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

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