Sunday, April 29, 2012

Coyotes Outwork and Outplay the Predators, Take 2-0 Series Lead

The Nashville Predators looked to even their second round series with the Phoenix Coyotes in the second game of this semi final match up.

The Predators needed to have sense of desperation and intensity in this contest. Going back to Nashville down 2-0 would not bode well for the Predators.

The Predators were once again going to rely on Pekka Rinne in net, while the Coyotes had their stalwart Mike Smith manning the pipes.

Both teams started the game skating well and throwing shots on net, but both goaltenders were able to handle the offensive thrust.

The Coyotes struck first at 8:32 of the first period as Keith Yandle took the puck just outside the right face off circle and found Antoine Vermette streaking to the net. Yandle's pass across the slot was right on the tape of Vermette's stick and he had a wide open net in which to deposit the puck. Vermette beat Marty Erat, who was late getting back in coverage and left his man wide open.

Phoenix seized momentum and were peppering Rinne with shots and being much more physical than the Predators. The Predators looked as if they were just holding on and trying to survive the Coyotes pressure and get out of the period.

That changed Kevin Klein took the puck through the neutral zone and went into the Phoenix zone. As Klein was being checked to the ice, he slid a pass to Andrei Kostitsyn. AK46 broke in alone on Smith and buried a forehand to tie the game at 1 at 17:13.

This was a huge goal by the Predators to take back momentum and give them some confidence. Responding as they did shows the fight in this group, and they will need it against the tough Coyotes.

The first period ended tied at 1. The Coyotes out shot the Predators 12-9.

The Coyotes took a 2-1 lead at 3:47 of the second period as Radim Vrbata drove to the net and was forced wide by the Roman Josi. Vrbata centered the puck from behind the net through the legs of Rinne and onto the stick of Martin Hanzal, who beat Kevin Klein driving to the net. Hanzal had an open net to shoot the puck into as Rinne could not recover after sliding to the post on Vrbata's drive.

Both Coyotes goals had occurred because the Coyotes beat Predator defenders to the net. This was not the type of hockey that the Predators had typically played, and if they did not correct these mistakes, then this series would end quickly.

The Coyotes stymied the Predators, who had a great flurry in the offensive zone but could not get the puck past Smith. The Coyotes  got control of the puck and came in the zone 2 on 2. A shot fluttered over the and the puck came to David Legwand, who inexplicably threw the puck over  his own net. Rinne certainly did not expect that, and he was bumped off balance as the puck landed on the tape of Radim Vrbata. Rinne was sprawled on the ice and Vrbata flipped the puck into the top of the net to give the Coyotes a 3-1 lead at 7:05.

There are no words to describe the stupidity of the play by Legwand.

Ray Whitney was called for slashing, and the Predators power play was dominant, controlling the puck for the entire power play in the Phoenix zone. As the power play was winding down, Ryan Suter took a shot from the point  and Patric Hornqvist deflected the puck past Smith to make it 3-2 at 11:20.

The Coyotes answered the Predators goal almost immediately as Shane Doan drove down the wing past Roman Josi and put a shot on Rinne that he deflected out into the slot. Taylor Pyatt was able to drive the slot unmolested and he batted the rebound out of mid-air past Rinne to give the Coyotes a 4-2 lead at 11:50.

The inability of the Predators to keep Phoenix from scoring after their tallies was frustrating to say the least. In this game, the Predators defense had been uncharacteristically loose and sloppy, and it had cost them.

Down 4-2 at the end of the period, the Predators were facing a desperate 20 minutes of hockey. They had been out shot 31-24 and had ceded the physical play to the Coyotes. Their defense was woeful to this point, and the hole they had dug was deep.

It would be a blinding flash of the obvious to say that the Predators had to play their best 20 minutes of the season to have a chance to win this game.

The Predators started the third period 4 on 4, but quickly got a power play. With the Predators moving the puck, Ryan Suter got open and blasted a shot off the shoulder of Smith and into the net just 53 seconds into the period.

THAT was certainly the start the Predators needed.

Now they had to play solid defense and play their style of hockey.

That didn't happen. The Coyotes once again answered the Predators goal as Derek Morris took a shot that was re-directed by Shane Doan to make it 5-3 Coyotes at 3:36. The play was set up by a clean face off win in the Predators zone by Antoine Vermette.

The Predators inability to keep the Coyotes from scoring when they get close is a matter of desire, in my opinion, and effort. To this point in the series, the Coyotes have outworked the Predators and their effort has been rewarded with goals.

As much as the Predators needed offensive push to get back into this game, they were thwarted by the forecheck and the work of the Coyotes. The pressure the Coyotes put on the Predators suffocated any offense the Predators tried to generate. After the initial goal to open the period, the Predators rarely pressured Smith, and appeared to be completely knocked out of kilter by the Coyotes forecheck.

Pekka Rinne was pulled with 2:13 to go in the game, and even with the extra attacker, the Predators were still being outworked by the Coyotes and could not set up their offense. The Coyotes beat Predators to the puck and out manned the Predators on the puck. There was absolutely no offensive flow at all from the Predators.

David Legwand took a penalty with 46 seconds remaining and Boyd Gordon took a coincidental high sticking penalty. Nashville now had a 5 on 4 with Rinne pulled, and still the Predators could not get their offense going.

The Predators could not threaten Smith, much less score, and the game ended with Coyotes dominating the Predators and the scoreboard 5-3.

This game was particularly disappointing for the Predators, as their defense was horrific. The guys in front of Pekka Rinne owe him a big apology for their sloppy play.

Also disappointing is the fact that throughout the game, the Predators were outworked. The Coyotes forecheck dominated the Predators and they had no answer. The Predators have long prided themselves on their work ethic, and tonight, the Coyotes showed the Predators what a real work ethic looks like.

Having dug a 2-0 hole, the Predators now face a gut check. They can come back to Nashville and play Predator hockey and make a commitment to outwork the Coyotes. If they do, they can capture the games on home ice in front of their raucous crowd.

If they do not, then the Predators are looking at embarrassingly getting swept with this kind of play.

The choice is yours, boys.

My three stars:

1. Radim Vrbata

2. Antoine Vermette

3. Ryan Suter

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Coyotes Go to OT (Again), Outlast the Predators 4-3

The Phoenix Coyotes outlasted the Nashville Predators in a game that has become a regular occurrence for the Desert Dogs, going to overtime and defeating the visiting Predators 4-3.

Phoenix was dominated in the third period and in the OT session, but managed to get a puck past Nashville goaltender for the game winner at 14:04 as Ray Whitney slipped a puck in on the backhand for the winner.

How did we get here?

As expected, special teams would play a critical role in the outcome of the game.

Phoenix tallied first in the first period as Radim Vrbata would launch a puck at Rinne that hit his shoulder and caromed under the crossbar to give the Coyotes a 1-0 lead at 7:23. Kevin Klein had put the Predators down a man when he turned the puck over at the Predators blue line and was guilty of tripping to prevent a breakaway. The potent Coyote power play went to work and made the Predators pay for their transgression.

The Predators tied the game up at 1 on a goal that was a fluke. Francis Bouillon dumped the puck into the Phoenix zone, and it appeared that it was going around the glass and behind the net. Phoenix netminder Mike Smith went behind his goal to play the puck, but the puck ricocheted off the glass and back to the slot, where Brandon Yip gathered in the puck and slapped it into the open net at 14:09 of the first period.

In the second period, the Coyotes took a 2-1 lead as Rusty Klesla was able to bury a shot off a puck that was blocked by Roman Josi. Klesla tried to slip the puck across the slot, but it was blocked by a sliding Josi. The puck came right back to Klesla and he had an open net to fire the puck as Rinne had slid across his crease to play the pass. The Coyotes score came at 3:05 of the second period.

Once again, the Predators tied the game as Andrei Kostitsyn corralled a rebound of a Patric Hornqvist shot and slipped the puck past Smith at 11:19 of the second period.

The Coyotes regained the lead at 16:27 of the second period as Mikkel Boedker continued his strong play. Boedker was able to get a puck past Rinne for his third goal of the post season and give the Coyotes a 3-2 lead. Boedker broke in on a 2 on 1 as Andrei Kostitsyn, who had rotated to the blue line for a pinching Francis Bouillon, fell and the Coyotes blue line. Kevin Klein was back on defense, and took away the pass, but Boedker dangled the puck and beat Rinne to the far post.

The third period was all Predators as they out shot the Coyotes 16-1. That offensive pressure finally paid off with Marty Erat tallying on the power play at 15:18. For Erat, this was his first goal of the post season, and it was a result of the pressure that the Predators exerted on Smith and the Coyotes defense. Boyd Gordon was in the box for holding the stick, and the Predators did a good job of moving the puck and were rewarded as Erat was able to tally.

Once again, the Coyotes were heading to overtime, familiar territory for this team. The Predators had a decided territorial advantage, and out shot the Coyotes 9-6, but it was the Coyotes that capitalized as Ray Whitney slid a backhand shot past Rinne for the game winner at 14:04 of the the OT.

For the Predators, this is a disappointing loss. They played well enough to win, but this is a series that will be decided by which team makes the fewest mistakes. Tonight, this was the Coyotes. More importantly, the Coyotes capitalized on the mistakes that the Predators made.

The Coyotes are an opportunistic team, and the Predators gave them the opportunities they needed to win this game. For the Predators, the key to winning game 2 will be eliminating some of the mistakes that victimized them in game 1 and capitalizing on the opportunities they have.

There is no doubt that Mike Smith is a good goalie, but when the Predators put pucks on net and crash, they can create scoring opportunities. They have to do that in game 2, and do it more consistently, to have success.

This will not be an easy series for either team. The first blood was drawn by the Coyotes, as they made the most of their chances.

The Predators put 42 shots on net in this game to 24 for the Coyotes. The difference was that the Coyotes made the most of their chances. The Predators did not.

That has to change for the Predators in game 2.

My three stars:

1. Mike Smith

2. Mikkel Boedker

3. Marty Erat

Friday, April 27, 2012

First Round Review and Second Round Predictions

The first round of the playoffs are complete, and the View was 62.5% for his predictions. Here is a recap:




The Canuckleheads could not solve Jonathan Quick, and when the Kings took the first two games in Rogers Arena, the Canucks were too fragile to bounce back. The return of Daniel Sedin did give them some life, and the play of Cory Schneider was exceptional. The Canucks undoing was their inability to get pucks past Quick.

ST. LOUIS (2) vs SAN JOSE (7)


The Blues lost the first game of this series, and rather than give momentum to the Sharks, it served to energize the Blues. Losing Jaroslav Halak to an ankle injury forced Brian Elliott into the net, and he was exceptional. The Sharks were out hit, out hustled, and succumbed to a team that is playing very good hockey. The Sharks forwards were absolutely smothered by the defense of the Blues, and could not muster the offensive firepower to get past the Blues.



The story of this series was the outstanding play of Coyotes netminder Mike Smith. Smith had a .950 save % for the series, and the Hawks just could not solve the big goalie. Cory Crawford let in some soft goals for the Hawks, and was outplayed in the series. The loss of Marian Hossa to a cheap shot from Raffi Torres did not help the Hawks effort.



The depth and talent of the Predators were too much for the Wings to overcome, and Pekka Rinne was a beast in net. Detroit scored only 4 even strength goals in the series, and the Predators got contributions from throughout the line up.


NEW YORK (1) vs OTTAWA (8)


The Rangers had a tougher go of it against the feisty Senators than most would have imagined. The Sens crowded Henrik Lundqvist and got opportunistic scoring. In the end, the Rangers talent was better than the Senators and it was the deciding factor in a rugged series.



The story of this series was the play of rookie Braden Holtby in net for the Capitals. Holtby was stellar in shutting down the potent Bruins offense. About that Bruins offense- they were surprisingly throttled by the defense of the Caps. Tim Thomas was not bad in net for the Bruins, but was not good enough to steal this series.



The Panthers gave the Devils all they wanted in this series, and the deciding game 7 went to two OT's before the Devils finally won. Martin Brodeur was surprisingly shaky in net for the Devils, but was good enough to hold off the Panthers. The Panthers had their chances, but could not put the puck in the net when it counted most in game 7.



Early on, the Penguins were absolutely atrocious in this series. Marc-Andre Fleury was a sieve in net and the Penguins defense was non-existent. Rallying back for two wins when down 3-0 gave the Penguins some hope, but the Flyers snuffed that out with a dominating game in the series clincher.

So, after seeing those picks, one would correctly surmise that betting the paycheck on the View's predictions would be...foolish. Foolish or not, it doesn't stop me from launching out into my fearless second round predictions. So here we go...



The Blues look to continue their run to the the Conference finals, but this match up will not be as easy as the one against San Jose. The Blues will face a team that can hit and bang with big bodies as well as they can. Jonathan Quick will present more problems for the Blues forwards than did Antii Niemi of the Sharks, and I expect scoring to be low in this series. Just as the big bodies of the Kings are going to present problems for the Blues, the Kings are going to face a team that has just as good size and plays strong team defense. For the Kings to have a chance in this series, they will have to solve the Blues aggressive forecheck and create scoring chances. I expect this series to be a physical battle, and the team that handles that best will have the ticket to the Conference finals.



You can read my analysis of the series here.




Henrik Lundqvist will be tested in net by the Caps, and will have to be sharp. I think he will, and his play will lead the Rangers to the series win. The Rangers have too much firepower for the Capitals, and if Braden Holtby is under siege, then we could see the rookie crack under pressure. If so, then this series could be over quickly. Look for the explosive forwards of the Rangers to pressure the Caps defense, and they should have the upper hand. Too much depth and talent will bring a victory to the Rangers.



If Ilya Bryzgalov can continue to play consistently, the Flyers should be in good shape. I think he will. The pressure is going to be on the Devils defense to contain the potent forwards of the Flyers and support Marty Brodeur, and they will have their hands full. Lead by Claude Giroux, the Flyers have the ability to score and score in bunches. They key to this series could be the play of Devils netminder Marty Brodeur, who at times looked shaky in the series with the Panthers. If he is on his game, then the Flyers will have to work for goals. If not, then this series will be over quickly. Look for the Flyers physical play and scoring ability to be more than the Devils can handle.


There you have it, friends. My advice? Don't bet the rent money on any of my picks.

Game on!

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

The killing of Trayvon Martin has ignited racist passions in this country that have thrust themselves into the national consciousness with ugly consequences. Those that make their living exploiting the race issue have had a field day with this tragic event, and violence in the name of retribution for Trayvon has occurred in several locales. I will leave the determination of the guilt or innocence of George Zimmerman to the courts and the process of law. There are two key points that this situation has illuminated, and if we are going to make progress on the issue of racial divide, we must have an honest dialogue about them. First, there has been racial inequality in the history of this country, and that fact is undeniable. I would like to think that much progress has been made toward healing these past transgressions and that we as a country are moving toward racial equality. Maybe I am wrong, and my opinion can be contested and debated. Know this. We as a nation are not perfect nor are we are colorblind. But we are better than we were. Here is the truth: there are people and groups that are more than ready to exploit the issue of race. And they have no intention of an honest dialogue and movement toward racial equality. Calling for bounties on the heads of those that do not look like us do nothing but incite anger and a negative response. The incitement of racial action against others is incendiary and divisive. Yet the Black Panthers, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and others of their ilk are allowed to speak inflammatory words without consequence. Here is the other truth: the distortion of the facts surrounding this situation by NBC, ABC, and other news outlets is heinous. Doctoring transcripts of the police tapes, hiding pictures that show a bloodied Zimmerman, and not reporting the full story are lies. And these "news" outlets are complicit in fanning the flames of racial anger. Race relations in this country will never be perfect, but the actions of these actors does not move us closer to equality, but abets the divide.

My wife asked me how I could make so many dumb mistakes in a day. I told her I get up early.

Do you know James Lovelock? He is considered the "father" of the climate change and global warming movement. The 92 year old scientist claimed in 2006 that before the century was over, billions of humans would be dead and the only inhabitable area of the planet would be Antarctica because of the effects of global warming. Needless to say, he was very influential in the global warming movement and on their biggest shill, Al Gore. Well, guess what? Lovelock told MSNBC in an interview that he overstated the case for climate change and  today admits "we don't know what the climate is." Lovelock said that "the climate is doing its usual tricks," and conceded "The world has not warmed up very much since the millennium." Imagine that. The global warming alarmists have one goal in mind, and that is to extract your wealth under false pretenses to enrich themselves. Kudos to Lovelock for admitting that he was wrong. Now if we can just get the other global warming hucksters to be so honest.

Being Southern means never having to say, "I didn't know you could fry that."

One of the many travesties of the Obama administration is the massive waste of your tax dollars on "green energy" companies. The poster child for this government waste is Solyndra, a solar panel manufacturer that received a $535 million loan from the Department of Energy that is now in bankruptcy. The DOE approved the loan, but the approval process required a review by the Treasury Department to vet the merits of the loan. The Treasury Department was given one day to review the loan according to an audit of the Treasury Department by the Department's Inspector General. According to the Inspector Generals report, "The Treasury's consultative role was not sufficiently defined, the consultation that did occur was rushed, and no documentation was retained as to how Treasury's serious concerns with the loan were addressed." Solyndra received the loan in 2009 and filed for bankruptcy in September, 2011, just days before the FBI raided its headquarters with a warrant to search for evidence of fraud. Ya think? This is just the tip of the iceberg for this type of waste and fraud that has been promoted by the Obama administration in an effort to force the American public into green energy. And it is your dollars that are being squandered.

I have a date with destiny. I hope she likes hot dogs and mini-golf.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Predators/Coyotes Second Round Preview

The Nashville Predators are set to face the Phoenix Coyotes in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs. The Predators got to the second round by dispatching the Detroit Red Wings in 5 games, while the Coyotes defeated the Chicago Blackhawks in 6 games.

The Coyotes, winners of the Pacific Division and the third seed, will have home ice advantage over the 4th seed Predators, with the first game of the series on Friday night at Arena.

These two teams are very similar, and this should be a very close series. Let's examine the key components of this match up:


The Predators Pekka Rinne is reasonably considered to be one of the elite goaltenders in the NHL, and his second consecutive Vezina nomination is a testament to his caliber of play. The Coyotes Mike Smith has thrust himself into that conversation with his play this season and in the first round of the playoffs. In the playoffs, a goaltender has to elevate their game if their team is to have a chance to advance, and both netminders have done just that. Rinne finished the regular season with a .923 save %, and after the first round of the playoffs, his save % has increased to .944. Smith finished the regular season with a .930 save %, and that has increased to a .950 save % after the Chicago series. Both goalies are a mirror image of each other: big men that are athletic; track the puck well; and are positionally sound. Both do an excellent job of controlling rebounds. This series may well be decided by which goalie blinks first, and neither have shown a tendency to crack under the pressure their opponents bring. The key for each team will be getting lots of bodies to the net and creating havoc around the crease. Even with this, both Rinne and Smith have shown that they are able to handle this type of pressure.



The Predators are lead by the dynamic duo of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, and they have shown that they are capable of shutting down the other team's best forwards. The Predators are hoping to get Hal Gill back for this series, and the massive defenseman will be a welcome presence of they can utilize his services. Kevin Klein will look to continue his stellar play from the first round. Rookie Roman Josi has a playoff round under his belt, and that experience will serve him well against the Coyotes. Frankie Buoillon is a solid defender that will log some tough minutes.

While the Coyotes do not have the big name defensemen that the Predators do, they still have some very good talent on the back end. Keith Yandle had 5 points in 6 games against the Blackhawks; Rusty Klesla had 4 points; and the talented Oliver Ekman-Larsson had 3 points. The Coyotes D has the talent to score and are very willing to jump into the play. Derek Morris provides some grit, and Michal Rozsival and Adrian Aucoin add depth and experience.

Yandle, Morris, and Dave Schlemko (who played in game 6 of the Hawks series) were the only three Coyotes defenders that were a positive +/- in the Chicago series. Adrian Aucoin was an even +/-.   It will be critical that the Predators forwards challenge the Coyotes defenders for territorial advantage in front of the net.

Look for the Predators defense to exert themselves and make it difficult for the Coyotes forwards to get to the net. Every Predators defenseman was a positive +/- or even in the series with the Wings. The Predators will look to continue to get sound play from the blueliners, and if they do, they should be able to make it difficult for the Coyote forwards to score.



Alexander Radulov lead the Predators with 5 points in 5 games against the Wings. Only one of those points came from a goal, and the Predators will need continued offensive contributions from Radulov, especially in finding the back of the net. Surprising rookie Gabriel Bourque led the Predators with 3 goals against the Wings, and this contribution was very welcome. Bourque has been moved to the second line with David Legwand (4 points in the first round) and Radulov, and this line needs to continue to gel and score. The Predators are looking to get their first line of Mike Fisher, Marty Erat, and Sergei Kostitsyn going and finding the back of the net. If they can do this, they will put tremendous pressure on the Coyotes and Smith in net. Once again, the swing factor could be the Predators third line of Nick Spaling, Andrei Kostitsyn, and Patric Hornqvist. This line has the ability and potential to present problems for the Coyotes with their ability to go hard to the net and create scoring chances.

Shane Doan is the heart and soul of the Coyotes, and he will bring maximum effort in every game. The Coyotes are very similar to the Predators in that they get opportunistic scoring from Doan and their forwards. Antoine Vermette has resurrected his career in the desert, as has Gilbert Brule. Mikkel Boedker was a Hawks killer, scoring two OT game winners, and Ray Whitney is a talented and experienced veteran that can create match up problems for the Predators defense.

Looking at both teams, there is a tremendous amount of similarity: good players that can score and have jam to their game. Both groups of forwards do an excellent job of capitalizing on the mistakes of the other team.

This series will be decided by the forwards that capitalize of the infrequent scoring opportunities that they can create.



The Predators had the number one power play in the NHL's regular season, but it sputtered in their first round match up, going 2 for 22, a 9.1% success rate. The Coyotes were more successful with the man advantage, going 4 for 19, a 21.1% success rate. It is stating the obvious that for the Predators to have success against the Coyotes, the power play has to improve.

The Predators PK was good but not great against the Wings, giving up 4 power play goals in 23 attempts for an 82.6% success rate. The Coyotes were outstanding on the PK, giving up 1 goal in 19 short handed situations for a 94.7% success rate.

With two evenly matched teams, the play of the special teams can be the deciding factor in this series. The pressure is on the Predators play on special teams to produce in this match up.



Both Barry Trotz and Dave Tippet are excellent coaches that get the most out of the players they put on the ice. Trotz has the advantage of taking his team to the second round last season, so this will not be a new experience for Trotz and the staff or the team. Trotz will do a good job of keeping the team focused and on an even keel.

Tippett has done an exceptional job of keeping his team focused on their play in spite of all the off ice distractions that have surrounded the team. The Coyotes respond well to Tippett's leadership, and he has them playing with confidence. Having home ice advantage and the control of the match ups on the ice works to Tippett's advantage, and look for him to exploit that to the maximum.



The Coyotes are making their first appearance in the second round, and one has to wonder if they will experience an let down after the emotions of winning their first ever playoff series.

The Predators face the weight of the expectations of this team. Trade deadline acquisitions and the return of Radulov have many believing that the Predators are a team that can contend for the Cup. Handling the pressure of those expectations will be critical for the team.


So, looking at all these factors, who wins the series?

This will be a hard fought series, and the team that makes the fewest mistakes and can capitalize on their opportunities will emerge victorious. It's cliche, but your best players have to be your best players in this match up, and I believe the Predators have the best players.


Weber a Norris Trophy Finalist

The National Hockey League announced today the three finalists for the Norris Trophy, given to the defensive player "who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all around ability in the position." They are: Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators; Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators; and Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins.

For the second straight season, Weber has been nominated for this award, an acknowledgement of the quality and consistency of his game. Weber finished second in the voting last season to Nicklas Lidstrom of Detroit.

Weber was 6th among defensemen in scoring with 49 points (19G-30A). He tied with fellow nominee Erik Karlsson for most gaols by a defenseman. Weber was a team leading +21 and ranked 5th in average ice time with 26:09 per game.

The strength of Weber's game is that he plays in all situations. His 10 power play goals led all NHL defensemen, and he was third among Predators defensemen in shorthanded time on ice at 2:16 per game (Klein 2:18; Suter 2:20).

Zdeno Chara is a Norris finalist for the fourth time in the past five season. Chara led all NHL defensemen with a +33 rating a nad had 52 points (12G-40A) this season. Chara averaged 25:00 per game in ice time.

Karlsson led all NHL defensemen in scoring with 78 points (19G-59A) and in blocked shots with 261. Karlsson had a +16 rating and averaged 25:19 in ice time.

The award will be presented at the NHL Awards show in Las Vegas on June 20th.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The NHL's Television Problem

The recently completed NHL regular season saw expanded television coverage for U.S. viewers on Versus (now the NBC Sports Network) and NBC. That coverage brought more games into the homes of viewers in the States, and that was welcome news for hockey fans and the game of hockey, as viewership increased significantly in the just completed season.

Here are the appearances that each team had in the national prime time spotlight:

Detroit Red Wings             16

New York Rangers            16

Pittsburgh Penguins            16

Boston Bruins                    15

Philadelphia Flyers             12

Chicago Blackhawks         12

Washington Capitals          11

Buffalo Sabres                  11

Tampa Bay Lightning         11

Minnesota Wild                10

Colorado Avalanche          9

St. Louis Blues                  9

L.A. Kings                        7

Dallas Stars                       7

New Jersey Devils             7

San Jose Sharks                6

Anaheim Ducks                 6

Montreal Canadiens          6

Carolina Hurricanes          4

Phoenix Coyotes              4

Vancouver Canucks          2

Toronto Maple Leafs        2

Columbus Blue Jackets    2

Nashville Predators          2

Winnipeg Jets                  1

New York Islanders        1

Florida Panthers              1

Ottawa, Edmonton, and Calgary did not have an appearance on a national broadcast in the States.

Notice anything here?

Three of the top four teams in number of appearances are out of the playoffs. Detroit, Boston and Pittsburgh are gone.

Chicago is gone from the playoffs in the first round. Buffalo, Tampa Bay, and Minnesota, all teams with double digit national appearances did not make the playoffs.

And this is a problem.

Not for the fact that these teams are gone from the playoffs- or didn't even get into the playoffs. No, the problem lies with the parochial nature of the NHL's television coverage.

It seems that those in charge at NBC think that fans of the game are only interested in watching some teams play. By overexposing some teams, the network is vesting their interest in those particular teams not only making the playoffs, but going deep into the playoffs. The familiarity of those teams to the casual fan will be enough to entice them to watch the coverage the network provides.

There is a concern that with some of the "big name" teams out of the playoffs, viewer interest may wane and there will be fewer eyes on Conference finals or the Stanley Cup Finals.

There is some legitimacy to that concern. Having a team like Nashville in the SCF means that there is a team from the 30th largest U.S. television market, and this obviously means that the viewers in a market like, say New York, will not be as interested as they would be if the Rangers were playing. Every TV in Nashville could be on the game and it would not generate the interest that it would if the local New York team was playing.

Ratings are integral to NBC. They should be. 

That fact is undeniable.

Ratings alone should not solely drive the television coverage, though.

Two of the Western Conference semi-finalists combined for 6 national appearances, less than half of the top 4 team, of which 2 have been eliminated. Two of the teams going to a game 7 in the Eastern Conference combined for 1 national appearance.

As a hockey fan, am I to believe that these 4 teams did not play some compelling, interesting, and exciting hockey, especially in the second half of the season as the playoff races were coming into focus? As a fan, was watching a Minnesota or Tampa Bay, well out of the playoffs late in the season, must see hockey?

It would seem that the League,in partnership with NBC, would want to cultivate broad interest in the game. Obviously, that would mean showing the games of the storied franchises. They are good for ratings. It should also mean giving exposure to smaller market teams that are playing good hockey, that have an interesting match up or story line. Those games, too, would be good for ratings and broaden the exposure of the League and its teams. Showing a game that has no bearing on the standings or does not have a compelling story is...boring.

The over exposure of certain teams leaves the network- and the League- vulnerable when those teams are eliminated early, as several have been this playoff season. Vulnerable to suddenly having to generate interest from the casual fan for a team that has had little to no exposure during the course of the regular season.

The serious hockey fan is watching the game even if their team is out of the playoffs.

Broadening the interest in the game from the casual fan involves cultivating interest and story lines in more teams throughout the season, not just in the playoffs.

 With the salary cap and parity in the League, the potential for this problem will be with the League for the foreseeable future.

And it needs to change.

Rinne Receives Vezina Nomination

The Nashville Predators have always built their team from the net out. Solid goaltending has been a cornerstone of the Predators success throughout the years, and netminder Pekka Rinne has been one of the best in the history of the franchise.

Today, Rinne received his second consecutive Vezina nomination, acknowledging the quality of his play.

Joining Rinne as Vezina nominees are Jonathan Quick of the L.A. Kings and Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers.

Rinne lead the NHL in games played with 73 as well as wins, with 43. Rinne was 43-18-8 in the regular season, with 5 shutouts. He finished the year with a .923 save % and a 2.39 GAA. He also lead the NHL in assists by a goaltender, with 5.

Quick accounted for 35 of the Kings 40 wins this season. His record was 35-21-13 with a .929 save % and 1.95 GAA. He lead the NHL with 10 shutouts.

Lundqvist was 39-18-5 with a .930 save% and a 1.97 GAA. He had 8 shutouts during the regular season.

Each goalie was integral to the success of their team and strong case can be made for each to claim the Vezina.

Rinne faced the most shots of any of the nominees (2,153), and often the Predators relied on Rinne to preserve the lead in a low scoring contest.

Quick backstopped the offensively challenged Kings, who were 29th in scoring at 2.29 goals per game. Quick's 1.95 GAA was the second best in the NHL.

Lundqvist's 39 wins were a career best, as was his save % and GAA. He is the first goalie to have at least 30 wins in his first 7 seasons in the League.

The winner will be announced at the NHL awards show in Las Vegas on June 20th.

Poile Nominated for GM of the Year

Building a winning team is as much an art as a science. Blending experienced veterans, untested rookies, and players added via trade or free agency is akin to a chemistry experiment in a science lab, Although the individual components are known, once blended together the outcome can be surprisingly good or it can blow up.

The Predators resident mad scientist, GM David Poile has been very adept at blending all these components into a successful team, not only this season, but throughout the history of the franchise.

This has been acknowledged once again by his peers, the 29 other General Managers in the League, as for the third year in a row, Poile has been nominated as GM of the Year. The award has been in existence for only three years, and this speaks volumes about the job he has done with the Predators, and more so the perception of his fellow General Managers.

Poile has guided the Predators from an expansion franchise to one that is consistently in the playoffs, all in a small market and with a limited budget. Additionally, Poile is the only GM to have served for over 1,000 games for two different teams, having previously served as the GM of the Washington Capitals.

His experience and the hockey lineage in his family (his father, Bud, is in the Hockey Hall of Fame as a Builder) have allowed Poile to maintain a long term perspective about not only the development of the players in Nashville, but the development of the coaching staff as well. Stability has been the hallmark of this franchise, and that characteristic has been vital during some tumultuous stretches in the history of the Predators.

Along with Poile, Dale Tallon of the Florida Panthers and Doug Armstrong of the St. Louis Blues have been nominated. The winner will be announced at the NHL Awards ceremony on June 20th from Las Vegas.

Congratulations to David for the recognition of the work to build an expansion franchise to one that is contending for the Stanley Cup.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Predators/Red Wings Series Recap

The Nashville Predators eliminated the Detroit Red Wings in their first round match up in five games. The Predators now await the outcome of the other first round series to finish to determine their second round opponent.

Looking back over the series, there were several critical factors that led the Predators to victory. Here are some of the keys to the Predators victory over the Wings:

You Can't Shoot the Puck Through a Wall

Any discussion of the Predators success starts with this guy:


Pekka Rinne was a beast in net, finishing with a .944 save % and a 1.81 GAA. The Wings potent offense was stymied by Rinne as he allowed only 4 even strength goals in the five games. It didn't matter how many shots the Wings fired at Rinne. He was calm and moved well in his crease, tracking shots and not giving up rebounds. His strong play got into the heads of the Wings, and as games went on, it seemed as if they knew they weren't going to get a puck past him. The psychological edge that Rinne gave the Predators was essential to the confidence of the team, and their play in front of him was, for the most, solid. GM David Poile, initially garnered some criticism for the 7 year, $7 million dollar contract that he gave to Rinne early in the season. Who is laughing now?

You Win Championships With Defense

The Red Wings looked at the Predators defense and saw something that looked like this:

The play of the defense was outstanding in this series. There is no doubt that the Wings have offensive weapons, but the defense of the Predators did a fantastic job of limiting their scoring chances and rendered them ineffective for stretches. How good were they? Consider that Jiri Hudler tied with Henrik Zetterberg for the goals lead for the Wings, and they both had 2 goals. Pavel Datsyuk, Cory Emmerton, Tomas Holmstrom, Johan Franzen, and Ian White all had one goal. The defense starts with Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, and their play was stellar in shutting down the big guns of the Wings. Kevin Klein, Francis Buoillon, and Roman Josi were solid, and Ryan Ellis was a positive contributor. And remember, the Predators were without Hal Gill in this series, as he was out due to injury. The effort of the blue liners frustrated the Wings offensively and changed the tenor of this series from the outset.

Unsung Heroes

In every playoff series, there is a player or players that rise to the occasion. Not the usual suspects, but someone that unexpectedly elevates their game and swings a series in the favor of their team. There were two Predators that filled this role:


Gabriel Bourque lead the team in goals with 3 and finished tied for second on the team with points with 4. The young rookie definitely elevated his game and did not look intimidated by the pressure of the playoffs. His poise, speed, and willingness to go to the tough areas were rewarded with a move up to the second line in the fifth game. Bourque keeps his game simple, works hard, and was rewarded for his efforts.

The other player that excelled on the big stage was this guy:

Kevin Klein was excellent in the defensive zone, finishing +2, and had 2 goals and an assist. His first goal of the series was a highlight reel goal and swung momentum back to the Predators in a pivotal game 3 at the Joe. Klein chewed up some big minutes with Hal Gill out of the line up and did a good job shutting down some of the Wings top forwards. Must be the hair.

Home Wasn't So Sweet

The Predators had never won a playoff game at the Joe Louis Arena, and after the Wings eked out a 3-2 win in the second game at Bridgestone Arena, the hope among Predator fans was for the team to go to Detroit and just win one game. There is no doubt that the Wings are tough at home, and earlier this season had set a record for consecutive home wins. It was going to be a monumental task for the Predators. Here is a visual of what happened:

The Predators dropped the house on the Wings at the Joe, claiming a 3-2 and a 3-1 win in games 3 and 4. The jinx of the Joe had been broken, and the Predators returned to Nashville with confidence, prepared to keep their house from falling on them. The Bridgestone Arena didn't fall in on them in game 5, although the roof was nearly blown off by the cheering of the home crowd.

The Predators Got Over This

In the playoffs, the Detroit Red Wings represented this to the Predators:

In their two previous meetings in the playoffs, the Wings sent the Predators packing in the first round. Beating the Wings was obviously essential to move on in the playoffs, but for the Predators the defeat of the Wings in a playoff series represents leaping over a psychological hurdle. Knowing they can beat the Wings when it counts bolsters the confidence of the Predators not only for the remainder of the playoffs but in future Central Division battles.

These Guys

A lot of credit belongs to these guys:

The passion and the energy that was brought at every home game was amazing. The spontaneous standing ovations during the television timeouts, especially in game 5, were deafening. And don't think for a moment that the Predators don't feed off that energy and that the visitors don't notice. I could see Wings Coach Mike Babcock screaming at his players just to make himself heard. Those passionate Predators fans make the Bridge one of the toughest places to play in the NHL.

There are other factors that were critical to the Predators capturing this series. The play of Alexander Radulov (5 points in 5 games) changed the balance of the contest. Contributions from Paul Gaustad in the face off dot, Mike Fisher and Marty Erat with solid defense and timely assists, and Sergei Kostitsyn with the game winning goal in game 3 stand out. The fact remains that this was a team win.

That first round series was fun, wasn't it? Now it is on to the second round, and new challenges await. The Predators will have another milestone to achieve, and that is to win a second round series.

It will take all these attributes as well as contributions from everyone that puts on the sweater to achieve that goal.

I can't wait.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Predators Defeat Wings 2-1, Clinch the First Round Series 4-1

The Nashville Predators defeated the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 at the Bridgestone Arena to clinch their first round series by a 4-1 margin.

Winning this series against the Wings was a big step in the maturation process of the Predators. Ever since the Preds came into the NHL, the Wings have been their measuring stick, the standard against which they measured their performance and their progress. Defeating  the Wings in a playoff series is important not only for the fact that the Predators advance to the second round of the playoffs, but important for the psychology of the team, proving that they are measuring up to one of the best teams in the NHL.

Once again, the Predators rode the strong goaltending of Pekka Rinne to the win. Rinne was outstanding, stopping 21 of 22 shots. For the Predators, the play of Rinne was key to winning this series. Rinne had to elevate his game, and he did just that, with a .944 save percentage in the five games.

Detroit was facing elimination and was a desperate team, and they opened the contest with that sense of desperation. They out shot the Predators 6-1 to open the contest, but the Predators responded and got their feet moving and ended the period out shooting the Wings 10-8.

One of those 10 shots found the back of the net. David Legwand battled on the forecheck and won a puck battle behind the net. He backhanded the puck into the slot to Alexander Radulov who fired a quick wrist shot over the shoulder of Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard to give the Predators a 1-0 lead at 16:10 of the first period.

The Predators had some great chances early in the second period, but could not get the puck past Howard. Craig Smith hit a post and Howard robbed Patric Hornqvist when it appeared that he had an open net. As it was, the Predators held a 1-0 lead and could not extend it.

That lead stood up until 13:45 of the second period, when Jiri Hudler took a rebound off the pads of Rinne and slammed home the puck to tie the game at 1.

Going into the third and in a tie game, the Predators had the upper hand in play. They were winning puck battles, limiting the speed of the Wings through the neutral zone, and keeping their offense in check. Yet tied at 1, this game was in the balance, and it had the feel of a game that would go to the team that could get the next goal.

That team would be the Predators, and the ext goal would come just 13 seconds into the third period. David Legwand took a pass from Gabriel Bourque and hammered a shot past Howard to give the Predators a 2-1 lead. Good to see Legwand get his game going after a couple of lackluster games, and Bourque continued to make an impact for the Predators, as he notched his 4th point in 5 games with the assist.

The Predators made that quick strike stand up for the remainder of the period. Unlike game 4, the Predators did not sit back in a defensive shell and continued to press the attack offensively. That effort led to the Wings getting only 8 shots on goal in the third period. Yes, the Predators had only 7 shots on goal, but their ability to control the neutral zone and cycle the puck in the offensive zone were critical to stopping the Wings from getting their potent offense on track.

The Predators held the Wings off the board in the third period, and for the first time in three attempts, and knocked them out of the playoffs.

Consider the Predators measuring up, no exceeding, the standard that the Wings had set.

Winning this game meant that the Predators did not have to return to Detroit. If they had to do so, I would expect this series to go to 7 games. As it is, the Predators now get a chance to rest and get ready for the second round.

Tonight the Predators played Predator hockey. They were aggressive on the forecheck, limited the Wings speed in the neutral zone, and rarely let them get their dangerous cycle going in the offensive zone.

It goes without saying that the Red Wings are a great team and a quality organization. Congratulations to them on a great season.

Defeating the Wings not only moves the Predators to the second round of the playoffs, but gives the team the confidence that they are making progress to being an elite team. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.

Tonight, the Predators did just that.

Now it is time to get ready for the second round and more importantly, move past that round.

The challenge awaits.

Time to measure up.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. David Legwand

3. Alexander Radulov

Thursday, April 19, 2012

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Now that the tax filing deadline has passed, it is instructive to look back and see what has just happened to those of us that pay taxes. Here is what you should know and keep in mind the next time that you hear about the profligate spending that occurs at the federal level and the desire for more of our income in higher taxes. According to statistics compiled from the Internal Revenue Service for 2010 which is the last year for the data, Americans that made over $50,000 paid the majority of federal taxes. Those wage earners had an effective tax rate of 14% and carried 93% of the tax burden. By contrast, those that made less than $50,000 had an effective tax rate of 3.5% and paid 7% of all taxes. 143 million tax returns were filed in 2010. 58 million, or 41%, were from filers that did not pay taxes. That means that the tax burden in this country fell on 85 million families or individual wage earners. Additionally, according to the IRS, those filers that did not pay any taxes received $105 billion in refundable tax credits. So not only did 58 million filers NOT pay taxes, but they got credits totaling $105 billion that is a transfer of payments from tax payers. I expect the 2011 data when released will show similar results. Keep this in mind the next time that politicians talk about raising your taxes. And this is the crux of the problem: a shrinking percentage of families and individuals are supporting a growing number of non-paying households. Eventually, the percentage of non-paying households will eclipse the number of paying households if the trend continues. Now you see why cutting government spending has become an intractable problem for those in Washington.

I finally hit my stride. I backed over it in the driveway.

As painful as tax day has become for more Americans, it has the potential to get much more painful January 1. That day is being euphemistically called "Taxmegeddon", and it has been dubbed that because if Congress fails to act, a myriad of automatic tax increases will go into effect on that day. The current tax cuts that were originally enacted in 2002 will expire, and if they do, taxpaying Americans will face an automatic $494 billion tax hike. According to the Heritage Foundation, most Americans will face an average tax increase of $3,800, and 70% of the tax hikes will fall on low and middle income families. Payroll taxes will automatically increase, and workers will have a bigger bite taken out of their paycheck. That is just the start. There are five tax hikes that will be solely related to Obamacare, if it is not repealed. There is a surtax on investment income; estate taxes will increase significantly; and income tax rates will increase across all income levels. Think this will help the economy grow and entice businesses to hire new employees? Neither do I. This election in November has lasting consequences for each of us, and we as taxpayers have to elect and hold accountable our leaders to constrain the growth of government and begin to meaningfully cut government spending.

Cheat on your taxes and you will end up in one of two places- jail or working in Washington.

About those leaders and bureaucrats in Washington: they are certainly quick to want to collect your tax payments and you face serious consequences if you fail to pay what you owe. How about those in Washington? A report by the IRS showed that in 2010, 98,000 federal employees owed over $1 billion in back taxes. Let that sink in for a moment. Here is more. Members of the U.S. Senate alone owe over $2 million in back taxes. Now let me ask you this: do you think the IRS would be as lenient and forgiving toward you or me as they are to those in Washington? I agree with you- they would not. And this is part of the problem. Our leaders and those charged with enforcing the rules and collecting the taxes that are owed view themselves as better than or above you and me. It is an attitude of privilege and exemption. We should pay, and we will be asked for more in the coming months and years while those "in charge" do not abide by the same set of rules. Washington has created a caste system of rulers and administrators that not only think they know what is best for us but have exempted themselves from the law. And that has to change by our action, involvement, and our votes. Right now.

I flirted with disaster last night. Now it won't stop texting me.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Predators Take Commanding Series Lead With a 3-1 Victory

The Nashville Predators looked to take a 3-1 series lead against a desperate Detroit Red Wings team at the Joe Louis Arena in the fourth game of their first round series.

The Predators were once again going to rely on Pekka Rinne in net to hold the dangerous Wings offense in check. The Red Wings Jimmy Howard looked to return to his stellar regular season form.

Little did the Predators know how much they would rely on Rinne in this contest.

The Predators won the game 3-1, but the score was not indicative of the the tenor of this contest.

The first period was a choppy period that saw both teams take several trips to the penalty box. The Predators were tagged for three penalties, while the Wings were called for two. Each team managed to short circuit a power play by taking penalties, and for the Predators, it was fortuitous as they had taken two consecutive penalties and the Wings only had 21 seconds on that second power play.

Neither team established much flow offensively, but the advantage was slightly in the Wings favor. The Predators rarely got into an offensive rhythm, and were out shot by the Wings 11-7.

The choppiness of the game continued in the second period, and this worked in favor of the Wings as the Predators offense was non-existent in the opening minutes. In fact, it took the Predators 8:50 seconds to record their first shot on goal. In fact, the Wings had out shot the Predators 9-1 to open the period.

For whatever reason, the Predators offense was lethargic and without energy. If the Predators were going to win this game, the jump in their offense was going to have to get going.

The Predators offense never did get going in the second period. In fact, the offensive effort by the Preds was miserable. The Predators were out shot 17-3 and frankly were lucky to get out of the first 40 minutes scoreless.

The lack of offense by the Predators was inexplicable. Yes, the Wings are a good defensive team. The Predators made them look great. Shots did not get through, players were not going to the net, and the offense floated.

Inexplicable and inexcusable.

If the Predators wanted to win this game, they were not showing it.

Fortunately, it was scoreless, and going into the third period, it would be decided by which team wanted it more.

Predator fans could only hope their offense would show up in the final 20 minutes.

Both teams got their offense going in the third period, finding the back of the net.

David Legwand scored at 1:28 of the third period, but the refs had lost sight of the puck and had blown the whistle and the goal did not count.

Unbelievable, as the officials had asserted themselves and took away a goal by the Predators.

The Predators did get their goal at 1:55 of the period as Alexander Radulov flipped the puck toward the front of the net from the goal line. The puck went off Justin Abdelkader's stick right onto the stick of Gabriel Bourque and he buried the puck to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.

Bourque continues his strong play with his third goal of the series and it was huge for the Predators.

The Predators were called for too many men on the ice, and this time, the Predators were burnt as Niklas Kronwall blasted a shot from the blue line that  was tipped by Jiri Hudler and beat Rinne to tie the game at 1 at 2:14.

The Predators regained the lead as Marty Erat fought for the puck and drove into the Wings zone. He drew 3 Wings defenders to him and found Kevin Klein cruising down the slot all alone and Klein buried the shot into the open net to make it 2-1 at 6:25.

Once again, the Predators were called for a penalty as Andrei Kostitsyn was given a weak interference call. Nevertheless, the Wings were going on the power play, and the Predators needed to come up with a big kill.

The kill was successful and now the Predators needed to settle down and play solid hockey. This game was theirs for the taking.

Yet again, the Predators were called for another penalty as Matt Halischuk was called for interference and the Predators needed another big penalty kill at 14:43.

Once again, the PK unit stopped the Wings, and Rinne made some big stops to keep the Wings off the board. The Predators still held the lead, but repeated trips to the penalty box were dangerous.

A penalty was finally called on the Wings as Henrik Zetterberg took a two handed chop on Shea Weber at 19:04. Off the ensuing face off, the Predators battled for the puck and David Legwand came out of the corner with the puck and went to the front of the net and slipped the puck through the pads of Howard to give the Predators a 3-1 lead.

Legwand got the goal that he should have been awarded early in the third.

As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the Predators had sealed a 3-1 victory and secured a 3-1 series lead. They have an opportunity to close out the series Friday in Nashville.

Once again, the Predators survived the onslaught of the Wings offense and were able to escape with the win. Everyone in the locker room should give Pekka Rinne a big round of applause, as he turned aside shot after shot from the Wings. What has emerged from these games so far is that the Wings can only rarely get the puck past Rinne at even strength. Their scoring has predominantly come off the power play.

Which means the Predators have to stay out of the box. They made this win much more difficult by taking numerous penalties- 7 to be specific. The Wings are too good and too dangerous to keep taking these kind of chances with the dangerous offense they possess.

Oh yeah- play offense for 60 minutes. Being out shot 41-17 is not usually a winning formula.

Now it is time for the Predators to re-group and focus on the task at hand. They have an opportunity to end the series and rest up before the start of the second round. Be assured that the Wings will come out with even more desperation in game five, and it will be important for the Predators to match that intensity and play with passion.

There is one more big step to take, boys. You have always said that the Wings are your measuring stick.

Time to measure up.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Kevin Klein

3. Marty Erat

Intent and Extent: A Fool's Errand, an Impossible Standard

Brendan Shanahan has drawn the ire of hockey fans across the National Hockey League as he and members of the Department of Player Safety have been busily handing out suspensions for dangerous and questionable hits in the first round of the playoffs. The anger has come not so much from the fact that a player has drawn a suspension, but because of a perceived lack of consistency in the application of justice by the League.

It seems like a pretty straightforward exercise: run a player into the boards; perpetrate a dangerous hit; intend to harm another player intentionally or recklessly and receive your punishment. And the punishment for a player from one team is the same for a player from a different team for the same kind of infraction.

Uh... not so fast.

There are two little words that carry huge consequences that have muddled this whole process.

Intent and extent.

And they create a no win situation for the League and continue to put player's safety at risk.

By using a purely subjective standard called "intent", i.e. what did the player mean to do, and the resulting "extent," or outcome of the play as determinants the type of punishment, if any, that is doled out to a player that executes a borderline or dangerous hit, it is no wonder that we continue to see these types of hits and dangerous plays.

And for the League to use intent and extent as the standard for meting out justice for dangerous plays is a fool's errand.

It can't be done properly.

Let's look at intent for a moment. Even the most egregious offenders when it come to dangerous hits never say that it was their "intent" to hurt another player. Who is to say, and how is the League to judge, what intent might be in any situation? What happens in that split second on the ice and at top speed is impossible to judge as to intent. When one player has another lined up for what could be a questionable hit, how is the League judging intent? Maybe previous occurrences of reckless behavior? Even that is a poor barometer of intent. Could the player have pulled up? Again, a split second decision in the heat of the moment, and the thought processes are known only to the player.

So how does the League determine intent? I would submit that they cannot, and any attempt to do so is just a wildly speculative guess on their part. Even worse, it establishes such a vague basis for judging these types of hits or plays that it is essentially no standard at all.

Every parent has had the situation with their children where something goes wrong, and one of the first things out their innocent mouths is "I didn't mean to..." We as parents know that judging intent is next to impossible. More often than not, "I didn't mean to" translates into "I didn't think something bad would happen."

What the League is doing with the non-standard of intent is in essence saying "I hope nothing bad happens." That is going to lead to a disastrous outcome on the ice, and is just insane.

The other aspect of these types of plays is using the extent of an injury, or outcome of the hit to determine the severity, if any of the punishment. In a word, this is outrageous. We all have witnessed players that were the victims of dangerous hits who, fortunately were able to get back up. In determining the level of discipline, the League has said something to the effect that "the player wasn't seriously hurt" and that fact mitigated the level of punishment. This standard, in my estimation, continues to invite these types of hits. Run a player and hope he gets up. If he does, you get nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

This is why Shea Weber could skate with a fine and Carl Hagelin got a three game suspension.

Regardless of outcome, a dangerous hit is a dangerous hit. For the League to fail to acknowledge that and let outcome mitigate the punishment due the offender is taking what should be a hard and fast standard and making it is essence non-existent. A five minute boarding major for one player becomes a multi-game suspension for another player, depending on the extent of any injury. The unequal application of the punishment for the types of hits that are dangerous is unacceptable and is an environment rife for inconsistencies.

And it makes player safety secondary.

As long as the NHL persists in using these nebulous and subjective standards, we will continue to have these types of hits and the resulting injuries or potential injuries to players. It is time for the League to get rid of the canard of judging a player's intent and extent of the damage done before deciding the level of punishment. For these types of hits to be greatly reduced and player safety improved, the League has to adopt clearly defined standards. More importantly, there has to be a consistent application of those standards, regardless of the offender.

Do this, and you will restore a measure of sanity to the game we all love.

And we will end the foolishness of trying to judge intent and punishing a player based on the extent of the injury inflicted

Monday, April 16, 2012

NHL: No Honor League?

The first round of the playoffs have taken a turn beyond nasty.

Cheap and classless are two words that come to mind.

Suspensions and fines have been rampant even though most teams having played only three games in their respective first round matches.

One can only wonder how bad it is going to get.

The nastiness- no- the dirty play started in the first game of the playoffs as Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators went WWF on Henrik Zetterberg, slamming his head into the glass after Zetterberg hit him from behind at the boards at the end of the game. Weber got off light with a $2,500 fine.

He should have been suspended.

That was just the start.

Carl Hagelin of the Rangers elbowed the Senators Daniel Alfredsson in the head and earned a 3 game suspension because Alfredsson was injured on the play.

Matt Carkner of the Senators was suspended for one game for pummeling Brian Boyle of the Rangers, who refused to fight back and was down on the ice.Zenon Konopka was fined $2,500 for verbal abuse of the Rangers during a a pre-game television interview and the Sens were fined $10,000 for his actions.

Craig Adams of the Penguins was suspended for instigating a fight in the late minutes of game 3 of the Penguins/Flyers series. More hearings are pending for James Neal and Aaron Asham for their actions in the same game.

Andrew Shaw of the Chicago Blackhawks has a hearing pending for his violent collision with Phoenix Coyotes netminder Mike Smith.

This type of play has kept Brendan Shanahan busy and left even the most seasoned hockey fan shaking their head.

Much anger has been directed toward Shanahan for his disciplinary decisions and for the perceived inconsistency between the various punishments meted out.

That anger is misdirected.

Instead, fans should look to the ice and the type of play that teams are bringing to their games and to the officials that are charged with keeping the game within the boundaries of the rules.

Each of the aforementioned incidents have a common thread.

A lack of respect.

Not only for the players on the ice but for the game itself.

Throughout the season, the League and the officials sent a message to the players regarding head shots and dangerous plays that there would be zero tolerance, and for the most, did a reasonable job of enforcing that standard. The desire and the effort to protect the players was commendable and generally effective. Violators were punished and players began to adjust their game.

Underlying the effort to protect the players was a message from the League that players had to "respect" each other and not engage in dangerous, borderline types of plays.

That has gone out the window in the playoffs.

There is no doubt that the playoffs are a war of attrition, and that physical play ramps up. There is no problem with that. That is playoff hockey, and that type of play makes the playoffs and the road to the Cup the greatest championship in professional sports.

Part of the ethic of hockey is "sending a message" through physical play. Between the whistles, there is no problem with that. Clean checks, hard hits, and legally aggressive play are all part of  sending a message. Want to really send a message? Put the puck into the opponents net.

What has happened in the playoffs so far is that "sending a message" had devolved into cheap shots after the whistle, scrums after every whistle that result in punches and unnecessary extracurricular activity, and questionable hits and fights.

All of which shows a lack of respect for the players by the players and for the game. The type of play that fans have witnessed from some teams and players fails to honor the game of hockey.

Playoff hockey is intense, desperate hockey. Win or go home. What has happened in the first round of the playoffs is that desperation and intensity has crossed the line into nastiness and cheap shots.

If the players on the ice do not respect each other, player safety becomes moot. Unnecessary hits, dangerous hits are the norm. Crossing the line to send a message is accepted.

Culpability does not rest solely with the players. The officiating has been inconsistent, and the tendency of officials to swallow their whistles late in a game doesn't help. Letting the boys play hockey is an admirable goal, but the officials are letting the boys do more than play hockey.  Watch the action after a play. Some of the stuff that goes on after the whistle is, frankly, unacceptable, and it sets the tenor for many of the games. Start handing out penalties for the punches thrown in a scrum or the cross checks delivered in front of the net and see if some of this type of play doesn't quickly stop.

If the players cannot respect their opponent, then it rests with the officials to clearly define the boundaries of acceptable play and consistently enforce those boundaries. It worked to reduce the number of dangerous hits to the head in the regular season. It will work in the playoffs.

Physical play and hard hits are in the DNA of the game of hockey.  Again, there is no problem with that. Illegal hits and dangerous plays to send a message or gain and advantage are a dangerous mutation of that DNA.

The game is at an inflection point in these playoffs. Players have to begin to play with a level of respect that has too often been lacking in some of the contests. Officials have to take control of the game, especially what happens after the whistle. Fail to do so, and the League will be embarrassed on their biggest national stage.

Hockey is a beautiful game, and playoff hockey is the apex of this great sport. The nastiness, the cheap shots, the dangerous hits disrespect the game and the players involved.

And there is no honor in that.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Predators Outlast the Wings, Take 2-1 Series Lead

Well, that was exciting!

The Nashville Predators faced the Detroit Red Wings at the Joe, a place where they had never won a playoff game, tied at one game apiece in their playoff series, and the two teams engaged in a back and forth contest that went down to the final seconds before the Predators captured a 3-2 victory.

Entering this game, the Predators knew they were going to be in a spirited contest, to be sure.

No, actually, it was going to a war.

The Predators knew they were going to need to come out strong, take the Wings and the crowd out of the game, and play a solid 60 minutes of hockey.

Oh yeah, Pekka Rinne had to be stronger than his counterpart for the Wings, Jimmy Howard.

Getting their dormant power play going was essential for the Predators, and they did that on their second power play opportunity. With Drew Miller in the box for goaltender interference, the Predators swarmed the Detroit net. Shea Weber, crashed the net and gathered in a rebound of an Andrei Kostitsyn shot and slammed the rebound past Howard to give the Predators a 1-0 lead at 2:48 of the first period. Finally, the Predators were able to convert on the man advantage, and the 0-12 monkey was off their back.

The first period settled down to playoff hockey, as both teams created some good chances. Both Rinne and Howard turned aside the shots that each team fired. Rinne in particular looked sharp and relaxed in net.

The first period ended with the Wings out shooting the Predators 11-9.

Just after a Jordin Tootoo penalty had expired early in the second period, Kevin Klein split the Wings D with tremendous speed and buried a shot over the shoulder of Howard to give the Predators a 2-0 lead at 3:50. Klein was sent into the zone off a nice pass from Marty Erat, and Klein's speed into the zone surprised the Wings defense. More importantly, Klein finished the play, and that goal was huge for the Predators to give them some breathing room.

The Predators needed that breathing room as Pavel Datsyuk absolutely undressed Roman Josi and stole the puck from him behind the Predators net. He beat Rinne, who was looking the other way expecting the puck to go to his right. Datsyuk tucked the puck under Rinne's pad before he could recover to make it 2-1 Predators at 15:03 of the second.

It goes without saying that Josi cannot let that play happen, As it was, the Wings now had life, and it was going to be important for the Predators to respond.

Sergei Kostitsyn took a penalty late in the period, and the Wings were swarming the Predators zone. Rinne fought off a shot by Nick Lidstrom and the rebound kicked out to Johan Franzen, and he made no mistake in depositing the puck into the back of the Predators net.

Just one problem.

The clock had just expired before the puck went into the net.

And the Predators had caught a huge break.

The Wings had out shot the Predators 13-9 in the second period, but they were energized and would have 1:49 of power play time to start the third period. It was going to be critical that the Predators respond, and especially not sit back on their heels in the third.

Detroit opened the third on the power play, and the Predators were able to kill off the penalty, but the Wings were rolling. They opened the third out shooting the Predators 7-0 and were dominant in the Predators zone. Rinne made some huge stops to keep the Wings off the board, but the Predators were going to have to begin to mount some offensive pressure. Sitting back like they were doing was going to be disastrous for the Predators.

The Predators finally got a couple of shots on net, but the Wings held a 13-2 shot advantage with just over 7 minutes remaining in the third period. The Predators tactic of sitting back and playing prevent defense was both frustrating and dangerous.

The Predators once again got some breathing room as Sergei Kostitsyn broke in on a 2 on 1 and instead of passing the puck snapped a shot over the shoulder of Howard to give the Predators a 3-1 lead at 16:30 of the third.

The Predators would need that goal as David Legwand was called for holding and the Wings tallied on the power play  as Henrik Zetterberg walked into the zone and rifled a shot over the shoulder of Rinne short side to make it 3-2 with 52 seconds remaining.

Detroit came with the full court...uh, ice press in the remaining seconds, but the Predators did a good job of controlling and clearing the puck, and the Wings could not get a shot on goal.

The final horn had sounded and for the first time ever, the Predators had won a playoff game at the Joe.

It goes without saying that Rinne was magnificent in net. His play is so strong and it has to affect the Wings, leaving them wondering if they can get an even strength goal past him (Datsyuk's flukey goal not withstanding).

How strong was Rinne? Detroit fired 43 shots on net. By contrast, the Predators managed just 22 for the game.

It is good to see Sergei Kostitsyn get on the board. He had been invisible up to this point, and finally getting on the board will hopefully get his game rolling.

The play of Kevin Klein was outstanding as he scored a beautiful goal and came up with a huge save when Rinne was out of position, stopping Cory Emmerton with a nice block of his shot. A very good game by Klein today.

The significance of this win at the Joe cannot be understated. For the Predators, it lifts that 800 pound gorilla of never winning there off their back. And for the Wings, it cracks their veneer of invincibility at home.

Yes, Detroit is a veteran team, and I expect them to come out flying in game 4. I also expect the Predators to be more calm and composed and their compete level to be extremely high. Now they know they can win at the Joe.

More importantly, they know they can win this series.

The time to take control is Tuesday.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Kevin Klein

3. Sergei Kostitsyn

Friday, April 13, 2012

Predators Fail to Finish, Fall to Wings 3-2

The Nashville Predators found out that they have a war in their series with the Detroit Red Wings as the Wings captured a 3-2 win at the Bridgestone Arena to even their series at one game for each team.

For the Predators, they found out that matching the intensity of their opponent is essential to winning a critical game. Failing to do so resulted in losing puck battles and failing to finish chances.

And it allowed the Wings the opportunity to even the series heading back to the Joe.

Pekka Rinne got the start in net and he wasn't sharp. He gave up 2 goals on 8 shots in the first period as the Predators found themselves in a 2-0 deficit at the end of one period.

Ian White opened the scoring for the Wings as his shot through traffic found the back of the net at 8:25 of the first period. Rinne seemed to lose the puck through traffic, and the goal energized the Wings.

They capitalized on that momentum with a goal from Cory Emmerton at 15:33 of the first as his wrist shot beat Rinne cleanly over his shoulder to give the Wings a 2-0 lead.

The Wings did a good job of disrupting the offensive flow of the Predators throughout the first period and for the bulk of the game. The Predators struggled to establish their offense in the zone, and when they did, Jimmy Howard made some good saves to stymie the Predators offense.

The Predators finally broke through and tallied a marker at 9:01 of the second period as Alexander Radulov got the puck to Andrei Kostitsyn and he buried his chance to make it 2-1.

Finally, the Predators had life, the arena was rocking, and the momentum was with the Predators.

That changed just 56 seconds later as Johan Franzen potted a goal that appeared to completely elude Rinne and made the score 3-1 Red Wings.

The Predators cut the deficit to 3-2 as Shea Weber tallied his first goal of the series with a backhand shot from the slot at 15:16 of the third period.

The Predators were not able to find the back of the net in the remaining time, and the Wings had tied the series at 1.

For the Predators, this loss had to be extremely disappointing. Throughout the night, they lost puck battles and were ineffective moving through the neutral zone. In the offensive zone, they could not finish. For the night, the Predators out shot the Wings 26-17, but their inability to finish chances doomed them in this contest.

The Predators power play was once again impotent. The power play went 0-6, and if this is not corrected soon, will spell immense trouble for the Predators. Often, the power play was stagnant, with players not moving to the open lanes and shots not getting on net.

Detroit's designated thug, Todd Bertuzzi, fought Shea Weber early in the game as retribution for Weber's hit on Henrik Zetterberg in game one. Bertuzzi was busy grabbing at Weber and hoping he did not get hit. A meaningless fight that served no purpose in the game, but one that the Wings felt they needed to engage in to respond to Weber's hit.

Several concerns are present for the Predators. Their power play has to start clicking for them to capture this series. Presently, the power play is not a plus for the Predators, and after the effectiveness of the regular season, this is troubling. The man advantage unit has to simplify their game and get shots on net rather than waiting for the pretty play. Through two games, the power play is 0-12.

The Predators need to finish their chances. They had them tonight and failed to capitalize. Finish the chances and Detroit is looking a t a 2-0 deficit.

It is imperative that the line of Mike Fisher, Sergei Kostitsyn, and Marty Erat start tot step up their game. They have been invisible in the first two games, and for the Predators to have success, they must produce. Through two games, they have combined for 10 shots and no points. This has to change for the Predators to have success. And the change needs to occur immediately.

The Predators have and opportunity to rebound and take the series lead with the next game on Sunday at Joe Louis Arena.

It is a simple task.

Be strong on the puck and get shots on net.  Finish your chances.

And take control of the series.

My three stars:

1. Jimmy Howard

2. Johan Franzen

3. Shea Weber

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Democrats, liberals of all stripe, and the mainstream media...wait...I just repeated myself, didn't I?...have their underwear in a bunch over the fact that to vote in elections will require the voter to present identification so that they can prove they are eligible to vote and are the voter that is registered. In safeguarding one of our most precious liberties, insuring the sanctity of the voting process seems reasonable, does it not? Yet those on the left deem proving that you are who you say you are to vote is "undermining voting rights" and is "unduly burdensome"? Oh really? Tried to cash at your bank without proper identification? Want to fly on a commercial flight? Heck, try to go buy a beer at a ballgame. In every instance, one has to show I.D. It is a fact of our modern life that we have to prove that we are who we say we are, and yet liberals say that proving who we are in the voting process in burdensome. I think not. Allowing votes without proper proof of identity makes it easier for voting fraud to occur and for those that are ineligible to vote to get into the process and record a vote. Don't believe me? Investigative reporter James O'Keefe walked into a Washington, D.C. polling place and asked for the ballot for Eric Holder, the Attorney General of the United States. AND IT WAS GIVEN TO HIM! Without proof of I.D. Asking voters to comply with proper identification requirement is neither burdensome nor does it undermine voting rights. It does make the process cleaner and more secure. And that is what liberals, Democrats, and the mainstream press do not want.

My wife and I have a deep psychological relationship. She is psycho; I am logical

This week, President Obama trotted out the case for raising taxes on all incomes over $1 million dollars. That populist canard sounds good and it is an easy sell to say the "rich" aren't paying their fair share of taxes. In fact, Obama calls this the Buffett Rule, after his shill Warren Buffett, who said his secretary paid more in taxes than he did ( I have already discussed how Buffett uses the tax code to shelter his own personal taxes and how his company, Berkshire Hathaway has been fighting the IRS for 5 years over taxes that the company owes. Hypocritical? Absolutely). Here is what you need to know about this call for more taxes. According to Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, the Buffett Rule would raise $47 billion over the next 10 years. By contrast, President Obama's proposed budget will add $6.7 TRILLION to the deficit over the same time period. The inconvenient truth for Obama and those in Washington is this: the top 1% of income earners in this country (those making more than $380,000 per year) paid 38% of all taxes while earning 20% of all income. The top 10% of income earners (those making $114,000 or more) paid 70% of all the taxes and earned 45% of the income. Clearly, the wealth re-distribution plan that the Democrats have promoted for years is working. The real issue, though, is the top 1% of income earners are typically in a position to create jobs and own their own business. Punishing them with higher taxes sounds good on the political stump, but the damage to the economy from a long term lack of job creation will be devastating. And we as voters have to get past the populist rhetoric about "fair shares". That is a great lie of the left. Instead, let's honestly look at how to rein in government spending and get our fiscal house in order.

Ever since my doctor told me I suffer from insomnia, I have laying awake at night worrying about it.

I want you to look at these two charts, really study them, because they graphically and clearly give you a good idea of why we are in such a financial mess in this country:

Think that the chart on top is influenced by the one on the bottom? The exponential growth in entitlements, coupled with the uncontrolled printing of dollars has caused our national debt to skyrocket. And this is the dilemma for politicians- getting our debt under control is going to entail reforming our massive entitlement programs. Any attempts at reining in our debt and solving our fiscal problems has to include reforming our entitlement programs, and this will take political will and courage that Washington has not exhibited in years. Taxpayers should be aware that just raising taxes does nothing constructive to fix our fiscal mess if we do not reform entitlements. We as voters and taxpayers should be demanding that Washington address meaningful entitlement reform BEFORE we discuss raising taxes.

Since I have started exercising, I have met a lot of new people. Mostly, they are paramedics, but still they are new people.

And that, my friends, is my view.