Friday, December 27, 2013

Predators Downward Spiral Continues in Loss to the Stars

The first game after the Christmas break saw the Nashville Predators travel to the American Airlines Center to face the Dallas Stars. The Predators were attempting to become more Grinch like, especially in the first period, taking away scoring chances and limiting goals. In the prior four games, the Predators had been outscored 10-1 in the first period, and if they were going to get back into the win column, the Predators had to have a much better start.

The Predators apparently were still in the giving spirit as Jamie Benn scored on a wrap around just 42 seconds into the game. Carter Hutton was out of position as Benn drove the right side of the net and used his speed to get to the open side before Hutton could react.

Once again, the Predators had given up a goal on the first shot of the game.

The Predators got shots on net but could not get to rebounds when Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen gave up rebounds. Lehtonen was not called upon to make difficult saves off the Predators offensive efforts.

The Stars were awarded a penalty shot at 16:35 of the first period as Victor Bartley hauled down Antoine Roussel, but fortunately for the Predators, Roussel missed the net with his shot.

The Predators out shot the Stars 9-7 in the first period.

The Predators opened the second period by giving the Stars several odd man rushes, and Hutton was called upon to make some big saves to keep the Stars off the board.

The Predators tied the game at 1 at 7:14 of the second period as Colin Wilson controlled the puck behind the net. he worked out to the side and found Kevin Klein sneaking in alone on the weak side and Klein buried the shot to get the Predators even.

The Predators showed their disturbing tendency to give up a goal shortly after they score as they gave up a goal just 24 seconds later. Eric Cole blasted a shot past Hutton from the face off circle at 7:38 to give the Stars a 2-1 lead.

The Predators have shown they cannot keep their opponents off the board after they score, destroying the momentum they had just seized.

Eric Cole made it 3-1 at 14:04 as he took a pass from Alex Goligoski and got behind the Predators defense for a breakaway. Cole made a nice stop move and faked Hutton down to the ice and lifted a backhand into the open net.

The Predators had several scoring opportunities in the remainder of the period but could not finish their chances.

The Stars out shot the Predators 16-11 in the second period.

The Stars opened the third period attacking the Predators net and kept the Predators on their heels. After killing off a power play, the Predators remained hemmed in their end of the ice and the stars made them pay at 4:09 as Ryan Garbutt re-directed a shot from the point by Cody Eakin past Hutton to make it 4-1.

This game had been over for a while. Now it was just a matter of how bad it would be for the Predators.

Fortunately for the Predators, they held the Stars off the board for the remainder of the game. Unfortunately, the Predators did not come close to scoring either.

Some observations:

  • The inability of the Predators to carry the puck into the offensive zone is killing the offensive effort. More often than not, the Predators are dumping the puck in and chasing, and right now, they are losing those races to the puck. If the Predators cannot carry the puck into the zone, their weak offense is virtually non-existent. Unfortunately, this is where the Predators are right now.

  • That inability to carry the puck means that opponents are able to effectively forecheck the Predators. This results in numerous turnovers and the inability to get the puck cleanly through the neutral zone. Once again, the way this team is built, it doesn't appear that this is going to change this season.

  • The Predators are going to have to live with average at best goaltending. Neither Hutton nor Mazanec have shown the ability to consistently put together a run of solid games. Again, this goes back to a strategic decision made by David Poile in the off season that is biting the Predators in the butt right now.

  • Victor Bartley was inserted back into the line up after being a healthy scratch for the last three games, and he had a miserable night, going -3 for the evening. He was caught flat footed on Cole's second goal resulting in the breakaway.

  • This team is working hard, but. to quote Shakespeare in Macbeth, "it is sound and fury, signifying nothing." The hard work pales in head to head competition with teams that have a better quality of NHL player. The teams in the West that have separated themselves from the pack are teams with elite offensive players that can score and solid defense and goaltending. First and foremost, the Predators lack elite offensive players that can score. The defense is shaky, and the goaltending is worse. Yes, you want hard work. No team is going to succeed with a strong work ethic. But there has to be talent to go along with that work ethic. That is what this team lacks, and it is going to make for a long and painful season.
It is not going to get any easier nor will it be any fun.

The Predators are reduced to working hard and hoping for the best.

My three stars:

1. Eric Cole

2. Alex Goligoski

3. Kari Lehtonen

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