Monday, January 31, 2011

Jordin Tootoo Cleared to Return to Preactice

The National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players’ Association announced today that forward Jordin Tootoo of the Nashville Predators has entered the follow-up care phase of the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program of the NHLPA and the NHL. Tootoo is cleared to return to practice with the Predators while he continues his outpatient care. Tootoo is not cleared to play in NHL games or to travel with the Nashville Predators on their road trips.

On December 27, 2010, Tootoo voluntarily entered an in-patient care program. Tootoo's care continues to be administered by SABH Program Doctors Dave Lewis (NHL) and Brian Shaw (NHLPA).

Thursday, January 27, 2011

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

The time is finally here. You know what I am talking about- that time when you admit what you have known all along to be true but have denied or just pushed to the back of your mind and ignored its reality. The reality about which I am speaking? The fact that the Social Security is bankrupt, a fact that has been mentioned here on several occasions. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the fund is now beginning to run a deficit, and will do so every year until it is completely out of money in 2037. This admission is a positive first step; the CBO had originally stated that the deficit situation would not occur until 2016 at the earliest. A bruising recession that has caused the unemployment rate to rise significantly has meant that significantly fewer dollars are flowing into the system. Couple that fact with the benefit payouts from Social Security are going to begin to increase exponentially, and this is a financial train wreck that is happening right before our eyes. Congress has been loath to address this problem as the solutions are going to be be painful for all. Among other proposals will be significant tax increases; increasing the retirement age for full benefits; and means testing, or some combination of these choices. We all know how we got here: Congress "borrowed" (read: looted) the $2.5 trillion dollar surplus that was in the fund to spend on other programs (read: re-election pork), and put Treasury Bonds in its place. Now that more benefits are being drawn out as Boomers reach retirement age and less income is coming in, we must make some serious changes to the program to maintain its long term viability. It will be interesting to see if Congress has the cajones to do so.

The other day, my wife called me ignorant. I told her I don't know the meaning of the word.

One of the major problems that policy makers must contend with is the high unemployment rate. Although the nominal rate of unemployment is just over 9%, the real rate is estimated by some economists to be between 16 and 18% of the workforce. As mentioned above, one of the problems this creates for Washington is lower tax collections (FICA, Medicare, and Income) and greater federal outlays for unemployment benefits. The question is how to get the unemployment rate back down to more normal levels, and it is a question that has no easy answers. Companies have been slow to hire because of the uncertainty of the political, regulatory, and tax environment; and because they have found they can use technology to enhance productivity and forgo the hiring of new personnel. The Fed has been pushing down interest rates in hopes of spurring business activity and therefore an increase in employment. It has not worked. There have been some cosmetic regulatory and legal changes that have come out of Congress. These, too, have not stimulated job creation. In my view, there are only two real fixes that will add jobs in this country. One, lower the cost of U.S. workers (salary and benefits) to a level comparable to foreign workers. The other solution is to raise the value added that each U.S. worker brings to the job. The first solution is painful and will obviously lower the standard of living for many. This is the effect of global competition; as consumers we demand the cheapest goods and services (sweeping generalization, I know, and also know that is not true in every case, such as healthcare) and the effect of that is that companies are locating jobs to places that have a lower cost structure than the U.S. The second solution, raising the value added by U.S. workers, is a costly solution that requires extensive commitments to education and training and takes time. Expect unemployment to remain high and to be with us for quite some time.

I always practice safe lunch and use a condiment.

More than ever, we should be very informed about the legislative process that is going on in Washington. Our elected leaders face tough choices. Making difficult, well thought out decisions and sound financial choices is not natural to them. President Obama set the stage in his State of the Union address on Tuesday with 15 proposals, such as investment in infrastructure and streamlining government departments. Of the 15 proposals, five would boost spending, three would reduce spending, and seven were indeterminate because of a lack of specifics, according to the National Taxpayers Union Foundation. Know this, "investment" is government-speak for spending more tax dollars, and wasteful government spending has gotten us into this mess and now must be curtailed. Also know that spending freezes sound good, and I am all for them, but they alone will not get us back toward fiscal sanity. Get involved in the process and follow the money, uh, legislation through the process. Our financial future rests on us as the electorate holding Congress accountable.

My Dad fought in the Korean War, and survived exposure to mustard gas and pepper spray. I always like to refer to him as a "seasoned" veteran.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Predators Give Away a Game to the Canucks 2-1

The Nashville Predators completed a six game road trip by giving away a game to the Vancouver Canucks by a score of 2-1.

The Predators played two scoreless periods against the Canucks before taking a 1-0 lead just 37 seconds into the third period when Shea Weber potted his 9th goal of the season with a wrist shot over a sprawling Roberto Luongo.

That lead lasted until 10:39 of the period when Dan Hamhuis shot a puck toward the net that pinballed through traffic and laned at the feet of cheap shot artist Alex Burrows. Burrows was surrounded by three Predators but not tied up by any of them and was able to backhand the puck past Pekka Rinne.

Vancouver would tally the game winner as the Predators had the puck on the stick of Joel Ward with an opportunity for an easy clear. Instead, Ward fell and turned the puck over to Daniel Sedin. Sedin slid the puck to Lee Sweatt, playing in his first NHL game, and he blew a shot past Rinne.

The Predators has some opportunities late in the game, but could not get a puck past Luongo, and were left with the bitter taste of what might have been. Frankly, the Predators deserved better, but as has been their habit, they did not close out a game that they could have won.

Beyond two defensive breakdowns that cost them, the Predators were victimized by an impotent effort on the power play. The man advantage unit went 0 for 5 in this game. This has to change after the All Star break for the Predators to win these types of games.

I hate losing a game like this, and I know the team does even more than I. There are a lot of positives to take away from this road trip, and those are the aspects on which the team should focus. They won some tough games against quality opponents. The lineup at times was mix and match due to injuries, yet was competitive and productive. This group showed character and heart.

The break for the All Star competition comes at a much needed time. The team needs some rest and the time to allow some of the wounded warriors to return. The time will be good for the guys to relax and recharge their batteries and get focused on the remaining 32 games that lie ahead.

Know that in these remaining games, you are going to have to bring it, boys. Look at the positives of these first 50 games and build on them. Learn from the mistakes and tighten up your effort.

Get ready to bring it and make some noise in these last 32 games.

My three stars:

1. Lee Sweatt

2. Shea Weber

3. Roberto Luongo

Monday, January 24, 2011

Predators Burnt by the Flames 3-1

All good things come to an end, and tonight, the Nashville Predators three game winning streak came to an end against the Calgary Flames in a 3-1 loss at Calgary.

The Predators saw their potent penalty kill give up two power play goals and their effective offense rendered impotent by an aggressive Calgary defense that stymied the Predator's effort in the offensive zone all night.

Calgary opened the scoring at 10:14 of the first period on a fluke goal by Curtis Glencross. Glencross took a shot that was partially blocked by Shea Weber. The puck hit Weber's stick and fluttered into the air and over the shoulder of netminder Pekka Rinne, who lost sight of the puck when it went airborne.

Nashville would answer at 10:32 of the second period as David Legwand tapped home a rebound of a Colin Wilson shot. Joel Ward dug the puck out of the corner and sent a centering pass to Wilson. His backhand shot hit Mikka Kiprusoff and floated to the goal line at the side of the out of position goaltender. Legwand, driving the net, had an easy tap in for the tying goal.

Calgary took the lead at 13:01 on the first of their power play goals as Jerome Iginla was left alone at the side of the Predators net. He gathered in a rebound of a Matt Stajan shot and had an empty net to shoot the puck into as the defense lost coverage on Iginla.

Brenden Morrison would add another power play tally at 14:18 of the third period as he was alone at the side of the net (notice a common thread here) and took a nice pass from Alex Tanguay for a shot into a virtually open net.

I don't know if it was fatigue from playing the night before or the physical nature of the Calgary defense- probably a bit of both- as the Predators never really challenged Kiprusoff throughout the game. They had some pressure in the the third period, but frankly never skated well all night and didn't create enough traffic in front of Kiprusoff to create problems.

As Assistant Coach Brent Peterson said during an in game interview, the Predators are a good team when they are skating and moving their feet, and when they do not do that, they are a poor team. Tonight, they were a poor team.

No excuses, but the Predators iced a patchwork lineup as they were without the services of J.P. Dumont, who was slashed across the neck in last night's game in Edmonton. The loss of Dumont effectively takes away one of the Predators lines as his replacement, Wade Belak, skates limited minutes and does not present an offensive threat.

The Predators have a day to re-group and then face a stern test in Vancouver on Wednesday. Skate hard and play Predator hockey, and you will be fine. Play like tonight, and the game will be ugly.

My three stars:

1. Jerome Iginla

2. Matt Stajan

3. David Legwand

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Predators Slide Past the Oilers in a SO 3-2

The Nashville Predators continued their lengthy road trip with a stop in frigid Edmonton, and for moments in the game, it looked as if the Predators had a brain freeze in their defensive zone. The Predators prevailed over the Oilers 3-2 in a shootout, but it was a game that shouldn't have been this close and yet was a game the Predators nearly threw away.

There is no doubt that the Oilers have some very fine young talent on their squad, and these young players at times show flashes of excellence. At the same time, the Predators made the likes of Taylor Hall and Linus Omark look very good.

The Predators opened the scoring at 11:53 of the first period as Alexander Sulzer was on the ice after spending two minutes of shame in the sin bin for holding. Cody Franson got an outlet pass to Sergei Kostitsyn, who drove hard to the net. Sulzer jumped in the play on the rush and was the beneficiary of a nice pass from Kostitsyn as he tipped a backhand past Edmonton netminder Devan Dubnyk. Congratulations on your first first NHL goal, Mr. Sulzer.

After a scoreless second period, the third period became more frenetic and the Predators once again demonstrated a frustrating inability to put away a team.

The Oilers tied the game at 2:03 of the third period as Liam Reddox made Cody Franson look like a pylon at the blue line. Franson got trapped in no man's land as he neither played the puck nor took the body and Reddox easily chipped the puck off the boards and past Franson. Shane O'Brien had Andrew Cogliano on the off side of the ice, but left his man to pick up Reddox. Reddox had an easy pass to make to Cogliano, who beat Pekka Rinne with the game tying goal.

Three players broke down on this play, and it cost the Predators. Franson was beat at the blue line; O'Brien overplayed the puck; and the forward coming back, Patric Hornqvist, was late getting in on the play. On unfortunate set of breakdowns and now we have a tie game and new life and energy for the Oil.

The Predators would regain the lead on the power play as Joel Ward was battling in front of the net and was able to tip in a shot from Alexander Sulzer at 14:05.

2-1 Predators and just under six minutes to go in the game. Lock this one down and skate away with the win.

Uh, what part of "lock this one down" did we not understand?

The Oilers would tie the game at 16:13 a Dustin Penner dug a puck off the boards and slipped it to Taylor Hall. Hall is dangerous, but when he breaks in on the goaltender alone, he is nearly unstoppable. That is what the Predators allowed- Hall breaking in on Rinne. Alone. Hall roofed a shot to the top corner to tie the game at 2.

The game remained scoreless for the the rest of regulation time, and the Predators and Oilers were heading to overtime.

Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne was outstanding in this game, and I cannot fault him for the two goals allowed. Rinne made some outstanding saves to keep the Oil off the board. The two goals allowed in regulation were off of a 2 on 1 breakaway and a breakaway goal.

Rinne would make his most amazing save in the OT period, however. Amazing because he didn't touch the puck, yet managed to keep it out of his net. Let me tell you how we got there.

The Predators would have an abbreviated power play of 1:14 going into OT. The Predators could not capitalize on their man advantage, so they figured they would see if the Oilers could score with the man advantage.

Ryan Suter was called for tripping at 1:21 of OT, and the Oil did a good job of buzzing the Predators net and generating some scoring chances. In a scramble around the net, Rinne dropped his stick, but continues to battle and try to locate the puck. The Oilers put a shot on net that got past Rinne and appeared to be going in the net at the far side post.

Remember that dropped goalie stick? Guess where it was laying. On the ice, just inside the far side post. The puck hit the stick and deflected out. For the Oilers, the puck tantalizingly lay on the goal line before spinning harmlessly away. For Predator fans, there was a massive and collective sigh of relief.

No scoring in overtime and we were heading to the shootout, where Rinne has been dominant. Tonight was no different.

The Oil elected to shoot first , and phenom Linus Omark was the first shooter. Omark approached with speed, tried to deke Rinne, who said O-No-You-Don't-Mark, as he poked the puck away from the rookie. Marcel Goc was stopped by Dubnyk, and the teams were tied after one round.

Rinne stopped Edmonton's second shooter, Sam Gagne.

The second shooter for the Predators was an exciting forward....wait...what? A defenseman? Cody Franson?!

Sure enough, Cody Franson came over the boards to take the second shot for the Predators, and he buried a quick snap shot over the glove hand of Dubnyk. Franson looked incredibly poised in his first attempt at the shootout and also made the coaching staff look like geniuses for sending him out.

Rinne stopped Taylor Hall and the Predators had a hard fought victory. Frankly, harder than it should have been.

Focusing on the positives, the Predators continued to pile up the points, and these two points were important and were going to be difficult to capture. As stated earlier, this is an Oilers team that has good young talent, and they are going to be dangerous in a few years. This was a team that the Predators could have overlooked if they just looked at records. They almost did. Operative word: almost.

The Predators now stand at 27-15-6 and have 60 points. They are currently second in the Central Division, behind Detroit, who has 64 points. The Predators are in 4th place in the West, 2 points ahead of Anaheim.

The Predators have now captured 6 of the possible 8 points on this road trip. They play in Calgary tomorrow night.

Bring your "A" game boys and you want have to slide by the Flames

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Alexander Sulzer

3. Cody Franson


Friday, January 21, 2011

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

We often hear that inflation is tame and that prices are not rising. This is a function of how the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates inflation, and is divorced from reality. If you have bought groceries or filled up your car, you know that prices are on the rise. The Producer Price Index, a measure of price increases at the wholesale level, was up 4% for the full year in 2010, yet all calculations of inflation exclude those the food and energy component. The stated inflation increase for 2010 was .02%. Know that the U.S. government has skin in the game and wants to keep the calculation of inflation as low as possible since many of the entitlement programs have payment adjustments that are tied to inflation. It is true that many retail categories have not shown price increases over the past two years; however, these tend to be in items that are considered discretionary purchases by consumers. Necessities, such as food, energy, and healthcare, are showing substantial price increases, and these increases squeeze an already cash strapped consumer. Rising prices serve as a de facto tax on consumers and further drains disposable income that could be spent in other areas. The economy will continue to limp along as consumers spend more on necessities, which will prolong the recession in which we find ourselves.

I heard that women like "six packs". I have been drinking them for years, but it's not working.

A quiet crisis is developing in our states. Cumulatively, U.S. public pensions face a $2.5 trillion dollar shortfall, and the repercussions for state government will be dramatic. The size of the problem is astounding. For instance, Illinois faces and unfunded pension liability of $80 billion dollars; the state of Pennsylvania had to advance the City of Harrisburg money to avoid a default on their bonds because of paying existing pension obligations; and the State of New Jersey has estimated that their pension liabilities will rise from $54 billion to $180 billion over the next 30 years. These dire scenarios mean that states will be forced to make draconian cuts to services, raise taxes, sell assets, or some combination of these options. This problem has two root causes: overly generous pension benefits that were handed out during good economic times; and an unrealistic expectation of returns on invested pension assets. Many states assume an average annual return of 8% on their investments.  The bond market is already pricing in the fear of defaults on municipal debt. For the first time in two years, the interest rate on a 30 year tax free municipal bond has topped 5%. It would behoove all of us to pay attention to what is happening with the finances of our city, county, and state, because we as taxpayers will be called upon to bail out the financial ineptness of our elected leaders.

I told my wife I would go through anything for her. She said, "How about the door?"

The vitriol directed at President Obama from the his political base when he extended the Bush tax cuts another two years was, in a word, stunning. Perhaps no one on the left epitomized the anger, and more importantly the attitude of the left, than Richard Trumka, the President of the AFL-CIO. Here is Trumka's money quote,

"The tax cut deal rewards Republican obstructionism by giving the wealthy the tax breaks they demanded. It throws away precious resources needed for investments in jobs and our economy on upper income tax cuts..."

The audacity of that statement is beyond the pale. Trumka has voiced what many on the left feel: a deep hatred for the wealth that people have worked for and accumulated. According to Trumka, and those who occupy the left side of the political spectrum, some people have too much money and it should be taken and divided up among those who have not earned it. In the lefts world view, apparently those who have wealth have not worked for it and don't deserve to have what they have earned. Allowing people to keep more of what they have earned "throws away" resources? Trumka and his acolytes that espouse this type of philosophy are loathsome and beyond contempt.

Stress: the confusion created when one's mind overrides the desire to choke or beat the living crap out of someone who desperately needs it.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Predators Bury the Avalanche 5-1

The Nashville Predators continued their six game road trip with a contest against the Colorado Avalanche, a team that plays wide open and with speed. The Avs are chasing the Predators in the standings by two points, and this contest shaped up on paper to be a significant test for the visitors.

On paper.

The game is played on the ice, and it is there that the Predators dominated.

The Avalanche defense often pinches in the offensive zone- a high risk, high reward style of play. That type of play created an odd man rush for the Predators early in the contest as the line of Marcel Goc, Martin Erat, and Sergei Kostitsyn broke out on a 3 on 2 rush. Goc slid a pass to Erat, who fired a cross ice pass to Kostitsyn. SK74 picked a corner with his wrist shot and pinged the puck off the post to beat Colorado netminder Craig Anderson to give the Predators an early 1-0 lead just 3:15 into the contest.

The Avs responded with good pressure, and Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne made some excellent saves to keep the advantage for the Predators. Rinne was solid in net, good at tracking the puck and moving well. His consistently outstanding play bodes well for the fortunes of the Predators.

The Predators stretched the lead to 2-0 at 16:37 of the first period as Cody Franson took a cue from the Avalanche defensemen and pinched in to the offensive zone. The puck came to him in the faceoff circle and he fired a wrister that beat Anderson through traffic high glove side and top corner.

The Predators have struggled in times past with slow starts. Not tonight. They were opportunistic and skated well, and the scoreboard reflected their effort.

One knew that the Avalanche would respond, and they did in the second period, controlling the puck for lengthy stretches in the offensive zone. The Avs appeared to have scored on a Ryan Stoa put back attempt as his shot went between Rinne and the post. The on-ice officials ruled no goal and play continued until the Predators iced the puck.

At the stoppage, the play was reviewed. For a very long time. Television reviews seemed to show that the puck crossed the goal line, but the war room in Toronto ruled that the puck did not completely cross the goal line and was therefore no goal.

What appeared to be a 2-1 contest was still 2-0 Predators, and the momentum shifted from the Avalanche to the Predators, as they were able to turn back the pressure the Avs brought and start to generate offense of their own.

While neither team scored in the second period, the stage was set for an explosive third period.

There was an explosion. From the Predators, as they tallied three times to ice a big win.

Matt Halischuk got his first goal as a Predator at 2:05 of the third period as his line created some good scoring chances in the offensive zone. Halischuk grabbed a loose puck and swooped behind the net and beat Anderson to the post with a wrap around on a great hustle play by the youngster.

David Legwand and Colin Wilson would again catch the Colorado D pinching and make them pay. Legwand and Wilson broke in on Anderson, with Wilson driving the net and drawing the defense to him. Legwand snapped off a shot across his body from just inside the faceoff circle that beat Anderson on the far side post. This was Legwand's 6th goal of the season, and it is great to see him contributing offensively.

The Predators offensive outburst in the period was capped off by an absolutely sick goal by Colin Wilson. Wilson took the puck with speed into the offensive zone, dangled around a defender, and lifted a quick backhand over the shoulder of Anderson. Highlight reel goal by Wilson, whose game is getting stronger as the season unfolds.

Matt Duchene would break the shutout as he was alone in front of Rinne and would firs a forehand that Rinne stopped with his pad. Duchene had time to gather in the rebound and lift the follow up shot over Rinne's pads for the lone Colorado goal.

From start to finish, this was a solid game by the Predators. There were times during the game where the Avs controlled play in the Predators offensive zone. Rinne cleaned up mistakes with some big saves, and the Predators did a great job of counter punching the Avs offensive effort and made them pay for their high risk style of play.

The Predators are now 26-16-6 and in sole possession of fourth place in the Western Conference with 58 points. Tonight's contest was a "four point" game for the Predators. Lose, and Colorado ties you with 56 points. With the win, the Predators are 4 points ahead of the Avs.

There are more tough games ahead. The importance of this road swing cannot be overstated given the jumble of teams that are vying for playoff positioning.

The effort that has been shown in the last two games has got to continue.

If it does, you will bury some more teams.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Cody Franson

3. Matt Halishcuk

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Predators Present GnashVegas

It's time to get your party swerve on as the Nashville Predators will host the"GnashVegas" Casino and Gala at the Bridgestone Arena on Thursday, February 10th. The event starts at 6:30 and will feature the members of the Predators team and coaching staff, along with broadcasters Pete Weber, Terry Crisp, and Tom Callahan in attendance.

The gala is always a fun event, and in years past, has involved attendees getting into costume for a themed event. This year, no costumes are need but "cocktail apparel" is the dress code. Ladies, this means your finest party attire, and guys, this does NOT mean you go dressed as a gin and tonic.

Guests will have an opportunity to mingle with the players and coaches at various gaming tables set up around the arena floor; various Nashville restaurants will provide a gourmand's nirvana of food; and there will be adult beverages from an open bar (worth the price of admission by itself).

The gala always has some wonderful silent auction items, from autographed sports memorabilia to dining experiences and trips to fun locales both here and in Canada.

You can go on the Predators website for more information, or click here for details.

The gala is presented by Grand Avenue Limo and all proceeds benefit the Nashville Predators Foundation.

Last year, the gala had a western theme:

Pete Weber and his lovely wife Claudia with some desperado. No, I didn't leave the horse parked outside. Yes, I was wearing pants under those chaps.

Two years ago, the gala had a disco theme. No, these are not clothes I wore to my high school prom. Yes, they DO look like them.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Predators Defeat the Desert Dogs 5-2

The Nashville Predators had dropped three games in a row in Arena and had been vexed by the Phoenix Coyotes and their stellar netminder Ilya Bryzgalov. Tonight, they reversed their fortunes with a 5-2 win, allowing them to leapfrog over the Coyotes in the Western Conference standings by a point.

The game opened with the Coyotes flying and pushing the Predators back on their heels and deep into their defensive zone. The tenor of this game at the outset did not look good for the Predators, as early on the Coyotes looked dominant.

A funny thing happened on the way to the apparent dominance of the Coyotes. The Predators scored two goals in just 12 seconds to rock the Coyotes.

J.P. Dumont opened the scoring for the Predators at 8:16 of the first period as he banged home a shot off a pass from Chris Mueller, who worked hard in the corner to dig the puck out. The line of Mueller, Dumont, and Matt Halischuk has shown amazing chemistry and energy in the short time that they have been on the ice together.

On the ensuing face off the puck went deep into the Coyotes zone. Patric Hornqvist pursued the puck deep and centered a pass to the front of the net. The puck caromed off a Coyote defenders skate and back to Hornqvist, who was driving to the front of the net. With Bryzgalov out of position, Hornqvist gathered in the puck and flipped a backhand shot into an open net.

Two goals in 12 seconds and all the momentum was with the Predators.

Momentum, fickle as she often is, quickly switched back to the Coyotes.

The first Coyote goal can only be charitably characterized as a fluke. With the puck deep in the Predators zone and the puck loose at the side of the net, defenseman Shane O'Brien tried to slide the puck back to Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne. Unfortunately, he slid the puck between Rinne and the post. Radim Vrbata  got credit for the goal as he was the last Coyote player to touch the puck. Rinne was visibly upset after the goal, which was strange indeed.

Phoenix would tie the game at 14:01 of the first on a goal by Lee Stempniak. Stempniak was cruising in front of the net and deflected a pass from Adrian Aucoin past Rinne.

Phoenix outshot the Predators 16-7 in the wild first period. Great saves by Rinne on several plays kept the Coyotes from taking the lead. As strange as this game had been in the first period, one could only imagine what the remaining 40 minutes would hold for these teams.

What it would hold for the Predators in the second period was an offensive outburst from J.P. Dumont. The Dumont, Halischuk, Mueller line would wreak havoc on the Coyotes in the second period. Dumont would add his second goal of the contest at 11:25 of the second as he banged home a rebound from close in off a shot by Joel Ward.

Dumont's line was strong throughout the second period, and he would strike for his third goal of the contest at 17:35 as he was on the off side and knocked home a rebound of a Matt Halishcuk shot. Halischuk drove hard to the net on the right wing and put a shot on Bryzgalov, who kicked out a rebound to the right side. Dumont beat the defender to the net and had had an easy put back for his hat trick.

Dumont now has five goals in two games, and it is a very good sign for the Predators that he is finding his offensive touch.

The period ended with the Predators and the Coyotes each putting 11 shot on goal, but Dumont was able to tally twice to give the Predators the two goal advantage.

In the third period, the Predators controlled play in the neutral zone and slowed the speedy Coyotes attack. Although the Coyotes outshot the Predators 7-2, most of the shots were from the outside and were fairly routine saves for Rinne.

The Predators did not record their first shot on goal until 14:29 of the period, but they made it count. Patric Hornqvist broke in on net, and with Colin Wilson screening in front, roofed a wrister over the shoulder of Bryzgalov. Hornqvist's second goal of the night was the knife in the heart of the Coyotes.

Phoenix never seriously challenged after that goal and the Predators choked off their offensive attack for the remainder of the period. 5-2 final, and a huge road win for the Predators.

With this win, the Predators record stands at 25-15-6, good for 56 points and 4th place in the Western Conference.

Every game counts, and every game is a character game right now in the Western Conference. There are teams trying to separate from the pack, and the Predators can ill afford a losing streak. After the loss in Chicago, this is a very good bounce back win against a team that was ahead of them in the standings.

My three stars:

1. J.P. Dumont

2. Patric Hornqvist

3. Matt Halischuk

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Third Period Meltdown Dooms the Predators in a 6-3 Loss to the Blackhawks

As good as the Nashville Predator's win over  the Blackhawks was on Saturday, their re-match in Chicago was horrid. A third period meltdown cost the Predators a chance to sweep the back to back contests with their division rivals, as the Blackhawks turned a close game into a blowout, defeating the Predators 6-3.

The Predators were victimized by a third period that was a horror show. Tied at 2 at the end of two periods, the Predators took a 3-2 lead on the second goal of the night from J.P. Dumont. From that point on, the wheels absolutely came off for the Predators.

Before we get to the debacle that was the third period for the Predators, let's see how we got there.

The Predators opened the game with good jump and were out-skating the Hawks in the first period. Their effort paid off with four power play opportunities in the first period, and they were able to cash in on two of them.

The first tally of the game came from Marty Erat with Jonathan Toews in the box for holding.Erat buried a rebound past Hawks goalie Marty Turco to give the Predators a 1-0 lead at 2:04 of the period.

Chicago would tie the game on a Dave Bolland score at 6:38, as he beat Nashville netminder Anders Lindback.

The Predators would respond with their second power play marker of the period as J.P. Dumont corralled a rebound of a Shea Weber shot that was initially blocked by Brian Campbell. He beat Turco with a quick wrist shot to give the Predators a 2-1 advantage.

Chicago would tie the game with the only goal of the second period as David Legwand made a lazy croos ice pass at the Predators blueline that Bolland intercepted. Bolland put a spectacular move on Ryan Suter, the only Predator player that was back to stop the rush, and beat Lindback five hole.

To this point, the contest had been fairly even, Nashville had outshot the hawks at the end of two period by an 18-16 margin and had skated evenly with the Hawks through forty minutes.

As I said last night, it is a 60 minute game, but tonight the Predators unfortunately checked out after 40 minutes.

Oh, the third started well. J.P. Dumont potted his second goal of the night off a clean face off win by rookie Chris Mueller. Dumont gathered in the puck and beat Turco cleanly with a quick wrister that went high glove side.

3-2 Predators and we have a game that the good guys can win.

Not so fast.

A game that the Predators had played evenly with the Blackhawks suddenly spiraled out of control. Quickly.

With Ryan Suter in the box for holding, the Blackhawks struck on a power play opportunity of their own.Troy Brouwer was left all alone in front of the net and gathered in a rebound of a pad save by Lindback and knocked the puck into an open net as Lindback was out of position. Brouwer's goal came at 9:19 of the third

Tied at 3, the Hawks turned up the pressure and the Predators did not respond. Brouwer circled out the corner, split Marcel Goc and Shea Weber, and found himself alone in the low slot. His wrist shot beat Lindback to the glove side at 9:59 of the third.

Two goals in 40 seconds and the Hawks were flying and the Predators were back on their heels. And the assault was just beginning.

Brian Bickell scored at 14:08 and Jonathan Toews added the finisher at 16:58.

From up 3-2 with 11 minutes to go in the contest to down 6-3 at the end. Indicative of how bad the third period was for the Predators, they were outshot 18-5.

Absolutely putrid.

Compounding the sting of this loss was the fact that the Predators lost Francis Buillon in the first period as he was boarded by Brouwer. The Predators spent the rest of the contest with just five defensemen.No excuses, but you have to believe that fatigue was a factor late in the game for the D corp. Ryan Suter logged 32:43 of ice time; Shea Weber had 29:40; and Kevin Klein had 21:43.

With this loss, the Predators are now tied with the Blackhawks with 54 points, but have 2 games in hand.  The Predators lead the season series with the Blackhawks 3-2.

This is another example of how this team has to play a full 60 minutes to win a game. This was a game the Predators could have won, but their 11 minute lapse in the third period bite them hard.

There will be no rest for the weary, as the Predators are now headed to Phoenix to play the red hot Coyotes.

The importance of that upcoming game? The Coyotes sit in fourth place in the West, one point ahead of the Predators.

All the games in this tightly bunched Western Conference race are important. They are yours for the taking, boys. However, ya gotta play a full 60 minutes.

And avoid those pesky meltdowns.

My three stars:

1. Dave Bolland

2. Troy Brouwer

3. J.P. Dumont


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Predators Burn the Blackhawks in a Shootout 3-2

For two periods, the Nashville Predators were outplayed by the Chicago Blackhawks and found themselves in a 2-0 hole going into the third period. Fortunately for the Predators, the hockey game lasted three periods, and tonight went to overtime and a shootout before the Predators prevailed to win 3-2.

With this win, the Predators have won three of four games this season against the Blackhawks and 7 of their last 8 games.

The first period saw both teams skate well and generate some scoring chances. Both Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne and Chicago's Corey Crawford were solid in the net and thwarted scoring opportunities.

Chicago would draw first blood after Patric Hornqvist was called for a weak boarding call against Jack Skille. Skille was at least five feet from the boards when he was cleanly checked by Hornqvist, but the refs deemed it to be a boarding infraction. On the ensuing power play, Tomas Kopecky walked in from deep in the zone and lifted a puck over the shoulder of Rinne at 14:59 to give the Hawks a 1-0 advantage.

Something happened to the Predators during intermission, and it was not good. After being outshot 9-7 in an uptempo first period, the Predators were absolutely dominated in the second period.Chicago controlled the puck for much of the period and the Predators had no offensive flow. This was evidenced by the 14-5 shot advantage that the Hawks owned in the second. Without a strong effort from Rinne, the score could have easily gotten out of hand.

The Blackhawks would add to their advantage in the second as Viktor Stalberg would bank a puck off the back of Rinne to give the Hawks a 2-0 lead at 4:29 of the period. Rinne slid to the post but left a gap between his shoulder and the post. Stalberg threw a bad angle shot that hit Rinne in the shoulder and caromed into the net.

The remainder of the period was spent watching the Predators turn the puck over and ineptly try to skate through the neutral zone. This was a frustrating period of hockey to watch and was as poor of a period of hockey that the Predators have played in a long time.

One can only imagine the blistering the Predators took in the locker room from Head Coach Barry Trotz.

In the third period, the Predators were looking for any spark, anything that would ignite the team and get them going. Something that would show they had some fire.

That first spark would come from Cody Franson as he went deep in the zone on an offensive rush. Franson was met by a Chicago forward who was immediately slapped to the ice by Franson. Maybe this team did have some fight in them.

The spark would fan into a flame as Nick Spaling dug a puck out from behind the Hawks net and sent a nice backhand pass to Jerred Smithson, who was cruising down the slot. Smithson snapped a wrist shot that beat Crawford high glove side. 2-1 Hawks, but now the Predators had some life.

The flame would become an inferno at the 12:00 minute mark. A television timeout would usher in the standing ovation from the crowd that would last the duration of the stoppage in play. Hawks fans can cheer through the anthem, but Predator fans cheer the loudest when it matters most, when their team needs them.

The energy of the crowd flowed to the Predators on the ice. The Preds won an offensive zone face off. Joel Ward tapped the puck to Ryan Suter, who then slid the puck to Shea Weber at the high point. Weber unleashed a slapshot that Crawford never saw until it was in the back of the net, and improbable as it seemed, the Predators had tied the game at 12:20 of the third period.

Neither team could find the twine during the remainder of regulation, and we were heading to overtime tied at 2.

The game was tied because the Predators decided to play Predator hockey in the third period. The Predators forecheck finally started working and created turnovers throughout the period. The defense stymied the Hawks potent offense and controlled the neutral zone. For the period, the Predators outshot the Blackhawks 13-5.

The overtime period was scoreless, but not for lack of effort. Chicago's Patrick Sharp had a glorious scoring opportunity on a breakaway, but was shut down by Rinne. The Hawks had a 3-1 shot advantage in the overtime session.

Going into the shootout, the Predators elected to have Chicago shoot first, and we have seen this story before. Rinne was outstanding, blanking Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Patrick Sharp. Marcel Goc, the first shooter for the Predators, shot a puck that went through Crawford and into the net for the only goal of the shootout.

There was a fungus of Chicago fans in the arena, as many had journeyed to Nashville for a big high school hockey tournament. It was certainly good to see them leaving the arena with sad faces.

In the Florida game, the Predators were out skated throughout the contest and suffered a loss as a result. Tonight, the Predators were on the verge of losing their second in a row after a horrid second period when they were beaten in all facets of the game.

Without a solid third period, the Predators would have suffered their second defeat. The second period of tonight's contest is vivid demonstration of the fact that this team has to skate hard and do the little things to be successful. They did not, and it almost cost them.

It doesn't get any easier for the Predators as they embark on a six game road trip, starting tomorrow night against these same Blackhawks.

Take the lesson learned from this awful period of hockey tonight and learn from it. Do the little things, skate hard, and you will enjoy a good road trip.

And burn a few teams along the way.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Jerred Smithson

3. Joel Ward

Friday, January 14, 2011

SOB! Shane O'Brien Suspended Two Games

The Nashville Predators today announced that defenseman Shane O'Brien has been suspended for two games for using his stick in a dangerous manner against Stephen Weiss in the Predators game against the Florida Panthers on Thursday. Here is the press release from the Predators:

 Nashville Predators defenseman Shane O'Brien has been suspended for two games and will forfeit $39,024.40 in salary for a high-sticking incident against Stephen Weiss of the Florida Panthers in NHL game #650, January 13, the National Hockey League announced today.

O'Brien, who was suspended for one game on November 3, 2009, is considered a repeat offender under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.  Accordingly, he forfeits his salary based on the number of games in the season (82), rather than the number of days (186).  The money goes to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.

O'Brien will miss both of Nashville's weekend games -- a home and home series with the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday and Sunday.   

O'Brien will return for the Predators Tuesday game against the Phoenix Coyotes in Phoenix.

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Economists often refer to wages as "sticky", simply meaning that once a wage level has been established for a job, it does not tend to come down. History bears out this fact; past recessions have failed to drop wage levels. The result is that unemployment would spike, but wages would not drop. The last time wages fell during a recessionary period was during the 1981-82 recession. During our current recession, however, wages are starting to fall dramatically. Unemployment has been nominally over 9% for 20 months now and is likely to remain at those levels for 2011. This has put significant downward pressure on wages. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, between 2007 and 2009, more than 50% of new full time hires had lower wages/salaries than they did in their previous job. 36% reported that their wages were at least 20% less than in their old job. This means that it may be years before we see the income levels where they were before the recession began. While companies may show improved profitability because of reduced personnel expense, the economy will continue to limp along because of the weakened consumer, who drives the economy through their spending.

I have a friend who is a Buddhist. Recently, he went in for a root canal, and refused the Novocaine. When I asked him why, he said he wanted to transcend dental medication.

One of the effects of quantitative easing- the introduction of new money into the economy by the Federal Reserve- has been to create inflation induced profits and and rising asset values in our economy. Right now, we are hearing of companies reporting healthy increases in year over year profitability. Some of that is due to good management, some of it due to a falling dollar which allows companies to translate foreign sales into U.S. dollars at a favorable conversion rate. Don't forget, however, the effect of more dollars floating around in our banking system, and ultimately in our economy. The cheapened dollar will naturally drive up asset prices as it takes more dollars to purchase any good or service. This is the tactic that the Fed is using to try to stimulate the economy. In an effort to revive the economy, the Fed is attempting to re-introduce inflation.Their conceit is that they believe they can manage this action with precision. I do not believe they can. As consumers, we are already seeing the effects of the weakened dollar and subsequent inflationary pressure as food cost are soaring and oil is approaching $100 per barrel. Pay close attention to this. You and I will feel the pernicious effects of inflation long before the Fed acknowledges it.

Does the Little Mermaid wear an algebra?

The recently completed U.S. census shows that the U.S. population grew by 9.7% over the past decade, to a total of 308,745,538. For years, that growth was fueled by population increases in the northeast- Boston, New York, Washington, and other major metropolitan areas in that corridor. Later, growth was centered in California and secondarily some other Western States. No longer. The state with the biggest increase in population? Texas. The population in Texas grew more than 21% in the past decade to more than 25 million residents. Texas has the largest absolute growth number for population, but ranked only 5th in the U.S. in terms of percentage growth behind Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and Idaho. There are a number of contributing factors for the growth that these states have experienced, but the common thread among all of them is that they are low tax states with a business friendly environment. Don't believe me? 35% of the nations population growth occurred in the 9 states that have the lowest tax burden, according to the Census Bureau. For those that seem to miss the fact that people- and businesses- respond to incentives such as a fair and favorable tax environment, it might serve you well to dig into the recently completed census numbers.

They say a smile is a gift which is free to the giver and precious to the recipient. Giving the finger is free, too, and I find it much more personal and sincere.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Panthers Slip Past Lethargic Predators 3-2

Winners of six straight games, the Nashville Predators rolled into Sunrise, Florida looking to extend that streak against the Florida Panthers. The Predators had built their winning streak with an aggressive forecheck, solid defense, and an offense that generated numerous opportunistic scoring chances. Unfortunately for the Predators, those traits were absent in a 3-2 loss.

At best, the Predators were a sluggish group that had no jump and were out skated all night by the hungrier Panthers. Florida controlled the neutral zone and refused to allow the Predators easy entry into the offensive zone. Once in the offensive zone, the Panthers did a great job of limiting the Predators offensive chances.

All in all, it was a weak effort by the Predators in a game they should have won.

The Panthers opened the scoring at at 3:22 of the first period as the Panthers Radek Dvorak capped off a nice 2 on 1, taking a pass from Marty Reasoner and burying a shot by Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne.

The Predators answered at 10:50 of the first period as David Legwand did a great job of controlling the puck behind the Panthers net. He got a pass to Colin Wilson in the low slot and Wilson made no mistake with a quick wrister that beat Scott Clemmensen. On the play, Legwand fought to control the puck and showed great strength on the puck to make the play to Wilson.

The second period was a scoreless one, but not for lack of effort by the Panthers. They generated some quality scoring chances and challenged Rinne. Fortunately for the Predators, he was equal to the task.

Offensively, the Predators stunk. Puck control was non-existent and they rarely had an flow in the offensive zone. This was in part due to the Panthers effort. They out skated the Predators all night. Part was due to a half hearted effort  by the Predators.

In the third period, the Predators took a 2-1 lead as David Legwand scored on a nice rush to the net at 10:02. Legwand drove wide and let a shot go from just inside the face off circle that beat Clemmensen to the far side post.

That lead was short lived as the Panthers Rostislav Olesz scored his third goal of the season 13:34. That goal energized the Panthers, and they swarmed the Nashville net. Their efforts were rewarded just over two minutes later as Rinne could not control a rebound of a shot through traffic and David Booth buried a second chance shot at 15:48.

The Predators could not get anything past Clemmensen even with the extra attacker on the ice, and the sic game winning streak ended with a sad whimper.

Streaks end, whether they are winning streaks or losing streaks. The disappointing aspect of this loss is the lack of effort by the Predators. It goes without saying that when the Predators skate hard, they can win most any game. Seldom was the effort necessary to put the Panthers away in this contest. this team is not good enough to step on the ice and expect to just win a game. They have to work at it, and the work ethic was missing in this contest.

The Predators now face a weekend back to back with the Chicago Blackhawks. Put forth this kind of effort, and the results will be embarrassing.

It will be critical for the Predators to play solid hockey in these upcoming contests and not start the wrong kind of streak.

That will take a better effort than you brought tonight.

My three stars:

1. David Booth

2. David Legwand

3. Rostislav Olesz

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Predators Sign Smithson for Additional Two Years

The Nashville Predators today announced that they have signed Jerred Smithson to a two year contract extension. Here is the press release:

Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has signed forward Jerred Smithson to a two-year, $1.6 million contract. He will make $800,000 during both the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons.

Smithson, 31 (2/4/79), has played in all 42 of Nashville’s games this season, posting eight points (4g-4a). He ranks eighth in the National Hockey League in face-off winning percentage (58.7) and ninth among League forwards in average shorthanded time on ice, a category he’s led the team in the last four seasons. He’s also paced Predator forwards in hits the past three seasons, and again leads the club in the statistic. Additionally, the Vernon, B.C., native ranks fifth franchise’s all-time shorthanded points list (5g-4a)

A free-agent signee of the Predators on July 22, 2004, Smithson has appeared in 434 career games with Nashville (404) and Los Angeles (30) since 2002-03, notching 79 points (34g-35a) and 290 penalty minutes. He ranks ninth on the franchise’s all-time games played list, and is tied for third in longest tenure with the club among active roster members. Smithson has suited up for 20 of the Predators 22 playoff games since 2006.

Smithson is one of those players that every team needs to be successful: gritty; versatile; and consistent. He can play both center and wing and excels at killing penalties and winning face offs. Smithson has been one of the top shut down forwards for the Predators and also chips in with some timely goals.
Good to see Smithers rewarded for his efforts, but this is also an excellent signing by the Predators, as Smithson contributes in many ways that are not reflected on the scoresheet.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Predators Whip the Wild 5-1

Watching the Minnesota Wild play hockey is akin to watching mildew grow in your bathroom: ugly and difficult to get out. Tonight at the Bridgestone Arena, the Nashville Predators faced the Minnesota Mildew Wild, and for two periods, it appeared as if the Wild would be the fungus that would frustrate the home team with their grind it out, trapping style of play. The third period, however, was all Predators, as they whipped the Wild 5-1 for their 6th straight victory.

It was obvious that the Wild were going to trap all night and attempt to force turnovers by the Predators. That strategy worked for much of the first period as the Wild kept the Predators bottled up in their own end of the ice. Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne was called upon early to make some big saves to hold the Wild off the board.

Playing against a team like the Wild takes patience and persistence. Keep chipping the puck out of the zone and work it into the offensive zone and generate chances s the formula for success against the trap that the Wild employ.

That formula would pay dividends for the Predators at 7:03 of the first period as Marek Svatos entered the zone with speed. He slipped a nice pass to David Legwand, who was driving the net with speed. Legwand got his stick on the puck and re-directed the pass between the pads of Wild goaltender Jose Theodore for a 1-0 Predators lead. This was Legwand's second goal in as many games and his 4th goal of the year.

That lead would last for nine minutes, when the Wild tied it on an even strength goal by Mikko Koivu as a Predator Pk had just ended. Koivu drove to the net and split two defenders and lifted a backhand that beat Rinne at 16:05.

The Wild outshot the Predators 9-6 in the first period, but controlled the puck for lengthy stretches at a time, as their trap thwarted the Predators offensive effort. At the end of one, it had the feel of a game that could be decided by one mistake by either team.

That mistake would occur at 1:02 of the second period, as Joel Ward gathered in a rebound of a Kevin Klein shot and backhanded the puck under the glove of a sprawling Theodore to give the Predators a 2-1 advantage. On the play, Ward was patient with the puck, settling it down and getting off a good shot that beat the Wild netminder.

The remainder of the second period was a back and forth affair with both teams generating some chances and both goalies being equal to the task. Minnesota continued to trap and slow the Predators through the neutral zone, at times totally frustrating the offensive efforts of the Predators.

In the defensive zone, the Predators did a good job of keeping the Wild to the outside and on the boards, rarely giving the Mildew Wild quality scoring chances.

Minnesota outshot the Predators 12-10 in the second period.

Going into the third period, the game was in the balance, and it would go to the team that could exert their will.

That team would be the Predators.

The Predators would extend their lead to 3-1 at 4:18 of the third as Nick Spaling would launch a shot toward the net with traffic in front. The puck sailed cleaning through the mass of bodies in front of Theodore, who never saw the puck, and found the back of the net for his third goal of the year.

It would be Spals out again as he crashed the net on a Shea Weber shot. Spaling would jam at the puck several times, and would wedge home the shot with Theodore out of position and s Wild defender trying to hug the post. His persistence paid off with his second goal of the game at 10:39 of the third.

This goal was enough to cause Wild coach Todd Richards to pull Theodore and insert backup Anton Khudobin. Khudobin was welcomed to the contest with a Marcel Goc goal off a horrible Wild turnover that left Goc alone in the low slot. He buried a nice wrister over the shoulder of Khudobin for a 5-1 Predator lead and his 8th goal of the year.

The Predators began their winning streak with a win in Minnesota on December 31. That win was big for the Predators because it snapped a 5 game losing streak.

The win tonight was big for the Predators because they were just 3 points in front of Wild coming into this contest. This win extends their lead over the Wild to 5 points and keeps the Predators in fourth place in the West with 52 points, one ahead of Phoenix at 51.

The win tonight was characterized by players who don't score often coming through for the Predators. The line of Spaling, Ward, and Smithson was the best line on the ice tonight for the Predators. They played with jump, created chances, and more importantly, finished those chances.

The PK continued its stellar play, killing off all three Wild man advantage chances.

For this team to win, they have to have solid contributions from all lines. Tonight, they got those contributions. Successful teams have several lines that can play good two way hockey. If the third and fourth lines can contribute like tonight, this team will be dangerous in the second half of the season.

My three stars:

1. Nick Spaling

2. Joel Ward

3. Pekka Rinne

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Predators Complete West Coast Sweep, Defeat Sharks 2-1

The Shark Tank has been a house of horrors for the Nashville Predators with wins coming rarely in San Jose. The Predators reversed their fortunes with a 2-1 victory over the Sharks in a hard fought contest that saw Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne play an outstanding game. With this win, the Predators completed a three game road sweep of the California teams.

As so often happens when the Predators play the Sharks, the shot advantage for the game was decidedly in the Sharks favor, as the Sharks outshot the Predators 43-26. With a shot advantage this lopsided, one would expect the Sharks to blow the Predators out of the Tank. The difference in this contest was Rinne, who played a near flawless game.

The Predators opened the scoring at 13:10 of the first period as David Legwand drove the net and put a shot in on Antti Niemi. Niemi gave up a rebound, and Legwand beat the Sharks defense to the front of the net and backhanded the rebound over the shoulder of Sharks tender to make it 1-0.

San Jose outshot the Predators 18-12 in the first, and had some glorious scoring chances. Rinne was called upon to make some huge saves, often times coming well out of his crease to make saves on Sharks that were driving the net. Rinne did an excellent job of tracking the puck throughout the night and looked calm in the face of the Sharks unrelenting pressure.

The second period was more of the same for the Sharks, as they outshot the Predators 11-6. While that doesn't sound too bad, it took the Predators 5 minutes into the period to register their first shot on goal of the period. In the meantime, Rinne was stopping everything thrown at him.

That would change at 4:35 of the period as Logan Couture broke in on a 2 on 1 and beat Rinne high glove side with an absolute laser of a shot. This was the 19th goal of the season for the Sharks outstanding rookie.

While San Jose was flying and firing shots from all directions, the Predators continued to chip the puck in the zone and grind on the Sharks defense. That effort paid off when Sergei Kostitsyn crashed the net and knocked a rebound of a Patric Hornqvist shot over the shoulder of Niemi. Kostitsyn beat Jason Demers to the puck and poked the rebound over the shoulder of Niemi to give the Predators a 2-1 advantage.

The Sharks kept pressing the attack and Rinne kept rejected all attempts to score. Niemi was pulled for the extra attacker, but Rinne was equal to the task. He got some help as the Sharks rang a shot off the post in the dying seconds, but one felt that the Sharks were just not going to beat a determined Rinne.

That proved to be the case as the Predators were able to make one final clear to melt the clock and seal the win. As improbable as it might seem, and contrary to what the statistics might indicate, the Predators had captured their second win against the Sharks this season. More importantly, they had picked up 6 out of a possible 6 six points on a tough West Coast swing.

With this win, the Predators have run their record to 22-13-6, good for 50 points and sole possession of 4th place in the Western Conference.

It's no secret that the Predators have to score by committee. Tonight, David Legwand chipped in with his third goal of the season. Sergei Kostitsyn added his 11th. Kostitsyn may prove to be the best "afterthought" pick up by an GM in the NHL this season.

While scoring may come by committee, the Predators have to have solid defense and outstanding goaltending. Tonight, the effort by Rinne was off the chart. He moved well, was positionally sound, and did not give up rebounds. With an effort like this, the Predators have an opportunity to win a lot of games.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Sergei Kostitsyn

3. Logan Couture

Friday, January 7, 2011

My View

Ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Do you remember a study that was released in 2004 that tied childhood vaccinations for measles, mumps, and rubella to autism? This "study" was released by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, a British physician, and he claimed a very strong causal link between the vaccine and the onset of autism. The effect of that study was dramatic and expected. MMR vaccinations in Great Britain dropped to less than 80% of children, and the number of cases of measles in both Great Britain and the United States have risen remarkably. Guess what? That study was faked. Why? (You know what I'm going to say here, doncha?) For the money! It has been revealed that Dr. Wakefield was paid 435,000 British pounds ($674,000) to produce a study that definitively showed the link between the MMR vaccination and autism. Who paid him? A law firm in London that was preparing to launch a massive class action suit against all vaccine manufacturers. Dear reader, ALWAYS FOLLOW THE MONEY! The claims of so many in the scientific community have come under intense scrutiny because when you peel away all the junk science, whether it is falsified data about vaccinations or the debunked theory of global warming, what you find are supposedly objective researchers that have sold out for money. This hurts the legitimate researchers in all fields and the advancement of our knowledge in treating disease and improving the quality of life for all. The consequences of this fraud are not just financial; a number of children have unnecessarily contracted the measles because of the greed of this doctor. Remember, always follow the money.

If you smoke after sex, you might be doing it too fast.

During the debate over socialized medicine in this country, the proposal for end of life planning- what came to be known as "death panels"- generated a firestorm of criticism and protest from both the left and the right of the political spectrum. President Obama quickly dropped this provision of the socialized medicine bill in the face of this furor. Well guess what? They're baaack. The end of life planning that the public overwhelmingly rejected is back in place, courtesy of a new Medicare regulation that went into effect January 1. According to the New York Times,  in the new Medicare regulations, doctors will be paid for end of life planning, including advance directives to forgo life sustaining treatment and the supervision of end of life events. The outcry against payment for this service was due to the concern that doctors would unnecessarily terminate life sustaining procedures or medicines for patients that had the possibility of recovery. The end of life planning is something that everyone should undertake- I have done so as part of my estate plan. I have no problems with anyone doing that. The problem I have with this situation is that it is proof that this administration will obfuscate and use back door attempts to change the direction of health care- or other major national policies- because they cannot get it past the electorate. Voters resoundingly responded in the negative to this provision. Never mind, said Obama and his cronies, we will implement this policy through a regulation that cannot be voted upon. Here is  Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) in an e-mail to his staff, "We would ask that you not broadcast this accomplishment out to any of your lists, even if they are supporters...The longer this goes unnoticed, the better our chances of keeping it." Seems to me I vaguely recall somewhere back in 2008 Obama saying his administration would be the most transparent ever. If this is transparency, I do not want to see opaqueness.

I have an inferiority complex, but I don't think it's a very good one.

There was much talk about the housing recovery of 2010, and how that would bode well for our economy and for the recovery of housing prices (great news if you're a seller). I would tend to disagree that we have turned the corner in the housing market. Why? Well, I'm glad you asked. According to the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, prices did rise modestly during the first half of 2010. I attribute that rise to incentive that was provided through the first time homebuyer credit that expired mid year. Prices started to fall nationally shortly after that incentive expired. Here is the reality that we must face when it come to the housing market in this country: we created one of the biggest economic bubbles in history in the middle of this past decade when interest rates were artificially lowered and the Fed printed copious amounts of money. We created a glut of housing. The current inventory of unsold homes in the U.S.  as of the end of November was 3.71 million homes, according to the National Association of Realtors. We are building an additional 197,000 new homes each year. At the current rate of home sales in the U.S., it will take 16 months to deplete the inventory of unsold houses. Add to these numbers the "shadow inventory" homes that are seriously in arrears in payments or are in foreclosure, and the numbers get worse. It is estimated that home prices will have to fall another 10-15% to dissipate most of this unsold inventory. And that is why there is not a real housing recovery going on in the U.S.

We all know the story of the little engine that could. As I have grown older, I am the little engine that couldn't give a rat's ass.

And that, my friends, is my view.

LA Lashed by the Predators 5-2

In their two previous contests, the L.A. Kings have owned the Nashville Predators, winning the first two contests of the season by a combined score of 10-2 in games where the Predators never mustered much in the way of offense. Tonight, at the Staples Center,the Predators turned the tables on the Kings with a decisive 5-2 victory.

The first period opened with both teams showing some good jump and generating some quality scoring chances. Anders Lindback and Jonathan Bernier were both challenged and both were equal to the task.

L.A. opened the contest trying to take the body and exert their physical will. Unlike the two previous tilts, the Predators answered the physical challenge and did a good job of skating hard and establishing a good forecheck. That effort resulted in some good scoring chances, but the Predators were unable to solve Bernier.

Anders Lindback fended off some good scoring chances by the Kings, holding off all 12 of the Kings shots. Bernier stopped all 11 shots he faced from the Predators.

Kyle Clifford tallied for the Kings at 2:16 of the second period as J.P. Dumont absorbed a thunderous hit and was struggling to get to the bench, effectively leaving the Predators a man down. Marco Sturm shot the puck off the wing, and Lindback made the initial save but gave up a big rebound that Clifford buried into an open net.

The Predators had a glorious scoring opportunity as Patric Hornqvist found Kevin Klein sneaking down the off wing and hit him with a perfect pass. Bernier managed to slide across the net and get a piece of the shot for a great save five minutes into the period.

The injury bug continued to bite the Predators as the lost Nick Spaling to an upper body injury in the early going of the second period.

Jarrett Stoll scored on the power play at 7:57 of the second with Francis Buillon in the box for interference. Stoll launched a bomb from the blue line that beat Lindback high over his glove side. Lindback had lost his goal stick, but it was not a factor in the play as the shot beat Lindback cleanly.

The Predators answered on a power play of their own at 9:57. Ryan Suter wound up for what appeared to be a slap shot, but instead delivered a nice slap pass to Colin Wilson who was alone at the side of the net. Wilson re-directed the pass past Bernier for his 10th goal of the season to cut the deficit to 2-1.

This goal was critical for the Predators to stave off the momentum of the Kings and keep themselves in the contest.

Marek Svatos would tally his first goal as a Predator at 10:19 as Colin Wilson took a shot coming down the wing that Bernier kicked out off his pads. The rebound came to Svatos, who was driving the net and was able to put the rebound past an out of position Bernier.

The Predators had taken a punch from the Kings. In their previous contests, they did not answer. Tonight, they answered.

The Predators went back to the power play with Matt Greene in the box for interference and made the Kings pay for their transgression. Colin Wilson walked in off the half boards and cranked a shot low along the ice. Patric Hornqvist was camped- where else- at the top of the crease and re-directed the shot past Bernier for his 12th goal of the season at 14:28.

After back and forth play, including a fight between Francis Buillon and Wayne Simmonds that left Buillon with a broken nose, the period ended with the Predators on top 3-2.

The third period opened with more of the back and forth play between the teams, with each team looking for the other to break. The Kings were the first to crack under the pressure as Sergei Kostitsyn whistled a wrist shot toward Bernier. Bernier got a piece of the shot but not enough to stop it, and the puck slid in the net just inside the far post to extend the Predators lead to 4-2 at 9:10 of the third period. This was Kostitsyn's 10th goal of the season.

That off season signing of Kostitsyn by GM David Poile looks mighty good right now.

Patric Hornqvist tallied his second goal at 15:33 of the third period as he buried a rebound given up by Bernier off a shot by Sergei Kostitsyn. After being down 2-0, the Predators had scored five unanswered goals.

That 5-2 margin would be the final score of the game as the Predators played a complete game, being physical, aggressively forechecking to create offensive opportunities, and playing solid defense. These are the hockey characteristics that were vital to the Predators win.

The aspect of this game that doesn't show in the score sheet is the heart that the Predators displayed in winning this game. Down 2-0 to a team that had dominated them this season, it would have been easy to fold under the pressure. Instead, this team manned up and came back in the face of definite adversity.

Heart will be critical to continuing the winning streak and piling up points.

This team is built around heart and character. Continue to play like this, and this team will continue to win and lash future opponents.

My three stars:

1. Colin Wilson

2. Patric Hornqvist

3. Sergei Kostitsyn

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Predators Quash Quack Attack 4-1

The Nashville Predators began a three game West coast road swing with a hard fought 4-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks. The game was not as close as the score would indicate, as the Predators had their hands full with a swarming Ducks squad that peppered Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne with 41 shots.

The Ducks were flying all game and kept the Predators fighting for their proverbial lives through out the game. The Ducks speed seems to always present a challenge for the Predators, and once again, their forecheck pushed the Predators back in their zone all night.

The game opened with both teams pressing each other and challenging in the offensive zone. The Predators would break through at 5:10 of the first period as Jerred Smithson would walk the puck out of the corner and jam a shot in on Ducks netminder Jonas Hiller. Hiller made the initial pad save but did not control the puck. Smithson took another whack at the puck and was able to eke the puck over the goal line. Smithson immediately celebrated the goal, but the officials were out of position and did not make the initial call. After a video review, Smithson was awarded his fourth goal of the season and the Predators had a 1-0 lead.

After that positive note, the Predators spent the rest of the first period back on their heels, and except for some solid goaltending from Pekka Rinne, the Predators would have been blown out of the Honda Center. For the period, the Predators were outshot 15-5.

The Predators started to change the momentum in the second period. They started skating better and controlling the puck in the offensive zone. Their efforts paid off early in the period as Sergei Kostitsyn slipped a beautiful pass through traffic to Patric Hornqvist, who had worked himself open at the side of the net. Hornqvist fought off a defender to get position, and the pass ricocheted off his skate past an out of position Hiller at 3:56 of the second.

The Predators till gave up some quality chances to the Ducks, but in this period, created some good chances of their own. In the second, the Ducks outshot the Predators 13-11.

Saku Koivu would cut the lead to 2-1 at 11:46 of the third period as the Predators got hemmed in their own zone and could not clear the puck. The Predators lost a board battle and Koivu got the puck from Dan Sexton. He beat Rinne with a shot over his shoulder with a shot from just inside the face off circle.

You knew the Ducks were going to come out with pressure and challenge the Predators. The Koivu goal energized the Ducks and they were flying. If the Predators were going to win this game, they would have to hold off the Ducks.

The Predators were absolutely on their heels in the latter stages of the third period. The Preds lost most of the board battles and races to loose pucks. The Predators managed to hold off the Ducks, but did not aid their cause as Pekka Rinne was called for tripping at 16:13 of the third. Fortunately for the Predators, their PK continued their excellent play and held the Ducks off the board.

The Predators would ice the game as Sergei Kostitsyn potted an empty net goal at 19:08. Shea Weber would add an empty net goal as his clearing attempt from behind the goal line would bank off the side board and slide down the ice into the open goal at 19:58.

For the game, the Ducks outshot the Predators 41-26.

This game shows that if the Predators decide to play it safe, they will usually wind up on the wrong side of the score. Without a stellar effort from Pekka Rinne, that would have again been the case.

This game also showed that if the Predators play with heart and refuse to wilt, they can win the tough contests. This victory was only the Predators 6th win in 24 attempts at the Honda Center.

The remainder of this West coast swing will require heart and grit. The rest of this season will require the same. Play with heart and character, and you will skate away with more improbable wins.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Sergei Kostitsyn

3. Ryan Suter

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Big Brother Predators Bop Little Brother Blue Jackets 4-1

If you have ever had a little brother, you know how annoying they can be. They get in your stuff, they are a constant source of irritation, and occasionally, they can get the better of their big brother. Once big brother has had enough, they usually bop them rather forcefully and they are once again put in their place.

Tonight at the Bridgestone Arena, the little brother Blue Jackets were irritating for a period, taking a 1-0 lead over the Predators going into intermission. The BJ's scored on the first shot of the game, as R.J. Umberger tipped in a shot from the point by Marc Methot. The Predators defense was caught flat footed and left Umberger alone in front of the net, and he was able to re-direct the shot past Nashville's Pekka Rinne just 37 seconds into the contest.

After the first intermission, big brother woke up and started to exert their will over the BJ's. I would suspect that Head Parent  Coach Barry Trotz had a few choice words for his charges when he took them to their room. Whatever was said, it worked, as the Predators started to dominate the contest.

Shea Weber tied the game with a blast from the point with Nick Spaling and Jerred Smithson screening in front of Jackets goaltender Steve Mason. Mason never saw the shot until it hit the back of the net at 2:59 of the second.

The Predators continued to put pressure on the BJ's in the offensive zone, and their effort was rewarded at 6:09 of the second as Nick Spaling was able to find a puck at the side of the crease and knock home a rebound of a Weber shot from the point. Mason was able to make the initial save, but could not control the rebound. Taking a page from Patric Hornqvist's book, Spaling fought into the hard area at the net and was able to slap home the rebound past an out of position Mason.

Hornqvist was not going to let Spaling have all the fun at the net, as he lifted a puck over the shoulder of Mason while being knocked to the ice. Hornqvist's goal came on the power play at 16:50 of the second with Fedor Tytutin in the box for holding. This goal showed the strength of Hornqvist, as he was being hit and knocked to the ice. He still had the strength and ability to lift the puck and find the back of the net.

With a 3-1 lead going into the third period, everyone knew that the pesky little brother Jackets would come out pressing, and it was going to be important for the Predators to answer. They thwarted several BJ scoring chances with some strong goaltending from Rinne and solid defense in front of him. The Predators rarely gave up a secondary scoring chance and did a good job of slowing the BJ rush through the neutral zone.

The Predators iced the win as Colin Wilson ripped a shot from just inside the face off circle. The shot beat Mason, and it  hit the crossbar and appeared to go in. The officials did not rule it a goal, but Sergei Kostitsyn was crashing the net and tapped the puck into an open crease while it was lying on the ice in the blue paint at 5:53 of the period.

The Predators spent the remainder of the game throttling the BJ's offensive effort and notched their second win in three contests against little brother Columbus.

For the contest, Rinne stopped 19 of 20 shots.

This victory kept Columbus winless in Nashville since April of 2006.

This win was not without a price, however. The Predators lost Cal O'Reilly mid-way of the third period with a broken fibula. Once again, the injury bug has bitten the Predators hard.

After a first period that found the Predators on their heels for the most, they came out and played solid, Predator hockey for the next two periods. They shot the puck and challenged Mason, and when he has to move side to side and track pucks through traffic, he is average. Tonight, the Predators offense made him look average.

More importantly, the Predators aggressive forecheck and solid defense in the neutral zone and in the defensive zone limited the Jackets offense. The Jackets top line of Rick Nash ( 1 SOG), Derick Brassard (1 SOG), and Antoine Vermette (3 SOG), were limited to 5 shots on goal and were held in check all night by the Predators. This is the key to any Predators win, moreso against the Jackets.

The Predators will now embark on a west coast swing, and it is going to be essential that they bring this kind of effort every night. This is a team that is built for the grind of the regular season, built for the wars that are the Western Conference contests.

Skate like this, shoot the puck and crash the net, and play solid defense, and you will continue to play the role of big brother.

My three stars:

1. Shea Weber

2. Nick Spaling

3. Pekka Rinne