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