Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Embarrassing Effort By the Predators as They Are Demolished by the Ducks

The Nashville Predators embarked on another West coast road trip, with their first stop at the Honda Center to face the red hot Anaheim Ducks. This road trip was going to be important for the Predators as they were looking to get consistent scoring and put some distance between themselves and the teams chancing them in the standings.

The Predators had their workhorse, Pekka Rinne, in net, while the Ducks had Viktor Fasth, he of the sterling 8-1 record, between the pipes.

The Ducks struck first at 2:48 of the first period as Pekka Rinne went behind the net to play the puck and Emerson Etem tied him up and stole the puck. He got the puck to a wide open Nick Bonino and he fired the puck into a wide open net. Rinne misplayed the puck and the defense lost sight of Bonino and he got an easy goal.

The Ducks made it 2-0 at 3:49 of the first period as Kyle Palmieri took the puck just inside of the face off circle and drove the net. He beat Shea Weber to the front and slid the puck past Rinne for anothe quick- and bad for the the Predators- goal.

For the Predators, this was an absolutely horrific start. The goals energized the Ducks and the Predators had to respond quickly or this game would be out of hand before the few fans at the Honda Center got settled into their seats.

It didn't get any better for the Predators as Kyle Palmieri scored his second goal at 16:57 to make it 3-0 Ducks. Palmieri cruised into the low slot and eleuded Mike Fisher, who had the coverage. Palmieri took a pass from Corey Perry and was totally alone and able to beat Rinne.

The Predators defensive coverage had been atrocious to start the game. It was now horrific.

Worse yet, there was absolutely no push back from the Predators.

Thankfully, the Ducks did not score again in the remainder of the period. One could only imagine what Head Coach Barry Trotz was going to say to his charges in the locker room.

Would the Predators have any kind of a response?

It was certainly going to be a test of their character.

The Ducks had 1:27 of power play time as the Predators were guilty of too many men on the ice late in the first period.  The Ducks made the Predators pay as Kyle Palmieri was alone sliding down the right side of the ice. He took a pass from Corey Perry who was driving the net and  forced Rinne to respect the shot. Palmieri had a wide open net to deposit the puck for his third goal of the game just 1:07 into the period.

The Predators were beyond awful.

They were embarrassing.

The Predators finally responded at 9:27 of the second period as Rich Clune took the puck low to the corner. He found Kevin Klein pinching from his defense position and got the puck to him. Klein quickly slid the puck to Craig Smith and he beat Fasth with a one timer to make it 4-1.

After a phantom goaltender interference call against Rich Clune, the Ducks tallied again once again on the power play as Saku Koivu got his stick on a bouncing puck in the blue paint and knocked the puck home at 19:20 of the second period.

Given the effort of the Predators through the first two periods, the best they could hope for is that the third period would end quickly and they wouldn't be further embarrassed.

Chris Mason was in net to open the third period for the Predators. While Rinne was on the bench, I hope that his teammates were apologizing for the sorry effort in front of him tonight.

The good news: the Ducks didn't score in the third period.

The bad news: neither did the Predators.

Some observations:

  • This team wasn't ready to play tonight. One can argue about where to place the blame, but ultimately, the responsibility for effort, drive, and character rests with the players. The Predators have not consistently shown the type of effort that has characterized past teams, and this is troubling. This is a problem that has to get corrected quickly, and it starts with the Leadership group of Weber, Fisher, and Erat.

  • There were too many players that were invisible on the ice. Not only with shots (that's a blinding flash of the obvious), but with grittiness and effort. For too long, David Legwand, Marty Erat, and Sergei Kostitsyn have not produced. This team will not succeed unless these players- and most of the roster- begin to elevate their game.

  • This team has relied on the outstanding goaltending of Pekka Rinne. Tonight, the first Ducks goal was off a bad play that Rinne made behind the net. The other goals? The team in front of Rinne hung him out to dry.  This team has to commit to sound defense, and recently, that has been sorely lacking. 

  • Obviously, this was an embarrassing effort. A good Ducks team took the Predators to the woodshed. But what is especially disturbing about the effort- or lack thereof- tonight was that there was no push back from anyone on the Predators roster. No anger, no emotion, no fire, no heart. This team is in trouble if this is the type of response to a debacle like this was.
  • This team is offensively challenged (another brilliant insight) and the concern is that once the Predators go down a goal, the morale of this team seems to sag markedly. It is as if they seem to believe they cannot overcome even a one goal deficit. This has to change and there has to be a more positive response to adversity.
As a fan, I am embarrassed by this non-effort. No, I am appalled, disgusted, and frustrated. And as bad as I feel, I hope that it feels even worse for this team. I hope it burns and makes them angry.

And they need to use those emotions to bring a better effort in their next game.

Or they will be embarrassed again.

My three stars:

1. Kyle Palmieri

2. Corey Perry

3. Viktor Fasth

Monday, February 25, 2013

Predators Scrap Out An OT Win Over the Stars

The Nashville Predators and the Dallas Stars met at the Bridgestone Arena, and if this is a preview of the conference rivalry these two teams will have after re-alignment, the intensity will be off the charts.

The Predators won a wild affair in overtime by a 5-4 margin.

The game featured several fights, chipiness, and overall animosity between the two teams.

Pekka Rinne was in net for the Predators, and 3 of the 4 goals scored by the Stars were goals where Rinne didn't get much help.

Christopher Nilstorp was in net for the Stars, and he had a rough night as well.

The Predators opened the scoring at 14:43 of the first period as Sergei Kostitsyn dug a puck out of the corner a got the puck to Rich Clune. Clune got the puck and quickly got the puck out of the opposite corner to Craig Smith, who was cruising down the slot. Smith re-directed the puck the puck past Nilstorp to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.

Neither team tallied again, and the Predators held a 8-6 shot advantage in a period that saw both teams probing the defense and trying to establish their offense.

That would change in a wild second period that saw numerous penalties handed out against both teams. The Stars tied the game a 1 at 1:20 of the second period as David Legwand lost coverage and Matt Fraser was left alone in the face off circle. His shot went past a screened Rinne and gave momentum back to the Stars.

Just 15 seconds later, the Stars took a 2-1 lead as Reilly Smith abused Scott Hannan to get free in front of the net and was able to chip the puck over the pad of Rinne at 1:35 of the second.

Roman Josi would tie the game at 2 at 3:10 of the period as his blast from the blue line beat Nilstorp through traffic.

With Marty Erat in the box for holding, Mike Fisher took a double minor for high sticking on the penalty kill. The Predators got Erat out of the box, but with 2:08 left on Fisher's penalty, Vernon Fiddler beat Rinne cleanly with a slap shot from just inside the face off circle to make it 3-2 Stars at 7:29 of the second.

With the Stars still on the power play, Loui Eriksson beat Rinne at 9:21 of the second to make it 4-2.

The game was quickly getting out of hand for the Predators, but they got a 5 on 3 power play as Eric Nystrom fought Brandon Yip and was also called for unsportsmanlike conduct at 11:45. Vernon Fiddler got a double minor for roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct at 12:24. The Predators made the Stars pay as Patric Hornqvist got his second goal of the year, corralling the puck at the side of the crease and flipping it over the shoulder of Nilstorp to make it 4-3 at 13:43 of the second period.

Shea Weber was cut with a high stick, however, the officials deemed it was from the stick of one of his teammates. That was questionable, but the fact was that it angered Weber, and he went into beast mode and delivered some booming checks that seemed to energize the Predators.

Dallas out shot the Predators 13-10 in the second period.

In the third period, Mike Fisher took the puck on a rush and split two Stars defenders and beat Nilstorp with a backhand at 8:33 to tie the game at 4.

There was no more scoring in the period, but the Predators choked off the Stars offensive attack and peppered Nilstorp with shots. The Predators had 12 shots on net in the third period to 5 for the Stars.

The overtime lasted all of 28 seconds as Roman Josi wired a shot from the blue line over the shoulder of Nilstorp to give the Predators a much needed win.

Some observations:

  • Roman Josi is quickly growing into a very solid blueliner. This was his first multi-point game, and he has shown adroitness in handling the puck as well as making good decisions. It bodes well for the Predators that he is beginning to score. My prediction: Josi will quickly make Predators fans forget about the departed duplicitous Ryan Suter.

  • As good as Josi was tonight, Scott Hannan had a miserable game. Hannan was beaten badly by Reilly Smith for a goal, and he didn't look as confident or solid as he has in past games. This may have been due to playing with a new defense partner- Ryan Ellis, but for whatever reason, it was not his best effort.

  • Good to see Fisher get on the score sheet, and he was scrapping and feisty. The Predators have to have this kind of effort and production from Fisher.

  • Marty Erat had an assist, but his offensive effort has been non-existent in recent games. Marty did not register a shot on goal and has not been an offensive threat for a while. The Predators have to have production, creativity, and shots from Erat. Right now, this is not happening.

This was a much needed win for the Predators before they head out for a West coast road swing. Scoring five goals should- hopefully- give the boys some confidence.

They will need it.

The road will not be easy.

My three stars:

1. Roman Josi

2. Michael Ryder

3.Patric Hornqvist

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Wings Humble the Predators 4-0

The Nashville Predators visited the Joe Louis Arena to face the Detroit Red Wings and were attempting to notch their second win over the Wings this season.

The Predators opened with Pekka Rinne in net while Jimmy Howard was between the pipes for Detroit.

The first period was a fast paced affair with the Red Wings getting the only goal off a rebound put back by Drew Miller under the pad of Rinne at 5:11.

The Predators had some good scoring chances, including a breakaway by Matt Halischuk, but much like their game the night before, could not finish their chances. This is a trend that has to change quickly for the Predators if they were going to win this game.

The Predators out shot the Wings 12-9 in the period.

Tomas Tatar made it 2-0 for the Wings at 2:58 of the second period as the puck was bouncing around just outside of the crease. Tatar roofed the puck from a sharp angle to stretch the Wings lead.

Once again, the Predators inability to finish scoring chances haunted them, as they were creating scoring opportunities but not solving Howard.

By contrast, the Wings made the most of their opportunities. Niklas Kronwall made it 3-0 as he buried a shot past a screened Rinne at 15:33.

The Predators once again out shot the Wings 12-9 in the period, but the difference was that the Wings finished their scoring chances while the Predators did not.

The Predators offense could not get anything going, but the Wings made the most of their chances and they capitalized on a power play as Niklas Kronwall took a shot that was deflected by Dan Cleary past Rinne to make it 4-0 at 11:48

The game ended with the 4-0 margin for the Wings. The Predators out shot the Wings 33-27 but Jimmy Howard was equal to the task of stopping the Predators offensive threat.

Some observations:

  • The Predators lost Hal Gill to a lower body injury in the second period. The extent of the injury is unknown.

  • Rich Clune and Craig Smith were the most dynamic forwards on the ice for the Predators. Both drove hard to the net and created some chances. Truthfully, I did not see how Clune fit in with this team early in the season, but I have changed my opinion and believe that he is a good add for this team.

  • It goes without saying that the Predators have to finish their chances. Tonight, they had some quality scoring chances and could not bury them. Part of that is the play of Howard, and part of this is the inability to put the puck in the net. This trend has to change quickly.
The effort was there, but the finish was not. This is two straight games that has happened to the Predators.

A negative trend that has to change.

My three stars:

1. Jimmy Howard

2. Niklas Kronwall

3. Tomas Tatar

Friday, February 22, 2013

Canucks Slip Past the Predators 1-0

The Nashville Predators faced off against the Vancouver Canucks at the Bridgestone Arena in their first meeting of the year, and the Canucks won the goaltending duel by a 1-0 margin.

The winning goal was scored by Dale Weise at 9:14 of the third period as Maxim Lapierre carried the puck low in the Predators zone as the Predators were making a line change. Lapierre fired a shot that Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne kicked out with his right pad. The Predators defense was not in position because of the change and Wiese was all alone to bang in the rebound.

Roberto Luongo was stellar in goal, especially in the first period as the Predators fired 13 shots on net. Throughout the game, both Luongo and Rinne came up with big saves.

The Predators opened the game with good jump, dominating the Canucks in the first period with 13 shots and good defense. Vancouver did not record its first shot on net until 12:27 of the first, and its second at 3:37.

That  changed in the second and third periods, as the Vancouver defense stepped up and Nashville could only record 5 shots in each period. Nashville had a power play late in the game and pulled Rinne for the extra attacker, but could not get a shot on net.

Some observations:

  • Rinne was tested in the second and third period and came up with some great saves, most notably on Jannik Hansen, who had a point blank shot from the low slot. Rinne had no chance on the goal by Wiese as the Predators line change behind the play left Weise alone in the slot.

  • The fourth line of Nick Splaing, Rich Clune, and Matt Halischuk was strong and played with good jump. They created several scoring opportunities and presented problems for the Canucks with the match up.

  • After the strong start, the Predators offensive effort faded fast, and this is disappointing. Gabriel Bouque , David Legwand, and Nick Spaling did not record a shot on net. The Predators have to have players that get shots on net, and more importantly, they have to have players that can finish. This was the story of the game for the Predators offensively in that they could not finish their chances.

  • The Canucks were going to make defensive adjustments, and they were very effective in the second and third period. However, the Predators lost  a lot of puck battles and as a result, the Canucks had a lot of offensive zone time. The Predators have to be stronger on the puck and more determined to win these puck battles to establish their offense. 

  • The Canucks lost defenseman Kevin Bieksa, who took two shifts in the second period and then went to the Canucks locker room. He left the game with a lower body injury.
The Predators played a tight game with the Canucks, who lead the Pacific Division are are 3rd in the West. That is a positive.

The Predators will look at this game as one that got away. Finish a couple of those chances and the Predators have a victory. Keep the offensive pressure up and the outcome may have been different.

Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

Disappointing yes. But there is no time to dwell on this as the Predators meet the Red Wings tomorrow night.

Finish your chances and the outcome will be different boys.

My three stars:

1. Roberto Luongo

2. Dale Weise

3. Pekka Rinne

Thursday, February 21, 2013

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

The focus in Washington is now on the March 1 deadline to get a budget deal done and avoid sequestration of federal monies in across the board cuts to numerous government programs. Right now, both political parties in Washington are busy shouting at each other and playing the political game like masters. While that may be good for their individual re-election chances, it is time for our leaders in Washington to stop playing the political games and begin to govern. And there is a world of difference between the two. And if both parties are going to actually govern, they should start by telling the truth. That truth is: we as a nation spend 32% more per year than we take in via all taxes; our debt is $16 trillion and growing; correcting this problem will take tax hikes on all income levels, especially the middle class; and that benefits (read: entitlements) will have to be significantly reformed. That is the truth, the reality of our situation in this country. Democrats have to set aside politics and offer meaningful entitlement reform. Republicans need to offer pro-growth policies that also include increasing taxes. Politics is easy; governing is hard. It is time for our leaders in Washington to govern.

My daydreams about being skinny are always interrupted by the sound of my chewing.

We are all feeling the pinch of rising gas prices. It is starting to get painful again when we fill up our vehicle. Here is an interesting bit of information that may provide some hope for relief: according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), domestic crude oil production will hit 7.8 million barrels per day in 2014. The significance is that is a 56% increase in the production of U.S. crude oil since 2008. To put this into perspective, the increase in production would supply all of Russia's oil demand for a year. Why is this? New oil discoveries, such as the Bakkan Shale in the Dakotas, are yielding phenomenal amounts of crude oil and natural gas. Oil companies are developing new technologies to discover and extract oil deposits. Technology now allows oil companies to tap into vast reservoirs of oil and natural gas in various shale deposits. The SCOOP (South Central Oklahoma Oil Project) could yield as much if not more oil than has already been extracted from Permian Basin drilling in Texas and Louisiana. Now we need Washington to get out of the way and let us use the natural resources that are here in our own country rather than import these resources from Middle Eastern nations. This is something that all of us should be attentive to and we should encourage our legislators to remove the impediments to obtaining our natural resources. If we do that , it may not be as painful at the pump in the next few years.

The brain is a most amazing organ. It works 24 hours a day, 365 days a year from birth until you fall in love.

We now have over 11 million Americans that collect social security disability insurance payments. The number of Americans that are receiving DI benefits is the highest in the history of the country. According to a report released by the Congressional Budget Office in January, the DI trust fund will be exhausted in the first quarter of 2016 based on the amount of payout vis-a-vis the taxes coming into the fund. So Congress is faced with a huge problem that has to be fixed. There are 4 possible solutions (there may be more, but these were the most viable one I could think of): raise taxes on those that make more than $250,000 in annual income; increase payroll taxes on everyone; cut DI benefits per recipient by 30%; or raid the Social Security Old Age Survivor Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund. OASI is the portion of Social Security that pays out the monthly benefit to retirees that have paid into the system. I will give you a minute to think about which is the most politically expedient choice... and if you picked raid the OASI trust fund, you are a winner. Just one question for you to think about- if the OASI side is raided to pay for the growing number of DI beneficiaries, what do you think will happen when even more baby boomers retire and demand their OASI benefits and there isn't sufficient funds to pay them? Folks, this will be a financial train wreck of Casey Jonesian proportions. And that is why we have to have an honest discussion about reforming entitlements.

Never let people push you around. Unless you are in a wagon. That is fun stuff.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Fans Get to Meet the Predators

Over 2,000 season ticket holders came to meet and interact with the Predators at Bridgestone Arena. The annual Meet the Team event had several new features that allowed the fans to interact with the players.

Fans were treated to an opportunity to get items signed by the players, which has been a standard feature of this event. New to the event this year were opportunities to have photos taken with various players and play foosball or air hockey with members of the team. Here are some photos from the event:

Fans had an opportunity to step onto the ice and take some shots at the net

This year, players were stationed at several tables around the inside of the arena to sign autographs. Here is Hal Gill, Gabriel Bourque, and Shea Weber 

Roman Josi, Sergei Kostitsyn, and Marty Erat meet the fans

If you look closely at the far side of the arena, you can see the line to get to the station that had Weber, Gill, and Bourque

David Legwand, Brandon Yip, and Craig Smith sign items for the fans

Nick Spaling plays air hockey with a fan

Jonathan Blum plays air hockey with a young Predators fan

Ryan Ellis on the foosball table

Fans had an opportunity to have their picture made with various players. Here is a fan with Mike Fisher

Fans in line to get their picture taken with Mike Fisher

Gnash is always a fan favorite

Scott Hannan and Rich Clune had their pictures with fans made in the penalty box

Chris Mason in the photo booth

Patric Hornqvist and Matt Halischuk having their pictures made with a fan

The Predators radio team of Tom Callahan, left, and Stu Grimson, right, with Predators public address announcer Paul McCann

It was interesting to watch the players interact with the fans. These guys seemed relaxed and genuinely enjoying the experience. Watching Nick Spaling, Jonathan Blum, and Ryan Ellis at the various games, it struck me how much fun the players and fans were having and how down to earth the players are as people. We in Nashville are fortunate to have a team that is built with quality individuals.

Kudos to the Predators for doing some different things to freshen up this event. The opportunity to play games and have pictures taken with the players was new this year, and fans that I spoke with really enjoyed the chance to have the personal contact with the players. 

Congratulations to the Predators for making this event a memorable and fun time.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Young Guys Help Predators Defeat the Wings in OT 4-3

The Nashville Predators faced the Detroit Red Wings at the Bridgestone Arena in their first meeting of the year. There is no love lost between these teams, and the contests usually feature a high level of intensity.

Tonight did not disappoint.

Pekka Rinne was in net for the Predators, and Jimmy Howard was in net for the Red Wings. The Predators quickly made life uncomfortable for Howard.

The Predators opened the scoring at 5:01 of the first period on the power play. Colin Wilson got the puck to Craig Smith and he sniped a shot to the top corner from a severe angle to give the Predators a 1-0 lead. This was Smith's first goal of the year and it was a beauty. With little net to work with, Smith found the top corner at the far post over the shoulder of Howard.

The Predators extended their lead to 2-0 at 10:41 of the first period as Scott Hannan took a shot from the blue line that was re-directed by Gabriel Bourque in front of the net and past Howard. This goal was the result of Hannan getting the shot through and Bourque battling in the hard area in front of the net.

Shortly after this goal, Howard would leave the game with an upper body injury and Jonas Gustavsson would come in net for the Wings. 

Dan Cleary would make it a 2-1 game at 15:01 with a shorthanded goal. Jonathan Blum turned the puck over behind the Predators net. Pavel Datsyuk stole the puck and got it to Cleary, who was alone in the slot and beat Rinne with a wrist shot.

The Wings out shot the Predators 11-8 in the first period.

The second period opened with the Wings dominating in puck possession and forechecking the life out of the Predators. Rinne made some good saves early in the period to keep the Wings off the board. The Predators did not get their first shot on net until 15:30 of the period.

Surviving the early push by the Wings, the Predators got their legs going and fired shots on Gustavsson, who came up with some good saves as well.

The second period ended scoreless and the Predators leading 2-1. The Predators out shot the Wings 12-7 in the period.

The fireworks came in an intense third period. Jordin Tootoo tied the game at 2 at 11:33 as he took a shot that appeared to be going wide of the net. However, it hit the skate of Kevin Klein and re-directed into the net past an out of position Rinne. This was Tootoo's first goal of the season.

The Predators reclaimed a 3-2 lead at 12:54 of the third period as Roman Josi took a shot from the blue line that a screened Gustavsson did not see until the last second. It hit a Detroit defender in front of the net and caromed into the net.

Pavel Datsyuk would tie the game just 36 seconds later as he embarrassed David Legwand, Marty Erat, and Kevin Klein. Datysuk dangled the puck through the three Predators and beat Rinne with a wrist shot from the slot.

With no more scoring in the period, the Predators would once again head to overtime.

In the overtime period, Colin Wilson skated the puck in over the blue line and fired a shot that kicked off the end board and back out to the other side of the net. Shea Weber was pinching in from his defense position and got the puck on his stick and beat a sprawling Gustavsson with a wrist shot just 44 seconds into overtime.

Some observations:

  • Did you notice who scored in regulation for the Predators? Smith, Bourque, and Josi. These young players have played some quality minutes for the Predators, and Smith especially has begun to elevate his game. The Predators have to continue to get contributions from the younger players on their roster to be successful, and it is good to see them contributing in a big way.
  • Here is a blinding flash of the obvious: Pavel Datsyuk is good. Really good. He almost single handedly willed the Wings to victory and his mastery at handling the puck is amazing. His goal in the third was a highlight reel goal, beating three defenders and then Rinne with a wrist shot. As a hockey fan, I respect his skill. As a Predator fan, I am ready for him to retire.
  • The Wings are a wounded team, and tonight they were without the services of Todd Bertuzzi and Johan Franzen, two key cogs that are injured. The extent of the injury to Howard is unknown. The Predators are relatively healthy but did not have Paul Gaustad, who was injured in the previous game against Colorado
  • The return of Patric Hornqvist is welcome for the Predators. His energy and effort are contagious, and he is fearless in going to the front of the net. His presence in the line up seems to energize the Predators.
  • It is troublesome that the Predators are having trouble holding a lead. It is especially bothersome that the Predators are giving up goals shortly after they score. This is an area that has to improve, and the Predators have to get better at protecting a lead.
With this win, the Predators are 8-4-5, good for 21 points and 4th in the West.

This was a gutsy win for the Predators, especially after a disappointing loss the day before. The Predators have shown resiliency. Now they are showing grit and their offense is starting to click.

It will have to in this short season.

My three stars:

1. Shea Weber

2. Pavel Datsyuk

3. Colin Wilson

Monday, February 18, 2013

Predators Offensive Outburst Not Enough, Fall to Avalanche 6-5

The Nashville Predators faced off against the Colorado Avalanche in a matinee matchup in the Mile High City. The Predators were looking to continue their strong offensive effort of late, and that effort would be buttressed by the return of Patric Hornqvist who was back in the line up after missing several weeks with a knee injury.

Chris Mason got the start for the Predators while the Avalanche has Semyon Varlamov in net.

The Avalanche have struggled, and it was important for the Predators to get off to a strong start and take the Avs out of the game early.

That strong start did not materialize as the Avalanche got on the board first with a strange goal. Aaron Palushaj shot the puck off the end board from inside the Predators blue line. The puck caromed back at Mason and hist his left pad. When Mason realized that the puck was in his skates, he tried to squeeze his pads together and in the process kicked the puck into the net at 3:43 of the first period.

The Avalanche made it 2-0 on the power play as Tyson Barrie took a shot from the blue line that trickled through a screened Mason's pads at 9:30 of the first.

The Predators continued to stick to their formula of getting shots and traffic to net, and it paid off as the Predators tallied on the power play. Sergei Kostitsyn gathered in a rebound of a Colin Wilson shot that hit Craig Smith in front of the net and put the puck top shelf over a prone Varlamov to make it 2-1 at 17:20 of the first period.

The Predators ended the first period on a power play, and would nearly tie the game on a rebound attempt by Roman Josi. Varlamov made the stop, but the Predators would have 1:27 of power play time to begin the second period.

The Predators out shot the Avalanche 9-8 in the first period.

There had already been one strange goal in the contest for the Avalanche, but they got a gift goal on an absolutely horribly blown goal by the officials. Matt Duchene took a pass and was 3 feet offside in the Predators zone. Duchene skated in when the the defense relaxed and roofed a shot over Mason's should. Inexplicably the linesmen and the refs said they didn't see the blatant offside and gave the goal to the Avs to make it 3-1 at 3:18 of the second period.

The Predators cut the deficit to 3-2 as Shea Weber pinched down from the blue line and took a pass from Sergei Kostitsyn and took a shot that was tipped by Mike Fisher that beat Varlamov 5 hole for his thirdd goal of the season at 10:16.

That lead lasted all of 50 seconds as the Predators got caught in a bad change and lost Chuck Kobesew in the high slot. He beat Mason high glove side to make it 4-2 Avs at 11:06.

Once again, the Predators cut the lead to 1 as Marty Erat found Colin Wilson cruising doen the slot and hit him with a perfect pass. Wilson made a great fake and beat Varlamov 5 hole off the backhand at 13:17

The Predators could not seem to enjoy their success as Paul Stastny got free at the side of the net and had 3 whacks at the puck before finally putting the puck past Mason to make it 5-3 at13:33

The Avs continued to do damage to the Predators as on the ensuing face off from center ice, the puck went deep and Shea Weber retrieved it in the corner. Matt Duchene stole the puck and found Jamie McGinn, who blistered a shot over Mason's shoulder just 13 seconds after the previous Avalanche tally.

With the score 6-3, that was all for Chris Mason and Pekka Rinne entered the game.

Jonathan Blum made it 6-4 as his shot from the blue line hit the skate of Jan Heida and re-directed past Varlamov at 19:10 of the second period.

7 goals in the second period, 4 for the Avs and 3 for the Preds.

Wild game? Certainly a strange one.

The Avs held a 23-21 shot advantage through 2 periods, and the way this game has gone, it was still a wide open contest. Could the Predators get 3 goals in the third? The way this game was going, anything was possible.

Desperate to get back in the game, the Predators pressed and created some great chances in the third Period. Varlamov stopped Patric Hornqvist on a breakaway, and Varly came up with some big saves as the Predators worked the puck to get quality shots from in close.

It took most of the Period, but the Predators scored at 18:42 with Rinne on the bench and the extra attacker on the ice. Patric Hornqvist tried a wraparound and the rebound came out to Shea Weber just inside the face off circle. Weber deposited the puck just under the crossbar to make it 6-5.

The Avalanche held off the final flurry from the Predators and escaped with the victory.

The Predators out shot the Avs 17-5 in the third period and 38-28 for the game.

Some observations:

  • The Predators were the victims of an unfortunate bounce and a horrible call. Even with that, they battled and did not back down. This is a strong indication of the drive and character of this team, which has grown significantly from some early season games where their compete level was lacking.
  • It was good to see the offense get pucks and traffic to the net. This is how this team has to score, and they have embraced that ethic. 
  •  Hall Gill was scratched, which changed the defensive pairings. The Predators had two glaring defensive breakdowns that cost them two quick goals in the second period. The change in the pairings- along with a brutal line change on the goal by Kobesew- may be partly to blame for the breakdowns.
  • Good to see Fisher and Weber notch goals. The team desperately needs their offensive production.
Strange to say the least is how to describe this game. Missed opportunity is apropos.

The Predators have to re-group and bring the effort they did in the third period against the Red Wings tomorrow night.

Hopefully, nothing strange happens.

My three stars:

1. Seymon Varlamov

2. Aaron Palushaj

3. Sergei Kostitsyn

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Ducks Defeat The Predators 3-2 in a SO

The Nashville Predators faced off against the Anaheim Ducks at the Bridgestone Arena in a contest of two teams that were evenly matched in personnel and on the scoreboard.

How evenly matched?

Once again, the two teams went to a shootout, and once again the Ducks came out with the win by a 3-2 score.

Although the Predators dropped this game, there were numerous positives. The Predators out shot the Ducks 34-22 and controlled the game for long stretches of time. Pekka Rinne had another solid game. The offense created some great scoring chances.

But once again a couple of breakdowns cost the Predators the victory.

The Predators were facing one of the hottest goalies in the NHL in Viktor Fasth, who was 8-0 coming into the contest, and they challenged him throughout the game. Fasth continued his strong play, making some excellent saves against the Predators.

The Predators opened the scoring at 13:31of the first period as David Legwand gathered in a rebound of a Jonathan Blum shot and jammed the puck five hole on Fasth from the top of the crease. Legwand had 6 shots on net and was a +2 along with his goal for the night. It is good to finally see Legwand get involved with the offense, as the Predators are going to need production from him.

The Ducks only had 6 shots in the first period, but most of them were from the low slot as the Predators defensive coverage broke down. The Ducks made the Predators pay for their lapses as Matt Belesky was left alone in the low slot and he rifled a shot past Rinne to tie the game at 17:31 of the first period.

The Predators would regain the lead at 9:31 of the second period as Shea Weber would notch his first goal of the year off a wrist shot from the blue line. The puck appeared to hit a Duck defender and re-directed past Fasth to give the Predators a 2-1 lead.

The Ducks tied the game at 16:08 of the second period as Kyle Palmieri took a shot that was re-directed by Patrick Maroon, who was left alone at the front of the net.

Marty Erat had a great scoring chance as he got the puck alone in the low slot but was stopped by Fasth to keep the game tied.

The third period was scoreless, but not for lack of effort by the Predators. They outshot the Ducks 9-5 and had some good chances but could not finish.

After a scoreless overtime, the game went to a shootout.

The Ducks got scores from Nick Bonino in the first round, while David Legwand was stopped by Fasth.

Rinne  stopped Andrew Cogliano in the second round while Craig Smith scored on the backhand off a sweet move.

Corey Perry scored in the third round, and Gabriel Bourque had the puck roll off his stick to give the Ducks the win.

Some observations:

  • The line of Nick Spaling, Craig Smith, and Matt Halischuk was dynamic. Although they did not get on the scoresheet, they showed lots of jump and created some good scoring chances. The speed of this line presented problems for the Ducks all night. I especially liked the nose for the net that this line showed, and Craig Smith showed some good flashes of offense.
  • Marty Erat needs to get his game untracked. Marty had two shots on goal and a great scoring chance that he could not finish. He has the talent to be a more effective scorer and the Predators need him to elevate his game.
  • This was the best game of the season for David Legwand. He went to the net, created some space and scoring opportunities, and shot the puck. This is the kind of effort that Legwand needs to bring every night.
  • The defense had a couple of breakdowns, and it cost the Predators. The first period saw the Predators leave Duck forwards alone in the low slot, and Rinne had to make some quality saves before Belesky finally got one past him. Overall, the effort was solid, limiting the potent Ducks offense, but the miscues were costly.
The Predators offense has shown some jump and has been getting the puck on net. The quality of chances tonight were very good. The Predators need this effort and mentality every night.

They just need to finish some of those chances.

With the shootout loss, Nashville is 7-3-5 and 19 points. They are 4th in the West and second in the Central Division.

The point is important. More important for the Predators is to build on this offensive effort that has been demonstrated the past few games.

Do that, and the points will come.

My three stars:

1. Viktor Fasth

2. Shea Weber

3. David Legwand

Good Times at Gnash Vegas

The Nashville Predators have a deep commitment to our community, having made over $350,000 in grants last year and being involved with numerous charities and worthwhile organizations. Through their Foundation, the Predators have touched many lives in a positive way.

One of the favorite fund raising activities for the Foundation is Gnash Vegas, a night to mingle with the Predator players and staff, enjoy great food and entertainment, and spend some time playing some games of chance with the players. Those in attendance received "Predators bucks" to use playing cards, roulette, craps, and other games of chance in a relaxed atmosphere.

Here are some images from the event, which was held this past Wednesday:

The floor of the Bridgestone Arena set up for a night of Gnash Vegas

Predators COO Sean Henry and Head Coach Barry Trotz address the crowd

Several of the players around a Bentley, which was on display

This slick piece of automotive engineering could be had for a mere $250,000

My friend Travis Ruffin, the Honey Badger Craig Smith, and the View

Fan favorites Six Wire provided their usual great performance to entertain the attendees

Former Predators defensemen Cale Hulse and Stu Grimson

Former Predator Cliff Ronning at the craps table

Gabriel Bourque with the View

Pekka Rinne is always a fan favorite

The graciousness and the accessibility of the players is always a great part of the evening. The players are not only exceptional at their craft, but good people as well.

We are fortunate to have the Predators in Nashville, and these fun events help the team and the Foundation to be extensively involved in our community to make it a better place for all of the citizens of Smashville.

Friday, February 15, 2013

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

So those crazy North Koreans have exploded a nuclear device this past week in an underground test. Just a bunch of cut ups and jokers, right? Uh...that is a decided and resounding "no". It is highly suspected, but not conclusively proven, that Iran and North Korea are in cahoots in the pursuit of refining weaponized nuclear material (Iran) and obtaining an effective and reliable delivery system (North Korea). In the background is Russia, that has been supplying centrifuges and other equipment to the Iranians to advance their nuclear program. The reason that this is important to you and I is that as much as the liberal left would like to believe that we all live in a world of unicorns, rainbows, and blue skies, the reality is that the world is a very dangerous place. What has promoted stability and peace around the globe has been the projection of American military power. And the Left hates this. As we have pulled back our military presence under this administration, and as we have begun to gut our military, the rise of crazy dictators and their desire to have their country become a nuclear power has grown. This is no coincidence. The reality of this world is simply that peace and stability are fostered and preserved by those countries- led by the United States- that have been willing to do what it takes to promote freedom and insure stability. When we as the world's lone and true superpower abdicate that responsibility, the geopolitical environment becomes more unstable. And that is what is happening under this administration.

They say that wisdom comes with age. Wisdom must weigh about 40 pounds.

Even if you are not an economist, you intuitively know that for our economy to grow, the private sector has to start hiring again. Currently, the real unemployment rate (the U-6) is just north of 14%. The private sector, from a mom and pop business to giants like General Electric, have just not been hiring over the past 4 years as political and economic uncertainty have combined to stymie job growth. The private sector is where goods and services are produced and sold for for a profit for reinvestment into new jobs, buildings, equipment, and technology. Until that sector does begin to grow, the economy will wallow. Oh, there is one sector that is showing an increase in new hires. Want to guess? If you said "government" you are not only a winner, but astute. Now there is nothing wrong with government jobs, per se, but here is the reality: government jobs do not add to the needed productivity and capital investment that is sorely lacking in the economy. Instead of growing government and burdening the private sector with ever increasing costly regulations and higher taxes, our focus should be on growing the private sector and eliminating some of the drag of a bloated and unproductive bureaucracy. The simple economic reality is that as government spending grows to support this monstrous entity, private spending gets crowded out because more resources are needed to support government. Until we reverse that direction, we will continue to struggle to create jobs and bring down private sector unemployment.

This "you scratch my back, I will scratch yours" thing doesn't work well with a cat.

It may sound arcane and of no consequence to you and I, but keep an eye on what many of the major countries are doing with their currency. Japan has committed to weaken the yen to boost exports and hopefully get their economy out of the doldrums. A weaker yen means that their products cost less to buy, whether they are purchased in Euros, dollars, or any other currency. The problem with that action by Japan is that it make the exports of any other country more expensive, which in turn can- and usually does- slow down the economy in countries that sell to Japan. So what do those countries do? They follow suit and seek to weaken their currency as Japan is doing to maintain some degree of parity. Now what does that have to do with you and me? When our dollar is cheapened through currency manipulations, the cost of everything we buy goes up. In our sluggish economy, the last thing we need is rising prices because of central banks manipulating currency prices. Japan has made the first move, and it will be important to see if the U.S. and other countries follow suit.

I hate going shopping with my wife, especially when she asks me to hold her purse and it doesn't match anything I'm wearing.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Predators Play Predator Hockey, Defeat the Coyotes 3-0

A funny thing happened in the Nashville Predators tilt against the Phoenix Coyotes at the Bridgestone Arena.

The Predators out shot their opponent for only the second time this season.

The Predators out shot the Coyotes 29-19 en route to a 3-0 victory in front of a sell out crowd, turning the tables on the Coyotes and dominating the visitors. In their first meeting, the Coyotes had dominated the Predators in a 4-0 victory.

The Predators did not get on the scoreboard until the third period offensive explosion, surpassing over 200 minutes without a goal in regulation time.

Fortunately, the Predators had Pekka Rinne in net, and the big netminder recorded his second consecutive shutout. Rinne has not allowed a goal in over 137 minutes of regulation time.

Mike Smith was in net for the Coyotes and did a good job of frustrating the Predators through two periods.

Smith made a great save on Mike Fisher, who was alone in front of the net. Smith got his glove on Fisher's shot to prevent the score.

The Predators had another glorious scoring chance in the waning seconds of the second period as Gabriel Bourque was alone at the side of the net and found the puck on his stick. Unfortunately, the puck bounced as Bourque took the shot and he didn't get much on it, allowing Smith to make the save.

Frustrating for Fisher and Bourque, but the story is not over. They would get their goals.

Bourque got his goal in the third period on the power play as Marty Erat took a shot with Bourque screening Smith. Bourque did a good job of taking away any look that Smith had at the shot. Erat's shot hit Bourques's skate and re-directed past Smith to put the Predators up 1-0 at 2:40 of the third period.

The Predators had done a good job of swarming the net, taking shots, and getting traffic in front of Smith. Predator hockey was back, and it was keeping the Coyotes on their heels and bottled up in their zone.

The Predators made it 2-0 at 9:38 of the third as Matt Halischuk dug the puck out of the corner and got a pass to Nick Spaling inside the face off circle. Spaling ripped a shot over the shoulder of Smith to give the Predators some breathing room.

Mike Fisher made it 3-0 at 18:16 of the third as he beat Smith to the far post from almost the same spot as Spaling. This was Fisher's second goal of the season, and it was good to see him on the score sheet.

The Predators played Predator hockey. Even though they were held off the board through two periods, it felt as if it was just a matter of time before they scored. They were firing shots at the net and had traffic in front of Smith. They had control of the puck in the offensive zone for lengthy stretches. When the Coyotes did threaten, Rinne was a wall.

With the win, the Predators are 7-3-4, good for 18 points and tied for third in the Western Conference.

Some observations:

  • Bourque moved up to the line with Mike Fisher and Marty Erat. Sergei Kostitsyn moved to a line with Colin Wilson and David Legwand. I like Bourque's game, and he provided some jump to Fisher's line. I am glad to see Barry Trotz mix the lines to try to generate some offense, and tonight it worked well.
  • Pekka Rinne was in the zone tonight. I think he has the best glove hand of any goalie in the NHL, and tonight, his glove gobbled up a number of the Coyotes shots. He tracked the puck well and appears to be playing relaxed and with confidence. Rinne has 3 shut outs in his last 4 games.
  • The defensive pairs also changed, as Shea Weber was paired with Roman Josi and Kevin Klein and Scott Hannan were on the second D pairing. Josi continues to be a solid blueliner and his game is consistent in all phases. The pairing of Jonathan Blum and Ryan Ellis has been good, and they are playing some quality minutes.
  •  The Predators appear to be rounding into shape as far as playing Predator hockey. Solid defense, excellent goaltending, and now some opportunistic scoring. The Predators have to continue to build on this effort.
This was a quality win against a team that has vexed the Predators. The game was a defensive struggle, but unlike some recent contests, the Predators committed to shooting the puck and going to the net. And it paid off with a big victory.

Now it is time to continue to string together some more games like tonight.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Gabriel Bourque

3. Nick Spaling

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Predators Bite the Sharks (Again) in OT 1-0

The Nashville Predators faced off against the San Jose Sharks in the Bridgestone Arena looking to rebound from their loss against the Chicago Blackhawks in their previous game. The Sharks were coming off a 6-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets the night before, and they were a frustrated bunch on a mission.

The frustration of the Sharks translated into a dominant first period as they out shot the Predators 13-3, controlled the puck for lengthy stretches in their offensive zone, and made the somnambulant Predators look bad.

All except Pekka Rinne.

Rinne came ready to play, and his herculean effort in net secured a 1-0 overtime victory for the Predators.

About that first period.

The Predators generated no offense, and Antii Niemi in net for the Sharks had to be bored as the Sharks kept the puck in the Predators end throughout the first period. The fired shots at Rinne from all angles, but the big netminder was more than equal to the task, frustrating the Sharks scoring efforts.

One can only imagine the locker room talk that Head Coach Barry Trotz gave his charges at the first intermission after that weak effort. Whatever he said, the Predators woke up in the second period and began to skate, get the puck deep, and get shots to the net.

That significantly better effort was almost short circuited as the Predators began a parade to the penalty box. Specifically, it was Marty Erat that began to cool his skates in the sin bin as he took 4 of the 5 penalties the Predators incurred, including a 4 minute double minor for high sticking.

The Predators killed off all the penalties, including a minute of 5 on 3 for the Sharks, and that effort shifted momentum to the home team. Even with the penalties, the Predators out shot the Sharks 11-6 in the second period.

The Predators looked like the Predators in the third period as they got shots to the net and pressured Niemi with some good scoring chances. Niemi was solid in between the pipes, keeping the Predators off the board as they had 10 shots on goal. The Sharks had just 3 in the third.

Once again, the two teams would go to overtime, and it looked as if the Sharks might end the game as Rinne sprawled to stop a shot but the puck slid by his skates and was trickling toward the goal line. Gabriel Bourque was able to get his stick on the puck and safely clear it back to center ice.

The Predators gained the zone and Ryan Ellis took a slap shot from just inside the blue line that Niemi stopped with his pad. The puck skittered into the blue paint , and Colin Wilson was crashing the net and was able to slide it inside the post at 2:08 of the overtime period to give the Predators the win and their second in two meetings with the Sharks.

Here are some thoughts:

  • The Predators offensive futility continues to be frustrating and a significant concern. They set a record tonight for the longest scoreless drought at 176 minutes before the game winner tonight. The Predators are dead last in the NHL in shots per game with an average of 21 and last in goals with a 2 per game average. If the Predators are going to have success in the regular season, much less the playoffs, this has to improve. Quickly.
  • Pekka Rinne is a beast. He has two shutouts in his last three games and is the rock for this team. When he is on his game, which is most nights, the Predators have a chance to win, even with their anemic offense. Tonight, Rinne was positionally sound, tracked the puck well, and was relaxed. He is the reason the Predators have 6 wins and 14 of the 16 points the team has recorded.
  • Shea Weber is beastly-er. While there has been some concern about his lack of scoring, Weber is without peer in locking down the opponents top scorers. Tonight, Weber had 26:16 of ice time and did yeoman's work against the Sharks top line. While his scoring may be down, his defensive prowess shines against the best players. Money well spent in signing Shea to that long term contract, Mr. Poile.
  • It is difficult to explain the offensive struggles of this team. It is even more difficult to explain the lack of effort that the Predators displayed in the first period. My view- there is no one among the group of forwards that can assert themselves and begin to dominate. As such, the Predators have to score by committee. Right now, the committee has not convened and the Predators have not shown a consistent commitment to being gritty, going to the hard areas with authority, and winning puck battles. Until they make that commitment, the offense will continue to struggle. 
  • The Predators margin for victory is razor thin. It feels good to have the win tonight and 16 points, but the reality is that this offense is going to have to get untracked and get back to Predator hockey. Right now, we see Predator hockey in brief spurts. We need to see it consistently for 60 minutes. The Predators certainly cannot afford to take a period off like they did tonight in the first period. Inconsistent play will more often than not come back to bite this team.

The win tonight showed character and resilience. That is good.

It is time for the team to consistently bring their game.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Colin Wilson

3. Antii Niemi

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Blackhawks Blitz the Predators 3-0

The Nashville Predators tried to derail the Chicago Blackhawks and hand them their first regulation loss at the Bridgestone Arena.

It looked like a race between thoroughbreds and plow horses.

And the thoroughbreds ran away with it.

The Blackhawks won 3-0 and were never seriously challenged by the Predators. In fact, through two periods, the Predators could muster just 7 shots on net.

Pekka Rinne got no help from the offense, and was under siege most of the night. After a scoreless first period, the Hawks first goal came on a brutal clearing attempt by Roman Josi, who instead of clearing the puck with his stick, tried to kick the puck out of the zone. Instead, he kicked the puck directly to Marcus Kruger, who beat a screened Rinne with a shot from the blue line.

The Hawks second goal came from a shot by Duncan Keith that hit Jonathan Toews in front of the net and re-directed past Rinne to make it 2-0 in the second period.

Patrick Kane got the Hawks third goal in the third period off a severe angle shot that hit Rinne on the inside of the leg and caromed into the goal. That is one that Rinne wanted back, but it really didn't matter because the Predators were not going to seriously threaten the Hawks.

Corey Crawford didn't have to work hard and make many quality saves. The Hawks out shot the Predators 27-17 for the game, and the quality of shots was for the most not good. Nick Spaling had a glorious chance in the first period as he got the puck behind Crawford and slid it off the post, but the Predators rarely had another good scoring opportunity.

Here are some observations:

  • It is time to re-think the line combinations. The top line of Mike Fisher, Martin Erat, and Sergei Kostitsyn combined for 2 shots, all by Fisher. The second line of David Legwand, Colin Wilson, and Gabriel Bourque had 4 shots, 3 by Legwand and 1 by Wilson. The production of these two lines has to be significantly better, and right now they are not clicking. Kostitsyn has been dropped down to the third line earlier this season, and it is time to consider making this move again.
  • How would I re-structure the lines? Fisher, Wilson and Bourque on the first line. Spaling, Erat, and Yip on the second line. Drop Legwand to the third line and put Kostitsyn and whichever winger is playing best on that line. It is time to reconsider changing the line combinations to jump start this offense.
  • The fact is that the forwards on this team are grinders and solid blue collar players. There is nothing wrong with that, and they have endeared themselves to their fans with their work ethic. Tonight was stark proof that lacking offensive dynamism, this team is going to struggle mightily against the elite and talented teams in the League. David Legwand is not going to elevate his game and is realistically a third or fourth line center. Marty Erat is a 15 -20 goal scorer. Colin Wilson and Gabriel Bourque have potential, but it is unrealized. This is the way this team has been built, and the fact is that to win the Cup, a team has to have elite talent. This team does not.
  • That being said, I continue to be impressed with what Barry Trotz and the staff have done and continue to do to squeeze everything they can out of the talent they have been given. But if the Predators are going to win the ultimate prize, there must be a serious upgrade in offensive talent. Are you listening, David Poile?
The road doesn't get any easier for the Predators as they face some very talented teams coming in to the Bridgestone Arena.

The Predators have to bring their maximum effort and play their system flawlessly.

They don't have the talent to do otherwise.

My three stars:

1. Marcus Kruger

2. Jonathan Toews

3. Patrick Kane

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Predators Fall to the Wild in OT 2-1

 The Nashville Predators dropped a 2-1 overtime decision to the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center. The Predators were down a man in the extra period on an absolutely horrible call against Paul Gaustad. The officials deemed that Gaustad closed his hand on the puck in a defensive zone face off, thus sending him to the box. Replays clearly showed that when the puck bounced off the ice, it hit the back of his glove and Gaustad had both hands on the stick.

So be it. Horrible calls are part of the game, but the Predators certainly hated to lose the game in this manner.

Gaustad staked the Predators to a 1-0 lead by crashing the net and tipping home a Craig Smith shot off the rebound from Niklas Backstrom in the first period.

The Wild tied the game in the second period as a Ryan Suter shot from the the point was deflected by Cal Clutterbuck and through the five hole of Nashville netminder Chris Mason.

In the OT and with the man advantage, Devin Setogochi ripped a shot past Mason for the game winner.

I missed about half the game as I was at my son's hockey game, but here are some observations from what I did see:
  • The Predators have a solid back up in Chris Mason. He made some great saves and kept the Predators in the game with his play. The Wild out shot the Predators 32-26, not a wide margin, but Mace had to make some quality saves to keep the Wild off the board. With the compressed schedule and 9 back to backs, having a quality backup like Mason will benefit the Predators.
  • The ineffectiveness of the Predators power play was a contributing factor in this loss. The Predators had a 4 minute power play in the the third and could not get a puck past Backstrom. The power play is plagued by little movement and no one in front of the net. Surely Patric Hornqvist is not the only Predator that can establish a presence in front of the net.
  •  The Predators win games with their aggressive forecheck. When that aspect of their game is not working optimally, the Predators struggle. There were stretches where the forecheck broke down and the team struggled. The Predators have to have a commitment to an aggressive and effective forecheck for 60 minutes.
  • The Predators most dynamic forwards the past few games- Colin Wilson and Gabriel Bourque- did not register a shot on goal in this contest. These guys are some of the most offensively minded forwards on the Predators roster and they have to commit to get shots on net and create in the offensive zone.
  • David Legwand continues to frustrate me. For the life of me, I cannot understand how a second line center cannot register a shot on net or create offense. I know his supporters will laud his defensive efforts, but for $5 million a year, I expect some offensive production.
 The Predators didn't have their best game, but they were in it until getting hosed by the officials. Every team has to deal with that kind of adversity. The real test of character will be bouncing back from this loss.

The Preds will get a chance to get back on the horse quickly, as the powerful Blackhawks come to town tomorrow night.

Be prepared to bring it boys.

My three stars:

1. Devin Setoguchi

2. Chris Mason

3. Niklas Backstrom

Friday, February 8, 2013

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Our elected leaders in Congress rely on, among other things, the data interpretation and projections of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The CBO is non-partisan and one of their tasks is doing estimates on the financial impact of proposed legislation. The CBO also provides Congress with projections of economic growth as well the growth or decline in the level of indebtedness of the country and the financial health of various agencies. These are all critically important functions, and while forecasting is an inexact science, one would expect to have the CBO retaining some talented individuals and having a reasonable margin of error with their forecasts. Did I say reasonable? Let's see how the pros at the CBO have done. In 2003, the CBO projected a 10 year budget surplus of $5.6 trillion. We have a budget deficit of 6.6 trillion. Missed it by over 200%. The estimate of GDP for fiscal year end 2012 was $17.4 trillion. It was actually $15.8 trillion, a miss of 25%. The estimate of debt held by the public was $1.2 trillion. It was $11.6 trillion, a miss of 1,000%. Now I know that you are probably saying that it is a 10 year projection and that it will never be too accurate. I agree. Yet Congress often sets the broad policy direction off these long term forecasts, and when they have a wide margin of error, our country can move very far down an undesirable path. By the way, the CBO has just released their 2013 forecast. In it, they project that economic growth will double; unemployment will fall to 5.5% within the next 3 years; that our debt will begin to shrink; inflation will not be an issue; and that labor income ( hourly wages) is going to rise as a percentage of GDP. This is all great if it happens, but given the track record of the CBO in making long term forecasts and projections, I would shocked if these estimates are remotely close to reality. And by making this type of forecast, they have done a disservice to Congress and the country.

A recent survey showed that California had the highest rate of depression and the most married couples that had committed adultery. That is a sad State of affairs.

Speaking of the CBO, the agency on Tuesday released its annual update and projection on the Social Security Trust Fund. I do have much more confidence in a one year forecast by any group than a 10 year estimate, so I tend to put more faith in these numbers. Here are the shocking numbers from the CBO about Social Security: the balance in the trust fund is falling faster and will go to deficit mode much more quickly than expected. Understand that the fund paid out $75 billion more than it took in last year, but made up that difference by using reserves. The amount of claims, especially in the area of disability, have grown exponentially and will exhaust those reserves faster than expected. The CBO projects the first year of deficit to be 2015. The CBO estimates that by 2023, annual deficits in the fund will be $105 billion ( I believe they will be higher). The CBO also projects that the "collapse" date- or the date the fund goes bankrupt, has been moved up to 2032. Look for that to move even closer. The CBO also projects that Social Security spending will skyrocket over the next 10 years to 1.4 trillion because of an aging population that will move more people into eligibility status. Here are the two things that you should take away from this: politicians that tell us that the Social Security program is solvent are lying. It is not solvent or financially healthy by any realistic and practical manner of accounting. Only through the chicanery of government accounting can a politician say the program is solvent. The other takeaway is if you are still employed, you should not count on a retirement benefit from Social Security. That does not mean that you will not get one, but it may be greatly reduced. Your financial security in retirement is going to depend on your efforts and your savings and investment, not a mismanaged government program.

I do lots of charity work: I volunteer my opinion every day.

We heard that the GDP shrank .1% in the fourth quarter of 2012, and many lay the blame at the feet of cuts in defense spending. Want to know something? Defense spending has very little effect on the economy. Let's put it in perspective. A new aircraft carrier costs the Navy $12 billion. That's a lot of money. If you have a carrier, you have to have planes; a carrier typically will have 70 F/A-18 attack bombers at a cost of $60 million each. How about a few B 1 bombers? Manufacture some of those to keep the economy moving. Or the state of the art M-1 Abrams tank. Why do I mention all of this? Again, it is a matter of perspective. Those aircraft carriers that cost $12 billion each? Social Security spent $66 billion in January, the equivalent of 5 aircraft carriers. An F/A-18 attack bomber is about 90 minutes of spending in the social security trust fund; that M-1 Abrams about 3 minutes. I mention this to try to frame the debate that we are having about our budget and specifically entitlements in this country. The CBO has already warned that Social Security is quickly going to move into deficit status and cost taxpayers even more money as reserves are spent. Some will say cut defense spending and other discretionary spending to prop up entitlement programs, but as this example should illustrate, it will take more than that to make those programs solvent. Much more. And until we have an honest dialogue, we will not move toward a solution to these serious problems.

I once went 7 days without sleeping. But boy I did some serious sleeping at night.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Youngsters Lead the Predators Past the Kings 3-0

Quality, not quantity.

That was the theme for the Predators as they tallied 3 goals on 14 shots to defeat the L.A. Kings 3-0 at the Bridgestone Arena for their 4th straight win.

The Predators are 2-0 against the Kings this season.

Pekka Rinne was in net for the Predators, and looking at the shot totals for the Kings- they had 32 for the game and 20 in the second period- one might think that he was standing on his head for this Predator victory.

Make no mistake, Rinne made some good saves, but the Predators did a good job of keeping the Kings on the perimeter and Rinne was able to see the shots from the outside and rarely gave up a dangerous rebound.

By contrast, Jonathan Quick did not face many shots, but the ones he did have to contend with were mostly in the quality scoring areas and the Predators took advantage of working the puck in close.

Gabriel Bourque opened the scoring at 2:54 of the first period. He took a pass from David Legwand in the slot and quickly ripped a shot that beat Quick low glove side.

The first period saw both teams use their forecheck effectively and limit chances. It was good to see the commitment of the Predators to the forecheck and limit the scoring chances of the Kings. Throughout the game, the Predators refused to let the Kings get inside position around the crease and forced the Kings to take numerous shots from the outside that Rinne handled easily.

Shots were 8-7 for the Kings in the first period.

That would change dramatically in the second period, as the Kings dominated in offensive zone possession and threw pucks at the net from all angles. However, the Predators were keeping the Kings from getting the puck down low and in close on Rinne, so quality scoring chance for the Kings were few.

The Kings would pour 20 shots on net in the period, but could not get the puck past Rinne.

The Predators would only get 5 shots on net in the second, but they tallied on 2 of those shots.

Colin Wilson would give the Predators a 2-0 lead as he took a great pass from Kevin Klein at the side of the net and had a tap in past Quick at 7:01.

Wilson would tally again on the power play at 13:02. With Justin Williams in the box, Shea Weber would launch a bullet from the blue line that Quick kicked out onto the stick of Wilson, who was crashing the net. Wilson deposited the puck into an open goal past an out of position Quick just 5 seconds into the power play.

The third period was scoreless, and the Predators limited the Kings to just 4 shots on goal in the period. The Predators had 2.

Colin Wilson continues to elevate his game, and it is good to see Gabriel Bourque beginning to hit his stride. Wilson has been consistently creative and dynamic with the puck, and Bourque continues to impress with his effort and speed and nose for the net.

Pekka Rinne tracked the puck well and was in control of his game. His play gave the Predators confidence and as the game wore on, frustrated the Kings.

With this win the Predators are 5-2-3

The Predators are not the most talented team in the League, and they are certainly not the most offensively dangerous. But when this team is forechecking aggressively and creating chances, they can score goals. They have done that in the last two games, and the confidence this should create will serve the team well.

The task will be to continue this level of play.

Do this, and the wins will follow.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Colin Wilson

3. Gabriel Bourque

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Predators Beat Down the Blues 6-1

The Nashville Predators wrapped up their 7 game road trip with their third contest against the St. Louis Blues at ScottTrade Center.

The Predators looked to build on their success from consecutive shootout victories over the L.A. Kings and the San Jose Sharks. More importantly, the Predators were looking to continue to discover their identity and play their style of hockey- solid defense and opportunistic offense.

In other words, Predator Hockey.

The Predators had Pekka Rinne in net, while the Blues went with Brian Elliott.

The Predators wanted to bring a better effort than the last time they played the Blues, and the game certainly started well as Ryan Ellis tallied on the power play at 17:50 to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.

The Predators extended the lead to 2-0 on a play that was caused by the effort of Colin Wilson. Wilson fought for and controlled the puck at the Blues Blue line. Wilson tried to get the puck to Paul Gaustad, but the puck hit a Blues defender and came back to Wilson. He fired a shot that Elliott stopped with his pad, but Rich Clune was crashing the net and smacked home the rebound for his first NHL goal at 15:53.

The Predators kept up the pressure on the Blues net, and Nick Spaling cashed in as he lifted a shot over the prone Elliott at 19:13 of the period to give the Predators a 3-0 lead. The goal was typical Predator hockey: getting the puck on net with traffic, winning the puck battle, and slamming home a rebound.

All of a sudden, it appears as if the Predators have discovered Predator hockey.

The defense was solid as well, limiting the Blues to just 4 shots in the period, while the Predators had 9.

The Blues were expected to come out with a strong push in the second period, and through 9 minutes the Blues out shot the Predators 4-1. The Predators limited the Blues quality scoring chances, and needed to get their offense back in gear and not give momentum back to the Blues.

The Predators seized the momentum back as Kevin Klein unleashed a blast from the blue line that beat Elliott cleanly to give the Predators a 4-0 lead at 9:09 of the period. That goal would send Elliott to the bench and rookie Jake Allen entered the game.

The Predators welcomed Allen to the game as Colin Wilson split two Blues defenders and backhanded a puck that caromed off the crossbar and landed in the blue paint. Gabriel Bourque drove the net and the puck went off his skate and into the goal. After review, it was ruled a good goal, and Bourque had his first goal of the year at 10:09 to give the Predators a 5-0 lead.

The Blues made it 5-1 on the power play as Alex Pietrangelo lifted a backhand that went off the shoulder of Rinne at 13:09.

The Predators did not make it easy on themselves by taking a penalty but were able to kill off the man advantage.

Yet once again, the Predators were guilty of another penalty as Shea Weber was called for tripping, and they managed to kill off the penalty in the remainder of the period, but the Blues would have 1:38 of carry over power play time going into the third. By virtue of the Blues strong push and the Predators spending time down a man, the Blues out shot the Predators 14-3 in the second.

Going into the third, the Predators could not afford to lose their aggressiveness in the offensive zone. They needed to keep attacking and could not afford to sit back on their heels.

With 24 seconds remaining in the initial penalty to Shea Weber, Roman Josi was called for cross checking and the potent Blues power play had a brief 5 on 3 advantage.

The Predators killed the 5 on 3 and the penalty on Josi, but the Predators were going to have to play with more discipline and get back to the game that jumped on the Blues in the first period. Sitting back and letting the Blues dictate the attack was not a comfortable position for the Predators, even with the 4 goal lead.

The Predators picked up the attack and got some shots in on Allen, but more importantly got back to the forecheck. The Blues still had some quality chances, but the Predators began to limit time in their defensive zone and slow the Blues rush in the neutral zone. Pekka Rinne came up with some big stops to keep the Blues from gaining momentum.

The Predators restored their 5 goal lead as Marty Erat gathered in a rebound of his own shot and banged home the rebound to make it 6-1 at 16:34. The play was set up by Ryan Ellis, who found Erat breaking to the net and hit him with a perfect pass.

The remainder of the game was scoreless and the Predators had exploded for their highest goal output of the season in defeating the Blues 6-1.

There are numerous positives to take away from this game: Rinne was solid; scoring was opportunistic and came throughout the line up; and the Predators PK limited the number one power play in the NHL to 1 for 5.

Perhaps most importantly, the Predators look as if they have discovered their identity and are playing to the strengths of their game and their roster. If the Predators are going to succeed this season, they are going to have to play to that identity in the remaining games.

Gritty, opportunistic hockey. Staunch defense. Aggressive forechecking that creates scoring opportunities.

The Predators have built some good momentum off this road trip. 8 of the next 11 games are at the Bridgestone Arena.

Time to bring that momentum home.

My three stars:

1. Colin Wilson

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Marty Erat

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Predators Bite the Sharks in a 2-1 SO Win

The Nashville Predators continue their lengthy West coast road trip with a visit to the Shark Tank to take on the undefeated San Jose Sharks. The Predators are looking to build on their momentum from their shootout win on Thursday night against the L.A. Kings, while the Sharks are looking to continue their torrid pace lead by veteran Patrick Marleau, who has led the Sharks to a 7-0 record. The Predators enter with a record of 2-2-3.

The task for the Predators was going to be more difficult as they would be without the services of Marty Erat, who took a shot off the foot in practice and was out of the line up due to swelling. The Predators were already without Patric Hornqvist, who has been lost for 3-4 weeks with a knee injury.

The Predators had Pekka Rinne in net while the Sharks went with Antii Niemi.

Les than a minute in the contest, Brandon Yip was called for holding, and the potent Sharks power play was going to test the Predators PK. Fortunately, the Predators PK unit did their job.

The Predators had a subsequent power play, and although they did not score, they had good puck possession and created some chances.

The first period ended scoreless, but the Predators had good jump and were skating hard. The shots on goal were 8-6 in favor of the Sharks. The Predators would open the second period on the power play and would have 1:50 of power play time.

The forecheck and the effort by the team in the first period was the best it had been all season. The Predators needed to build on this momentum for the second period.

The concern for the Predators was the health of Sergei Kostitsyn. Kostitsyn was hammered on a check and left midway of the first period. He was bleeding from a cut on the bridge of his nose, and hopefully he was just getting that cut repaired and not dealing with a more serious injury.

Kostitsyn did return for the second period for the Predators.

The Predators were the beneficiaries of two power play opportunities in the first 10 minutes of the second period but could not take advantage. By the same token, the Predators PK was effective in killing off the Sharks man advantage.

The Sharks nearly cracked the scoreboard at 10:17 of the second on the power play as a shot trickled through the pads of Rinne but hit the post. He did not know the puck was in the blue paint and Martin Havlat had a chance to tap the puck in the net but skated past it in celebration as he thought the puck had gone in the net. The Predators defense swarmed the crease and safely tucked the puck under Rinne.

The second 20 minutes was scoreless, but both teams moved the puck and created some chances. Shots were 11-7 for the Sharks.

The Predators continued to skate hard and the forecheck looked like the Predators forecheck that had been missing in many of the games this season. The Predators needed to continue this effort in the third period.

The Predators would get on the scoreboard first just 59 seconds into the third period as Colin Wilson worked hard to get control of the puck off the boards in the Sharks zone. He slid the puck to Sergei Kostitsyn who let go a quick wrist shot that beat Niemi glove side to give the Predators a 1-0 lead and notch his first goal of the year.

The Predators continued to put pressure on the Sharks in their zone and generated some good scoring chances. Their offensive zone presence and stout pressure in the neutral zone was not allowing the Sharks to get speed through the neutral zone and prevented them from getting the offensive zone cleanly.

The Sharks tied the game on the power play as the Predators were called for too many men on the ice. The puck took a funny bounce off the end boards and careened to Martin Havlat who backhanded the puck past Rinne to tie the game at 13:39.

The Predators had flirted with trouble by taking penalties, but had been successful in the kill until this point. The Sharks have a potent offense and on the power play are deadly. This penalty was the one that finally cost the Predators. 

The remainder of the period was scoreless, but the Sharks nearly tallied a second goal in a furious goal mouth scramble.

So once again, the Predators were heading to overtime for the fifth time this season.

The Sharks had some good pressure early in the overtime period, but the Predators had a good response. David Legwand nearly ended the game on a drive to the net but Niemi made a great toe save on his backhand attempt.

The Predators got a power play as Martin Havlat got a hooking call at 2:48 of the extra period. The Predators threw shots at the net but couldn't get a puck past Niemi, and once again, the Predators were heading to the shootout.

The Predators were 1-3 on shootouts this year.

In the shootout, the Sharks elected to shoot first.

Rinne stopped Michael Handzus and Niemi stopped David Legwand in the first round.

In the second round, Rinne stoned Ryan Clowe while Craig Smith deked Niemi and roofed a backhand shot for the score.

Rinne sealed the Predators win in the third round as his glove hand swallowed up the wrist shot from Joe Pavelski.

Down two key forwards and playing against a team that had not previously suffered a loss, the Predators gave their best effort of the season. Tonight, the Predators looked like the Predators team that we have come to expect: relentlessly forechecking; getting pucks to the net; and a solid effort for 60, uh, 65 minutes.

This is the type of win the team can build upon. They won against one of the best teams in the NHL with character, grit and effort.

Keep it going, boys.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Sergei Kostitsyn

3. Craig Smith