Saturday, December 3, 2011

Sabres Stick the Predators 3-2

The Buffalo Sabres ventured to Bridgestone Arena to take on the Nashville Predators in what turned out to be a spirited contest between two teams that were evenly matched. Although these two teams rarely see each other, the venom was ramped up as the game went along.

Anders Lindback got the start in net for the Predators and Buffalo had Ryan Miller back after an injury from a collision with Boston's Milan Lucic.

You can read the game summary here.

Here are some thoughts from the game...

The first goal against Lindback was a scrambling kind of goal, as the puck was bouncing all over the place before it was buried by Luke Adam. I can't really fault Lindback on that goal as the puck was bouncing from side to side of the net and the defense could not clear the front of the net.

The second goal was a result of a momentary indecision by Roman Josi. That momentary hesitation allowed Zack Kassian to break in alone on Lindback and he roofed a nice backhand shot over the shoulder for the score. When you play a young player at any position, you have to live with their mistakes on their learning curve. This was that type of play, and it bit the Predators. Josi shows a lot of promise, and he owned up to his mistake after the game, which was a stand up act. Look for this young man to continue to develop and his game to get stronger.

The controversial play that got the blood boiling on both sides was a drive to the net by Jordin Tootoo that resulted in a collision with Ryan Miller. Tootoo was driving hard to the front of the net and was shoved by Christian Ehrhoff. Tootoo appeared to try to avoid Miller by leaping to try to miss Miller, but still collided with him. Tootoo went down, and Miller took five or six good punches at Tootoo. Miller got no penalties for his actions, but Tootoo got a 5 minute charging penalty and a game misconduct. Paul Gaustad got a 4 minute roughing penalty and a 10 minute misconduct out of the fracas after the play.

If Tootoo had really wanted to run Miller, the fact is that Miller would not have remained in the game. I know the officials were sensitive to protecting Miller because of what happened in the Boston game, but in my view overreacted. There was no consideration of the fact that Ehrhoff was beaten on the play and shoved Tootoo at the last moment, causing Tootoo to veer directly toward Miller.Obviously I view this play from Predator colored glasses, but it appeared that Tootoo did his best to avoid completely steamrolling Miller.

Buffalo fans- and players- will disagree with that assessment. So be it. It was a bang bang play that resulted in contact with the goalie. If this had been any other player than Ryan Miller, Tootoo would not have received the game misconduct.

Craig Smith scored with a blistering shot that beat Miller short side. He continues to be the most dynamic offensive player for the Predators, and I certainly hope the coaching staff has come to this realization. Playing Smith on the third line like they have is a failed experiment. Put Smith with some of the more talented players on the first or second line and he will produce. My hope is that he stays on the first or second line for the remainder of the season.

David Legwand notched another goal, his team leading 12th of the season. I wish Legwand would adopt Smith's attitude of shoot first and pass second. Legwand too often passes up shots in favor of passes, and if he would take a shoot first mentality in the offensive zone, his production would be exceptional.

Ryan Miller was very good in net. The Predators put 34 shots on net to 14 for Buffalo, but had a hard time solving Miller. Part of this is due to Miller's solid play, but part of this is due to the Predators being unable to finish chances.

Let me ask this: outside of Smith, does anyone really scare the opposition when they carry the puck into the offensive zone? Colin Wilson has flashes. Anyone else? And therein lies the problem for the Predators. This team is built with grinders and blue collar players. The finishers? Erat? Too inconsistent? Legwand? Also inconsistent. Anyone else?

I didn't think so.

Which means the Predators are going to have to overcome the mistakes that young players will inevitably make and they are going to have to outwork the opposition. Tonight, they could not beat a very good netminder that played an very good game.

However, if they keep shooting the puck like they did tonight and minimize their mistakes, they will win more than they will lose. The effort tonight cannot be criticized too much. It is important that this team continue to play to their identity.

If they do, they will stick it to their opponents.

My three stars:

1. Ryan Miller

2. Luke Adam

3. Craig Smith

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