The Nashville Predators were in the Bridgestone Arena for a game with the Edmonton Oilers. Unfortunately, the Predators were there in name only, as the Oilers embarrassed them by a 6-3 margin.
First, kudos to the Oilers. The captured the season series 3-0-1 and the Predators never were in any of the contests except for a lucky OT win in Edmonton. Tonight, the team with the second worst record in the Western Conference dominated the Predators and earned the win.
Here are some observations from the game:
The Predators out shot the Oilers 44-20. That is a positive. However, many of the shots were easy for Oilers netminder Devan Dubnyk to handle. Often the shots came from the point with not traffic in front of the net. In fact, Patric Hornqvist was one of a few Predators that was willing to go into the hard areas in front of the net. Hornqvist was rewarded for his efforts with a goal and was hosed by the officials when another goal was waved off for a specious interference call.
At times, the power play looked lost. Yes, they were 1 for 3, but often, the Oilers won puck battles or beat the Predators to pucks and cleared the zone. The power play did not show much movement at times, allowing the Oilers to attack the puck and force the turnover.
The two and a half man D pairing of Hal Gill and Ryan Ellis was atrocious. Those two spent two periods together and never developed any semblance of chemistry. Gill was -3 and Ellis was -4 for the night. That pairing was split up in the third period, with Kevin Klein pairing with Gill and Ellis pairing with Francis Buillon.
The Oilers first goal was a fluke, with a puck thrown toward the net careening off the skate of Klein and past Rinne. The second goal was a 2 on 1 break by the Oilers. But the third goal was a killer. It looked as if Rinne had the puck in his glove, and the defense relaxed. Rinne did not control the rebound, and the Oilers played to the whistle and Ales Hemsky banged home the loose puck for a 3-1 lead.
The Predators sloppy play made Hemsky look like the second coming of Gretzky, as Hemsky had a hat trick. The only thing that one can say about that is unbelievable.
To give up 6 goals on 20 shots is...beyond words. Defensive coverage was awful, allowing way too much traffic to our net. It is surprising how much this team misses Roman Josi.
Here is the bottom line: this is a talented team that is not ready for a playoff run. This team lacks intensity and an edge. Too often, the Predators let their opponent punch them in the mouth and they do not respond. This is an element of their game that is missing and will bite them in the ass come playoff time.
It is up to the coaching staff to get this team ready to play, and I have confidence they do that. However, it is up to the players themselves to respond positively to adversity, and right now, I do not see that leadership on the ice. That is scary, and does not bode well for the Predators.
As a team, you do not want to shuffle into the playoffs. You want to be hitting stride when the playoffs start. Right now, the Predators are not in stride. They are stumbling.
It is time for each player to look around the room and hold themselves and each other accountable. It is time for this team to amp up their intensity and their effort. The shots on goal belie the fact this team was sloppy tonight.
Sloppy will get you killed in the playoffs.
This is a game that is forgettable. I hope this team doesn't forget it. I want them to vividly remember that just showing up is not how you win games.
I want this team to remember the opportunity they lost. An opportunity to build a small lead on their hold on fourth place. And I want them to use this embarrassment to fuel stronger play in the remaining regular season games.
And especially in the playoffs.
My three stars:
1. Ales Hemsky
2. Devan Dubnyk
3. David Legwand