Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Capital Punishment: Caps Punch Out the Predators 4-1

There are times the Nashville Predators looks like Daniel Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks.

No, not an offensive force.

Instead, like Sedin getting punched by Brad Marchand in the Stanley Cup finals, they often look like a team that is getting punched in the face and not responding.

In their game against the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center, the Predators watched the Capitals out skate and out hit them consistently throughout the first period en route to a 2-0 lead. The Capitals did pretty much what they wanted and the Predators did not respond.

Anders Lindback started in net for the Predators, while the Capitals went with Michael Neuvirth. Lindback was under assault throughout the period, while Neuvirth had very little to do at his end of the ice.

The Predators recorded their second shot on net after 11 minutes had elapsed off the clock, if you want an indication of how ineffective the offensive effort was.

Alex Ovechkin notched his 11th goal of the season at 7:42 of the first period as he drove the net and beat Jonathan Blum to the low slot. His wrist shot beat Lindback over the shoulder to give the Capitals a 1-0 lead.

Nicklas Backstrom got his 12th goal of the season on a nice wraparound goal. He used the net to scrape off Jerred Smithson and beat Lindback to the far post at 15:51 to make it 2-0 Capitals.

Frankly, if the Capitals had not missed some open shots, the score could have been much worse.

The Capitals out shot the Predators 11-4 in the first period, but totally dominated the play as the Predators offense failed to show up in this period. The Predators continued their poor offensive effort that started in the St. Louis game, and unfortunately, that game did not appear to be an aberration.

In the second period, the Predators skated better and generated 8 shots on net to 3 for the Capitals. The Predators once again caught a couple of breaks as they gave up two 2 on 1 rushes that the Capitals could not convert. Although they generated 8 shots, there were only a few quality scoring chances, and Neuvirth was up to the task of stopping the Predators.

The Predators had three power plays in the the third period, and never really challenged Neuvirth on any of them. One failed to generate any shots on goal. The power play has been surprisingly potent up to this point for the Predators, but the Capitals PK was hustling and shutting down quality chances for the Predators.

Through two periods, the Predators had reverted back to their old and frustrating ways by passing up shots in favor of an extra pass. The fact is that the Predators lack the elite finishers that make this style of play a solid offensive strategy. The Predators were going to have to commit to shooting the puck and crashing the net if they were going to get back in this contest in the third period.

The Predators finally found the back of the net at 4:40 of the third period as Sergei Kostitsyn stole the puck and weaved his way through the Capitals defense and let a snap shot go from the face off circle that beat Neuvirth. Good to see Kostitsyn find the back of the net again. This was his fifth goal of the year.

The Predators began to skate and challenged the Capitals (finally!). The started buzzing the net, firing the pucks, and controlling play. This was the Predators team that was finally employing their formula for success.

The Capitals seized momentum back at 10:21 of the third period as Alex Semin skated in and unleashed a laser to the top corner that beat Lindback to make the score 3-1 Capitals. Now the Predators faced the double challenge of overcoming a Capitals lead and the enemy that was the clock.

With Craig Smith in the box for hooking, the Capitals tallied on the power play as Troy Brouwer tipped a shot from the point by Dennis Wideman to make it 4-1 at 13:46.

The Predators had a chance to cut into the deficit as Joel Ward was called for slashing at 14:16, but the Predators failed to get a shot on the power play.

The Capitals spent the rest of the period choking off the Predators offense, and the final score was 4-1 Capitals.

The frustrating thing about this team is their consistently inconsistent effort. You would think that by now this team would have learned that they have to play a full 60 minute game. Apparently, that has not been ingrained into their psyche even this deep into the season. One bad period can and often does spell defeat for this team, and they have continued to struggle with this concept.

Until they grasp the concept of a 60 minute game, they will continue to get punched out by their competition.

Kinda like Daniel Sedin.

My three stars:

1. Nicklas Backstrom

2. Alex Semin

3. Sergei Kostitsyn

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