Sunday, March 3, 2013

Predators Offensive Woes Continue In Loss to the Sharks

The Nashville Predators looked to right their ship and get back to winning as they traveled to the Shark Tank to take on the slumping but dangerous San Jose Sharks. Nashville had captured victories in their first two meetings and were looking to sweep the season series.

The task for the Predators was to tighten up their defense and attempt to get their struggling offense untracked.

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

The Predators opened the game skating well and having offensive zone time, but could not generate shots on net. Same sad refrain from games past.

The Sharks, by contrast, were firing shots at Rinne, and he had to come up with some good saves to keep the Sharks off the board.

The Predators had a glorious chance to get on the board shorthanded as David Legwand fed the puck to Marty Erat, who was in alone on a breakaway. Erat tried to slide the puck five hole on Niemi, but was stopped.

The Sharks got on the board first on the power play as Dan Boyle scored on a shot from the blue line past a screened Rinne at 17:47 of the first period.

The first period ended with the Predators on the power play, and they would have 28 seconds of carry over time to start the second period.

How anemic was the Predators offense in the first period?

The Predators were out shot 16-6, and although the Predators skated well, they were still failing to generate any meaningful offensive chances.

The Predators opened the second period without the services of Brandon Yip, who took a hard hit along the end boards midway of the first period and was out for the remainder of the game.

The Sharks made the Predators pay for a Ryan Ellis tripping penalty as Joe Pavelski gathered in a puck at the side of the net a fired it between Rinne and the post at 9:12. Rinne thought the puck was coming off the end board to his right, but it came off to the left and he never saw the puck until it was too late.

The Sharks were 2 for 3 on the power play, and the Predators were still impotent on offense.

Not exactly a winning formula.

Fortunately for the Predators, the Sharks did not do any more damage in the second, but as inept as this offense is, a one goal lead by the opponent is usually a winner. A two goal lead is insurmountable.

The Predators had been out shot 30-12 through two periods and had rarely threatened Niemi.

The third period saw the Sharks play with the Predators, as they knew the Predators were not going to threaten them offensively.

That changed at 14:30 as the Predators were trying to kill off another penalty. The Sharks were working the puck on the power play and the puck jumped over the stick of a Sharks defenseman. Gabriel Bourque scooped up the puck and blazed into the Sharks zone and beat Niemi for the Predators first shorthanded goal of the season at 14:3 of the third period.

The hope was that Bourque's stellar effort and goal would give the Predators some life.

Unfortunately for the Predators, it did not.

There was no more scoring, and the Predators were once again left with trying to figure out how to get their offense going after getting out shot 39-19 and losing 2-1.

Some observations:

  • A week ago, the Predators were solidly in 4th place in the West. Now, they cling to a tenuous 1 point lead over 4 tams and sit in 7th. They are 4-5-1 in their last 10 games, and this coincides with the disappearance of their offense.

  • Nick Spaling, Sergei Kostitsyn, and Colin Wilson had no shots. Mike Fisher and David Legwand each had 1. Now, I am not an NHL coach, but it seems to me that if the forwards are not shooting the puck, it is going to be difficult to score. It is frustrating to watch the forwards pass up shots, turn the puck over, and fail to drive the net consistently. Getting out shot 39-19 tonight, and in most games by a double digit margin, points out the fact that the forwards are not playing a simple game and with grit. Shots have to get to the net and there has to be traffic. That is not happening often enough.

  • The effort in the last few games has been appalling. There has been little push back when challenged and rarely has the gritty play that has characterized the team been evident. This is problematic for the Predators, because without those attributes, the talent is lacking to win games.

  • I believe it is getting to the point that Coach Trotz has to drastically shake up the line up. Legwand is a passenger; Erat is invisible; and Kostitsyn is well...floating. To continue to give top line minutes to players that have no drive and are not producing is a formula for failure.

It is not going to get easier for this team. They have squandered good position and are now in a dog fight for a play off spot. In a tight playoff race, this team has to have players producing and playing with character.

Right now, the ones counted on to produce and play that way are not.

If it doesn't change, the Predators will be watching the playoffs from their living rooms.

My three stars:

1. Dan Boyle

2. Joe Pavelski

3. Gabriel Bourque

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