a level of respect that is firm and consistent from game to game.

It is incumbent on the NHL to establish clearly defined boundaries of acceptable play and consistent levels of punishment for crossing those boundaries. Consistency is critical. As it stands, the appearance of a haphazard enforcement of the rules and inconsistent punishment not only damages the credibility of the League but puts players in the unenviable position of having to interpret those rules in a nanosecond while on the ice.

This is a formula for disaster.

The League cannot afford the inconsistency in establishing and enforcing the rules of play, nor can they be inconsistent in meting out punishment for play that crosses the line. Inconsistency fosters the appearance of favoritism and, worse yet, creates an environment of uncertainty for the players on the ice. The fan's perception of fairness is compromised by an appearance of inconsistency.

In no way am I absolving the Islander players that were involved in egregious behavior that crossed the line in their games against the Penguins. They are responsible for their actions and deserve the punishment they received. They acted the way they did because they felt "disrespected" by the Penguins in an earlier contest. Let your play on the ice, not cheap shot assaults, be your response for being "disrespected".

Nevertheless, the Islanders felt a need to go after the Penguins, to exact a measure of revenge.

The question is has the League created an environment that promoted this kind of behavior?

It is a question worth asking.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sharks Outwork the Predators for a 2-1 OT Win

The Nashville Predators learned a lesson about intensity- specifically maintaining intensity throughout a hockey game- as they fell to the San Jose Sharks in overtime by a margin of 2-1. With the win, both Nashville and San Jose have 68 points.

Nashville opened the game flying and tilted the ice in their favor. At the 10:34 mark of the first period, they had outshot the Sharks by an 8-1 margin and owned a 1-0 lead thanks to a Cody Franson wrist shot that found the back of the net at 6:48 of the period. The pressure that Nashville put on the Sharks defense was exceptional and generated many quality chances against Antti Niemi. Niemi was strong in net and made some good saves to keep the Predators off the board. He also had some help from the post as Marty Erat had a glorious scoring opportunity that hit the pipe and caromed harmlessly away.

By virtue of the Predators taking some penalties, including 26 seconds of a five on three, the Sharks narrowed the shot count to 14-12 by the end of the period. Pekka Rinne, Nashville netminder, was solid all night in net, making some key saves in the first. He was going to be tested as the game went on.

The shot totals were about to change, and not for the best for the Predators. More on that in a moment.

About those Nashville penalty killers: they were spectacular. They managed to kill off the 5 on 3 as well as three other penalties. Their work was exceptional tonight, holding the NHL's top power play unit off the board.

The ice would start to tilt in favor of the Sharks in the second period, as they outshot the Predators 16-10. It was obvious that the Sharks were ramping up the intensity. Unfortunately, the Predators didn't match the Sharks.

San Jose would crack the scoreboard at 9:13 of the second as Devin Setogouchi would drive the wing and fire a shot into a small space over Pekka Rinne's left shoulder. This was a goal scorer's goal, as Setogouchi found a small opening at the top of the net and buried the shot.

The third period was all San Jose, as they outshot the Predators 17-7. Nashville rarely challenged Niemi and most of their shots were routine. By contrast, the Sharks were firing pucks from all over the ice at Rinne. To be fair, the Nashville defense was forcing most of the shots outside and giving Rinne a clean look at the puck. The fact remains that San Jose had amped up the intensity, and Nashville did not, or could not match their effort.

Fortunately, the Predators managed to force overtime and pick up a precious point. Unfortunately, the trend of San Jose dictating play continued through the overtime, as the Sharks outshot the Predators 5-0. The game winner came on the fifth shot, as Patrick Marleau broke in alone on a breakaway and slid the puck through Rinne's five hole for the game winner at 3:53 of the extra period.

For the game, San Jose outshot Nashville 50-31.

Talk about intensity, or lack thereof, and it is summed up in the shot total.

This game serves as a lesson for the Predators, as it had a playoff feel. San Jose wanted to pass the Predators in the standings and wanted to make a statement in their last road game of a long road trip. They accomplished most of their goals as they dominated the Predators from the second period on. Frankly, the Predators are fortunate to be tied with the Sharks after the way they played tonight.

This game is indicative of the type of battle that the playoff games represent. However, they race in the Western Conference resembles a playoff battle right now. The games are intense. They are a war. And winners will match the intensity of their opponents and go beyond.

The Predators did not do that tonight.

In this contest, the Predators did not record their first shot on net in the third period until the 10:22 mark. Look boys, sitting back and being content to let your goalie make numerous saves, being content to just dump the puck out of your zone and forcing the opponent to regroup on the attack, and failing to generate offensive pressure is a formula for another first round exit in the playoffs.

The lesson from this is that these games in the Western Conference are going to be intense, they are going to be battles from here to the end of the regular season. And then they are going to get tougher in the playoffs.

Learn from this lesson. Learn that you have to match the opponents intensity. Learn that this is going to be tough. Learn these lesson and you will be fine.

Fail to do so, and it will be another painful learning experience.

My three stars:

1. Patrick Marleau

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Cody Franson

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Scenes from the Gnash Vegas Predators Gala

The Nashville Predators recently held a night in Gnash Vegas to benefit the Predators Foundation. The arena was set up like the floor of a Vegas casino, with poker, black jack, and other games of chance available for the attendees. The Predators players and coaching staff participated in the games and mingled with the folks in attendance, and they were very accessible and friendly.

Numerous auction items were set up around the perimeter of the arena, with the gaming tables and the food from various Nashville restaurants in the middle.

The players were available for pictures and had ample time to visit with those that were there. The players seemed to enjoy having the opportunity to move around and meet the fans as well as participate in the games. Each player wore the white third jersey, which was later auctioned off in a blind auction. Winners of the jersey had it autographed by the player.

The Predators Dancers and Ice Girls dressed as Vegas showgirls for the event.

All the coaches were in attendance. Needless to say, they were excited about the trade for Mike Fisher, which was announced earlier in the day.

One of the poker tables on the floor of Gnash Vegas. A word of advice: NEVER play poker with J.P. Dumont. Let me just say that he is very good.

Playing black jack with Pekka Rinne.

This was a very fun night that benefits the Nashville Predators Foundation. The Foundation continues to make a positive impact in our community through their involvement with many charitable enterprises in Nashville and Middle Tennessee. Last year, the Foundation delivered over $300,000 in grants to various charities. Support of events like the Gala, the Wine Tasting, and the silent auction at home games allows the Foundation to continue to support these worthwhile causes.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Predators Win Ugly, Defeat the Avalanche 5-3

Sometimes when a team notches a win, it is a thing of beauty; sometimes it is ugly. Tonight, the Nashville Predators won ugly over the Colorado Avalanche by a 5-3 margin. Fortunately, they don't give style points for a victory as this was not the prettiest win for the Predators.

The Predators came out flying and took the play to the Avalanche. The Predators tilted the ice in their favor in the first period, outshooting the Avalanche 10-4. It was the Avalanche that drew first blood, however, as the Predators gave up a goal at 11:05 as Kevin Porter beat Jerred Smithson in the low slot and poked a puck past Pekka Rinne to give the Avs a 1-0 lead.

At this point, the game had the feel of the debacle against Edmonton, as in both games, the Predators dominated on the shot count and controlled the play only to find themselves in a 1-0 hole. The Avs netminder, Peter Budaj, had stood on his head up to this point and had managed to keep the Predators off the board.

Unlike the Edmonton game, the Predators would answer the Colorado tally, and they would do so just 11 seconds after the Avs found the net. Shea Weber would fire a wrist shot that would beat Budaj to tie the game at 11:16 for his 11th goal of the season. On the play, newly acquired Mike Fisher was screening Budaj at the top of the paint and because of his work, Budaj never saw the puck until it was in the net.

The trend of outshooting the Avs would continue in the second period for the Predators as the Predators would dominate the shot total by an 18-5 margin. One knew that with this many shots on net, Budaj would eventually break and give up a score.

The Predators got that break at 4:36 of the second period as Martin Erat would tally on the power play. Erat took a shot from close in that squeezed through the pads of Budaj and was lying in the blue paint just behind the Avs goalie. Erat continued to fish for the puck and was able to get his stick on it and drive it into the net for a 2-1 Predators lead.

Colorado would tie the game on another defensive breakdown by the Predators. David Jones would get the puck and walk out of the corner unmolested as both Cody Franson and Shane O'Brien broke the defensive coverage. Jones would have an unmolested shot that beat Rinne under his outstretched pad to tie the game at 9:13.

Colorado would take the lead at 2:54 of the third period on Matt Duchene's 21st goal of the season. Duchene ripped a slap shot from the face off circle that beat an unscreened Rinne to the stick side. This was definitely a goal that Rinne would like to have back.

I have often questioned the mental toughness of the Predators- their ability to bounce back in the course of a game when faced with adversity. Tonight, the Predators answered the question about their mental toughness.

The Predators would get the tying goal at 4:11 of the third as David Legwand controlled a puck behind the Avalanche goal. Legwand found Patric Hornqvist, who had worked back into the low slot to give himself some space. Legwand looked off the defense and found Hornqvist with a nice pass. Hornqvist ripped a ont timer that beat Budaj glove side to tie the game at 3.

The game went back and forth as both teams generated some chances. The Predators would break through at 17:30 of the third when Cody Franson snapped a quick shot from almost straight away at the blue line in front of Budaj. The puck squirted through the pads of the Avs netminder to give the Predators a 4-3 lead.

The Predators would ice the game at 19:14 as David Legwand took a pass from Mike Fisher and hit an empty net goal to make the final margin 5-3. With the assist, Fisher recorded his first point as a Predator.

The Predators outshot the Avs 39-18, and their offensive zone presence was strong. As the game went on, you had to believe that with this kind of effort, the Predators were going to break through and find the net. Budaj made some great saves, but the Predators were relentless on the attack. This kind of effort will usually lead to wins.

With the win, the Predators now are 30-19-7, good for 67 points and they currently sit at 4th in the Western Conference.

The Predators killed off both Colorado penalties, and now have allowed only one goal in the last 23 shorthanded chances. This is the kind of play that will lead to victories- gritty, detailed, and with maximum effort.

The Western Conference remains a dog fight. Some nights, you have to win ugly and get the points. That is what the Predators did tonight. They fought back and refused to relent to a desperate team.

The upcoming week brings three tough opponents to the Bridgestone Arena. It doesn't matter how pretty the wins might be.

Just get them and the all important points.

My three stars:

1. Martin Erat

2. David Legwand

3. Cody Franson

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fisher: Price is Right; Predators Deal for Rugged Forward

The Nashville Predators made a major move by acquiring Mike Fisher from the Ottawa Senators for a 2012 first round draft pick and a conditional draft pick. Fisher is expected to join the Predators once visa paperwork is completed and be available for their game Saturday night against the Colorado Avalanche.

The conditional pick is a third round pick if the Predators advance past the first round of the upcoming playoffs. Should the Predators advance past the second round, the pick becomes a second round draft choice for the Senators.

Predators General Manager David Poile is not known for trading away draft picks; in fact, the opposite is true, as Poile tends to cherish and hoard draft picks. This move makes sense for the Predators in two respects: the upcoming draft is a draft that is not a highly rated draft; and the Predators acquired a proven top six forward that has more playoff experience than any player on the current roster. Fisher has 75 games of playoff experience in his career.

Now that the dust has settled, let's take a look at what this trade means for the Predators.

Adding Fisher to the lineup gives the coaching staff more flexibility with their lines. Talking to Coach Barry Trotz, that was one of the first things he mentioned about this trade. The depth that Fisher provides will give the coaching staff the ability to better match lines as well as giving them more depth. Look for the third line- projected to be Colin Wilson and J.P. Dumont centered by David Legwand- to benefit, as they will draw defensive matchups that are more favorable. Fisher is projected to center Patric Hornqvist and Steve Sullivan, a line that has very good offensive potential.

Fisher gives the Predators a solid two way presence. He is responsible defensively and has logged minutes on the PK for the Senators. I would expect to see him with some time on the second PP unit as well. The quality defensive presence is a requirement to play in Trotz's system, and Fisher should plug in nicely as a responsible two way player.

Fisher is a balls to the wall type of player. The Predators will get everything out of him on every shift. Having watched him play through the years, this is one aspect of his game that is very impressive. Fisher plays all out, even to the point of hurting himself. At 6' 1" and 208 pounds, Fisher has the size to bang with big defensemen and battle for the puck, and he has shown that he does not shy away from contact. The physical presence up front will hopefully open open lanes for his line mates.

Fisher has a good shot and good speed. The knock on him is that he can be inconsistent in his offensive production, which must improve. It will take some time to gel with his line, but it is hoped that this will happen quickly.

The experience that Fisher brings to the Predators is invaluable. He is a winner and knows what it takes to win games. His veteran presence should benefit greatly the leadership group in the Predators locker room. More importantly, he knows what it takes to win in the playoffs, when the intensity is ramped up. With 75 playoff games on his resume, this experience will benefit the young Predator squad.

This quality can't be oversold. In talking with several of the Predator players on Thursday, this was something they specifically mentioned. Having been a winner and knowing what it takes to win in the regular season and in the playoffs is something that they will look to Fisher to impart to the squad. This experience, according to several of the players, is what they believe will help keep the younger players focused.

Fisher is a solid locker room presence. Several Senators, such as Daniel Alfredson and Chris Neil said they would definitely miss Fisher's presence in the locker room. This speaks not only to the experience he brings but to the type of person that he is.

A good example of the character that Fisher brings to the Predators is the involvement that he had in the Ottawa community. Fisher involvement with Roger's house in Ottawa- a home for parents of children that are receiving cancer treatments at Ottawa hospitals- was extensive and tireless.He was a regular in hospital visits to children in various hospitals around Ottawa. Perhaps the best story about the type of person that is Mike Fisher was his relationship with Elgin Fraser.

Fraser was a 3 year old that was stricken with neuroblastoma, a disease that is almost always fatal. Fisher connected in a special way with Elgin, and spent numerous hours with him while he was in the hospital. Fisher brought him to practice on several occasions. When Elgin succumbed to the disease, Fisher was there with the family and served as a pall bearer at his funeral.

The acquisition of Fisher has brought the Predators a solid hockey player that will benefit the team.

It has brought the team, and the city of Nashville, a first class person.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My View

Random thoughts from your resident curmudgeon...

We recently heard President Obama talk about the "tough" budget cuts that he was proposing as a move toward fiscal discipline for our nation. As citizens, we hear about these tough cuts and think that we as a nation are finally starting to do the right thing from a financial standpoint. Perspective is so important in these discussions, and seeing what is going on is, in my view, often more important than hearing about what is going on. The pie chart above has 3 colors to represent the current 2011 budget (the blue sector); the projected deficit that our nation will have in June, which is the end of our nation's fiscal year (the red sector); and for comparative purposes, the proposed budget cuts by President Obama (the green sector). What's that? There is no green sector? Well, yes there is. Let me magnify the chart above by a factor of 100.

Oh, there is that green sector. And such a cute little thing, don't you think? Here is the point. The budget for our country in 2012 is projected to be roughly $3.8 TRILLION; our projected deficit (or overspending) is projected  to be $1.5 TRILLION in 2012. The "tough" budget cuts are estimated to be $775 MILLION. No joke. The absurdity of this is that we have leaders in Washington from both parties that cannot seem to live in the real world and eliminate wasteful spending and shut down unnecessary programs. They would rather spend your tax dollars on what they believe will get them re-elected, regardless of the financial consequences. It is time for all of us to hold our elected leaders accountable for their profligate and unrealistic spending. Washington, we are ready to see some seriously tough cuts in government spending.

Some people live life in the fast lane. I live in oncoming traffic.

Have you heard of the expression "peak oil"? That is the scenario that says oil production for the entire planet has maxed out and cannot increase, due to finite supply and growing demand. Peak oil has been theorized, and fears of this phenomenon were partly responsible for driving the price of a barrel of crude oil to nearly $150 dollars a barrel two years ago. However, peak oil has has been projected to occur in the far distant future as the world's oil supplies are depleted and the demand for oil continues to rise. One of the factors that has allayed this fear has been the vast oil reserves of our Mideast ally and primary oil supplier, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has been able to increase the output of crude oil when necessary to stabilize prices, even if other major oil producers had at various times curtailed supply. In fact, our energy policy in this country has been built around, among other factors, the supposition that if necessary, ARAMCO, the Saudi oil monopoly, could produce upwards of 12.5 million barrels of oil per day to meet our demands as well as stabilize world prices. This was premised on the belief that the proven oil reserves of ARAMCO were 750 billion barrels. Guess what? According to cables from the U.S. State Department that were part of the WikiLeaks information dump, Saudi Arabia may have overstated their reserves by 300 billion barrels, or 40%. This is according to an ARAMCO geologist and former head of exploration, Sadad al-Husseini. The problem is that although ARAMCO disputes this information, there is no way to verify the data. Peak oil may not be so far off in the future, and if not, look for oil prices to rise significantly. And all of this points out the fallacy of not developing the sources of oil that lie within the borders of the United States.

Have you noticed that animal rights activists are more adamantly opposed to fur than leather? That's because it's much safer to harass rich white women than motorcycle gangs.

Get ready for even higher food prices. The price of corn has doubled over the past six months, and is expected to go higher. The per bushel price is now $7.00 up from around $3.50 in August. The impact of rising corn prices is felt throughout the food chain. Look for prices of chicken to rise first as the processing cycle for poultry is very short  and the price of corn, the primary feed stock, affects those prices almost immediately. The effect of rising corn prices affects pork after about a year, and beef in about two years. Tyson Foods has projected prices for chicken, beef, and pork, to all rise this year as the cost of corn rises and processors pass along these increases. Additionally, corn price increases affect the price of high fructose corn syrup, used in numerous food products and drinks, and the price of this corn based product has been soaring, leading to increases in other areas of the grocery store. The U.S. Department of Agriculture noted in a year end report that U.S. corn supplies are at their lowest level in 15 years. Global demand, as overseas economies have grown and more people are eating healthier is a major driver of this shortage. Also, our energy policy has diverted 25% of the corn crop into ethanol production. These factors have combined to propel our food costs to levels not seen in many years. It appears as if 2011 will continue that trend.

Most clouds have a silver lining, except mushroom clouds, which have a lining of uranium 238 and strontium 90.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Predators/Wings Redux: Wings Whipped (Again) 4-1

The Nashville Predators washed away the stench of a debacle in their previous game against Edmonton with a decisive 4-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings at the Joe Louis Arena. The victory over the Red Wings moves the season series to 3-1 for the Predators.

The Predators lost their last game from the neck up. Simply put, the Predators didn't have the mental toughness to respond to the challenge of the Oilers. It was going to be interesting to see if the Predators had the mental toughness to respond to the challenge the Wings would present and overcome the onus of winning games at the Joe.

They did.

Marty Erat opened the scoring for the Predators at 3:09 of the first period. Marcel Goc drove the net and made a backhand pass to Erat, who was driving the wing. Erat uncorked a high shot that went over the shoulder of Detroit's Jimmy Howard and just under the crossbar. The play was set up by the strong drive to the net by Goc, and Erat made no mistake in burying the shot for his 8th goal of the season.

The Predators would make it 2-0 at 14:13 of the first period as Ryan Suter let a shot go that Howard kicked out with his left pad. The rebound came over to David Legwand and he put the rebound into an open net.

The Predators did not succumb to their unhealthy characteristic of sitting back with a lead as the opened the second period with good pressure. Joel Ward dug a puck out from behind the net and got a pass to Jerred Smithson. Smithson spotted Colin Wilson driving the net and fired a pass to him. His first shot was blocked by the pad of Howard, but Wilson followed his rebound and potted the puck into the net for his 13th goal of the season and a 3-0 Predators lead.

The Predators continued to pressure the Wings throughout the period, skating well and slowing the Wings potent attack through the neutral zone. The forecheck did a great job of disrupting the Wings breakout and kept them bottled up in their zone throughout the game. This type of play was missing against the Oilers in their previous game, and tonight was the difference in securing this big win for the Predators.

That effort would lead to the Predators second goal of the period and fourth of the game. This goal would come on the power play as Shea Weber unleashed a blast from the point that Howard could not control. Sergei Kostitsyn beat Niklas Lidstrom to the puck and had an open net into which to shoot the puck.

4-0 Predators. Take a seat, Mr. Howard. Thanks for coming.

Hello Joey MacDonald.

Ruslan Salei would break the shutout that Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne had pitched to that point with a tap in rebound goal at 16:02 of the second period. This was the only blemish on an otherwise spectacular night by Rinne, who stopped 34 of 35 Detroit shots.

The Predators pressured the Detroit net throughout the third period, but could not get a puck past MacDonald, who made some very good saves. Although the Predators could not find the back of the net in the third period, neither could the Wings, who were stymied by Rinne and the Predators defensive effort.

With no scoring in the third period, the Predators made the three goal lead stand up over the final 20 minutes with solid defense and continued offensive pressure in the Detroit zone. This is Predator hockey.

It is winning hockey.

The Predators are tied for 4th in the Western Conference with Dallas, who is playing at the time of this post. Each team has 65 points. With this win, the Predators are 29-19-7.

The Predators lost Marcel Goc near the end of the first period with an upper body injury. The extent of the injury is unknown. It was thought that Goc might return later in the game, but he never returned to the bench.

The contrast between the game Monday against the Oilers and tonight's game against the Wings is stark. When this team plays with confidence, when they skate, when the defense is sound, they are very tough. When their heads are not in the game, they can absolutely stink.

Admit it guys, it is a lot more fun when you play like this rather than how you played on Monday.

There are lots of games- tough games- to be played.

What do you say we have some fun?

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. David Legwand

3. Sergei Kostitsyn

Monday, February 7, 2011

Predators Embarrassed by the Oilers 4-0

The Edmonton Oilers came into the Bridgestone Arena and knocked the Nashville Predators on their ass, took their lunch money, and ran away with their girlfriend in a 4-0 rout of the hapless Predators. And the Predators did nothing about it.

This loss was disgusting, embarrassing, and beyond words- at least words that I will say on this blog. Spin this one any way you want guys; say it wasn't your night or whatever. The fact is that you pissed away two precious points against the worst team in the Western Conference. Yes, they have some talent, but you guys managed to make them look like Stanley Cup contenders tonight.

Pekka Rinne got the start, and he gave up all four goals. The guys in front of Rinne owe him an apology for their play tonight.

The Predators rang some shots off the post (three times in the second period), but they managed to make Devan Dubnyk look like a Vezina Trophy finalist tonight. This team was generally inept and impotent on offense tonight.

You can read the scoring recap here.

Here is the painful fact: if this team does not develop mental toughness- quickly- they will be in trouble down the stretch. There is no excuse for not defending your home ice and turning in the effort you did tonight, boys. You should be embarrassed. I am as a fan.

These are the kind of games that will come back to haunt you. A very winnable game that you stunk up. A game where you showed absolutely no response and fight when the chips were down.

In a word, disgusting.

The up and down nature of this team does not bode well. Good teams win the games they are supposed to win and don't let down. Tonight, you let down. Badly. A team without mental toughness.

Maybe you were still feeling good about the Detroit win. Maybe you just expected to throw your jersey out on the ice and notch another two points. I don't know. This effort tonight is beyond explanation.

Here is the takeaway from this game: play like this and you are going to get your head handed to you and you will continue to be embarrassed.

Games like tonight are unacceptable.

I hope you feel as badly about your effort as I do.

If not, you are in trouble.

My three stars:

All Oilers

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Scenes From the Road- Philadelphia

The View accompanied the Predators on their recent road trip to Philadelphia. Here are some scenes from the trip:

Being a bit of a history geek, Philadelphia was a treat to tour around. This is Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Notice the scaffolding around the tower. There was major repair work occurring on the structure, but you could still go inside.

The Liberty Bell

We had a very gracious hostess and tour guide, Jen Conway, who is an intern for the Flyers. She is on twitter @nhlhistorygirl. Jen is left front. Beside her is Shelby Blake. The back row- full of handsome guys- includes: The View; Bob Kohl, Emmy Award winning Producer of the Predators television broadcasts; Mark Blake, my hockey friend that has traveled to numerous arenas with me; and David Raynack of the Predators broadcast production crew.

One of the 26 remaining copies of the Declaration of Independence. The original signed copy is on display in Washington, but this is one of the copies produced for distribution to the colonies.

This is one of the copies of the Constitution that was delivered to the colonies.

The first House Chamber of the United States.

The first Senate chamber of the United States. This is the room where George Washington was sworn in as President for his second term.

The grave of Benjamin Franklin.

The home of Betsy Ross.

Historic Christ Church, built in 1735. Christ Church served as the de facto National Cathedral early in the history of our nation. Many of our nation's leaders attended Christ Church.

The interior of Christ Church. The pews are numbered, and George Washington and his family sat in pew number 58, on the left near the column.

Numerous historical figures are buried inside the church. This is the grave of John Penn, whom as the marker indicates was "one of the late proprietaries of Pennsylvania."

The massive pipe organ in Christ Church.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art. These are the famous "Rocky" steps that Sylvester Stallone's character ran up while training for his fight in the first Rocky movie.

The famous Rocky statue and the View. The statue is the one on the left.

The Philadelphia skyline from the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

On the other side of the parking lot from the Wells Fargo Center is the skeleton of the old Philadelphia Spectrum, the home of the Flyers during their Broad Street Bullies days. Demolition has been stopped on the Spectrum, leaving this shell. The building cannot be imploded because of the proximity of the subway tunnels. It is difficult to see, but the original scoreboard still hangs from its supports in the middle of the arena.

The championship banners and retired numbers in the Wells Fargo Center.

The Wells Fargo Center.

This is a picture of the Flyers 1975 Stanley Cup Championship team that is displayed on the concourse of the Arena. Our very own Terry Crisp is on the second row, second from the right, wearing the "A".

Flyer legend Bobby Clarke was honored in a pre-game ceremony with his retired number banner being hung from the rafters.

Bobby Clarke with his grandson, who skated the banner out to him at center ice.

The trip to Philadelphia was a great one, except for the outcome of the game. There were a surprising number of Predators fans that were there- I counted at least 30 jerseys at the pre-skate. It was a pleasure to meet some of the fathers and have a chance to visit with them. The players certainly enjoy having their fathers accompany them, and the Predators do a great job of making it a memorable experience.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Predators Whip the Wings 3-0

A four game losing streak and the Central Division leading Detroit Red Wings coming to town did not bode well for the Nashville Predators and their attempt to end the streak. The Predators, however, had Pekka Rinne in net, and the big netminder stopped all 35 shots he faced in the 3-0 win to end the losing streak and bring the Predators back into fourth place in the Western Conference and within five points of the division leading Wings.

This was Rinne's third shutout of the season, and it could not have come at a more opportune time for the Predators.

The Predators were facing Joey MacDonald in net, and he would yield the first goal of the game at 3:18 of the first period with the Predators on the power play. Shea Weber pinched in to the faceoff circle and blistered a slapshot over the shoulder of MacDonald off an assist from Ryan Suter. This was the 10th goal of the year for the Captain.

Detroit, like Nashville, has contended with a spate of injuries. This is Detroit, however, and they are a good and dangerous team, wounded or not. It would be important for the Predators to play good defense and get solid goaltending to have a chance to win this game.

The Predators did not get good goaltending. They got great goaltending from Rinne, as he made some excellent saves as well as getting some help from the posts. Darren Helm had a shorthanded breakaway opportunity that Rinne challenged at the top of the blue paint. The shot caromed off the crossbar and the Wings were thwarted in their attempt to tie the game.

In the first period, the Predators limited the Wings to just 6 shots on goal, while firing 11 on MacDonald. With a 1-0 lead going into the second, it was going to be important for the Predators to continue to limit chances from Detroit and cash in on their scoring opportunities.

Limiting the Wings chances took a severe hit just 44 seconds into the second period as Sergei Kostitsyn was called- legitimately- for tripping. However, a second penalty was called on the play as Patric Hornqvist was tagged with a phantom holding call. Two minutes of 5 on three hockey for the Wings and things did not look good for the Predators.

In what could be considered the turning point of the game, the Predators PK was stellar, holding Detroit off the board. Kudos to the PK unit, as their play was excellent all night. This kill stood out as it energized the team, the crowd, and seemed to take some steam out of the Wings. Joel Ward stood out for his aggressive forecheck and his effort all night.

Once again, the Predators found themselves with another kill as Shane O'Brien was in the box for cross checking. However, the tables were turned on the Wings as Ryan Suter found Sergei Kostitsyn streaking through the neutral zone. Suter hit Kostitsyn with a breakout pass and sent him into the offensive zone. Kostitsyn fought off Jakub Kindl and sent a one handed shot that hit the stick of MacDonald and ramped up into the net. 2-0 Predators at 14:03 of the second period.

The Predators killed off two additional man advantages for Detroit in the third, but this is Detroit, and Predator fans knew they would be coming hard.Detroit outshot the Predators 17-6 in the third, and this was in part because the Predators sat back and played defense rather than attack as they had in the first two periods.

Just a word here, boys. Prevent defenses don't work in football, and rarely do they work in hockey.

Of course, prevent defenses in football don't have Pekka Rinne. The Predators rely on the solid play of Rinne to keep other teams off the board, and tonight he didn't disappoint. He did a great job of tracking the puck and not giving up rebounds around the net.

The Predators would put the game away at 17:39 of the third as Kostitsyn tallied his second goal of the night and his 14th of the season. Marcel Goc took a shot that MacDonald kicked out to the side of the net. Kostitsyn corralled the rebound and fired a shot off the back of MacDonald that bounced back into the net.

Game over.

After the game, head Coach Barry Trotz called Rinne "The Eraser" because he erases a lot of mistakes when he is in net. Tonight, Rinne was the epitome of the Eraser, cleaning up mistakes and not giving up rebounds. Rinne always give the Predators a chance in every game they play, and tonight was no exception. As the game wore on, it appeared as if Detroit knew they couldn't solve Rinne.

This team doesn't have marquee talent, but this team can win every night when they play their system and play hard. Tonight, the defense did a great job of limiting quality chances and keeping Detroit to the outside. They cleared lanes and allowed Rinne to see the puck. And they were efficient on offense.

This is a winning formula for the Predators. The  losing streak saw some inconsistency in these facets of their game.

The race is on for positioning in the ultra tight Western Conference. Play like you did tonight, and this team will notch wins and points, and the positioning will take care of itself.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Sergei Kostitsyn

3. Ryan Suter