Thursday, March 31, 2011

Predators Survive the Avs 3-2

The Nashville Predators defeated the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 in a game that best be described as the Predators surviving the Avalanche.The Predators managed to take a game that was well in hand and, to say the least, make it interesting.

Playing the Avalanche was a dangerous proposition for the Predators. The Avs are out of the playoffs and are playing loose and wide open hockey. It was going to be imperative that the Predators play sound hockey, disciplined hockey to not fall victim to the Avalanche.

It would be the Predators that would play their game early on in the contest.

The Predators opened the scoring at 15:35 of the first period as Matt Halischuk dug the puck out of the corner and got the puck to Colin Wilson. Wilson beat Brian Elliott for his 16th goal of the season to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.

A give and take first period saw Pekka Rinne make some big saves and the Predators generate some chances. For all the effort, though, the Predators held a slim 1-0 lead.

The second period was more of the same, with both Rinne and Elliott coming up with some big saves to keep the margin at 1.

That would change at 10:20 of the second period as Cody Franson would release a quick wrist shot from the blue line that was tipped by Jordin Tootoo past Elliott for his 6th goal of the season and a 2-0 Predators lead.

The first 40 minutes of the contest were dominated by the Predators as they out shot the Avs by a 30-14 margin. The forecheck was aggressive and the defensive effort was solid. The only negative of the first 40 minutes was the loss of Jordin Tootoo late in the period to an upper body injury.

As hard as it is to believe and as late in the season as it is, the Predators still have not seemed to grasp the fact that it is a 60 minute game. The third period was, shall we say, chaotic. It also saw the Avs score 2 goals to make the score way more interesting than it should have been.

Before the chaos erupted, the Predators extended their lead to 3-0 on the power play as Marty Erat stole the puck and broke in alone on Elliott. Elliot tried to poke check the puck away, but Erat deftly pulled the puck back and roofed a shot over Elliott.

A comfortable 3-0 lead with just over 12 minutes to go. Game in hand, wouldn't you think?

Not so fast.

The Avs out shot the Predators 15-4 in the third period. More about that in a moment. With the offensive zone time for the Avs, you just knew something was going to happen.

It did.

Paul Statsny beat Joel Ward in defensive coverage in front of the net and flipped the puck over Rinne to make it 3-1 Predators at 13:35. That goal seemed to really energize the Avalanche as they dominated in the offensive zone.

David Jones would somehow leak a puck between Rinne and the post at 18:58 of the third with the extra attacker on the ice. Now the Predators were just trying to hang on for the final 1:02.

They did hang on, but not for lack of effort by the Avalanche, who won an offensive zone face off with 3.5 seconds remaining and fired a shot on Rinne that required a good save at the horn.

Yes, the Predators won the game, but in reality, they survived the Avalanche.

Back to that third period.

What is difficult for me to grasp is the mentality of this team with a lead. The Predators had played a very solid 40 minutes of hockey and had a lead. They extended the lead 7 minutes into the third. And then they just sat back and let the Avalanche dominate the play. There is no doubt that this team has one of the elite goalies in the NHL in Pekka Rinne, but the tendency to rely- too heavily- on Rinne late in a game has bitten this team in the ass more than once this season, and it almost did again tonight. Foe the life of me, I don't understand the tendency to take the foot off the gas and let the opponent dictate play late in a game.

Play like this in the playoffs and you will see another first round exit.

This team needs to develop a killer instinct. Stop letting other teams claw back into the game by being passive. Playing a prevent defense does not work in football and the Predators are proving that it doesn't work in hockey.

Make no mistake- this is a win and two precious points. But this is a win that should teach you a lesson that hopefully you don't have to learn again.

Don't let up.

My three stars:

1. Marty Erat

2. Colin Wilson

3. Pekka Rinne

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Predators Offense Disappears in a 3-1 Loss to the Canucks




Lopsided baseball scores?

No. These were the shot totals in the Vancouver Canucks 3-1 victory over the Nashville Predators at the Bridgestone Arena. Nashville was the leader after the first period and after that, the Canucks trapped the life out of the Predators and controlled the game to secure the win.

2 shots in the third period?

Holy shnikey!

A scoreless first period saw both teams probing the defense and occasionally challenging the opposing netminder. Both Roberto Luongo and Pekka Rinne were up to the task.

In the second period, the Predators got on the scoreboard first as Jonathan Blum fired a shot that Luongo kicked out with his pad. Mike Fisher gathered in the rebound and ripped a shot over the fallen Luongo for his third goal in the last two games. The goal came at 14:01.

Unfortunately, that was it offensively for the Predators.

Going into the third period, the Predators were going to be challenged by the Canucks. That was a given. The Predators did not help their cause by giving up a score just 1:17 into the period as Alex Burrows, villain extraordinaire for the Predators, roofed a shot over the shoulder of Rinne to tie the game.

Burrows would give the Canucks a 2-1 advantage at 17:31 as he would score on a breakaway. Aaron Rome would add an empty netter at 19:51 for the final margin.

The disappointing aspect of this game was that the Predators offense completely disappeared in the third period. They were not very effective in the second, but in the third period they could not handle the trap that the Canucks employed and were completely stymied. As Head Coach Barry Trotz said after the game, the Predators got too cute, trying to make pretty passes rather than dumping the puck in the zone and retrieving it and establishing their offense. This played right into the hands of the Canucks and the Predator offense was impotent in the third period.

With the win, the Canucks evened their season series with the Predators. The Predators still stand at 92 points and their record falls to 41-26-10.

Kudos to the Predators PK, who killed all five man advantage that the Canucks had, but one has to wonder if the PK effort didn't sap something out of the offense.

The important point about this loss is that the Predators have to learn they are not a "cute" team. They are a team that has to get the dirty goals, they are a team that has to possess the puck and get through the neutral zone and establish their offense. Failing to stick to what has made them successful will result in the kind of showing that occurred tonight.

Perhaps more importantly, the Predators got a taste of what real playoff hockey will be like. There is no easy space on the ice. It takes grit and hard work and sticking to your system to make plays and generate scoring opportunities. Tonight, the Predators did not do that.

Learn from this and start a new winning streak. Don't and the playoffs will be painful.

My three stars:

1. Alexander Burrows

2. Roberto Luongo

3. Mike Fisher

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Passion or Poison

During the hue and cry over the Zdeno Chara hit on Max Pacioretty there were passionate opinions expressed on both sides of the issue. "Chara is a thug"; "Patches faked the severity of his injury" were some of the tamer comments expressed by fans of the Canadiens and the Bruins.

Sometimes, the comments and opinions degenerated into venom and hatred. Actually, they often did.

Where does the line get crossed between a passionate attitude and rooting interest for your favorite team and into the poisoned, angry rhetoric that sometimes emerges between fans? How does passionate support keep from becoming angry vitriol?

My good friend, C.J. Shepard, who covers the Bruins for Hockey Independent and is a passionate Bruins fan, wrote a thoughtful and very well written piece on this subject. Her article appeared on the All Habs blog ( after the Chara/Pacioretty incident and before the Bruins and Canadiens played again. With her permission, I have reprinted it in its entirety.

It gives fans of all teams something to think about.

If I said, “I HATE THE HABS,”‘ or “Hab fans are Habitards,” or perhaps this little gem, “Scab fans are classless,” does that make me a better or TRUE Bruins’ fan? Believe me when I tell you if, as recently as a month ago, someone had asked me what is the BEST thing about social networking, and Twitter in particular, I would have responded, “Getting to share my love of the greatest game on earth with other passionate fans.”

Yet, the past month I have seen my team, my position as a fan, and individual players come under attack.  Some of those attacks are from passionate fans who wear their colors proudly and feel the need to defend their team’s honor. Other attacks have come from people who watch nothing more than a highlight, listen to a soundbite, or read an article slanted from a single writer’s view.

Have fans always worn the colored blinders of their team? Absolutely, myself included! However, in this information age it has become increasingly about hate, venom, poison pen blogs, and painting every fan and player on a team with the same broad brush. Yes, teams and their fans have their identity, their style, their persona, but would it be the end to rivalries as we know them for it to include some small element of respect?
A bright and intelligent Hab fan, and fellow writer, posted a link to an eloquent piece by McGill University Principal and Vice Chancellor, Heather Munroe-Blum, in which she urges all of us to resist the urge to feed into the hate.

Munroe-Blum notes, “I have become increasingly concerned by the general societal escalation of rhetorical excess, the distortions in political arguments, and the harsh tenor of discourse, intended apparently, to demonize and destroy.” (entire article–-but-just-as-strongly-against-hate/)

There is little doubt in my mind that the Mainstream Media (now lovingly referred to as M$M) is not only aware of this societal shift, but plays to it, and is no longer treated in reporting facts, but sensationalizing information for ratings.  As we have witnessed first hand, the M$M has become as big a part of the story as anything that has happened in the game itself.

I have witnessed so called “sports radio” hosts inciting 911 calls, and others on the opposite side of the coin lobbing ethnic slurs across the border in response. These shows are no long “sports discussions,” but a boiling cauldron of hate seeming incapable of discussing much of anything intelligently, and even less capable of accepting a dissenting opinion as potential valuable or insightful.

Their goal: stir the hate and raise ratings, regardless of the potential threat of any backlash.  Drown the voices of reason, and any member of the media who dares tread in the unpopular view contrary to the vocal fan base might be tolerated, but only as a temporary distraction or a commercial interruption prior to their vitriol filled rantings.

Fans want to hear from players and not have them trot out the all too familiar and safe cliche phrases, “We need to play our game,” “The two points are the most important thing tonight,” “We need to protect the puck and generate scoring chances,” on and on and on. So when a well respected veteran turns the tables on the media and fans and utilizes the power of the spoken word to change the tide of controversy, people were surprised?

I spoke out against the comments made by Mark Recchi, for the context I knew they would be perceived, and because I truly believed there was a better way to shift the pitchfork wielding masses from chasing Bruins’ Captain, Zdeno Chara on the eve of the rematch.  However, no one, regardless if they believed Recchi’s remarks were ill-conceived or based in some locker room talk, can honestly say they were ineffective.  The media pounced, vilifying Recchi for the temerity to question a rival organization’s injury report; which for the record ALL NHL organizations have been guilty of far less than accurate injury reporting.

Others celebrated his remarks for saying what many were allegedly whispering around the game.  Both are extremes, and the media and social networking once again made a non-story THE story.  The shouting  commenced, and any reasonable and rational criticism was immediately cast aside for the more favorable, “The Bruins are complete scum and have proved it again,” and “We know the Habs are all fakers, remember Ribeiro?”

What was lost in the last 48 hours was a game, an important one in the Northeast Division standings, and with weighty playoff implications.  What was also lost? Perspective. That same remark made 25 years ago stays local, and who knows, is probably never even spoken, because the sideshow distraction would not have been necessary.  But hate sells, and the faster it is spread, the higher the ratings, and the higher the ratings the more money there is to be made.  “Die Chara Die” t-shirts, are not quite the same as the rivalry merchandise of “Habs Suck” t-shirts which have been sold for decades.

So where is the line between hated rivals and respected rivals? Is it possible for teams and fans to “hate” without the violent undertones of wishing someone to “break their neck” or be killed for wearing a jersey or supporting a team?  Is there a way to return the “healthy” hate to this Bruins and Canadiens rivalry which seems to be too much like a runaway train?

Here’s an idea: pause before you assume you know what the fan or player intended to say, and put your mouth or fingers in neutral before you add gasoline to the fire.  Accept that you might be allowing your black and gold or red and blue glasses to color your view. Last but not least, remember it wouldn’t take much for your team to be on the other side of the coin – and if you have been a fan for any length of time, you can probably remember without too much trouble a moment where that is certainly true.  Our teams are like us – human, and certainly not beyond reproach, and certainly not perfect!

I have the privilege of sharing my love for the greatest game on earth with people around the globe, and yes…even north of the boarder! With this in mind I proposed a little “friendly wager” to one of my favorite Habs fans, Michael Kuyaz (a member of the All Habs team), last night to see if we could use our Twitter and blogging platform to harness the power of the GREATEST rivalry in sport for a good cause.  With the playoffs on the horizon, I suggested that the “loser” make a donation to the winning team’s charitable foundation.  As all of us fans know, our teams do great work in our communities, and it becomes just another positive way to show our undying allegiance to our teams!

There will be details to follow and links for pledges, but for now my deepest hope is that  as fans we can wrestle back control of this rivalry, return the healthy respect, and yes, even loathing for our opponent, without the veiled threats, venom, and vilification of our teams and fellow hockey fans.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Stars Stymied by the Predators 4-2

The Nashville Predators defeated the Dallas Stars and Mike Leggo and Brad Watson, the referees, 4-2 for their 6th straight win at the Bridgestone Arena. The win runs the Predators record to 41-25-10, good for 92 points and 6th in the Western Conference.

This was another critical win for the Predators as they defeated a team that is chasing them in the race for a playoff position. The Predators entered the game with a 2 point lead over the Stars, and when the night was over had stretched that lead to 6 points. With the Predators fighting for playoff position, every game is vital, and it is even more so when playing a team that is chasing them in the standings. Taking care of business was essential for the Predators.

Take care of business they did.

Dallas opened the scoring at 8:49 of the first period as Alex Goligoski tallied with a quick wrist shot over the shoulder of Pekka Rinne. The Stars got the man advantage as Sergei Kostitsyn was in the box for high sticking.

The 1-0 lead did not look good for the Predators as Dallas was working their trap effectively and clogging the neutral zone and not allowing the Predators to enter the zone cleanly. The Dallas trap was especially effective in throttling the Predators offense early in the contest.

The Predators would finally settle down and would start to solve the Stars trap game as the first period wore on. Their effort would pay off at 14:26 of the first period as Martin Erat would fire a shot on Dallas netminder Kari Lehtonen. Lehtonen kicked out the rebound and David Legwand was the beneficiary as he drove hard to the net and jammed home the rebound under Lehtonen's pad to tie the game with his 16th goal of the year.

The Predators would take a 2-1 lead at 2:33 of the second period as Mike Fisher would rip a wrist shot over the shoulder of Lehtonen and off the post and into the net. Fisher's shot was a rocket that Lehtonen saw but could not stop. This was Fisher's 16th goal of the season and his second as a Predator, and it was good to see the hard working forward get back on the score sheet.

Dallas would tie the game on what can only be called a fluky goal. Brendon Morrow flipped the puck from behind the net toward the goal. It hit the stick of Blake Geoffrion and spun wildly over the net, where it hit the back of Rinne and fell into the net at 4:07 of the second.

Goals are goals, but damn, I'm tired of seeing the Predators victimized by bizarre goals.

The play was set up by a blatant trip on Predators defenseman Shea Weber that was not called. Both the aforementioned officials Leggo and Watson inexplicably chose to ignore the trip that set up the Stars scoring opportunity. This was the first of several suspect calls by these officials.

The Predators continued to break the Dallas trap and generate some quality chances. The Predators had a scoring opportunity late in the second as the line of Jerred Smithson, Nick Spaling, and Jordin Tootoo created some offensive zone presence. Tootoo drove the net searching for a centering pass from Spaling and was tackled into the net by a Dallas defenseman.

I will let you guess if there was a call against the Stars.


If you said there was  no call, you would be right.

The Predators would take a 3-2 lead at 9:07 of the second period as Ryan Suter fired a shot that Lehtonen blocked with his pad. Mike Fisher was cruising across the low slot and gathered in the rebound and fired a backhand shot into the open net for his second goal of the game and his 17th of the season.

There was no further scoring in the second period, but with a one goal lead, Predator nation could not rest easy going into the third period.

The Predators did a great job in the third period of limiting the chances of the Stars, forcing them to the perimeter for many of their shots. When the Stars did get a quality chance, Rinne was there to clean up the chances.

The third period was  a punch/counter-punch period, with the Predators limiting the Stars opportunities and the Stars thwarting the Predators offensive chances. As the period wound down, the game was  in the balance.

Once again, Watson and Leggo would do their best to tip the balance in favor of the Stars. With just 2 minutes remaining in the contest, Ryan Suter was called for a brutal and phantom hooking call on a great check. The final minutes of the contest would see the Predators down a man.

Gut check time for the Predators, a test of their character.

And they would pass the test with flying colors. In spite of the officiating.

The Predators PK did not let the Stars get into any rhythm and rarely let them gain the zone with any speed. The penalty killers were able to clear the zone effectively and not let the Stars get established in their offense.

Dallas would pull Lehtonen to give the Stars a 6 on 4 advantage, but it was to no avail. The Predators cleared the puck to David Legwand, who potted an empty netter with 4 seconds remaining in the period.

Game over.

More importantly, game over and two huge points for the Predators, who continue to cement a playoff position. This was a game that was a test of character and mental toughness, one that saw the Predators face a team that was desperate and chasing them in the standings. The ability of the Predators to overcome a talented Stars squad and horrific officiating speaks well to their character and their mental toughness.

A word about the 7th man- the fans at the Bridgestone Arena. There is no other arena in the NHL that has fans respond like the Predator nation. The standing ovation during the television timeout is becoming known throughout the league. It encourages the home team and intimidates the visitors. One can look at the visiting team bench and see them looking around with a "WTF" expression and reaction at the outpouring of emotion and enthusiasm of the home crowd. One can also look at the Predator players and see them respond as well. They are energized by the crowd. They are one with their fans who are in full throat and willing their team to a greater effort and to victory. Tonight, the 7th man came through again.

Six straight wins feels good. The job is not done. There are more points to gather and positioning to be determined.

Keep playing with this kind of effort and you will continue to stymie your opponents.

My three stars:

1. Mike Fisher

2. David Legwand

3. Patric Hornqvist

Friday, March 25, 2011

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

It goes without saying that the appetite of government for your money is voracious. There is no area of your life or your income that is off limits when it comes to subjecting you to additional taxes to fund a bloated and inefficient government at all levels. The latest proposed assault on you and me? Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D North Dakota) has requested that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) review the efficacy of taxing all Americans based on the miles they drive their vehicle. The Vehicle Mileage Tax (VMT) would be assessed on all vehicles, personal and commercial, based on the number of miles that are driven, whether for personal or business reasons. According to the CBO report, new cars would be fitted with a device as standard equipment that would track the mileage driven, and older cars would be required to be retrofitted with the device. The proposal suggests that all gas pumps be fitted with a device that would read the mileage driven and collect the tax when the vehicle is filled. Ostensibly, the tax would recoup the cost of repairing and maintaining our highway system. However, according to the CBO report, there are other costs that should be considered, such as noise and air pollution, dependence on foreign oil, and congestion. One can see that these "costs" are subjective and open every driver to a vast array of new taxes. The Senate will take up a new transportation bill later this year, one that includes an additional $556 billion in new spending. It would be wise for all of us to follow this bill as it is debated later this year.

If a parsley farmer is sued, can they garnish his wages?

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) impacts much of American life with their involvement in supposedly protecting the constitutional rights of groups and individuals. Notably, they have been involved in many cases that center around the freedom of religious expression. The ACLU has been successful in removing Christmas trees and creches from the public square under the guise of a false claim that those displays are an establishment or promotion of religion by a governmental body. It is instructive to look at the origins of the ACLU to understand their motives for such action. Here is a direct quote from founder Roger Baldwin,

"I am for socialism, disarmament, and ultimately for abolishing the state itself. I seek the social ownership of property, the abolition of the propertied class, and the sole control of those who produce wealth. Communism is the goal."

Interesting, isn't it? One of the cornerstones of communism is the curtailing of religious freedom, principally the free exercise of Christianity. Don't believe me? The high priest of Communism, Karl Marx, once said,

"The first requisite for the happiness of the people is the abolition of religion."

The ACLU often cites the Establishment Clause of the first amendment to constitution as a basis for their actions. The reality is that the Establishment Clause was written by the framers of our Constitution with the sole intent that Congress cannot establish a national religion such as was the Anglican Church of England. Thomas Jefferson specifically stated that the Establishment Clause was intended to preclude the establishment of a particular form of Christianity by Congressional leaders in the newly created United States. The perversion of the interpretation of the Establishment Clause by the ACLU and by the courts has been used to limit religious freedom and expression in this country. This is contrary to the intentions of the Founders of our nation. One should closely examine the motivations of the ACLU in light of their DNA and their founding principals the next time they claim they are defending religious freedom.

Old is when someone compliments you on your alligator shoes and you are barefoot.

Want to know how serious those in Washington are about cutting spending and restoring fiscal sanity to our finances? Here are the sad facts: Washington is borrowing $4 billion a DAY to finance our deficits. In the latest round of budget negotiations, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D Nevada) proposed cutting the budget for the coming fiscal year by $4.7 billion dollars. FOR THE ENTIRE FISCAL YEAR! The Democrats in Washington have proposed cutting our deficit spending by a mere .004% based on our annual deficits of $1.6 trillion dollars. Senate Republicans proposed cutting the fiscal year spending by $61 billion, which frankly is not enough, even if it is a step in the right direction. Reid called these cuts "draconian". Republicans and Democrats both need to grasp the dire state of our nation's financial situation and make substantive cuts to the budget and rein in future spending. Failure to do so is an abdication of their responsibility as leaders and does not bode well for the taxpayers wallet.

What is the difference between a man and a government bond? Bonds mature.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Predators Down the Ducks 5-4

The Nashville Predators scored three first period goals and needed every one of them as they held off the Anaheim Ducks 5-4 for their fifth straight win. With the win, the Predators now have 90 points and currently sit in fifth place in the Western Conference. The victory snapped Anaheim's four game win streak, and more importantly stretched their lead over the Ducks to three points and two points over Chicago and Los Angeles, who is playing at this time.

The Predators opened the game with a very strong effort against Anaheim netminder Jonas Hiller, who was making his first appearance after missing 16 games due to suffering from vertigo. The lack of playing time would show for Hiller, as he allowed three goals on just seven shots.

Sergei Kostitsyn open the scoring for the Predators at 2:04 of the first period as Patric Hornqvist took a shot from the right side of the net that leaked between the post and Hiller and was laying in the blue paint. Kostitsyn drove the net and tapped the puck home into a wide open net for a 1-0 Predators lead.

The Predators would extend the lead to 2-0 at 11:18 of the first when Jonathan Blum fired a shot wide of the net and Nick Spaling jumped on the rebound off the end boards and shoved the puck under th pad of Hiller for his 8th goal of the season. This was a smart play by Blum to put the puck in a scoring position and a great hustle play by Spaling to get to the puck and jam it under Hiller's pad.

Just 19 seconds later, the Predators would stretch the lead to 3-0 as Patric Hornqvist would launch a shot toward the net that Sergei Kostitsyn would re-direct past Hiller. 7 shots and three goals and the rusty Hiller would enjoy the rest of the night from the bench as former Predator Dan Ellis would come in to replace the shell shocked starter.

Anaheim would cut the deficit to 3-1 at 16:11 of the first as Corey Perry was left alone at the side of the net. Bobby Ryan found him with a quick pass and he jammed it into the open net past a defenseless Pekka Rinne. The defensive coverage broke down and Rinne had no chance with Perry stationed alone at the side of the net.

The Predators dominated the second period, limiting the Ducks to just five shots on goal and controlling the play in the neutral zone and in the defensive zone. The Predators generated some great offensive chances and were frustrated by Ellis, who made some great saves to keep the Predators off the board.

Rinne was not often challenged, but made a key glove save on a breakaway by Andreas Lilja to keep the Ducks scoreless. Rinne has owned the Ducks this season, and it appeared that the Ducks knew they could not solve the Finnish wall.

The Predators ran their advantage to 4-1 as Jordin Tootoo tallied his fifth goal of the season. Shane O'Brien fed the puck to Tootoo in traffic in the low slot, and he managed to get the shot off and it hit Ellis on the inside of his left leg and found the back of the net. Tootoo played a strong game and was rewarded for his efforts with the marker at 18:20 of the second.

In the third period, the Predators would make the score 5-1 with a short handed goal by David Legwand. With Shane O'Brien in the box for delay of game, Legwand broke into the offensive zone with Joel Ward. Ward drove to the net and was screened Dan Ellis. Legwand ripped a shot that hit the far side post and then into the net as Ward was checked into Ellis by Saku Koivu but Ward was called for goaltender interference after the score. A bizarre call to say the least.

The Ducks would score just 10 seconds later on the 5 on 3 power play as Teemu Selanne tallied his 24th goal of the season.

Selanne would notch his second 5 on 3 goal at 15:14 of the third to cut the lead to 5-3 Predators. The puck was tipped off the stick of Ryan Suter past Rinne, who had no chance on the re-directed puck. Frankly, Anaheim was not going to score unless it was the Predators allowing them to score with their mistakes.

And the Predators would make a lot of mistakes in the third period.

Corey Perry would strike again at 19:34 of the third period to make it 5-4. On this weird score, Ryan Suter would try to kick the fluttering shot of Perry out of harms way, but instead would kick the puck over the shoulder of Rinne and into the net.

The Predators would hold off Anaheim for the final 26 seconds to secure an all important win and gather the two precious points, but dang, that third period was stressful.

The truth is that the Predators dominated the Ducks, and if they had not made in essence two scores for the Ducks, the game would have been a rout. Perhaps more importantly, the Predators have to realize they cannot let teams climb back into games with them. The Predators were guilty of opening the door for the Ducks with penalties and with scores on their own goalie.

Fortunately for the Predators, their offensive explosion was enough to vanquish the Ducks. Play this haphazardly against the teams that remain on the schedule and the outcome will not be as favorable.

It goes without saying this was a big win for the Predators, not only from the standings but from a mental aspect as well. This was a challenge for this team, one that could very well determine a playoff spot. The Ducks were coming off an improbable win against Dallas the night before and had momentum. The Predators jumped on the Ducks early and kept the pressure up throughout the game. Erase the last 10 minutes of the contest and this was a textbook game.

You can't, however, erase those last 10 minutes. What the team can do is learn from the mistakes that were made and correct them. The remaining games on the schedule are going to be a war, and it will be imperative for this team to correct these types of mistakes and bring their best effort.

The bottom line: the Predators won the game and picked up the points. Build on this momentum and take care of business when Dallas comes to town.

My three stars:

1. Sergei Kostitsyn

2. Corey Perry

3. Teemu Selanne

Honorable mention:

Patric Hornqvist

Dishonorable mention:

Ryan Suter (scoring two goals for the Ducks)


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Predators Eclispse Edmonton 3-1

The Nashville Predators defeated the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 in a game that at times featured surgical precision by the Predators, at times was workmanlike, and at times was frankly tedious. With the win, the Predators ran their record to 39-25-10 and are tied with Los Angeles for 5th with 88 points.

The Predators opened the scoring at 4:08 of the first period as Joel Ward drew the defense and Edmonton netminder Devan Dubnyk to him as he drove the net. Ward slipped a beautiful pass to Martin Erat who buried a shot into the open net to put the Predators up 1-0.

That score was significant for the Predators because in their previous losses to the Oilers they had poured shots on the Edmonton net but had not been able to solve Dubnyk. Scoring first lifted the onus of not scoring off the Predators and built their confidence. They now knew they could score against Dubnyk, and more importantly, put the struggling Oilers in an early hole.

The Predators continued to pressure the Oilers, and with Kurtis Foster in the box for tripping, made them pay on the power play. Patric Hornqvist took a nice drop pass from Sergei Kostitsyn and banged a puck off the post and into the net at 7:40 of the first period to give the Predators a 2-0 lead.

The Predators played an excellent first period of hockey, firing 15 shots at Dubnyk, while Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne was hardly tested as the Oilers were only able to muster 5 shots on goal.

In the second period, the Oilers came out with more jump and controlled the puck on the cycle for lengthy stretches in the period. The Predators defense did a good job of keeping the Oilers to the perimeter and rarely allowing good scoring chances, but the Oilers were controlling the puck. For Predator fans, there was concern about the lack of offensive push.

That would change at 13:00 of the second as David Legwand took a stretch pass from Ryan Suter and drove the low slot. Legwand lifted a backhand that beat Dubnyk high glove side to give the Predators a 3-0 lead on their first shot of the second period.

Edmonton cut the deficit to 3-1 on the power play. Sergei Kostitsyn took a lazy tripping penalty at 8:45 of the second. Andrew Cogliano fired a shot from the low slot that Rinne kicked out with his right pad, but the rebound came right to Jordan Eberle who buried the shot at 9:38.

In the second period, the Oilers outshot the Predators 7 to 5, with each team able to tally a goal. Although the Predators had a 2 goal lead, it was going to be important to come out and control play in the third period and capture the victory and the all important 2 points.

The Predators did just that. Edmonton did not record their first shot on goal until there was only 3:23 remaining in the period. The Predators defense forced the Oilers to the outside and did not give them any quality chances.

When the Oilers did generate chances late in the period, Rinne was sharp. The save of the night came when Rinne made an outstanding glove save on a follow up shot by Tom Gilbert from the low slot.

The Predators outshot the Oilers 10-8 in the period, and most of the shots the Oilers created were with the extra attacker late in the period.

This was a big win for the Predators because this was a game they should have won and because the Oilers have vexed the Predators this season. These are the types of games that can be a mental test, but the Predators were equal to the task.

The level of competition is going to get tougher for the Predators with Anaheim, Dallas, and Vancouver coming to town in the next three games. There are areas that the Predators will need to improve upon, notably puck management. Nevertheless, this is a win the Predators can savor.

With the upcoming games and the tight playoff race, it is going to be important for the Predators to be focused, mentally tough, and physically ready to compete. This is a team that seems to have reclaimed their mojo, and they are going to have to bring it in the next three games.

Your fate is in your hands, boys. Seize the opportunity.

My three stars:

1. David Legwand

2. Martin Erat

3. Pekka Rinne

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Buffalo Victimized by another Miracle from Nashville, Fall to the Predators in OT 4-3

The Nashville Predators staged an improbable comeback to beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 in overtime at HSBC Arena. Improbable may not be strong enough to describe the outcome of this game.

Blake Geoffrion continued his strong play of late, tallying his second goal in as many games as he banked a shot off Paul Gaustad's skates and past Ryan Miller to give the Predators a 1-0 lead at 6:44 of the first period.

Anders Lindback got the start for the Predators in net, and made some good saves in the first period to keep the Sabres off the board. Buffalo had some good scoring chances and Lindback turned aside all 11 shots he faced in the period.

In the second period, the Predators opened with good jump and had several glorious scoring chances. Marty Erat had a breakaway that Miller stopped with his blocker. There were several scoring chances with the Predators shooting the puck and crashing the net, but they could not get a puck past Miller.

Unlike the Predators, the Sabres capitalized on their opportunities and mistakes by the Nashville Predators to build a 3-1 lead.

Nathan Gerbe tied the game for the Sabres as he spun away from Kevin Klein  at the front of the net and whipped a shot under the pad of Lindback at 7:04 of the second. Gerbe had a solid game for the Sabres, creating good offensive pressure throughout the night.

That goal energized the Sabres, and just 40 seconds later, Tim Connolly blistered a wrist shot over the shoulder of Lindback for his 11th goal of the year and a 2-1 lead for the Sabres.

Those two quick goals jacked up the Sabres and put the Predators on their heels. Buffalo controlled much of the play for the remainder of the second period, while the Predators mustered scant little offensive effort.

Buffalo would extend the lead to 3-1 at 19:00 of the second period while on the power play. Cody Franson took a... what word am I looking for...stupid slashing penalty at 17:22. Tyler Ennis made the Predators pay as his shot from the slot slipped between Lindback's arm and his body.

Down 3-1 and with Miller looking unbeatable and the Sabres clogging the neutral zone, things did not look good for the Predators. It was going to be essential that the Predators get a goal fairly early in the period to loosen up the Sabres defense and to give them a chance to get back into the game.

That did not happen for the Predators. The Sabres defense trapped them in the neutral zone and did a great job of limiting chances once the Predators got into the offensive zone. With the clock winding down, it looked as if an important contest and 2 critical points were going to slip away.

A funny thing happened on the way to what appeared to be a certain Buffalo win, though.

Jonathan Blum fought for the puck in the corner and outworked two Sabres to get control. Blum slipped a pass to Geoffrion, who was stationed to the right of the net. Miller moved to the post as Geoffrion shoved the puck toward the net. Miller did not control the puck and Geoffrion kept whacking at it until he knocked it under Miller's pad to make the score 3-2 Buffalo with 2:27 remaining in the game.

Nashville forced a face off in the Buffalo zone after Miller froze the puck on a shot to the net. Geoffrion won the draw back to Cody Franson, who walked the blue line and let go a quick wrist shot. On the way to the net, Geoffrion tipped the puck and re-directed it past Miller for the game tying goal at 18:37 and his first hat trick in the NHL. The hattie came in only Geoffrion's 11th game in the NHL.

Neither team could score in the waning moments of the third period, and although both teams got a point, the Sabres were stunned. All the energy and momentum was now on the side of the Predators.

The Predators ended the overtime period quickly. Ryan Suter drove the puck inside the face off circle, drawing the defense to him. He slipped a quick pass to Marty Erat who scorched a one-timer past a defenseless Miller for the game winner just 27 seconds into overtime.

When the Predators were facing a 3-1 deficit and little time on the clock, it would have been easy to fold and say this game wasn't meant to be. The aspect of this team that cannot be measured is the heart and character of the players that put on the Predators sweater. They didn't look good at times, but they kept battling and refused to fold. This win can be a hallmark win for the Predators this season, one that they can use to build upon and do great things.

Because they didn't quit.

Head Coach Barry Trotz talks about defining moments- games and sequences in games that show that of which you are made. He says it so much it sometimes becomes cliche among the fans. While running the risk of sounding just as cliche as Trotzy, this was a defining moment game. This was a game that showed this team they are never out of it.

Blake Geoffrion has shown that he is NHL ready. The young man is going to be quite a player for the Predators. Jonathan Blum has exceeded any expectations that I had when he was called up. The young players are getting a baptism by fire and they are showing that they can handle the pressure.

With the win, the Predators are 38-25-10 and have jumped into 6th in the Western Conference for the time being with 86 points.

You now have a 9 game season, boys, and 7 of them are at home. Each of these games will be a game in which you can define yourself as a player and as a team.

Time to bring it.

My three stars:

1. Blake Geoffrion

2. Marty Erat

3. Nathan Gerbe


Good News in Attendance Numbers for the Predators

The NHL released their attendance numbers through February 15th, and there is some good news for the Nashville Predators.

As reported in the February 27th issue of the Sports Business Journal, the League average for all teams is 92.1% of arena capacity. Through that date, the Predators have averaged 92.8% of capacity at the Bridgestone Arena. Further, the Predators show the second largest average attendance increase for the season, up 9.1% from last season. Only the Tampa Bay Lightning have a higher average increase in attendance at 11.2%.

The teams with the biggest drop in average attendance from last season were: the New York Islanders -20.9%; the Dallas Stars -13.5%; and the Columbus Blue Jackets -11.1%.

Here are the numbers for all 30 teams:

TEAM                      AVG ATTENDANCE   % CAPACITY

Anaheim Ducks                          14,566                         84.8

Atlanta Thrashers                       13,056                         70.4

Boston Bruins                            17,565                          100

Buffalo Sabres                           18,334                          98.1

Calgary Flames                          19,289                           100

Carolina Hurricanes                    15,862                          84.9

Chicago Blackhawks                  21,301                           108

Colorado Avalanche                  14,773                           82.0

Columbus Blue Jackets              13,619                           75.1

Dallas Stars                                14,916                           80.5

Detroit Red Wings                      19,521                           97.3

Edmonton Oilers                         16,839                            100

Florida Panthers                          15,036                            88.2

Los Angeles Kings                       18,062                           99.7

Minnesota Wild                            17,811                           98.6

Montreal Canadiens                      21,273                           100

Nashville Predators                       15,884                           92.8

New Jersey Devils                         14,018                           79.5

New York Islanders                        9,893                           60.9

New York Rangers                       18,065                           99.3

Ottawa Senators                            18,367                           95.9

Philadelphia Flyers                         19,657                        100.6

Phoenix Coyotes                            11,512                         67.2

Pittsburgh Penguins                         18,220                      100.7

San Jose Sharks                             17,562                         100

St. Louis Blues                                19,150                        100

Tampa Bay Lightning                       16,670                        84.4

Toronto Maple Leafs                      19,294                      102.5

Vancouver Canucks                        18,860                      100.3

Washington Capitals                        18,398                        100

The Predators average attendance at 92.8% of capacity is 17th in the League. Much of the growth can be attributed to the focused marketing efforts of the Predators front office staff, particularly the addition of President Jeff Cogen and COO Sean Henry. The leadership team has made great inroads into the Nashville business community over the past 8 months and they have marketed the Predators effectively. This is reflected in the higher attendance numbers throughout the season.

There is no surprise that the Canadian markets show well. The off-ice struggles of the Islanders, Coyotes, and Thrashers are reflected in their numbers. Perhaps the biggest surprises in attendance are with the Stars and Avalanche, which have been winning franchises in the past- and in the case of the Stars are currently a playoff team- but are struggling at the gate.

Predator fans should feel vindicated by these numbers. After hearing the droning of the Canadian media, notably those in Toronto, about how Nashville didn't "deserve" to have a hockey team, it feels good to point out the growth in attendance and the fact that the Predators fans support their team in larger numbers than some of the "favored" franchises.

All this points out is that a well run hockey club can succeed in the so called "non-traditional" markets, and the Predators are proving their critics wrong.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Young Guns Lead the Predators Over the Wings 3-1

The Nashville Predators made a strategic decision at the trade deadline to stand pat and rely on their young players to help carry the load over the remainder of the season. Tonight, youth was served as two first year players led the Nashville Predators to a 3-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.

With the win, the Predators have captured 4 of 5 games against the Red Wings this season. More importantly for the Predators, this was their 4th win in the last 5 games and currently moves them back into a playoff spot in the tightly bunched Western Conference race.

The win give the Predators a record of 37-25-10 and good for 84 points, tied with Chicago for the 7th position in the Western Conference.

Detroit opened the scoring on the power play at 19:38 of the first period. Sergei Kostitsyn was called for elbowing, and just 8 seconds into the power play, the Wings capitalized as Dan Cleary was able to tip the puck over the shoulder of Pekka Rinne for his 23rd goal of the season and a 1-0 lead.

The score could have been 2-0 as an apparent goal by Niklas Kronwall was waved off by referee Stephen Walkom because it was ruled that Tomas Holmstrom interfered with Rinne. The first big break of the game had gone to the Predators with this call.

It was going to be important for the Predators to respond to the score by the Wings. They could ill afford to fall behind by two goals.

Respond the did.

In the second period, the Predators did an excellent job of forechecking and limiting the scoring chances by the Red Wings. They outshot Detroit 18-9 in the period and generated some quality scoring chances.

The offensive effort paid off at 8:42 of the period as first year player Blake Geoffrion scored his third goal of the season and his first on home ice to tie the game. Geoffrion took a centering pass from Patric Hornqvist and tipped the puck over the shoulder of Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard. The goal was very similar to the goal the Wings scored late in the first period and was the result of Geoffrion driving the net and scoring from the hard area at the top of the blue paint. A blue collar goal and typical of how the Predators have scored many of their goals this season.

Late in the second period, Mike Modano streaked in on a breakaway and hit the crossbar with 1:18 remaining. Rinne challenged Modano and was big in the net, forcing the dangerous Wings forward to shoot high.

The second big break of the game goes to the Predators.

Tied at 1 going into the third, this contest would be one that would be decided by who wanted the game more. Who was mentally and physically tougher and would capitalize on their opportunities?

That would be the Predators.

Shane O'Brien pinched in from his defensive position and drove the net. He was tripped by Henrik Zetterberg, and on the ensuing power play, the Predators made the Wings pay.

Sergei Kostitsyn ripped a shot from the slot that caromed off a leg of a Wings defenseman and came directly to Jonathan Blum, who was crashing the net from his defensive position. Blum rifled a shot between Howard and the far post to give the Predators a 2-1 lead at 8:12 of the third period.

One knew the Wings would be coming hard at the Predators over the remainder of the game. As he had done all night, Pekka Rinne made some huge stops for the Predators and kept the Wings off the board. Rinne had an outstanding game, stopping 39 of 40 shots that he faced.

David Legwand would seal the win for the Predators with an empty net goal at 19:38 of the third, and the Predators captured 2 precious points. This was especially sweet as they came at the hands of one of their fiercest rivals.

The Predators showed no quit and refused to yield to the talent and the pressure of Detroit. Throughout the night, the Predators were the more physical team, pounding Detroit with booming body checks. Their physical play was instrumental in setting the tone for the game and turning momentum in their favor.

A special mention should go to the play of Shane O'Brien. O'Brien was physical all night and agitated the Wings, especially getting under the skin of Todd Bertuzzi and taking the big forward off his game. O'Brien did a great job of moving the puck and creating opportunities for the Predators. In my view, it was one of the best games he has played as a member of the Predators.

One could question the reliance on the young players by the Predators. The truth is they have made some rookie mistakes during their time on the ice. Yet players like Blake Geoffrion and Jonathan Blum have accepted the challenge before them and they have contributed positively. Blum has shown that he can be a solid defenseman and his presence on the power play gives the Predators another offensive option. Geoffrion has shown a willingness to go to the hard areas and battle for the puck and for scoring chances.

Youth will be served.

There is no doubt that the young guys will have to contribute for this team to be successful. It will take the enthusiasm and effort of this entire squad to get into the playoffs.

This is the trial by fire, not only for the young guys but for every player on the Predators. This is playoff hockey right now. This is your challenge.

Continue to play with heart. Continue to bring it every game.

And the playoffs will be your reward.

My three stars:

1. Jonathan Blum

2. Blake Geoffrion

3. Pekka Rinne

Friday, March 18, 2011

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

In our federal budget, there are some items for which our government has to spend money- the "mandatory" spending items. Most of these items are for entitlement programs: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other entitlement programs. These are expenditures for which the federal government has made a promise to pay to the beneficiaries and has no "wiggle room"; they MUST make these payments. In 2007, our federal revenues (read: tax collections) exceeded mandatory payments by $1.17 trillion dollars. This excess was spent on items such as defense, interstate highways, and national parks, to name a few. In 2008, the Bush Administration released a report that stated that if unchanged, mandatory spending would consume the entire federal budget within approximately 50 years, meaning no funds would be available for discretionary items like those I just mentioned. Well, guess what? According to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), mandatory spending will exceed the federal budget revenues in 2011. How did that happen? Two factors are at play here. First, with the slumping economy, federal tax receipts have fallen significantly. Secondly, there has been a massive expansion of entitlement programs (think: ObamaCare) and payments on our exponentially growing debt. The fiscal crisis this country faces is very real, yet there is no serious discussion on entitlement reform coming out of Washington. Entitlements must be reformed, debt must be reined in, and we have to get our economy back on track so it can grow. As it is, Washington has not been serious about doing any of these critical things. Look for the "solutions" that come out of Washington to entail primarily taxing more of your hard earned income.

I'm very worried about Egypt's financial situation. It appears to be a pyramid scheme.

Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which tracks inflation, will tell us that inflation is benign, consumers know differently. BLS does not count the cost of food and energy in their core inflation calculations, but costs in those areas has been rising dramatically. A more accurate measure of the cost of living comes from the Labor Department, which calculates inflation on a "chain weighted index" which takes into account food and energy costs and more accurately tracks consumer costs. Last month, the chain weighted index hit a 40 year high. We all know that our food and energy costs have gone up- we feel it in our wallets every month. We are paying more for our basic necessities. Part of the responsibility for this condition rests with our Federal Reserve, who through their printing of massive amounts of new dollars have debased the value of our currency. Simply put, our dollar doesn't buy as much as it used to and we consequently are paying more for a gallon of milk and a tank of gas. The effects of this situation are going to continue for some time, as the Federal Reserve shows no inclination of strengthening our dollar. And you and I will pay for this strategy by paying more for our basic necessities.

In the words of Big Bird, this day is brought to you by the letters "W", "T", and "F".

Oil is hovering around $100 a barrel, partly because of fears of a supply disruption from the turmoil in the Middle East. We are close to having demand outstrip the supply of new oil coming on the market. The last time we got into a situation such as this- in 2007- oil spiked to $148 per barrel and created a global economic slump. Conventional wisdom says that the U.S. has only 2% of the worlds oil reserves, and no matter how much we drill, we cannot produce enough oil to meet our demands. Really? It may shock you to learn that the U.S. sits on nearly three times as much recoverable oil as the entire Middle East. New technology has unlocked the potential of oil producing shale, and the U.S. holds vast reserves of these oil resources. In a 35 square mile area of the Green River Basin, there are at least 800 million barrels of oil that can be recovered from shale. It is estimated that with the new drilling technology, there could actually be 1.4 TRILLION barrels of oil in this one region. That is enough oil to meet our demands in this country for the next 200 years. Couple that with the fact that there are proven reserves off our coastlines, and one can see that we have ample reserves in this country. Yet we have an incoherent energy policy that promotes windmills and solar panels. I am all for renewable energy, but the fact remains that our nation's energy policy as presently constructed is ridiculous. It constrains our economy and costs us more money to function. It is time for all our elected leaders to realize we need to develop our own resources for the betterment of our economy and to the benefit of you and me.

It is scientifically proven that a woman can be satisfied with only three inches. And it doesn't matter if it is a Visa or a MasterCard.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Predators Show Heart, Come Back to Beat the Bruins 4-3 in OT

Sometimes a team wins a game when they are short on talent but long on heart and grit. That was the case tonight in the Bridgestone Arena as the Nashville Predators defeated the Boston Bruins in overtime 4-3. For the Predators, this was their first overtime win of the season, and it was two critical points for the Predators, who are fighting for a playoff spot.

With the win, the Predators record is 36-25-10, good for 82 points and currently 9th in the Western Conference, one point out of the 8th position.

The game was billed as a matchup between the two best goalies in the NHL in Boston's Tim Thomas and Nashville's Pekka Rinne. However, Boston chose to go with backup Tuukka Rask against the Predators.

The game did not start well for the Predators, as Boston scored on their first shot of the game. Tyler Seguin beat Rinne high glove side just 1:50 into the game to stake the Bruins to a 1-0 lead.

Sergei Kostitsyn would break his personal scoring drought at 7:53 of the first with a wrist shot from inside the face off circle that would beat Rask for his 17th goal of the season. Good to see Kostitsyn find the net again, as the Predators are going to need contributions from the speedy forward.

Tyler Seguin would factor into another big play in the first period, as Patric Hornqvist was called for elbowing Seguin at at 17:30 of the first period. Although it appeared that Hornqvist made contact with Seguin's shoulder first, Seguin was injured (he received 7 stitches to his ear), and as a result, Hornqvist received a 5 minute major and a game misconduct for the hit.

The Predators had to kill the major over the remainder of the first period and the start of the second, and they were fortunate that the penalty was spread over the two periods as it gave the penalty killers time to recover during the intermission. The Predators were successful in killing the major penalty and their effort not only energized the crowd but the team as well.

Pekka Rinne made an outstanding save on Michael Ryder, who came out of the box after serving a penalty for interference and broke in behind the defense. Rinne stoned Ryder with a fantastic glove save to keep the Bruins off the board.

The Predators built on the momentum of the save and the energy of the crowd and Colin Wilson capitalized at 10:39 of the second period with a wicked wrister that beat Rask to his blocker side. Wilson squeezed the shot in between Rask's blocker and the post for his 15th goal of the season. Once again, a player that had endured a personal goal scoring drought had broken through with a tally. For the Predators to have success in their remaining games, they are going to have to have contributions from all the forwards, and Wilson is one of those that will be counted on to find the net.

David Krejci would tie the game at 13:33 as he fired a rebound of a Nathan Horton shot into an open net. Rinne made the initial save on the Horton shot, but kicked the rebound out and Krejci beat Shea Weber to the rebound and fired it past an out of position Rinne.

Tied at 2 going into the third period, it was obvious that the out manned Predators could play with the talented Bruins. The question was would they be able to reach down and capture a win they desperately needed?

The Bruins recaptured the lead at 1:50 of the third period as Patrice Bergeron notched his 22nd goal of the season as he beat Rinne to the glove side.

The hole was there. How would the Predators respond?

Martin Erat was called for high sticking at 8:46 of the third, and once again the stellar penalty kill of the Predators went to work, and once again, they held the Bruins off the board. Erat came out of the box, and much like Michael Ryder did in the second period, took a stretch pass behind the defense and broke in on Rask. Rask made the initial save and a save on a follow up by Sergei Kostitsyn. David Legwand was also following the play, and with Rask out of position after the second save, buried the third attempt for the game tying goal at 10:56.

Neither team was able to find the net for the remainder of the third period, and it was off to overtime, a period that had not been kind to the Predators this season.

In the extra period, Steven Kampfer was called for tackling Mike Fisher, who was hustling on the cycle in the Bruins zone. The Predators would have the man advantage for the remainder of the overtime period.

The Predators would make the Bruins pay for their transgression at 3:37 of overtime. Ryan Suter slid the puck to Shea Weber, who was creeping in from the blueline. Weber unleashed his cannon shot from 10 feet inside the blueline, and Rask never saw the rocket until it was in the back of the net.

With the home crowd in a frenzy, the Predators celebrated their first overtime victory of the season, a win that came against the team with the best road record in the NHL. More importantly, they captured a precious two points that they had to have to stay in the playoff race.

This would have been an easy game to tank for the Predators. Injuries have ravaged the line up and you lose a forward to a game misconduct in the first period. The talent level of the Bruins was better and they had a healthy squad. They one thing you cannot quantify, however, is heart.

And tonight, the heart of the Predators was bigger.

This is the kind of game the Predators are going to have to play the rest of the season- gritty hockey, hockey that is not fancy but hard working hockey. Hockey with heart.

Play with the heart that you displayed tonight and you will be rewarded.

My three stars:

1. Shea Weber

2. Colin Wilson

3. Tyler Seguin

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Kings Choke the Life Out of the Predators 4-2

The Los Angeles Kings defeated the Nashville Predators 4-2 at the Bridgestone Arena. With the loss, the Predators failed to move into a playoff spot. This is not the way the Predators needed to start perhaps the most important week of the season for this team.

Some thoughts from tonight's game...

I thought the first goal and the third goal for the Kings were soft. Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne opened the five hole and Anze Kopitar took advantage for the Kings first tally on only their second shot of the game. This is a goal that Rinne cannot give up. On the third goal, Rinne left the short side post and Wayne Simmonds took advantage. Both goals were atypical for Rinne and created a hole out of which the Predators could not climb.

The Kings second goal by Alec Martinez was a classic case of a defenseman on a 2 on 1 getting caught in no man's land. Jonathan Blum did not take the shooter or close off the passing lane. Martinez took a nice pass from Dustin Brown and buried the shot to give the Kings a 2-1 lead. Blum has to commit to stopping that pass, and he was betwixt and between and did not. Rinne had no chance on the shot from Martinez.

Although the Predators outshot the Kings 32-18, many of the shots were from the perimeter and Kings netminder Jonathan Bernier had a lot of clear looks at the puck. Bernier is a good goalie, but the Predators make him look very good.

The Predators puck support in the offensive zone was awful. Most of the night, the puck carrier was outnumbered and had no one supporting. This oftentimes thwarted any offensive effort by the Predators.

The Kings size absolutely ground up the Predators. I spoke with Head Coach Barry Trotz earlier this season, and the smallish size of the Predators forwards was a concerned for him. Tonight, we saw what happens when a team with size and skill takes on the Predators. The Kings controlled the puck for stretches at ta time in the offensive zone and the choked off the Predators in the neutral zone and trying to enter the offensive zone. The Predators did not match up well against the size of the Kings and could not generate any offensive flow throughout the night.

This is the most important week of the Predators season. They MUST get points in their next three contests or they will find themselves in an unenviable position of being too far back to climb back into the playoff race. This means that the young players on the roster are going to have to grow up fast. Unfortunately for the Predators, they have some passengers right now. Colin Wilson, Sergei Kostitsyn, and Mike Fisher are going to have to start producing. Wilson has been invisible, as has Fisher. Kostitsyn has gone cold. These guys are going to have to produce if this team is going to make the playoffs.

Good to see J.P. Dumont back in the lineup and get a goal tonight. The negative aspect is that Joel Ward was scratched after the pre-skate with an undisclosed lower body injury. We will need Wardo back quickly.

The best forwards on the ice were Marty Erat and Patric Hornqvist. Hornqvist brings it every night, and his compete level is tops on the team. We need more players competing like Hornqvist.

This is a big test for the leadership of Shea Weber. A great leader will take the team and light them up and get them motivated to compete. This is especially important for a team that has a roster full of young players. Shea has to embrace his leadership role and bring this team up to another level for them to be successful.

This team has to regroup and get ready to bring it Thursday night against the Bruins. It goes without saying that the points are critical. This team has to play with desperation and intensity on every shift. Fail to do so and you can make a mid-April tee time. This is the time for everyone on the team to lay it all on the line. This is the playoffs for the Predators.

It's time to find out what you are made of; it's time to find out how badly you want it.

My three stars:

1. Jonathan Bernier

2. Anze Kopitar

3. Jonathan Blum

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Predators Conquer Colorado 4-2

In the course of a season, there are wins that are things of beauty. There are also wins that are not pretty by any stretch of the imagination, but they are wins nonetheless. Tonight, the Nashville Predators won a contest with the Colorado Avalanche by a score of 4-2 that was anything but pretty. But it was a win and two precious points for the Predators.

The game opened with the Nashville Predators going up by a 2-0 margin with opportunistic scoring. Shea Weber tallied his 15th goal of the season just as a Predators power play expired. Weber crashed the net and was able to flip a wrister past Colorado netminder Peter Budaj at 4:16 of the opening period. The Predators were very good at establishing pressure on the power play, and though the Avs got Brandon Yip out of the box- where he was serving the too many men on the ice penalty- the Predators continued to control the play. Joel Ward put a shot on net and Weber was able to get the rebound and put it past Budaj to give the Preds a 1-0 lead.

The Predators would stretch the lead to 2-0 at 11:36 of the first as Kevin Klein would put a shot on net that Budaj kicked out with his pad. Matt Halischuk was crashing the net and gathered in the rebound and lifted the puck over the pad of Budaj for his second goal of the season. The play was started by Blake Geoffrion, who stole the puck in the Avs zone and passed the puck to Klein for the shot. The young guys- Geoffrion and Halischuk had a strong game for the Predators tonight.

In the first period, Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne was called upon to make a few good saves, but generally the Predators controlled the play in the period.

That would change in the second period, as the Avalanche turned up the intensity and it appeared as if the Predators were a step slow and unable to match the level of play of the Avs. In this period, the Avalanche outshot the Predators 16-8 and controlled much of the play. This was in part to the Predators taking penalties, including giving Colorado 1:43 of a two man advantage, which they were able to kill.

Colorado would make it 2-1 at 4:15 of the second as they swarmed the Predators net. Rinne made several saves, but was finally beaten by Ryan O'Reilly to cut the deficit to 1. Momentum and energy were definitely in favor of the Avalanche.

Joel Ward would re-establish the Predators two goal advantage at 13:31 with a beautiful goal. Ward would intercept a pass from Jay McClement at the face off circle. He took a stride toward the net and faked a slapshot to draw Budaj out of the net. Ward pulled the puck back and drove to the net, tucking it into the goal from behind the goal line for his 10th goal of the year and his third straight game with a goal. Wardo was deft in his handling of the puck and patient in drawing Budaj out of the net for the scoring opportunity.

Colorado was not going away easily, however, and they once again cut the deficit to one goal at 19:30 as Daniel Winnik Took a shot from the point. The puck was going wide of the net but hit the skate of Colin Wilson and skittered past Rinne into the net.

This set up a third period that would hang in the balance and would require the Predators to match the intensity of the Avalanche to secure the win.

The Predators responded with a much better defensive effort in the third period, holding Colorado to 9 shots while recording 8 of their own. Rinne was solid in the third period and shut the door on the Avs offensive effort. The defense did a better job of limiting second chances and forcing many of the Avs shots from the outside.

Marty Erat would ice the game with an empty netter at 19:58 of the third for the final margin of 4-2.

This was a game the Predators had to have, yet it was a game in which the Predators effort was less than their best. The fact that they persevered and came away with the win is a sign of the growth of this team. They will have to win some ugly games in this stretch drive. They will have to match the intensity of some desperate teams. They will have to find ways to win games that will not make highlight reels.

Contributions will have to come from all the lines, and it won't necessarily be things that show up on the score sheet. Things like Jordin Tootoo being willing to drop the gloves like he did tonight against Ryan Wilson, pounding him to the ice and energizing his team and the crowd. Things like taking hits to make plays. Things like winning battles for the puck.

At times, the Avs dominated play. The fact that this team refused to wilt in the face of that pressure will serve them well.

The battles will continue and the road to the playoffs will not get an easier.

Keep battling like you did tonight, and you will be successful.

My three stars:

1. Joel Ward

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Matt Halischuk

Friday, March 11, 2011

My View

Random thoughts from your resident curmudgeon...

Since the U.S. economy collapsed in 2008, the Federal Reserve has triple the money supply in this country in an effort to revive the economy. This means that more than $20 TRILLION new dollars have been created by our central bank. Why hasn't all this new money jump started the economy? One of the main reasons is that it sits on the books of the majority of the banks in this country, who have tightened lending standards and are reluctant to lend. Regardless of where this money is in the system, the fact that it has been created at these levels is highly inflationary. The worry is that the U.S. has severely debased its currency by creating so much of it. Don't believe me? Let's take a look at what the commodity markets tell us about the weaker dollar. According to the Financial Times of London, here are the annual price increases for various commodities in 2010: heating oil +41%; corn +91%; wheat +79%; cotton +143%. The list goes on and is extensive, showing increases in commodity prices in nearly all areas. This is the practical impact of our screwed up fiscal policy in this country: we are going to be paying higher prices for everyday staples because we have cheapened the value of our dollar so severely. Think about this fact the next time you hear a politician say we must go deeper into debt (print more dollars) for more government spending.

A psychiatrist is a fellow who asks you a lot of expensive questions that your wife will ask you for nothing.

One of the favorable conditions that the U.S. enjoys at the moment is very low borrowing costs. In 2010, the average interest rate on all the U.S. debt was 1.3%. This low rate environment has allowed our leaders to print more money and issue more debt without destroying our budget with a high level of interest payments. That is going to change. In 2010, the U.S. paid $185 billion in interest on our debt. That is projected to increase to $554 billion by 2015. The tripling of our interest payments means one of three things will happen: we will have to severely cut services; taxes will go up substantially; or some combination of these two choices. Our fiscal imprudence will become even more painfully obvious as the interest rate environment changes and rates rise. Know that our leaders in Washington are going to be looking closely at your wallet to bail them out of these mistakes.

I know that there are some who do not love their fellow man. I hate people like that.

We often hear the left criticize capitalism for its "inequality" in rewarding those that work hard and take greater risks in building a business getting a larger share of the the profits for their efforts. We have heard the criticism from the likes of Arianna Huffington, Michael Moore, and Al Gore in various forms or fashion. Well, it seems like capitalism is pretty good for those guys. Huffington recently sold her website Huffington Post for $315 million; Moore, the venal filmmaker, is suing his film company for additional receipts beyond the $20 million he was paid for his last film; and profit of doom Gore, who of the global warming falsehood, has made enough money off that scam to purchase his fourth estate, this one on the Mediterranean. Seems like the benefits of capitalism are pretty good for the left, but according to their world view, not so much for you and me. And this is all you need to know about the left and their ideas.

In America, anyone can be President. That's one of the risks we take.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wild Tamed by the Predators 4-0

With 15 games remaining in the regular season, you hate to think that this game against Minnesota was a must win for the Predators, but with their play of late, this game was definitely one the Predators had to have. The Predators played with this game with a sense of urgency, dispatching the Wild 4-0 at the Bridgestone Arena.

Coming into this contest, the Predators had gone 3-5-2 in their last 10 games, and needed to right the ship and get the long home stand off on a right start. They did just that, as Joel Ward tallied at 3:13 of the first, taking a nice pass from David Legwand from behind the net and snapping the puck over the glove of Minnesota netminder Niklas Backstrom.Ward had a strong game and continued his strong play of late with his second goal in as many games.

The Predators continued to dominate the Wild in the first period, controlling play and giving the Wild no offensive chances. The Wild recorded only five shots in the first period.

The defensive effort by the Predators led to more offensive chances, and the Predators capitalized on those opportunities. Nick Spaling was the beneficiary of a great effort by Jerred Smithson, who backhanded the puck to Spaling while being knocked to the ice. Spaling gathered in the puck at the side of the net and beat Backstom at 4:01 to stretch the advantage to 2-0 for the Predators.

The lead would grow to 3-0 at 12:32 of the first as Marty Erat would backhand a puck over a sprawling Backstom. Erat took a pass from Joel Ward and buried the shot for his 12th goal of the season.

3-0 at the end of one period and the Wild held to only 5 shots, one wondered if the old Predators would come out for the second period. You know, the team that has had a good period of hockey and would sit back and let the other team climb back into the game.

Not tonight.

As good as the Predators defensive effort was in the first period- holding the Wild to 5 shots- it was even better in the second. In that period, the Predators held the Wild to just 4 shots. Although the Predators didn't tally a marker in the second, there was no way the Wild were going to score with this type of defensive effort. The Predators did an excellent job of slowing the Wild in the neutral zone and forced  them wide in the defensive zone. Their defensive zone presence was as good as it has been all season and never allowed the Wild to establish any offensive rhythm in the second.

This was as good a two periods of hockey as the Predators have played since the All Star break.

In the third period, the Wild outshot the Predators 10-7, but Pekka Rinne was solid in net and cleaned up any scoring chances the Wild might have had.

Nick Spaling would ice the win with his second goal of the night at 14:59 and he corralled the puck in the low slot and slid the puck past Backstrom for his 7th goal of the year.

Indicative of the Predators defensive effort was the job done on Predators killer Martin Havlat, who has scored more goals against the Predators than any other player, with 35. Havlat finished with just 2 shots on goal, both coming in the third period.

Of a concern for the Predators is the condition of Mike Fisher, who missed most of the third period. According to Head Coach Barry Trotz in his post game remarks, Fisher is "fine", but Predator fans know this can mean anything. Hopefully he is back on the ice for Saturday night's contest against the Avalanche.

There are now 14 games left in the regular season. Reasonably, the Predators are going to have to win 9 of those games to assure themselves of a playoff spot.

Play with this same sense of urgency and discipline and you will tame the upcoming opponents and be well positioned to secure a playoff spot.

My three stars:

1. Nick Spaling

2. Joel Ward

3. Pekka Rinne

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Insanity of Intent, the Outrage of Outcome

The NHL has deemed there will be no further discipline meted out to Zdeno Chara for his brutal hit that drove Max Pacioretty into the stanchion of the glass between the benches at the Montreal home game against the Boston Bruins. One can debate the punishment, or lack thereof, until you're blue in the face and can make  arguments for both sides. These arguments, however, are pointless and will continue to be an exercise in futility until the NHL resolves how these hits are fundamentally viewed by the League itself.

The League has placed itself in a no win situation with these types of hits, and subsequently subjects its players to continued peril, by adopting a purely subjective standard called "intent". Furthermore, "outcome" is often used as a measure of determining the type of punishment, if any, that is doled out to a player that executes a borderline or dangerous hit. It is no wonder that we continue to see these types of hits and dangerous play with these nebulous standards in place.

Let's look at intent for a moment. Even the most egregious offenders when it come to dangerous hits, from a tearful Todd Bertuzzi after his hit on Steve Moore or Matt Cooke after his devastating hit on Marc Savard, never say that it was their "intent" to hurt another player. Who is to say, and how is the League to judge, what intent might be in any situation? What happens in that split second on the ice and at top speed is impossible to judge as to intent. When one player has another lined up for what could be a questionable hit, how is the League judging intent? Maybe previous occurrences of reckless behavior? Even that is a poor gauge of intent. Could the player have pulled up? Again, a split second decision in the heat of the moment, and the thought processes are known only to the player.

So how does the League determine intent? I would submit that they cannot, and any attempt to do so is just a wildly speculative guess on their part. Even worse, it establishes such a vague basis for judging these types of hits or plays that it is essentially no standard at all.

Every parent has had the situation with their children where something goes wrong, and one of the first things out their innocent mouths is "I didn't mean to..." We as parents know that judging intent is next to impossible. More often than not, "I didn't mean to" translates into "I didn't think something bad would happen."

What the League is doing with the vague standard of intent is in essence saying "I hope nothing bad happens." That is going to lead to a disastrous outcome on the ice, and is just insane.

For the players that are playing at full speed in an intense game, there have to be clear boundaries. This is never more true when there is the potential for a dangerous hit. Would Chara have pulled off Pacioretty if he knew clearly what the fate was for riding him into the stanchion? I don't know. I do believe that if players had more clearly defined boundaries and consequences for crossing those boundaries, then these types of incidents would occur less frequently.

The other aspect of these types of plays is using the outcome of the hit to determine the severity, if any of the punishment. In a word, this is outrageous. We all have witnessed players that were the victims of dangerous hits who, fortunately were able to get back up. In determining the level of discipline, the League has said something to the effect that "the player wasn't seriously hurt" and that fact mitigated the level of punishment. This standard, in my estimation, continues to invite these types of hits. Run a player and hope he gets up. If he does, you get nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

Regardless of outcome, a dangerous hit is a dangerous hit. For the League to fail to acknowledge that and let outcome mitigate the punishment due the offender is taking what should be a hard and fast standard and making it is essence non-existent. A five minute boarding major for one player becomes a multi-game suspension for another player, depending on the extent of any injury. The unequal application of the punishment for the types of hits is obvious. The environment that this creates is unacceptable and is an outrage.

As long as the NHL persists in using these nebulous and subjective standards, we will continue to have these types of hits and the resulting dangerous injuries to players. It is time for the League to get rid of the canard of judging a player's intent and looking to see what damage was done before deciding the level of punishment. For these types of hits to be greatly reduced and player safety improved, the League has to adopt clearly defined standards. More importantly, there has to be a consistent application of those standards, regardless of the offender.

Do this, and you will restore a measure of sanity to the game we all love.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Flames Frustrate the Predators (Again) 3-2

The Calgary Flames swept their season series with the Nashville Predators, handing them another frustrating one goal loss in a 3-2 home ice victory. This was a game that started well for the Predators and quickly fell apart.

The Predators opened the scoring at 2:47 of the first period as Marty Erat gathered in a rebound of a Jonathan Blum shot and powered the puck past Mikka Kiprusoff as he was being knocked to the ice. Blum did a great job of getting the shot through traffic and Erat was doing the dirty work in front of the net that the Predators have to do to score.

Calgary would tie the game at 7:15 of the first while on the power play with Jonathan Blum in the box for tripping. It was one of the craziest goals that I have ever seen, as the shot from Mark Giordano was weakly shot toward the net. The fluttering puck would hit the stick of Ryan Suter and then Shea Weber, changing direction and floating over the shoulder of Pekka Rinne. Rinne looked at his two defensemen with a look that could only be described as exasperated.

The Predators would regain the lead at 15:58 of the first as Ryan Suter fired a shot from straight away on the point. Joel Ward and David Legwand were screening in front and Kiprusoff never saw the puck until it was in the back of the net.

As the first period ended, the Predators had to feel good about their effort against a team that has been their nemesis all season.

Perhaps they felt too good.

The Predators were absolutely dominated in the second period as the Flames outshot the Predators 13-4. The Flames would tie the game early in the second as Sergei Kostitsyn would hook down Jerome Iginla on a breakaway. Iginla was awarded a penalty shot and he would beat Rinne five hole just 59 seconds into the period.

The Flames controlled the action for the entire period, and frankly if not for the stellar play of Rinne, the Predators would have been run out of the Saddledome. The Predators offense would completely disappear in the second in what has been a troubling characteristic of this team all season- disappearing for a period at a time in a game.

The troubling trend of a missing in action offense would continue for most of the third period. Although the final shot count was 14-10 for the Flames, for much of the period the Calgary offense controlled the play. The shot total only looks as good as it does because of a late flurry by the Predators.

Calgary's offensive pressure would pay off in the game winning goal by Curtis Glencross at 10:23 of the third period. Ollie Jokinenwould fire a shot a Rinne, who made the initial save, but gave up a rebound. Glencross was crashing the net unimpeded and tapped the puck into an open net past an out of position Rinne.

One felt that the way the Predators offense had failed to produce that this goal would suffice for the margin of victory.

Unfortunately, that proved to be the case.

For much of the night, the Predators found themselves on their heels and let Calgary gain the zone with speed. This forced the Predators back and they did not counterattack effectively. This team does not have the ability to just turn on the offensive flow, and when they are pushed back defensively, the offense seems to continually get stymied.

This was a wasted opportunity to gain two precious points, and opportunity squandered when the offense went into a shell in the second and third periods.

For this team to make the playoffs, they are going to have to understand that it is a full 60 minutes of flat out, balls to the wall hockey. Failure to play that way and they will find themselves on the short end of the score more often than not.

It is beyond waiting for other teams to falter. Now is the time to turn it on and play your way into the playoffs.

There is no other way.

My three stars:

1. Curtis Glencross

2. Ryan Suter

3. Mikka Kiprusoff