Friday, November 15, 2013

Predators Road Trip Ends With Another Ugly Loss

The Predators lengthy road trip ended with a stop in Pittsburgh against the Penguins. The Predators faced a daunting task attempting to secure a win and finish this road trip at .500.

Marek Mazanec got his second start in a row, and the Predators welcomed back Mike Fisher, who had missed the previous 4 games with a foot injury, and Gabriel Bourque, who had returned to Nashville the prior game for the birth of his first child.

The Penguins had Marc-Andre Fleury in net.

The Predators needed to get out to a better start and show more compete than they had in their previous three games.

They did just that.

The Predators drew first blood at 2;28 of the first period as Kevin Klein took a shot from the point with Gabriel Bourque and Patric Hornqvist in front of the net. Bourque was able to tip the puck through the 5 hole of Fleury to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.

The Penguins tied the game at 12:36 of the period as they won an offensive zone face off and Pascal Dupuis rifled a shot over the shoulder of Mazanec. This came just after the Predators had killed off a too many men penalty.

With Ryan Ellis in the box for hooking, Evgeni Malkin blasted a shot from the point that was tipped by James Neal over the shoulder of Mazanec at 15:56 for a 2-1 Penguins lead. Mazanec had no chance to stop the re-direct.

The period ended with the Penguins holding a 2-1 lead. The Predators out shot the Penguins 10-9 and did a good job of getting pucks to the net and creating traffic and challenges for Fleury.

While the Predators needed- and got- a good start, they were going to have to play a full 60 minutes to win this game.

The Predators forgot that to open the second period. The Penguins came out flying and out shot the Predators 7-1 through the first 7 minutes. Mazanec made some great saves to keep the Pens off the board.

The Penguins made it 3-1 as Kris Letang came out of the corner and squeezed the puck through the pads of Mazanec from a sharp angle at 7:58. This was a goal that Mazanec cannot give up.

The Penguins made it 4-1 as they drove into the offensive zone and Jussi Jokinen drove into the offensive zone and pushed the defense back. he dropped a pass for Brandon Sutter who fired a slap shot past Mazanec at 18:37.

The Penguins had stormed out in the second period and taken it to the Predators. Once again, the Predators had no response for the push from an opponent.

Now the question for the Predators would be if they would have any kind of a response in the third period.

Carter Hutton opened the third period in the net for the Predators.

Fortunately, the Predators were able to keep the Penguins off the board in the third period.

Unfortunately, the Predators never threatened the Penguins net in the third. The Predators only got 3 shots on goal in the third, and were out shot 33-18 for the game.

Some observations:

  • The way this road trip ended makes a reasonable observer wonder if the wins to open the road trip were a fluke. The Predators got good scoring and were playing loose and relaxed. In the final four games, the Predators reverted to form- defensive breakdowns; spotty goaltending; and absolutely no offense. If this is the real Predators team, then this will be a long and ugly season.

  • The shaky goaltending along with the uncertainty of Pekka Rinne's health makes it almost certain that GM David Poile is going to have to make a deal for a goaltender. One has to wonder about the wisdom of entering the season with an unproven backup given the questions that surrounded Rinne's health and durability.

  • This is not a good team right now. There is no one on the roster that can be considered a consistent offensive threat or that can even possess the puck consistently. This falls on the shoulders of GM David Poile, who has built this team that is on the ice. Once an opponent gets a lead, they are able to choke off the Predators offensive efforts and the Predators do not have the personnel to create the offense necessary to get back into the game. Poile has built a team of grinders and character guys- and you have to have those- but there are no offensive players that scare an opponent. This will make for a very long and ugly season.
This team has taken a big step backwards. Right now, the team has to learn to compete and play sound, fundamental hockey and hope for the best.

Until they do, the losses will continue to pile up.

My three stars:

1. James Neal

2. Brandon Sutter

3. Evgeni Malkin

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