Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Predators Fall to the Flames 1-0

The Nashville Predators continued their western Canada with a tilt against the Calgary Flames at the Saddledome. The Predators had recently halted a 4 game losing skid with a win the previous night in Edmonton, while the Flames were looking to get their game back on track, having just one win in their last five games.

The Predators had Pekka Rinne in net, while the Flames opened with their workhorse Mikka Kiprusoff.

After an up and down first period, the Flames drew first blood at 18:49 as a shot from the point by T. J. Brodie was deflected past Rinne by Derek Smith. Smith was driving the net and beat Craig Smith coming back for the Predators . Rinne had no chance on the re-direct and the Flames took a 1-0 lead through hustle and driving to the net..

For the period, the Predators out shot the Flames 9-7, but once again found themselves trailing at the end of 20 minutes.

Blake Comeau was called for high sticking Jordin Tootoo with 20 seconds remaining in the period, so the Predators would open the second with 1:40 of power play time.

The second period saw both teams do a lot of skating, each get a few scoring chances, but neither team able to score. The closest chance came from the Flames when Roman Horak rattled the puck off both posts but did not cross the goal line.

Very troublesome for the Predators was the fact that they passed up several shots in favor of a pass. In last night's victory, the Predators shot the puck- often- and created chances. Tonight, the shots were not as abundant, and as a result, Kiprusoff was not challenged nearly enough by the Predators in the first 40 minutes.Nashville manage only 6 shots in the second period, a painful reversion to their old habit of not shooting the puck nearly enough.

It was now coming down to the final 20 minutes of play for the Predators. Key to their effort was going to be first and foremost getting pucks on net.

Remember, I said the key to winning this game was getting pucks on net.

Well... through 11 minutes of the third period, the Predators had managed only 4- count 'em, 4- shots on net.

Not exactly a winning formula.

How bad was it?

The Predators had a power play and managed no shots on goal.

Here is the truth. The Predators offense was generally impotent tonight. The good work habits and effort of the previous night were not evident in this game tonight. The Predators managed 10 shots on goal in the third period- 25 for the game- and none really challenged Kiprusoff.

The Predators executed their style of play the night before. Tonight, they did not. And it cost them a win.

Up and down. Inconsistent.

This has been the style of play for the Predators this season. It is a sign of a team that has not grown into their role and become the type of team of which they are capable of becoming.


Without a doubt.

And it will continue to be so until this team grows up.

My three stars:

1. Derek Smith

2. Mikka Kiprusoff

3. Pekka Rinne

Monday, November 28, 2011

Predators Slide by the Oilers 2-1 to End Losing Streak

The Nashville Predators looked to stop their 4 game skid by venturing to Rexall Place to take on the up and coming Edmonton Oilers. For the Predators, this was a game that was going to require discipline and the necessity of playing a full 60 minutes of hockey.

Since this was the first of a back to back series of games, Anders Lindback got his second start of the season, while the Oilers went with Nikolai Khabibulin.

The Oilers young talent has demonstrated speed, creativity, and play making ability so far in this season, and in two previous contests, they have out skated and outworked the Predators. For the Predators to win this contest, they were going to have to work and minimize mistakes.

Unfortunately for the Predators, the first mistake they made wound up in the back of their net.

Shea Weber had the puck in the defensive zone and made a blind pass that was intercepted by the Oilers Ryan Nugent Hopkins. Hopkins got the puck to Jordan Eberle, who circled behind the net and took a shot that Lindback stopped with his pad. The rebound came right back to Eberle, and he roofed a shot over the shoulder of Lindback at 7:07 of the first period.

There was no more scoring in the period, as the Oilers D and Khabibulin made the early goal stand up. The Predators did skate better and generated some traffic in front of the Oilers net and created some scoring chances. For the period, the Predators out shot the Oilers 6-4.

It is apparent that the Predators need to bury some shots and get their confidence back in the offensive zone. Finish some chances and stop gripping the sticks so tightly.

The Predators certainly had some chances to get their offense going as the Oilers started a parade to the penalty box as Theo Peckham was called for cross checking and Ryan Jones got a 5 minute major for elbowing Blake Geoffrion, both at the 6:35 mark of the second. Geoffrion was injured on the play and left the game. Jordin Tootoo was also called for diving after the cross check by Peckham, so the Predators were skating 5 on 4.

The Predators power play was short circuited 20 seconds later when Sergei Kostitsyn was called for interference. Skating 4 on 4, the Predators started to shoot the puck and creating chances with traffic in front of Khabibulin.

Roman Josi was called for a weak tripping call on Jordan Eberle, and the Oilers had a brief 4 on 3. Lindback made a couple of good saves to keep the Oilers off the board.

With Kostitsyn out of the box, the Predators continued their man advantage and continued to press the attack in the Oilers zone. Khabibulin made some great saves with Predators crashing the net, and it appeared as if the Predators were going to squander this golden opportunity.

That would change with one second left in the man advantage as Shea Weber skated the puck into the zone and let go a shot from the face off circle that beat Khabibulin cleanly to tie the game at 1 at 11:34 of the second period.

There was no further scoring in the period, but not for lack of effort by the Predators. For the first time in a looong time, the Predators were not afraid to shoot the puck, and shoot the puck they did. In the second period, the Predators forechecked hard, created turnovers, and the result of their effort was a 16-7 shot advantage. By far and away, this was the best period of hockey that the Predators had played in their last five games.

Once again, the Predators were heading into the final 20 minutes of hockey with the game in the balance. Would this be the game where the Predators took control of a game and skated away with a victory?

The third period was another back and forth period of hockey, with both teams skating hard. Neither team could crack the scoreboard, although they had good chances. The positive for the Predators is that there was no drop off in their intensity and their effort.

The Predators would break the tie at 12:21 of the third because of good work by Craig Smith and Jordin Tootoo in the corner to control the puck. Tootoo got the puck and passed to Nick Spaling in the low slot who rifled a shot past Khabibulin to give the Predators a 2-1 lead.

This goal was a direct result of hard work on the boards by Smith and Tootoo and the desire to win the puck battle, something that had been absent in the Predators previous four losses.

The remainder of the period saw the Predators continue their aggressive play and hard forechecking. They blocked shots when the Oilers pulled Khabibulin with time running down, and as the seconds melted away to a Predators victory, they had achieved what they had failed to achieve in their previous four contests.

A victory the Predator way.

For Anders Lindback, it was his first win of the season.

This was a pivotal game for the Predators, not only just to stop the four game losing streak, but to instill again in the team the value of playing hockey like this team is capable of playing. The Predators will not often win pretty, but they will win the majority of their games where they work like they did tonight.

Evidence of how hard they worked was the final shot total. The Predators out shot an explosive Oilers squad by at 31-18 margin.

Good things happen when you shoot the puck, boys.

Here is what this team should take away from this contest: when you win puck battles, when you skate hard, when you are strong on the puck, good things happen.

Hopefully, we have learned this lesson.

My three stars:

1. Nick Spaling

2. Anders Lindback

3. Shea Weber

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Predators Fail to Measure Up, Fall to the Red Wings 4-1

The Nashville Predators often say that the Detroit Red Wings are their measuring stick, that they want to be as consistently good as their Central Division rival.

If the first period of tonight's game at the Joe is any indication, the Predators have a ways to go.

Pekka Rinne opened in net for the Predators, and he was under assault during the first period. Jimmy Howard got the start for the Wings, and he could have spent a lot of time listening to his i-Pod. Don't believe me? The Wings out shot the Predators 14-3 in the first period.

The Predators never established any offensive presence in the first, getting one significant scoring chance, while the Wings peppered Rinne with shots. Rinne was solid in turning away the Wings attempts and keeping the Predators in the game.

The Wings broke through on the power play with Mike Fisher in the box for tripping. Todd Bertuzzi took a shot that Rinne amazingly kept out of the net. The rest of the Predators PK must have thought that Bertuzzi scored as they stopped. Valtteri Filppula pounced on the loose puck at the side of the net and lifted a backhand shot in for the Wings score at 13:23.

Frankly, after that first period, it could have been much worse for the Predators save (pun intended) for the efforts of Rinne.

The Wings extended their lead to 2-0 at 18:29 of the second period as Henrik Zetterberg took the puck behind the net and faked a wraparound shot. Rinne went down to the ice and Zetterberg smartly backed away and lifted the puck over a sprawling Rinne.

Detroit made it 3-0 at 11:26 as Juri Hudler launched a shot from the blue line that got past Rinne when it was re-directed by Valtteri Filppula, who was camped at the top of the blue ice and was immoveable by the Predators defense.

As poor as the Predators offense had looked to this point in the game, that 1-0 lead would have probably held up. A 3-0 lead against this team is insurmountable.

The only question now would be if the Predators would show any push back at all.

That would be a resounding "no".

The Predators offensive efforts were completely stymied by the Red Wings, and what offense the Predators did generate never seriously challenged Howard.

Lest you think I'm being too hard on the Predators, consider this. In the second period, the Predators were out shot 11-5, making the shot totals through two periods 25-8 for the Wings.

Inexcusable and unacceptable.

The outcome was no longer in the balance. It was now just a matter of how bad would this debacle be?

Darren Helm stole the puck from Mike Fisher and fed Dan Cleary, who one-timed the puck past Rinne to make it 4-0 Red Wings at 15:57 of the third.

The Predators finally got on the board as Jack Hillen drove the net and took a perfect feed from Colin Wilson at 14:26 of the period.

The goal gave the Predators some jump, and for the first time in the game, the team started to move their feet and skate some.

The Predators finally started playing Predator hockey and shooting the puck and crashing the net, but they still could not solve Jimmy Howard, who was solid in the face of several Predator flurries around his crease.

There was a scary moment with about two minutes to go in the game as Patrick Eaves went down to block a shot by Roman Josi and took the puck off the side of his head. Eaves was carried off the ice on a stretcher but was conscious.

The aforementioned Josi saw his first ice time of the season for the Predators as he was called up prior to the game. The Predators lost Frankie Buillon in the third period to a lower body injury, which meant Josi saw more ice time. For the game, Josi logged 12:20.

The final was 4-1 Wings. The reality was that the Predators were dominated from start to finish and were never in this contest.

The Predators have dropped 4 straight games, and they have not looked good in doing so. In every loss, there has been at least one period in which the Predators have not shown up.

Tonight, there were three.

And for the life of me, this makes no sense. This is a young team, but the time for excuses is past. There is no excuse for not skating hard. There is no excuse for playing a period like you don't want to be on the ice. There is no excuse for no being hard on the puck and using the talent that this team has to move through the neutral zone and establish offensive presence.

Once again, the shot totals are indicative of the lack of effort. Detroit out shot Nashville 37-18.

This is frustrating beyond words.

Every team hits a rough patch. I can accept that.

What I cannot accept is guys on the ice not working hard.

The only way out of this funk is for this team to get back to basics, back to playing Predator hockey. And the first step in doing so is to work hard.

Harder than you worked tonight.

My three stars:

1. Valtteri Filppula

2. Dan Cleary

3. Jimmy Howard

Hard Hitting Journalism or Hit Piece?

News Channel 5 investigative reporter Phil Williams has supposedly "unearthed" some shocking information about the Nashville Predators and the operation of the Bridgestone Arena, information that was unbeknown by the Mayor of Nashville and which Williams has intimated is a backdoor, sweetheart deal for the Predators.


You can read Williams "story" here.

Let's take a look at the claims made by Williams and the facts.

Williams is shocked-shocked!- that the Mayor of Nashville is unaware of the details of the arrangement from the State of Tennessee. Is this surprising?

There were two bills that Williams references. The first, a bill passed by the State Legislature, that took sales taxes from non-hockey events such as concerts, and sent the money to the Sports Authority to be used for covering the cost of operating the Arena. The second bill, passed into law in 2009, directed that money be sent to the Convention and Visitors Bureau to be used by the Predators as well as creating a tax on athletes of $2,500 per game up to $7,500 annually that was to be used for the operation of the Arena (surprisingly- or not- there is no such tax on NFL players to be used for the upkeep of LP Field, the costs of which are solely borne by Metro taxpayers. Now THAT is a story). These were bills that moved through the proper legislative process at the State level and was enacted into law by then Governor Phil Bredesen.

Furthermore, Williams is offended that the Predators used a lobbyist, James Weaver, to help push these bills through the Legislature.

Phil, the fact that the Predators used a lobbyist to promote their interest would be news if this were the first time it has ever happened. I think if you check, however, that this is the normal course of business in the legislative halls of capitol hill.

Is it surprising to you, Phil, that the Mayor of Nashville did not know the specifics of a bill that originated in the State Legislature? Even if the lobbyist was a long time supporter of the current mayor? I would think that a lobbyist has some responsibility toward their current clients regarding confidentiality, which Weaver would have with the Predators. The fact is that Weaver was under absolutely no obligation to inform Nashville's Mayor about what he was doing for the Predators and that this was a state legislative process.

Williams asked Mayor Karl Dean if he would have agreed to the terms of the bill if he had known about the bill. C'mon Phil, you know that question has zero relevance. It would not matter if Mayor Dean had agreed to the terms of the bill or not because it was a piece of State legislation, not local legislation that was moving through the City Council.

Here are the facts that anyone who reads or has seen Williams piece needs to know:

The bills were legitimately passed by the State Legislature. It is not surprising that the Predators or the management team for the Arena have acted in their economic self interest. Every business and individual does that. Funds that are being used by the Predators and the Arena management group were not clandestinely obtained and are being used to bring in events outside of hockey and for arena upkeep.

The effect of the State legislation is simply this: the State gave up its portion of the sales tax revenue that was generated from hockey and non-hockey events at the Arena. The City of Nashville still gets their piece of the revenue that the Arena and the Predators generate.

How successful has the Arena management group been in bringing in events to Nashville, and generating sales tax revenue? According to Pollstar, the Bridgestone Arena is the 4th most active venue in the United States and the 12th most utilized venue in the world for non-hockey events.

Let me ask you this, Phil. Think any of the businesses in downtown Nashville are bitching about the effort? When their bars, restaurants, and shops are full of visitors, do you think these business people are unhappy with the effort to bring both hockey and non-hockey related events to downtown Nashville? What is noticeably absent from your story is the real story- the economic impact of the Predators and the other events that occur at the Bridgestone Arena. And it is substantial.

Here is another little discussed fact: these "investigative reports" occurred during sweeps week. What does that have to do with this? Well, we all know that sensationalism sells, and manufacturing a story about taxpayers getting supposedly screwed is good for ratings. Crafting a hit piece is good for eyeballs and nothing more.

I spoke to J.D. Elliott, the Chairman of the Sports Authority before I wrote this. According to Elliott, the Sports Authority is "happy with their relationship with the Predators and the operation of the Arena." Elliott said that there were some members of the Sports Authority that did not like the Predators for whatever reason, but that the majority of the members approved of the Predators and the way that the relationship had developed with the ownership group.

Could it be that these members unhappy with the Predators are the source of this "story"?

Nashville built an arena before it had the Predators, and the hope was to attract a professional sports team to occupy the arena and fill dates as well as attract non-sporting events to the venue to create traffic downtown and generate sales tax revenues. It seems to me that this has happened and it has been wildly successful.

What would really be news would be if this wasn't happening.

Then you might have a real story, Phil.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

My View

By the time you read this, most will have completed their Thanksgiving celebrations. Family members will be reunited, copious amounts of food will have been consumed, and laughter and good times shared.

For most of us, Thanksgiving is a brief respite in the hectic pace of our daily routines. It is a time to relax, to eat, to enjoy family, and the abundance of the blessings that we have.

Thanksgiving calls us to something else, something bigger and more transcendent than just one day of celebration, one day in which we pause to to give thanks for the good things that have been brought into our lives.

The spirit of Thanksgiving, the essence of this day, calls us to be thankful in all things for all things in our daily existence. Not just on this one special day, but every day.

For some of us, being thankful is difficult. Some have absorbed and endured the harshness of life. The stark reality of death has touched our lives; loved ones lie sick, some with little prospect of recovery; some are enduring dire economic hardship, some are desperately lonely.

In those trying times, it is difficult, if not impossible, to feel thankful. Gratitude is not an easy emotion to summon in troubling times.

It is in those dark times that pausing to remember and recount the good things that we enjoy is essential. Know this- that even in the darkest of times that each of us experience, there are still blessings for which we can be thankful. A kind or encouraging word that lifts us up, a smile that is given freely, and expression of support are all little things that lift us up. Little things for which we can be thankful.

An attitude of thankfulness opens us up to receive these blessings and more. A thankful heart keeps bitterness from encroaching and stealing the joy of living that each of us should have.

My hope for each of us is that the spirit of this day will abide with us every day, that our hearts will be attuned to the good that occurs around us and to us each day. Even the days that seem so dark and without joy.

May our hearts enjoy a spirit of Thanksgiving every day.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Predators Give Away Another Game, Lose to the Wild 3-2

The Nashville Predators traveled to the great white North to take on the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center in a game that saw the Predators seeking redemption for the putrid effort the night before in Nashville.

Pekka Rinne once again got the start for the Predators as the Wild went with Josh Harding as Nicklas Backstrom was out of the lineup to attend to personal business.

The Predators opened the contest looking just like they did in their debacle against Edmonton the night before. Minnesota was out skating the Predators and got the first four shots on goal. For Predator fans, this was a big "uh-oh" and the thought was "here we go again."

The Predators got their legs under them and started skating with the Wild, and when they did, they were very competitive.

Jordin Tootoo got the Predators on the board with their first shot on goal at 5:21of the first period as he skated the puck out of the corner straight to the front of the net. Tootoo jammed the puck in on Harding and the puck got through his pads and trickled into the net to give the Predators a 1-0 lead. Rookie Craig Smith picked up an assist on the play, giving him 15 points on the season.

The period was a back and forth contest with both teams generating some good chances. In the period, the Wild out shot the Predators 10-9, which is a decidedly better effort than the Predators put forth in their previous contest.

The second period was scoreless, but not for lack of effort by both teams. Both Rinne and Harding came up with some big saves for their respective squads. Each team created some good scoring opportunities from close in, but both netminders were up to the task. The Predators certainly made their task tougher in the period as they had to kill off a 4 minute double minor for high sticking by Colin Wilson.

In the second period, the Wild out shot the Predators 11-8.

Once again, this young team was going into the third period with a lead, and they knew they would face the inevitable push from the Wild. And once again, the question that hung in the balance was "Would the Predators be able to lock down the other team and hold the lead?"

That question was answered just 1:05 into the third period as the Predators got caught with 4 men down low and gave up a 2 on 1 that Dany Heatley buried to tie the game.

The Predators did their best to give the game to the Wild as the period wore on. They took back to back penalties to Craig Smith and Ryan Suter, with Suter's penalty coming with just 13 seconds remaining in Smith's penalty. Yes, both penalties were questionable calls, but nevertheless, the Predators put themselves in a precarious position. Although they were able to kill off the brief 5 on 3, the Predators could not kill Suter's penalty as Kyle Brodziak took a shot that Rinne got most of, but couldn't stop it and the puck found the net to give the Wild a 2-1 lead at 9:39.

Perhaps more indicative of the Predators imminent collapse was the fact that the Predators had only mustered 2 shots on goal through 12 minutes of the period. Yes, one of those shots was highway robbery on Sergei Kostitsyn by Harding, but it still remains a troubling fact that the Predators offense cannot seem to put in a full 60 minutes of effort.

The wheels came off for the Predators at 13:19 of the third as the Predators gave up a shorthanded goal. Rinne came out to play the puck that was dumped down the ice and stumbled and could not get back into position. Cal Clutterbuck picked up the puck and scored what will probably be his easiest goal of the season as he had nothing but an open net into which to shoot the puck.

The Predators demonstrated some heart and pulled within one at 13:57 as they scored on a 5 on 3 power play. Jordin Tootoo took the puck at the goal line and found Ryan Suter alone in the low slot. His quick wrist shot beat harding over his shoulder to make it 3-2 Wild. This was Suter's 5th goal of the season, topping his goal total from last season.

The Predators has a chance to tie the game as Ryan Suter hit both posts with a shot and the team still on the man advantage. Harding was able to swallow up the rebound in a furious scramble in the blue paint to thwart the Predators.

The Predators were unable to generate any more offense, and once again, a game that they led going into the third period was given away, victimized by another 20 minutes of poor hockey.

Same song, different verse.

And it's becoming a very tired refrain.

The shots on goal were 8 to 8 in the third period, but the majority of those shots for the Predators came during desperation time. Frankly boys, when you go through 12 minutes of a period- especially one where you have a lead and are trying to squeeze out the opposition- you more often than not are going to lose the game.

Like tonight.

I have often talked about lessons, and some of these lessons are painful. I guess it hasn't gotten painful enough for this team, because they haven't consistently learned how to take control of a game when they have a lead. Giving up three goals in crunch time is inexplicable and shows that this team has not developed a killer instinct.


Here's a bit of advice: develop that killer instinct. Learn how to finish a game ( and start a game for that matter).

Do that, and you will not be giving games away.

My three stars:

1. Josh Harding

2. Jordin Tootoo

3. Kyle Brodziak

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Predators Fail to Show Up in 6-2 loss to the Oilers

Let's say this: the young Edmonton Oilers are a talented team. Their young players are quickly blossoming into quality NHLers.

That being said, the Nashville Predators made them look like the Oilers dynasty of old as they absolutely failed to show up in a 6-2 loss.

You can find the terrifying box score here.

The fact is that the Predators were not ready to play this game. Edmonton came in and kicked dirt in the face of the Predators, took their lunch money, and kissed their girl.

The most disturbing aspect of this?

The Predators did not respond.

No heart. No fire. No grit.

Once again, the Predators had a first period that looked as if they thought the game started at 8:00 instead of 7:00. Out shot 13-3 and down 3-0, the Predators were dead in the water.

For the life of me, I cannot understand why this team is so sluggish in the first period. Throughout the first 20 minutes of the contest, the Predators stood around and watched the Oilers skate around them, by them, and though them. And the Predators did not respond.

Disappointing doesn't even begin to describe it.


Beyond embarrassing.

The fact is that the Oilers punched the Predators in the mouth and they just took it. No response at all. And this is troubling.

This team has got to understand who they are and play to their strengths. In the last two games, the Predators have veered from their character and their work ethic, and it has cost them. This team is a blue collar team that thrives on hard work and gritty play. Tonight, their were neither of those characteristics evident in their play.

I am still trying to figure out why the coaching staff has decided that putting their most potent offensive threat- Craig Smith- on a third line with Matt Halischuk and Jordin Tootoo. Nothing against those players, but frankly they are not the appropriate compliments to a player like Smith. David Legwand has been moved to the center position between Patric Hornqvist and Colin Wilson, and that line has been rendered invisible. Smith was moved back to centering the line of Wilson and Hornqvist in the third period, but frankly, the chemistry had been altered to ill effect by then.

It goes without saying that the effort in the last two games has been frustratingly disappointing. It is time for this team to go back to the basics and bring the intensity and grit that has made them successful. The failure to do this in the last two games has yielded horrific results.

Unfortunately, this team has stopped playing in front of Pekka Rinne, and he has been hung out to dry too often. Rinne was pulled to start the second period and Anders Lindback was inserted between the pipes. The truth is that this team owes Rinne an apology.

Continue to play with the lackadaisical attitude and effort and we will see more results like tonight.

My three stars:

No one from the Predators. Take your pick from the Oilers lineup.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Predators Suffer an Embarrassing Loss to the BJ's in OT 4-3

The Nashville Predators suffered a 4-3 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at Bridgestone Arena that was in a word, embarrassing.

Throughout the game, the Predators were unable to get through the neutral zone and turned the puck over more times than I can count. Rather than skate the puck through the zone or dump it deep and establish the cycle in the offensive zone, the Predators were content to make blind crossing passes or drop passes that were quickly gathered in by the Jackets and started the other way. Frankly, the inability to get through the neutral zone against this team was inexplicable and plagued the Predators all night long. Even more baffling was the persistence in making bad- or dumb- passes that resulted in turnovers.

When the Predators got into the offensive zone, they had trouble establishing their cycle and offensive flow against the aggressive Jackets defense. The Predators reverted to form on a couple of occasions, and when they did, they challenged Curtis Sanford in the Jackets net and tallied three goals for their efforts. The problem for the Predators was that they were too inconsistent in doing the essential things that would have lead to a victory.

Colin Wilson opened the scoring for the Predators at 18:29 of the first period as he gathered the puck in a goal mouth scramble and lifted it over Sanford to make it 1-0 Predators.

Jeff Carter tied the game at 1 at 3:29 of the second period with his first goal of the year. He used Ryan Suter as a screen and beat Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne with wrist shot over his shoulder.

The Predators took the lead again on the power play as Mike Fisher scored from in front of the net off a rebound of a Shea Weber shot at 10:27 of the second period.

The Predators could not seize the momentum and hold on to the lead as Columbus tallied on the power play with Ryan Suter in the box. Vinny Prospal lifted a backhand past Rinne to the short side. Rinne got most of the puck but could not stop it completely and it fluttered into the net to tie the game at 2.

The BJ's took a 3-2 lead at 1:45 of the third period as R.J. Umberger scored on the power play with Ryan Suter again in the box for roughing.

Nick Spaling tied the game at 3 as he corralled a rebound in the low slot and slipped the puck five hole on Sanford at 14:24 of the third.

There was no more scoring in the third period, and off to overtime, which has not been kind to the Predators. Going into this OT, the Predators were 1-3.

Make it 1-4.

James Wisniewski scored past a screened Rinne at 2:43 of the overtime period to end the BJ's string of futility with 27 straight losses at Nashville.

Yes, the Predators got a point. That is the positive.

Losing to a team like Columbus is the major negative. In a word, it is embarrassing.

Actually, two words. Unacceptable.

Sloppy play has been the hallmark of the Predators in the last two games. Tonight, their poor play bit them in the ass. Frankly, the Predators got what they deserved in this contest.

The Predators got David Legwand back in the lineup, and Head Coach Barry Trotz inserted him as the center between Patric Hornqvist and Colin Wilson, breaking up the dynamic line of Hornqvist, Wilson, and Craig Smith. Legwand was generally ineffective with his line mates, and in the third period, Smith was reunited with his line. This line should have never been disbanded, and in doing so, the offensive effort suffered.

The Predators have lost their identity in the last two games. The team has tried to be cute and play a finesse game rather than their blue collar style of hockey. Tonight, when they played their game, they were effective. Too often, they deviated from that game and it cost them a win.

Hopefully this team has learned their lesson about what it takes to be successful. They did not do that consistently in this game.

Keep on being inconsistent in your play, and there will be more embarrassing losses.

My three stars:

1. Curtis Sanford

2. Colin Wilson

3. James Wisniewski

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

One of the pretenses of Obamacare is that once the socialized healthcare program was implemented, there would be little to no effect on private insurance coverage.Do you think that is the case? During the debate over this program, one concerned voiced by those in opposition was that the federal government's intrusion into the marketplace was that it would drive out private health insurers. Guess what? That is exactly what is happening. According to the Gallup organization, the percentage of Americans that are getting their health insurance from an employer ha declined substantially. Currently, only 44.5% of working Americans are receiving coverage from their employer. Why is this happening? More and more employers are dropping private insurance and opting to let employees get coverage from the government. The problem with this is that the price of healthcare insurance and the quality of the insurance offered are not comparable to what the private sector had provided. More employers are choosing not to offer healthcare insurance as a benefit because of rising costs of providing that benefit as more insurers are forced to raise rates because of government intervention in the marketplace.The end game of Obamacare was to drive private insurers out of the marketplace, solidifying the government's control over healthcare. It's working.

When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the fire department uses water.

Keynesian economics was born in the 1930's during the great depression. The central tenet of Keynesian economics, promulgated by its namesake John Maynard Keynes, was that free markets needed government intervention to produce a healthy economy. You should know that most government economists are Keynesian economists. Why is this important? Simply for this reason: every swing in the economy or the business cycle became a problem that the government has to "fix". This line of reasoning over the years, and in particular the last three years, has led our country to a level of unsustainable debt. How bad is our debt level? Currently, we are in the hole to the tune of 400% of our nation's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Throughout the history of our country, we have averaged debt at a level of approximately 150% of GDP. In simple numbers, to return to normal debt levels, we must reduce our federal debt by $30 TRILLION. Because of the attitude that the government must do "something" to prevent normal downturns in our economy we have created an unsustainable level of debt that will burden our nation for generations to come. Remember that the next time a politician tells you that the government must do "something" to help the economy.

We have enough gun control. How about some idiot control?

Watch closely the unfolding scandal in the "green industry". Solyndra and Beacon Power are just the tip of the iceberg. These companies, and more, received sizable government guarantees that are now being called by lenders since the companies have either failed or filed bankruptcy. These green companies would not have survived as long as they did without the government backing. The free market had already decided that their products either were too expensive or did not perform as advertised. Ultimately, the cost of these government guarantees will be born by you and me, the taxpayers. Risk has been shifted from a company that could not successfully compete in the free market to you and me. This is the problem with government intervention into the marketplace: it skews the normal forces that decide winners and losers and takes away risk from the supposed entrepreneurs and gives it to the taxpayer. In effect, there is no risk for investors in those companies because that risk has been transferred to us. I would love to offer my clients investments with absolutely no risk. Unfortunately, that is not the way investment markets work. The business market should be no different.

Some people say "If you can't beat them, join them." I say "If you can't beat them, beat them." They will be expecting you to join them, and you have the element of surprise.

And that, my fiends, is my view.

Predators Win Ugly, Drop the Leafs 4-1

Sometimes, you win ugly.

The Nashville Predators were the embodiment of ugly in defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Bridgestone Arena by a 4-1 margin.

The score belies the fact that at times, Toronto looked dominant and controlled the play for stretches at a time. Indicative of how the night went, the Leafs out shot the Predators by a 39-22 margin. In fact, the Predators only managed 3 shots in the first period but went into the locker room with a 1-0 lead.

That lead was courtesy of the first shot on goal by Marty Erat. Mike Fisher got control of the puck and fed it to Erat, who walked in from the face off circle and beat Toronto netminder Ben Scrivens to the short side at 5:48 of the first period.

The remainder of the period saw the Predators try to get the puck out of their zone and establish and offensive presence. That effort was futile, as Toronto had 9 shots on Pekka Rinne and controlled the puck for most of the period. Rinne was his usual stellar self, turning away all the Leafs scoring attempts.

The intermission must have been, shall we say "interesting" for the Predators as they visited with their coaches. Whatever was said in the locker room had an effect, as the Predators came out and played a solid second period.

Although the period was a good one for the Predators, it didn't start particularly well. Toronto defenseman John-Michael Liles tied the game at 1 with the Leafs on the power play after a phantom high sticking call against Jack Hillen. With the Predators unable to clear the zone on the PK, Liles walked in past Ryan Suter and an exhausted group of penalty killers and beat Rinne with a wrist shot from just inside the face off circle at 10:36. The Leafs power play goal broke a string of 112 straight kills for the Predators.

Suter atoned for the Leafs goal by scoring his 4th marker of the year at 12:42. With Mike Fisher creating havoc in front of the net, Suter skated into the high slot and fired a wrist shot that beat Scrivens to make it 2-1 Predators.

Going into the third period, the game was still very much in the balance. Marty Erat gave the Predators some much needed breathing room at 2:05 of the third period as he notched his second goal of the game. Mike Fisher broke in and drew the defense to him and fed the puck to Erat, who buried the shot past a sprawling Scrivens.

Good thing for the Predators, because they proceeded to revert to their first period form. They were out shot in the third period by an atrocious 22-5 margin. Granted, many of the shots were from the perimeter, and most of the saves that Rinne had to make were routine in nature, but the shot differential is totally unacceptable. If this had been a healthy Leafs squad, the outcome could have certainly been different.

As the clock wound down, Scrivens was pulled for the extra attacker. What happened next was one of the oddest plays that I have ever seen in a hockey game.

The Predators got control of the puck at the Leafs blue line. Sergei Kostitsyn fed the puck to the Honey Badger, Craig Smith. Smith skated into the zone and was alone at the top of the blue paint with an empty net.

ENG, right?


Smith attempted to roof the puck into the net but missed everything and shot the puck into the protective netting over the glass.

Oh well, Honey Badger don't give a...

Anyway, Matt Halischuk showed how to score an empty net goal as he tallied from outside the blue line at 19:37 to make it 4-1 and seal the win for the Predators.

This is a win, and I certainly covet the 2 points for the Predators. This one was ugly, though, and this level of play will bite the Predators if it continues. The defensive zone coverage, while not poor, was such that the Leafs were able to crank shot after shot on the net. Puck management was in a word, poor. The Predators often failed to get the puck clear when they needed to do so, and they were often unable to generate an effective breakout or any speed through the neutral zone.

Without a doubt, the Predators had some positives out of this game, and they should build on those positives. Sergei Kostitsyn tied his best point total with three assists. Mike Fisher was solid. Marty Erat has started to heat up and is finding the back of the net. All of these are aspects on which the Predators can build upon.

The Predators should draw upon the lessons of this game and improve upon the areas that need work. Enjoy the win, but know that this type of play is going to result in being on the wrong end of the score more often than not.

And here is the truth: I would rather win ugly than lose pretty.

My three stars:

1. Marty Erat

2. Sergei Kostitsyn

3. Mike Fisher

Who is Brett Wilson?

The Nashville Predators ownership group yesterday announced that Brett Wilson had purchased 5% of the team. This is a great move for the Predators, and given his musical background with the Beach Boys, he should fit in well in Nashville...

Wait... What?

Brian Wilson?


Seriously, the addition of Wilson is a plus for the Predators organization. They have added a very astute and successful businessman to the ownership group, a businessman that has a track record of successfully creating companies and weallth from his home base in Calgary. Currently, Wilson is Chairman of Canoe Financial, a $2 billion private investment management firm.

I would invite anyone to take a look at his website here for a unique look at this most interesting gentleman.

Outside of the business world, Wilson has made a name for himself as a philanthropist involved in raising large sums of money for various charitable causes in the provinces of Calgary and Saskatchewan. In 2007, he joined with several leading businessmen in Calgary to raise over $3 million for prostate cancer awareness and research. Later that same year, he raised a similar sum for financial assistance for families of children awaiting organ transplants.. He also established the Wilson Centre for Domestic Abuse Studies at the Calgary Counseling Center and the Wilson Centre for Entrepreneurial Excellence at his alma mater, the University of Saskatchewan.

Bringing a successful and community minded individual like Brett Wilson into the ownership group was not just a a happenstance. Wilson is friends with one of the members of the Predators ownership group, David Freeman. Freeman is co-owner of the the Jackson Generals, a AA baseball team in Jackson, Tn, with Wilson. Freeman had introduced Wilson to the ownership group several years ago, and it was announced that he would be making an investment into the Predators at that time.

Wilson owns a condo in downtown Nashville and has for several years. Having the financial strength of this new owner as well as his community oriented focus is good for the Predators and is especially timely as the team continues to negotiate to sign both Ryan Suter and Shea Weber to new contracts.

Brett (not Brian), welcome to Nashville. I think you will fit in well with the Predator faithful and with our community at large.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Capital Punishment: Predators Defeat the Caps 3-1

The Nashville Predators took on the Washington Capitals at the Bridgestone Arena in a game that had all the characteristics of a heavyweight fight. Both teams took shots at the other, both teams had surges, and in the end, only one team was left standing.

That team was the Nashville Predators.

The Predators went with Pekka Rinne, while the Capitals countered with former Predator Tomas Vokoun.

For 55 minutes, it was a contest that went back and forth, with each team getting opportunities and both netminders making excellent saves.

Punch and counter punch.

The Predators opened the first period flying and generated some quality chances. Vokoun was up to the task for the Caps, while Rinne was solid at the other end of the ice. The Predators did a good job in this period of limiting secondary scoring chances as the Caps often got one shot on net and the defense was there to clear the puck and start the breakout.

The Predators out shot the Capitals 10-8 in that period.

In the second period, the Capitals asserted themselves. They created scoring opportunities and outworked the Predators throughout the period. Their 15 shots on goal to 8 for the Predators was testimony to their effort in the Predators zone. Rinne was called upon to make some tough saves to keep the Capitals off the board.

The Predators had a glorious scoring chance as Mike Fisher had a breakaway but was topped by the right pad of Vokoun. This was by far the best scoring opportunity for the Predators, and this game had the feel of one that would be decided by the first team that would crack under the pressure of a tight contest.

In the third period, the Predators got their feet moving again, and although out shot 17-13, they created some good scoring opportunities. Yet they were unable to solve Vokoun as the period wore on, and Predator fans were left wondering if they would find the back of the net.

Although there was a better effort in the offensive zone, the Predators went down 1-0 at 15:14 as Troy Brouwer took a shot that deflected off a Mike Fisher and over the shoulder of Rinne.

With the way this game had gone to this point, one had to wonder if the Predators could solve Vokoun and salvage a point.

The Predators would do better than get a point.

Just 28 seconds after Washington took the lead, the Predators would tie the game. Shea Weber carried the puck deep in the zone and slid a pass to Marty Erat, who was driving the off wing. Erat got behind the defensive coverage and tapped the puck into an empty net to tie the game at 1.

The Predators were energized by that goal and were skating hard in the final minutes. Their effort paid off as Marty Erat took the puck behind the net and slipped it to Colin Wilson who was driving the net. Wilson had an open net and buried the shot as he was being leveled by a Caps defender to give the Predators a 2-1 lead at 19:35.

With the face off at center ice, the Capitals chose to pull Vokoun for the extra attacker. The Predators controlled the face off and Shea Weber iced the win with an empty netter from the blue line at 19:40.

This was a character win by the Predators. They battled hard with the Capitals- a very good team that has an explosive offense- and took their best shot and came out with the victory. The Predators were able to keep the potent trio of Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alex Semin off the board. They created some good scoring chances and capitalized (pardon the pun) on their opportunities in crunch time.

Crunch time.

That critical period of the game when the team was down one and time was running out. The time when a lesser team would have folded. The Predators didn't fold, but instead kept fighting back, kept skating hard, and kept creating chances. Their effort didn't wane when it would have been easy for it to do so.


This is the type of win that can define a team. A win that a team can build upon. This game showed this young team that they can compete with one of the better teams in the NHL. Not just compete, but come out on top.

Just one game, but a game on which this team can build and draw upon in this long season.

A game that showed the Predators that they can another team's best shot and still stand victorious.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Marty Erat

3. Colin Wilson

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Predators Party Spoiled by the Habs

The Nashville Predators celebrated their 1,000th game by hosting the Montreal Canadiens at the Bridgestone Arena. Quite an achievement by a franchise that many thought would be relocated just four years ago. There were many festivities leading up to the game, as employees, coaches, and management were honored in pre-game ceremonies. The events leading up to the game created a party like atmosphere.

About that game.

Montreal captured a 2-1 overtime victory.

Party foul.

Pekka Rinne got the start for the Predators while the Habs went with Peter Budaj.

In the first period, both teams generated some chances, but for the Predators, their offensive effort was spotty at best. Often they would enter the zone and fail to cycle the puck and get a shot on net. The Canadiens defense did a good job of shutting down the Predators offensive thrusts, and there was a stretch of nearly 10 minutes where the Predators did not muster a shot on net.

David Desharnais got the Habs on the board at 13:49 as he got behind the defense and took a pass from Eric Cole that he backhanded past Rinne for a 1-0 lead.

In the first period, the Habs out shot the Predators 8-4, and while the Predators generally did a good job of limiting the offensive effort of the Habs, too much time was spent in their zone and the offensive effort was lacking.

That changed in the second period as the Predators got their legs moving and started generating some offensive chances. The Predators would use a short handed goal, however, to tie the game.

With Matt Halischuk in the box for tripping, the Predators got control of the puck and entered the offensive zone. Shea Weber took a pass from Ryan Suter and unleashed a blast form the top of the face off circle that absolutely blew past Budaj to knot the game at one.

Neither team would score again in the period as both goalies made some solid saves. Rinne in particular made some very good saves to keep the Habs off the board.

The Predators out shot the Canadiens 13-7 in the second.

After a scoreless third period that saw both goalies continue their stellar play, we were heading to overtime.

Max Paccioretty would end the contest at 2:31 of the OT period as P.K. Subban dug a puck off the boards and slipped it to Paccioretty. His wrist shot from the face off circle would beat Rinne over his shoulder on the stick side for the win.

In this game, the Predators top line of Colin Wilson, Patric Hornqvist, and Craig Smith were shut down. I'm not faulting their effort, and there will be games where a line is shut down. That's hockey. What is troubling about this loss is that the Predators other lines were ineffective. If the Predators are going to win these types of games, it is imperative that the team get production from Mike Fisher, Martin Erat, Sergei Kostisyn- the Predators second line tonight. Fisher has been held without a goal since missing a game after a hit in a game against the Ducks, a total of five games. Kostitsyn's game has yet to get on track. These are players that have to produce for the Predators.

Perhaps the party like atmosphere was a distraction for this team. Whatever the reason, there has to be more consistent offensive effort throughout the lineup for this team to be successful. Hopefully, this team will see some of the aforementioned players get their game going.

Do that, and it will be party.

My three stars:

1. Peter Budaj

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Max Paccioretty

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My View

In the quiet of the morning, the wind gently moves among the silent white crosses. The simple memorials stand in stark contrast to the manicured grass of the grounds. In the silence, there is peace.

For those that are memorialized by these crosses, the peaceful setting belies the the struggle and sacrifice of those that are buried in this hallowed ground. Each of these souls has given their all for the freedoms that we enjoy. Some that are buried here have spent their final moments in the chaos, sweat, and blood of defending  our freedoms that under gird our great nation.

Freedom, liberty, peace. These are lofty ideals and empty words without the substance to back them up. Across the world, there are people that talk about these concepts, that yearn for freedom, and yet they never truly experience what we enjoy in this great nation. These concepts are nothing more that that- concepts- without the men and women who sacrifice to make them real.

Each of us enjoy freedom, liberty, and peace because throughout our history even to today men and women have stood against those that would take them away. They have sacrificed time away from loved ones; they have suffered privation and hardships; and some have made the ultimate sacrifice for each of us.

Those quiet, simple crosses stand as a testimony to that sacrifice.

Today, each of us will rise up and go about our daily activities in an environment of freedom and peace. Our liberties stand as a beacon of hope to the world. We have made this day a day of honor for our veterans, living and dead, for their service and their sacrifice. We can do so because of them.

The truth is that this day is not enough. "Thank you" fails to truly signify our gratitude for what our veterans have done for us. Yet we pause to honor and thank our veterans, living and dead, for their service and for their sacrifice.

It is the least we can do.

To all that have served, both living and dead, and are serving today, we honor you. Thank you for all that you have done are are doing to keep us free, to preserve our liberties, and to allow us to live in peace. Our gratitude is heartfelt. As a people, we stand on your shoulders.

This day will pass, and the tributes to veterans will quickly fade into memories.

To those that have served and are serving, know this: we will never forget you. We will never take for granted what you have done for us and are continuing to do even to this day.

The quiet, simple crosses demand that we remember and that we honor you.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hee Haw! Predators Pound the Ducks 4-2

The Nashville Predators faced a familiar nemesis in the Dirty Ducks of Anaheim at the Pond in Anaheim in the final game of a five game road trip out west. The fact that there is no love lost between the Predators and the Ducks is well known. This contest promised to be a continuation of the enmity between the two teams.

For the Predators, it was priority number one that they play a 60 minute game against the Ducks.

Pekka Rinne was back in net for the Predators after getting a rare night off, while the Ducks countered with Jonas Hiller.

The Predators struck first just 1:20 into the game as Craig Smith dug a puck out from behind the net and fired a bad angle shot that went off the back of Hiller and into the net.

Simple hockey, but effective hockey against a team that is explosively whiny  good.

The Predators scored again at 4:56 of the period as they forced the puck into the Ducks zone and Colin Wilson centered a pass across the crease toward Patric Hornqvist. The puck caromed off a Ducks defenseman puck past Hiller to give the Predators a 2-0 lead.

Two shots, two goals.

It's amazing how simple this game can be sometimes.

The Predators dominated the play in the first period, firing shot after shot at Hiller and generating several good scoring chances, but could not bury a shot past the Ducks netminder.

Anaheim would grab some momentum back as the Predators had generated a strong puck possession in the Anaheim zone. Unfortunately, the five skaters for the Predators were on the ice for a looong time and got caught in a very bad line change. This allowed the Ducks to gain the zone and Cam Fowler fired a shot toward the net with traffic in front. The shot eluded Rinne and the Ducks were on the board at 19:21.

This period of hockey was as good for the Predators as the second period against the Kings was bad. Now it was going to be important for the Predators to come out and play another strong period in the second. Remember boys, it's a 60 minute game.

In the first period, the Predators out shot the Ducks 12-11, but often controlled play for stretches at a time in the Ducks zone with their aggressive forecheck.


Apparently, the Predators didn't remember that the game was a 60 minute affair, as the Ducks had out shot the Predators 6-2 through the first 9 minutes of the period and had a dominant territorial advantage. The Predators kept tempting fate by taking some untimely penalties.

With Craig Smith in the box, Marty Erat stole the puck a got a breakaway, that was stopped by Hiller. He was awarded a penalty shot however, and Erat converted at 12:41 to give the Predators a 3-1 lead. Erat absolutely blew the puck past Hiller on the glove side for a huge goal for the Predators.

Erat stole the puck again and had a breakaway that Hiller stopped, but Erat's effort on the penalty kill was outstanding. This after Erat was hit in the face in the first period by an errant puck that required a trip to the locker room and stitches.

The Ducks got back to within 1 goal at 14:41 as Ryan Getzlaf walked out from behind the goal and shot a puck that Rinne appeared to have covered. The Ducks kept whacking at the puck and Francois Beauchemin jammed it past Rinne to make it 3-2 Predators.

The remainder of the period saw the Predators awake and get their game in gear. They generated some quality chances but could not bury their chances, but it was good to see this team respond and begin to play like they did in the first period.

Indicative of how they played in the second half of the period was the shot total. For the period, the Predators out shot the Ducks once again by a 12-11 margin. Recall they had been out shot 6-2 after nine minutes of play.

To capture this game, it was going to be incumbent upon the Predators to get back to their basics: forecheck aggressively; get the puck deep; and play solid defense. Just like they did in the first period. Everyone on the Predators bench knew that the Ducks would come out with a strong push in the third, and the Predators were going to have to match that intensity.

Remember boys, it is a 60 minute game.

The Predators opened the third period with the line that had played a stellar game- Colin Wilson, Patric Hornqvist, and Craig Smith- doing damage to the Dirty Ducks once again. Wilson took the puck on the low cycle and found Craig Smith driving the net. He put a pass from the corner right on the tape of Smith's stick and he lifted the puck over the pads of Hiller to give the Predators a 4-2 lead at 1:36 of the third period. This was Smith's 7th goal of the season as the young rookie has made a significant impact on this Predators team.

The remainder of the third period saw the Predators keep pressure on the Ducks and spend time in their zone. When the Ducks mounted an attack, the Predators defense limited secondary scoring chances and kept the Ducks big threats from getting solid chances.

Pekka Rinne was excellent in net, making some huge saves to keep the Ducks off the board. Inevitably, the Ducks have enough talent to generate some chances. When they did, they were met by the Finnish Wall who stoned their scoring opportunities.

This was a solid road trip for the Predators as they captured 7 out of a possible 10 points against some quality competition.

Watching this game, it was apparent that when this team works and plays Predator hockey- for 60 minutes- they are tough to play against and they can play with anyone in this league.

60 minutes.

It really is a simple game.

My three stars:

1. Colin Wilson, Patric Hornqvist, Craig Smith

2. Marty Erat

3. Pekka Rinne

Predators Fall to the Kings 4-3

The Nashville Predators continued their west coast swing with a visit to Los Angels to take on the Kings at the Staples Center. The Predators gave workhorse Pekka Rinne the night off and Anders Lindback got his first start in net since March 20th of last season.

The Kings went with their back up netminder Jonathan Bernier.

The Kings opened with an interference penalty just 25 seconds into the contest. The Predators did not get a shot on net during their power play, and just as the penalty expired, Patric Hornqvist was called for interference. With 10 seconds remaining in that penalty, Jerred Smithson was called for tripping. The Predators killed off Hornqvist penalty but 5 seconds later gave up a power play goal as defenseman Alec Martinez got open on the weak side and took a nice cross ice pass from Justin Williams and buried the shot past an out of position Lindback to give the Kings a 1-0 lead.

Drew Doughty gave the Kings a 2-0 lead at 13:47 of the period as he unleashed a blast from just inside the blue line that beat Lindback over his shoulder and just under the crossbar. The Kings have struggled to score goals this season, and unfortunately for the Predators, they looked as if they had broken out of this slump early on in the contest.

It was a deficit that the Predators did not need to face and certainly not the start they wanted. It was now going to be another test of character for the Predators to claw their way back into this game.

Matt Halischuk cut the deficit to one with a 4 on 4 goal at 10:41 of the first. This goal was the result of nothing but hard work and hustle, as Haslichuk dumped the puck in the zone, retrieved it, got it out front and got a rebound of a Shea Weber shot and wristed the puck past Bernier. A Predator hockey goal and a nice answer to the push the Kings had put on early in the period.

Character showed itself at 16:02 of the period as Craig Smith blasted a rocket from the face off circle past Bernier while the Predators were on the power play. This was Smith's fifth goal of the season, and the thing about Smith is that he is not afraid to shoot  the puck, and it is paying off in good scoring chances and in goals.

The Predators were guilty of some horrific turnovers in their zone- one by Teemu Laakso and one by Jordin Tootoo- that could have resulted in Kings goals, but Lindback made some big saves to keep the Kings off the board. The period ended with the score knotted at 2, but certainly the Kings had some glorious chances to take the lead late in the period.

The Predators troubling trend of getting badly outshot reared its ugly head in the first period, as the Kings outshot the Predators 16-8.

More ominously, the Predators lost David Legwand early in the period to an upper body injury.

The action in the second period was back and forth with both goaltenders making some good saves, but the Kings finally cracked the scoreboard at 9:28 on a 3 on 2 break out. Mike Richards took a nice cross ice pass from Dustin Brown and beat Lindback with a shot inside the post.

The Kings extended their lead to 2 on the power play with Jordin Tootoo in the box for hooking as Simon Gagne took a shot from the face off circle that was deflected by Predators defenseman Jonathan Blum and past Lindback to make it 4-2.

The second period ended with the Predators a man down as Patric Hornqvist took his third penalty of the night, one of five the Predators incurred through the first two periods. The Predators were also down 4-2 on the scoreboard. While the first period demonstrated the character and grit of this team, the second period was the complete opposite. The Predators gave the Kings numerous quality scoring chances and didn't generate much of anything in the way of offensive push.

The second period was in a word, disappointing. The lack of discipline and response by the Predators was frustrating to say the least.

With one period left, it remained to be seen how the Predators would respond. Would it be a San Jose effort, or we we see another Edmonton implosion?

For most of the period, we saw very little. The Predators failed to generate quality scoring chances and challenge the Kings in their zone. Yes, we shot the puck, but it was a fairly easy period for Bernier.

But at 18:48, with the extra attacker on, Ryan Suter threw the puck at the net and Patric Hornqvist deflected the puck past Bernier to make it 4-3. Nice to see Hornqvist atone for some of the penalties he took earlier. This was the 6th straight game in which Hornqvist has recorded a goal.

The Predators had a good flurry in the final minute, but it was too little too late as a horrifically sloppy second period and a mostly flaccid third period effort doomed the Predators as they fell 4-3.

This team cannot take a period off, and must play Predator hockey for 60 minutes if they are going to have an opportunity to win games. Tonight, they did not play a full 60 minutes and it cost them.

Hopefully, this team does not have to keep learning this lesson.

My three stars:

1. Jonathan Bernier

2. Dustin Penner

3. Craig Smith

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Predators Cap an Improbale Comeback, Defeat Sharks 4-3 in OT

The Nashville Predators continued their west coast swing with a visit to the Shark Tank to take on the San Jose Sharks. The Tank has not been a hospitable place for the Predators, and they were looking to change their fortunes in the second meeting between the two teams.

Pekka Rinne got the start for the Predators, while Antti Niemi was in net for the Sharks.

Although the first period was scoreless, it was not for lack of effort by the Sharks. They blasted shot after shot at Rinne, a total of 18 in the period. Rinne was stellar, making some big saves to keep the Sharks off the board.

By contrast, Niemi had little work on his end of the ice, facing only 7 shots, and most of his saves were of a routine variety as the Predators rarely challenged the Sharks tender with serious offensive pressure.

The way this game started, it appeared as if the Predators were going to spend the entire game chasing the Sharks around the ice. The lack of offensive pressure was disconcerting and left Predator fans wondering where their offense was.

Apparently Head Coach Barry Trotz had a heart to heart talk with his team at intermission, because the Predators came out with more jump. Their efforts paid off at 1:02 of the period as David Legwand tipped a shot from Colin Wilson while driving the net to stake the Predators to a 1-0 lead.

The Sharks tied the game at 4:40 when Joe Pavelski took a nice pass from Logan Couture and beat Rinne stick side. This play was set up by good forechecking pressure from the Sharks, which they used to perfection in the first two periods to create havoc in the Predators zone.

The Sharks took a 2-1 lead at 9:50 of the period as Martin Havlat scored off a goal mouth scramble. Logan Couture was in the crease after being knocked down and appeared to be impeding the ability of Rinne to get over to the side of the net, but it was a non call and the goal stood.

The relentless forecheck of the Sharks was causing problems for the Predators, and everyone knew that it was not going to let up in the third period. The Predators were going to have to find a way to break the pressure and get through the neutral zone and establish their offense to have a chance in the third period.

In the second period, the Predators outshot the Sharks 13-10, indicative of a better effort by the Predators. It was going to be imperative that the Predators bring this kind of effort in the final twenty minutes.

The Sharks opened a 2 goal lead as the puck took a strange carom off the end board and went out front right to the stick of Logan Couture, who buried the shot past an out of position Rinne just 50 seconds into the period. The Sharks are tough enough without fluky goals going into the Predators net.

Patric Hornqvist pulled the Predators back to within one goal as Shea Weber took a wrist shot from the point that Niemi could not control. Hornqvist found the puck laying in the blue paint and tapped it home at 2:57 of the third. That was Hornqvist's 6th goal in the last 5 five games.

Ryan Suter tied the game at 5:58 of the third on the power play. With Patrick Marleau in the box, Suter worked his way to the high slot and rifled a shot past a screened Niemi with Craig Smith in front. For the Predators, this was their first power play goal in three attempts.

The remainder of the third period saw both teams generate some good chances in end to end action. Pekka Rinne preserved a point for the Predators with an amazing save on Joe Pavelski with 28 seconds left in the period and the Predators a man down. Rinne slid across the crease and got a pad on the shot to keep the Sharks off the board.

The third period was the best period of the night in regulation for the Predators. They outshot the Sharks 13-7 and their forecheck was very strong and created chances.

The Predators opened the overtime period with the carryover of the penalty to Jonathan Blum, and they were able to successfully kill off the penalty. 

The Predators capped an improbable comeback as David Legwand roofed a backhand shot over Niemi with Colin Wilson doing the dirty work in front of the net with a great screen. The score came 2:53 into the overtime period.

This was a gritty, character win by the Predators. Down 3-1 early in the third, this team fought back and did not quit. They were down two regulars, Kevin Klein and Sergei Kostitsyn, and broke up their top D pairing of Weber and Suter. They were dominated in the first period, but kept fighting back.

They played Predator hockey, and the result was a victory.

Kudos to Colin Wilson, who skated hard all night, shot the puck, and was screening in front on the game winning goal.

This young team has learned some painful lessons in their early season losses. They are now learning to win these types of games, tough games that require heart.

These lessons are a lot more fun.

My three stars:

1. David Legwand

2. Logan Couture

3. Patric Hornqvist

Honorable mention: Pekka Rinne, Colin Wilson

Friday, November 4, 2011

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

We all know that our economy is struggling with high unemployment. There are a lot of reasons for this, but one that is often overlooked is the effect of housing, specifically the lack of new housing starts that impacts our economy. Take a look at the following chart:

Notice that as the blue line (housing starts) starts to decline in 2008, the red line (unemployment) starts to rise significantly. Housing as an industry makes up a large component of our work force. As housing starts have fallen over the past three years, there has been a corresponding increase in unemployment. To be sure, the high level of unemployment cannot be attributed solely to the decline in the housing market, but the impact of a declining housing market has been a major contributor. The problem that the Fed faces is that low interest rates have not stimulated new demand and the housing market still has some significant problems that have to be rectified. Corporations get blamed for a lot of the problems in this country and for not hiring. Some of that criticism is justified. Know this, however: until the housing market begins to improve, it will be difficult for the unemployment rate to come down to more normalized levels.

I was offered a job at a company that makes compasses. I turned it down. I didn't think they were headed in the right direction.

Since the economy rolled over into a recession in 2008, most people have seen their net worth decline significantly. Savings were depleted to pay bills and retirement accounts generally took a hit in the market declines. It has been a difficult time for everyone. Well, not everyone. From 2008 through the end of 2010, according to Congressional disclosures released by Roll Call Magazine, the average net worth of our legislators in Washington increase by 25% to a cumulative $2 billion. Frankly, this is understated because Congressional disclosures do not include homes and non income generating assets. This is spread evenly between the parties, meaning that both Democrats and Republicans have financially benefited from their "service" Now I am all for any individual legitimately making and keeping all that they can, and I am not implying that these gains enjoyed by our legislators were illegitimately gained. But the idea of government "service" seems to have gone by the wayside and tenure in Washington is seen as a means to gain riches. This furthers the perception that our Congressional leaders are out of touch with most Americans and are only looking out for their own interests.

When I am down, I like to whistle. It makes my neighbor's dog run to the end of his chain and choke himself.

One of the central tenets of the Occupy Wall Street movement is that income inequality in our country is an evil problem. We have all heard their mantra that the "rich are getting richer" and the implication is that this is getting worse and is unfair. Forget the fairness argument, but what is really happening with income inequality? Here are the facts. According to Census Bureau data, the wealthiest 5% of Americans saw their incomes fall 7% when George Bush was in office. Betcha don't hear that anywhere in the discussion, do you? The gap between the wealthiest and the poorest actually narrowed under President Bush. Under President Obama, the wealthiest 5% of Americans have seen their incomes rise by 5.7%. I know you will not hear that in the mainstream media. So incomes have been rising for the wealthiest Americans with a Democrat in the White House.I have no problems with that, again as long as their increase has been achieved legitimately. Here is the point: we should not be concerned with how much a person is making. Instead, we should be focused on making it as easy as possible for someone in a lower income bracket to move to a higher income bracket through their efforts. Rather than focus on class warfare, our leaders and our nation should be focused on creating an environment where the success and corresponding income of an individual is determined only by their efforts, not some artifice of the federal government.

Sex is like air. It's not important until you're not getting any.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Predators Bite the Coyotes 3-0

The Nashville Predators must feel that they are looking in the mirror when they play the Phoenix Coyotes. Both teams are aggressive on their forecheck, play tough defense, and have good goaltending. Often their contests are a punch/counter-punch affair, with each team looking to capitalize off the others mistakes.

This game, at least early on, was just this type of affair.

Nashville had newly signed and extended Pekka Rinne in net, while the Coyotes countered with Predator killer Jason Labarbera in goal for this contest at Jobing.com Arena.

Both teams played to a scoreless first period, with the Predators outshooting the Coyotes 11-8. Neither team could solve the play of the goaltenders and spent the first 20 minutes in the aforementioned punch/counter-punch mode.

That would change in the second period as Jonathan Blum cracked the scoreboard first for the Predators with a low shot through traffic with Matt Halischuk screening that eluded Labarbera at 8:01 to make it 1-0. This was Blum's first goal of the season.

The Predators would extend the lead to 2-0 as Craig Smith continued his electrifying play with a hard drive to the net and a nice feed to Matt Haslischuk. Halischuk lifted a backhand shot over the pads of Labarbera to make it 2-0 at 16:04 of the second.

Once again, the Predators had the dreaded third period lead to protect.

The Predators opened the third period with great pressure on Labarbera, taking the first 3 shots of the period and generating good pressure. That effort was short circuited with a questionable interference call on Ryan Suter.

Once again, the Predators PK unit was solid and managed to kill off the penalty.

After the opening burst by the Predators, they proceeded to spend the next ten minutes of the period sitting back on their heels and letting the Coyotes come through the neutral zone with ease and spend way too much time in the Predators zone. This is annoyingly too common for this team.

The Predators managed to hold off the Coyotes with some great saves by Rinne and some fortuitous defense in front of Rinne.

Patric Hornqvist tallied an empty net goal at 19:01 to make it 3-0 Predators and his 4th goal in as many games to seal the win for the Predators.

Pekka Rinne celebrated his birthday and the new contract with his 23rd career shutout.

For the game, the Coyotes out shot the Predators 35-32. The positive aspect of this is although the Predators were once again out shot, the shot differential is narrowing substantially.

With the win, the Predators go to 6-4-2.

The Predators are showing signs of progress. There play through the first two periods was solid. The concern remains the about the mentality of sitting back on a lead. In the third period, there were stretches where this happened, and this has to stop. The Predators did generate some good pressure in spurts, but it must be more consistent throughout the period.

More growing is to come for this team, but they are making significant progress toward playing more consistently and playing Predator hockey.

The key for this team is to keep building on this progress.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Matt Halischuk

3. Jonathan Blum

Predators Sign Pekka Rinne for 7 Years, $49 Million

The Nashville Predators announced today that they had signed goaltender Pekka Rinne to a 7 year, $49 million dollar contract extension. Here is the press release from the Predators:

Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has signed goaltender Pekka Rinne to a seven-year, $49 million contract – the largest in franchise history.

“Today’s signing is further evidence of our ownership’s commitment to keeping our core intact,” Poile said. “This is the first step of a process designed to retain our key players and leaders. Pekka has grown with our franchise, just recently established our franchise record for career shutouts and is now recognized as one of the game’s elite players. We’re thrilled to know that he will be backstopping our franchise for several years to come.”

Rinne, who is celebrating his 29th birthday today (11/3/82), finished second in voting for the 2011 Vezina Trophy and fourth in voting for the 2011 Hart Trophy, in addition to being named to the 2010-11 NHL Second All-Star Team. Rinne ranked second among NHL netminders in save percentage (.930), third in goals-against average (2.12) and tied for sixth in shutouts (6) in 2010-11, with the save percentage and goals-against average numbers setting franchise records. During the 2011 Playoffs, he led the Predators to their first-ever series victory in the Western Conference Quarterfinals vs. Anaheim, then posted a franchise-record for goals-against average in a series (1.94) along with a .932 save percentage in the Western Conference Semifinals against Vancouver.

Already in 2011-12, the Kempele, Finland native has recorded his 21st and 22nd shutouts, moving into first on the franchise’s all-time list and giving him the most whitewashes in the League since 2008-09. His record-breaking 22nd shutout on Saturday against Anaheim was also his 100th career victory. In becoming the first goalie in club history to start each of the team’s first 11 games of the season, Rinne has risen to first in the NHL in saves (307), second in shots against (333), and third in minutes played (624:37).

Nashville’s 10th choice, 258th overall (eighth round), in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Rinne has also represented Finland in two of the past three World Championships (2009, 2010), being named one of the nation’s three best players in both years.

Immediately, there was joy from the Predator nation about the signing, while the reaction across the hockey world has been mixed. Let's take a look at this signing and what it means for the Predators.

The Predators have locked down a goaltender that is arguably the best netminder in the NHL. Rinne finished second in the Vezina voting this past season to Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins and fourth in the Hart voting as the League's Most Valuable Player. There is no doubt that Rinne is integral to the success of the Predators, having won at least 29 games each season since taking over the starting goaltender's role in the 2008-09 season. Rinne has stolen more games than Predator fans and opponents can count with his play in net.

The Predators have a philosophy of building from the net out, and the signing of Rinne is consistent with that philosophy. While Rinne becomes the highest paid goaltender in the NHL, the question begs "Is he worth it?"

I would answer a resounding "YES".

Rinne's victory totals have been 29, 32, and 33 in each of the last three seasons. His save percentage and GAA over those seasons have been: .917 and 2.38 in 2008; .911 and 2.53 in 2009; and .930 and 2.12 in 2010. Undoubtedly, the Predators would have been challenged to make the playoffs without that kind of effort.

Many in the hockey world have speculated that the Predators could not sign their "big three" of Rinne, Suter, and Weber. Imagine the hue and cry if the Predators were not able to sing any of the big three, or just one of them. The negative perception of Nashville would have been huge, and frankly, it may have made it more difficult to attract top line free agents to the club. And know this: there would be teams lined up to pay Rinne this kind of money should the Predators have chosen not to sign him. 

A goaltender of this caliber is rare. There are those that have said that it is not a good market for goaltenders and that the Predators have overpaid for the services of Rinne. I disagree. True enough, there are a lot of goaltenders in the NHL; there are few of this talent level. Locking in a player like Rinne for the next seven years was, in my view, a very smart move by the Predators management.

What message does this send?

There are two.

To the team, and specifically to Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, it says that the team is committed to keeping the key players in the fold, players that can help the Predators win and go deep in the playoffs. It removes the cloud of having to sign one of the stalwarts of the team and says that management is going to do what is necessary to keep winning.

To the hockey world, it says that this in not the "same old Nashville", and by that I mean that Nashville is a team that can develop good young talent but cannot pay to keep them when they hit their prime. The signing of Rinne destroys that argument, and once the  Predators sign Suter (and they will), maybe that tired meme will disappear.

I am going to venture into the realm of speculation here. The signing of Rinne, especially the length and size of the contract also tells me that perhaps the goalie pipeline of the Predators is nowhere close to being ready to step up to the next level. The coaching ability of Mitch Korn notwithstanding, I would not be comfortable with any of the goalies in our system right now as either a starter or a backup that would have to play 10-15 games a season. 

On a positive note, it does tell me that there is confidence in the depth of the D corp. Should the Predators not be able to sign one of the two defensemen- Suter or Weber- the depth on the blueline is such that the team could manage if they do not sign one of the blueliners. Without a doubt, there would be a drop off, but there is talent that can play at the NHL level.

That is why it was imperative to get Rinne under contract.

We should not forget either that GM David Poile has some degree of flexibility with Weber. He can match any offer sheet since Weber has another year as a restricted free agent. I would have to guess that any offer sheet for Weber would be around the same dollars that he is currently receiving. This gives Poile the luxury of another year to negotiate a deal with Weber and his agents should the Predators choose to match an offer sheet.

For the Predators, this is a great signing on several fronts, and the message to the team is that management is committed to winning.

The message to the hockey world is that this is not the same old Predators.