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

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