Sunday, March 31, 2013

Scenes From the Road: Denver

I had the opportunity to travel out to Denver for a quick trip to watch the Predators play the Avalanche on Saturday. It is always fun and interesting to travel to other arenas and meet the fans of other teams.

I have been to 22 arenas to see the Preds play, and Pred fans, here is something that we should always keep in mind:

We have it really good here in Smashville.

Although we may not agree with every management decision or pregame intro, or whatever, we are fortunate to have an active, community oriented, and fan sensitive group in the owners boxes and front office.

That is not always the case for other fan bases.

The reputation of the Predators not only as a good hockey club but a fan friendly team has been echoed to me in many different venues, and Denver was no different.

Here are some scenes from the road trip:

One of the great aspects of Twitter is that it unites hockey fans from all over the country. Here, I am with Courtney Beckham, a fan of the Avs that has communicated with me for several years via Twitter. I was fortunate to meet her before the game and talk about the Avs, the Predators, and hockey in our respective markets. She is a passionate hockey fan, a gracious hostess, and a wonderful person.

The Cherry Cricket was around the corner from the team hotel in the Cherry Creek area of Denver. The sports bar is a popular place with a hockey rink on the ceiling that has been signed by various players from visiting teams (none by Predator players). The Cherry Creek area is a walkable neighborhood with high end shopping, eclectic local shops, and a multitude of restaurants.

A view of the Pepsi Center from across the parking lot. It was sunny and 60 for game day, but notice the piles of snow in the foreground. It had snowed 8" on the previous Sunday in the Denver area. Downtown Denver is to the right. Mile High Stadium is approximately a half mile the other way (behind this camera shot) from the Pepsi Center.

A closer shot of the main entrance to the Pepsi Center. My friend and fellow road warrior Mark Blake is to the left. Courtney is in the foreground having donned a Sakic Nordiques sweater.

This sculpture hangs from the ceiling at the main entrance to the Pepsi Center. A group of hockey players is at the top, a couple of baseball players, and a basketball player.

A view of the interior of the Pepsi Center before puck drop. The facility was very well maintained and was spotless. There were an abundance of customer service personnel throughout the concourses to answer questions and assist fans.

The Avalanche jerseys that have been retired. Certainly can't disagree with the decision to retire any of those numbers.

The division, conference, and Stanley Cup championship banners. I am ready to see some of those hanging from the rafters at Bridgestone.

The anthem before the start of the game. It was an interesting crowd, lacking energy until late in the third period and especially in the overtime.

My view of Pekka Rinne from my seat just before the start of the second period.


A Downer in Denver

Was in Denver for the Predators game with the Avalanche, which saw the Avalanche capture a 1-0 OT win over the Predators. Late travel and Easter activities meant that I couldn't get a blog recap up until now.

And of course, you know what has happened, so I will give you some observations:

Varly Was Gnarly

Semyon Varlamov made some outstanding saves among the 34 shots he faced from the Predators. There were stretches where the Predators controlled the puck in the Avs zone and peppered Varly with shots, but could not solve him. Notable was a glove save off a blistering shot from Kevin Klein in the slot. As the game wore on, the Avs took strength from Varly's effort, ultimately prevailing in the OT.

Miss Fish

Mike Fisher was scratched after injuring is hand blocking a shot on Thursday, so Paul Gaustad moved up to center the first line. I liked the effort of Goose, but the fact is that the Predators needed Fish centering that line, as timing and chemistry was just off between Goose, Kostitsyn, and Erat throughout the game.

Mother Goose

Don't know if this was apparent to the TV audience, but there was a face off right in front of me in the Avs zone (I was sitting three rows off the ice, so it was easy to gather some of what was being said), and Goose called the Avs Jamie McGinn over and was involved in a rather stern conversation with him. It ended with Goose looking at McGinn and telling him to "watch it". Now, Goose does not give you first line offense, but he does give you first line leadership. I did not notice McGinn running around after that conversation.

Josi No Joke

Roman Josi is quickly emerging as a very good defenseman. He is quietly physical, plays great positional defense, and has ice water in his veins. His calmness and ability with the puck is a steadying influence and has allowed Shea Weber to jump into the rush more often. He continues to look rock steady on the blue line, and will soon make Predator fans forget...uh...what was his name?

Power Outage

0-5, including a 4 minute power play and 33 seconds of 5 on 3. The Predators got some shots and some traffic, but this game turned on the inability to tally on one of those man advantage situations. If the Predators are going to have a shot at the playoffs, the power play has to find its mojo.

Running Out of Runway

These last two games have seriously damaged the Predators playoff hopes. They were winnable games and the Predators picked up one out of a possible 4 points. The playoffs are a possibility, but a microscopic one.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Predators Flop Against Phoenix

Brutal.

That is the only printable word I can use to describe the Predators effort against the Phoenix Coyotes at the Bridgestone Arena.

A brutal effort that saw the Predators give up 3 goals on the first 3 shots of the game. They gave up 5 goals on the first 7 shots by the Coyotes, and 6 in the first period en route to a 7-4 beatdown by a team that had lost 8 in a row.

Oh yeah, and had played an overtime game the night before.

The Predators ultimately lost the game by a 7-4 margin, but the bigger picture is that this was a game the Predators had to win to keep their faint playoff hopes alive.

Instead, the Predators came out flat and not ready to play and were embarrassed by the Coyotes.

Frankly, this game is not worth recapping in detail.

The fact is that the Predators have a razor thin margin to get into the playoffs, and this was a winnable game for a team that seemed to be getting their act together, having won three straight games.

But the Predators pissed away the opportunity to continue to gain ground.

Brutal, yes.

Disgraceful. Disgusting. Take your pick of negative adjectives.

Embarrassing and inexplicable come to mind.

The season hangs in the balance for this team, and throwing away games like they did tonight means that the probability of missing the playoffs grows larger.

The sense of urgency that this team needs to have is lacking, and ultimately, it will cost them another post season appearance if it is not corrected quickly.

The goaltending was a sieve, as both Pekka Rinne and Chris Mason offered little resistance to the Coyotes. Bad games happen, but this was atrocious.

Boys, the measure of your heart is going to be tested in the coming games.

The onus of showing what you are made of is right in front of you.

A few more efforts like tonight, and Predator fans will have a painful answer.

My three stars:

1. Take your pick of anyone on the Coyotes roster


My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Going to re-visit the crisis in Cyprus again. Last week, we mentioned how depositors were having their accounts "taxed" to help fund the bank bailout in that country. The original agreement has be modified to confiscate, uh, tax only those accounts that have over $100,000 Euros in them. One can argue the fairness of this action given that leaders in Cyprus had been asking for help from Brussels for over a year with problems in their banking system, but the fact remains that depositors are going to shoulder some of the load of bailing out mismanaged banks. But here is the point that I want to focus on now: the Dutch Chairman of the Eurozone, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, has said that what has happened in Cyprus would be the template for dealing with future banking problems across the European Union. If so, that precedent is troubling. While Cyprus is a small economy and nation, there are serious and much larger problems looming with Italy and Spain. If depositors fear their funds will be taken to help recover losses in a mismanaged bank, we all know what happen. The inevitable run on the entire banking system begins. When depositors lose confidence in their bank and their country's banking system, the resulting fallout can be catastrophic. It will be interesting to see how the EU responds to future upheavals and if those disruptions create problems across the globe.

The doctor said I could go off my diet and eat whatever I want. Also, I am calling myself "doctor" now.

Stephan Goss, the Chief Actuary for Social Security, recently released a detailed report on the status of the Disability Fund. In a report delivered the the House of Representatives, Goss said that the Disability Fund was going broke in the near future, due to less revenue coming in and an all time high for people receiving disability income. According to his report, to keep the Disability Fund solvent, there would need to be a cut in benefits of 16% or an increase in payroll taxes of 20%, neither of which are palatable to Congressional leaders. So what to do in the face of a difficult decision? What Washington always does when facing intractable problems: kick the can down the road. There is a proposal to tap funds in the Social Security Retirement Fund to help fund the shortfall in disability payments. This would result in approximately $40 billion per year being removed from the retirement side and transferred to disability recipients. Now you are smart folks, and you have probably already figured out that this will shorten the life span of the retirement payments if it is implemented. Friends, there has been no honest discussion about the true financial condition of these programs, and it is time that we start being honest. Waiting to do so only means that the pain of fixing these programs gets worse.

I asked my trainer at the gym what machine I should use to impress the pretty girls. He looked at me and said, "The ATM outside."

We all have lived in the Federal Reserve's "zero interest rate policy" (ZIRP) for the past 4 years. While this has been a boon for home buyers that finance their homes or borrowers that take on debt, there have been other not so positive consequences. For instance, savers and bond buyers have been getting smashed by the low interest rates and their income has suffered. The effect of ZIRP on pension and retirement plans has been negative as well, as these plans typically are required to hold a portion of their assets in fixed income (bonds, CD's) and those investments are yielding very little. But here is the other side of ZIRP that many of us have missed: that policy allows Washington to borrow money- LOTS of money- with no apparent cost. Although we have increased our nation's debt by over $3 trillion dollars (and rapidly heading toward $4 trillion), the impact has been barely felt in the economy because of the low interest rate environment. Let interest rates begin to rise (and they will) and the Federal Reserve have to roll over the debt (they will not be able to pay it back at maturity) and all of a sudden, the amount of interest that we are paying on our debt will consume a greater portion of our nation's tax revenue. Couple that with a massive and growing entitlement program, and you can see the problems ahead. I just hope that someday, those in Washington will too.

I wonder if vegetarians can eat animal crackers?

And that, my friends, is my view.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Predators Slide Past the Oilers 3-2

The Nashville Predators faced off against the Edmonton Oilers in a critical contest at the Bridgestone Arena. The Predators are fighting for a playoff spot, and their margin of error is razor thin. They have to win games and they have to take care of business against struggling teams like the Oilers.

Mission accomplished.

It wasn't pretty at times, but the Predators captured a 3-2 win over a potentially explosive Oilers team that has given the Predators fits at times.

Sergei Kostitsyn finally broke out of his season long funk with a goal and an assist. Kevin Klein had a goal, and Chris Mueller had a highlight reel goal to account for the Predators scoring.

Pekka Rinne outdueled Devan Dubnyk for the win, his 12th of the season.

The Oilers opened the scoring on the power play as Patric Hornqvist was in the box for interference at 7:42 of the first. Just 11 seconds into the power play, Corey Potter took a shot from the point that was deflected by Taylor Hall to give the Oilers a 1-0 lead. 

The Predators answered at 11:51 of the first period as Marty Erat worked hard on the boards in the Oilers zone and dug the puck out and got it to Mike Fisher. Fisher spotted Sergei Kostitsyn driving the net on the off wing and put the puck right on his tape. Kostitsyn lifted the puck over the shoulder of Dubnyk for his third goal of the season.

The Predators made it 2-1 at 4:31 of the second period as Marty Erat drove the puck into the Oilers zone. The puck was worked over to Kostitsyn, who drove to the left side of the net. Mike Fisher was creating havoc in front of the net, and Kostitsyn forced Dubnyk to move to front his drive. Kostitsyn found Kevin Klein pinching down from the blue line, slid him the puck, and Klein buried the puck into the open net.

The Predators stretched their lead to 3-1 at 11:33 of the second as Brandon Yip pushed the puck into the Oilers zone. He found Chris Mueller with the pass, and Mueller used his speed to avoid a hit from Mark Fistric. Mueller then beat Dubnyk over his shoulder for what would prove to be the game winning goal. Mueller's shot was a dandy, as he had a very small space in which to shoot the puck, and he was perfect on his shot.

The Oilers made things interesting in the third period as Shawn Horcoff took a shot that Rinne appeared to have smothered. Instead, the puck trickled through Rinne's pads and over the goal line to make it 3-2 at 7:03 of the third period.

The Predators were able to hold off the Oilers for the remainder of the period and had their third win in a row.

More importantly, they won a game they needed to win and should have won.

Some observations:

Good To See You

Finally! Sergei Kostitsyn got his offensive game back into gear with a goal and an assist. Kostitsyn hustled all night, made some good decisions with the puck, and was engaged throughout the game. These elements have been lacking for most of the season from Sergei, and the Predators need  this kind of effort from him in their remaining games.

Welcome Back

Patric Hornqvist returned to the line up after missing 8 games due to injury. Hornqvist was his usual crash and bang self, and the Predators need him to get his game going quickly and score those dirty goals from the hard areas. His production and grit have been missed. Badly.

Mueller Time

Chris Mueller continues to play solid hockey, using his speed and hustle to create chances. His goal tonight was a jaw dropper as he deposited the puck into a very small opening against a big goalie that was perfectly positioned. It bodes well for the Predators if Mueller can bring some of the scoring touch he has shown at the AHL level.

Fisher Is Flying

Fisher's assist tonight gives him a point in his last seven games. The Predators obviously need his production, but Fisher has been leading by example as well. His hustle is off the chart; he has been physical; and he is reliable in all zones. Fisher's line with Erat and Kostitsyn has begun to click, and the Predators need them to keep bringing that effort.

Final Thoughts

The Predators are now 14-13-6 and have 34 points. They will be tied with San Jose in points for the 8th spot in the West, but San Jose has a game in hand. I still believe the cut line for the playoffs will be 56 points. If that is true, the Predators will need to win 12 of their last 15 games.

That is a very steep hill to climb.

But it can be done.

The Predators have started to get some players healthy with the return of Hal Gill and Patric Hornqvist. They have started to play Predator hockey again. They have a majority of their remaining games at home.

The task is difficult.

I think you are up to the challenge, boys.

My three stars:

1. Sergei Kostitsyn

2. Marty Erat

3. Chris Mueller

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Predators Bury the Blue Jackets 5-2

The Nashville Predators were looking to win two games in a row for the first time in over a month, and the Columbus Blue Jackets were just what the Predators needed to do just that.

The Predators buried the Blue Jackets with a first period goal scoring spree en route to a 5-2 victory.

The Predators scored 4 goals in a 3:04 stretch of the first period, the fastest 4 goals in franchise history.

Taylor Beck got the scoring started as he rifled a shot from the face off circle over the shoulder of Columbus netminder Sergei Bobrovsky for his first NHL goal. His tally came at 7:11 of the first period.

Shea Weber stretched the lead to 2-0 at 8:21 of the period on the power play. Bobby Butler worked hard to get control of the puck, made a move toward the net, and slipped a beautiful pass to Weber on the off side. Weber blasted home the shot for his 6th goal of the season.

The Jackets made it 2-1 as R.J. Umberger crashed into Pekka Rinne in the blue paint and the puck trickled through Rinne's pads after the collision and into the net. The play was reviewed, but inexplicably no goaltender interference was called.

Rather than let the Jackets build momentum, David Legwand responded to make it 3-0 at 9:46 of the first as he beat Bobrovsky from the slot.

The Predators made it 4-1 at 10:15 of the first period as Matt Halischuk whistled a shot over the shoulder of Bobrovsky off a rush into the Columbus zone.

Bobrovsky had given up 4 goals on 11 shots by the Predators, and his night was done. Steve Mason came in to replace Bobrovsky and finished the game in net for the Jackets.

Just 12 seconds after the 4th Predators goal, Rich Clune was called for interference, and because the play resulted in an injury to a Jackets player, he was given a 5 minute penalty and a game misconduct.

The 5 minute power play was a prime opportunity for the Jackets to get back into the game. The Predators had killed off the just over 3 minutes of Clune's penalty when Mike Fisher stole the puck and drove the net. He crashed into Mason and was given a 2 minute penalty for goaltender interference.

Now the Predators had to kill off nearly 2 minutes of 5 on 3 power play time.

And they did so in grand fashion.

The Predators gave the Jackets just two shots with the two man advantage.

Game, set, and match.

Artem Anisimov tallied at 14:53 of the second period, as his shot hit the stick of Mike Fisher and caromed over the shoulder of Rinne to make it 4-2.

The third period saw the Jackets have a decided advantage in zone time, as they controlled the puck and kept the Predators bottled up in their own end for lengthy stretches. The Predators did a good job of limiting quality scoring chances for the Jackets, however.

Roman Josi scored an empty net goal at 19:36 for the final margin.

Some observations:

Welcome Back, Big Guy

Hal Gill was back in the line up, and his presence was welcome, especially on the penalty kill. Gill was strong and his effort during the Jackets 5 on 3 was exceptional. Gill is a steady presence on the blue line and his return gives the coaching staff some flexibility with the D corp and getting the best blue liners on the ice for the match ups with the opponent.

Welcome Back, Predator Hockey

In the first period, the Predators forecheck was relentless and helped to create offensive opportunities. It was refreshing to see the Predators firing the puck at the net, and some good things- such as 4 goals- happened because they pulled the trigger. The defense did a good job of limiting quality scoring opportunities by the Jackets. And Pekka Rinne was solid in net. This is the type of game that the Predators are capable of playing, and tonight, they played a solid game in all phases.

Home, Sweet Home

With the win, the Predators home record is now 8-2-4. By contrast, their road record is 5-11-2. With the schedule heavily slanted to home games for the remainder of the season, the Predators have to continue to use home ice to their advantage.

No Let Downs

The Predators out shot the Blue Jackets 13-4 in the first period. In the final 40 minutes, the Jackets out shot the Predators 19-11. The Jackets started to control play in the second period, out shooting the Predators 9-4 and then 10-7 in the third. As mentioned, the Jackets spent a lot of time in the offensive zone in the third period. The Predators cannot step off the gas with a lead. Good teams will make them pay for that, and their success in upcoming games will depend on a full 60 minute effort.

Everyone Contributes

Taylor Beck had a goal and an assist. Marty Erat, Gabriel Bourque, and Bobby Butler each had two assists. Matt Halischuk, David Legwand, Shea Weber, and Roman Josi had goals. This is the kind of effort that this team has to bring every night, and contributions have to come from all lines. This is the formula for the Predators to succeed, and it has to be consistent from game to game.

Kudos to Bobby Butler, who had a strong game. His assist on Weber's goal was a thing of beauty. He was strong on the puck and battled in the hard areas.

Final thoughts

The Predators are now 13-13-6 and have 32 points. They sit just outside of the 8th spot for the playoffs. Getting into the playoffs will be a battle over the final 16 games. I still believe they will need to win 13 of their remaining 16 games to get in the dance.

The hill is steep and the task is going to be difficult. But it can be done.

Tonight, the team saw what it will take to get it done.

Now, they have to bring this effort every game.

My three stars:

1. Taylor Beck

2. Bobby Butler

3. Marty Erat

Friday, March 22, 2013

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Cyprus is the latest member of the European Union that needs a bailout. The banks in Cyprus were hurt partially by the losses they took on Greek debt that was wiped out in that country's collapse; but primarily by the poor lending practices of the banks in Cyprus. The Cypriot banks have also been hurt by a deepening recession. So the European Union and the European Monetary Union, the EU's central bank, began to construct a bailout package. This is not the first bailout package that has been crafted by the leaders in Brussels. But this proposed bailout package was significantly different from others in that all depositors in Cypriot banks are having a portion of their accounts confiscated to fund the rescue plan. Under the proposal, savers that have less that $100,000 Euros in their bank accounts would have 6.75% of their account arbitrarily taken by the government of Cypress, while those that have more than $100,000 Euros would see 9.9% of their account taken to fund the bailout. No questions asked, it would just be removed from the account. This unprecedented action is not only mind boggling but immoral. The average citizen is not being asked to fund the bailout, they have been told they have not choice and their money will be taken. As expected, it started a run on the banks in Cyprus, which were promptly closed by the government. Now, it is all too easy to dismiss this as as the actions of the European Union and it affects a small nation that has dug their own hole. All of that is true, but the dangerous precedent here is that the government is coercing the public into paying for the financial sins of the elite or the few. While this is occurring halfway around the world, the arrogance of the ruling elite toward the governed is appalling. And it requires all of us to be ever vigilant about the actions of the government.

Mornings and I don't see eye to eye, mostly because I don't want to open mine.

There has been much heated and angry debate about guns and gun control recently, brought to the forefront of our thinking by the tragedy in Newtown, Ct. One side says that all guns should be banned, or at least "assault weapons" and high capacity magazines. The other side says that banning one type of weapon is just a slippery slope to revoking the Second Amendment and confiscating all weapons. One can argue passionately for either side, but I would ask you to consider this: the debate is not really about guns, but instead a debate about the role of government. It is a cultural debate. One side truly and passionately believes that government is a force for good and knows what is best for each individual citizen. The other side believes, equally passionately, that government is intrusive, a necessary evil, and should be kept as small as possible. Vice President Joe Biden recently said on the PBS show "NewsHour" that banning assault weapons would do little to stop crime. While he is honest, his view is telling. The laws that are currently on the books do not work effectively, but it is still desirable to implement more laws to control guns and limit gun rights. In fact the National Academy of Science found that gun control laws have no measurable effect on gun violence rates. And this is understandable because criminals do not obey the existing laws, and they will not obey new laws. Sandy Hook Elementary was a "gun free" zone. And that didn't stop Adam Lanza. And that slippery slope? Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill) was recently asked if the proposed assault weapons ban was "just the beginning". She replied, "Oh absolutely. I mean, I am against handguns." And she is not alone in that sentiment. Meaningful discussion on this highly charged issue will be difficult to move forward, because underneath the gun debate is a deep cultural divide.

Sometimes, the autocorrect on my smart phone can be my worst enema.

Next year begins the full implementation of socialized medicine in this country, known as Obamacare. And health insurers are warning that health insurance premiums for small business and individuals are going to increase sharply. Starting next year, insurers are prohibited from refusing to sell coverage or setting premiums based on an individual's health history, and their ability to set rates based on the age of the insured will be severely limited. This means that younger, healthier workers will most likely see their rates rise to subsidize the coverage that will be provided for older and sicker individuals. How much? Last month, United Health Group, the nations largest carrier said that premiums for consumers buying individual plans could increase as much as 116%, and small business plans could increase 25-50%. Aetna said that rates could increase 55% on average. Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina said individual premiums could rise 40-50%. Some of these increases could be offset by subsidies available to some individuals and families, but the fact remains that premiums are going up markedly. This is what happens when the government interferes with the marketplace. And all of us will suffer.

An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but I can't afford that many iPods.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Predators Fall to Blue Jackets; Season Slipping Away

If the Nashville Predators are going to make a playoff push, it has to begin tonight in Columbus against the Blue Jackets, a team that is 6-0-4 in their last 10 games and boasts one of the hottest goaltenders in the NHL in the person of Sergei Bobrovsky.

No easy task for the Predators, who find themselves in a deep hole of their own making. The Predators are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games and have lost three in a row.

The Predators benched Sergei Kostitsyn for his egregious gaffe in the previous game against Edmonton. Taylor Beck was called up from Milwaukee and took his place on the line with Marty Erat and Mike Fisher.

The Predators had Pekka Rinne in net, and Predator fans could only hope that the team in front of him would give him some support in this game.

The Predators opened with good jump, and early on had a decided shot advantage. As the period wore on, that changed, with the Blue Jackets aided by two Predators penalties. The Jackets out shot the Predators 14-9 in the period after the Predators opened the game with a 7-1 shot advantage.

The period ended scoreless, and Rinne made some big saves to keep the BJ's off the board.

The Blue Jackets got on the board at 4:08 of the second period as Fedor Tyutin launched a shot from the blue line that got through traffic and past Rinne, who was screened by a Columbus player and two Predator defenseman.

Since the midway mark of the second period, the Blue Jackets were carrying the play to the Predators, and it was going to be critical for the Predators to reverse the momentum back to their favor.

The Jackets second goal came off a dominating offensive zone cycle. The Predators could not get the puck out of the zone, and the Jackets made them pay. Mark Letestu roofed a shot over the shoulder of Rinne at the end of this cycle to make it 2-0 at 9:39 of the second period.

At this point, it looked as if the Jackets were going to run the Predators out of the barn.

The Predators responded at 14:45 of the second as Roman Josi walked the puck in from the blue line and took a shot from the high slot. Gabriel Bourque was in front of the net battling for position and re-directed the puck past Bobrovsky to make it 2-1.

Heading into the third, the Predators were in the game and needed a strong period to capture a much needed two points.

Yeah... about that strong period.

The Predators gave up a power play goal to Nikita Nikitin at the 10:00 mark to make it 3-1 Jackets. On the play, it looked as if Roman Josi had partially screened Rinne as he did not see the shot until the last second.

Derick Brassard made it 4-1 off a rush as he blasted a puck past Rinne at 12:41 of the third.

The Predators got a goal from Chris Mueller, who was battling in front of the net and shoveled a puck past Bobrovsky to make it 4-2 at 17:59 of the third.

Mike Fisher scored off a gritty effort in front of the net, sweeping the puck past Bobrovsky at 18:46.

Unfortunately, the Predators could not get the tying goal, and they saw a game that they had to have slip away by a 4-3 margin.

Some observations:

What Happened to That Opening Surge?

The Predators opened the game with good jump and were taking it to the BJ's early in the contest. Through ten minutes of the first period, the Predators had out shot the Jackets 9-1 and controlled the play. That effort slowly waned, aided by two Predator penalties in the period, and the Predators never matched the effort of the Jackets after that. It's a 60 minute game boys.

Another Third Period Fade

A disturbing characteristic of the Predators is getting whipped in the third period. Maybe it is the experience level of the players. I hope it isn't the character and heart of those on the ice. If it is that, then this team has deeper problems than just their won/lost record.

It Is Time For The Pine

I like him, but the fact is that Marty Erat has been awful. He has contributed nothing to the offense for far too long, and this team needs someone who is going to contribute. Tonight, Marty had 19:40 of ice time (second only to Mike Fisher) and not a single shot on net. Too often, Marty chews up big minutes and does nothing. This is unacceptable and is hurting the team. It is past time to get someone in the lineup that is at least going to get some shots on net and at least has an opportunity to score.

Speaking of Pine

After his horrific mistake against Edmonton, Head Coach Barry Trotz benched Sergei Kostitsyn. He spoke of accountability, and that each player has to be accountable to the team. It is now time to apply that principal to some of the other guys.

Motor

Gabriel Bourque recorded his team leading 10th goal. Roman Josi was solid. Chris Mueller and Mike Fisher scrapped and worked for goals. Some of the guys have their motors still running. That is a good thing. Unfortunately, not enough guys have their motors running. And therein lies the problem for the Predators.

Final Thoughts

The Predators are watching their season slowly slip away. And it is painful. No one, the fans, the coaches, the owners, the players, enjoy this. This is not fun.

Yet there is a lot of hockey to be played. We are going to learn a lot from about this team by how they respond to this adversity. This is an inflection point for this team. The guys that put on the sweaters can play with heart and grit or they can piss away the remainder of the season.

It will tell us a lot about the future of this team.

Your call, boys.

My three stars:

1. Sergei Bobrovsky

2. Derick Brassard

3. Gabriel Bourque

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Predators Gaffes Give Away Game to the Oilers

Just over the midway mark of the season, and the Nashville Predators faced the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place in a game that had to be considered "must win" for the Predators.

The good news for the Predators was that their offense was finally scoring some goals, having scored 7 in their past two games.

The bad news was that the Predators defense had totally collapsed in those two games, allowing 13 goals.

For the Predators to have a chance to win this game against an Oilers offense that can score, they were going to have to play better defense.

The Predators had Pekka Rinne in net, while the Oilers went with Devan Dubnyk.

The first period ended 0-0 with the Predators having a 10-6 shot advantage. Rinne had to make a couple of great saves to keep the Oilers off the board, while Roman Josi beat Dubnyk with a blast but rang it off the post.

The Oilers got on the board first on the power play at 8:11. Ryan Ellis was in the box for cross checking and Magnus Paajarvi tapped the rebound of a Ryan Whitney shot past Rinne from in front of the net. Rinne was left alone as Paajarvi had gotten lost behind Shea Weber and had an easy put back for the score.

The Oilers had three shots on the power play, and those were their first three shots of the period.

The Predators tied the game at 1 on their power play at 16:37 off a bomb from the blue line by Shea Weber for his 5th goal of the year. Roman Josi and Craig Smith picked up assists on the goal.

The period ended tied at 1. The Oilers out shot the Predators 10-7.

The Predators lost defenseman Scott Hannan to an injury in the second period, and he was out for the remainder of the game.

The Predators had a power play, but Sergei Kostitsyn had the puck hop away from him at the blue line. The Oilers had a 2 on 2 until Kostitsyn went to the bench, leaving the Oilers 2 on 1 against Shea Weber. The Oilers made the Predators pay for a major gaffe by Kostitsyn as Lennart Petrell  and Sam Gange broke in and Petrell hammered home a shot at 10:53.

Inexplicable decision by Kostitsyn, and it cost the Predators.

The Oilers picked up a Jonathan Blum turnover just inside their blue line and began a rush down the ice. Jordan Eberle whistled a shot over the shoulder of Rinne to make it 3-1 at 15:48 of the third.

Roman Josi scored with the extra attacker on the ice with 9.2 seconds remaining in the game.

Unfortunately, it was once again too little too late for the Predators as they lost their third in a row by a 3-2 margin.

Some observations:

Made of Glass

Right now, this team has no confidence and is fragile. Every mistake ends up in their net, and this team is tentative.  Playing not to make mistakes and tentatively is a formula to consistently lose games. And that is the way this team is playing. If they are going to reverse their fortunes, they are going to have to play more like Predator teams of the past: sound defense and capitalizing on the other team's mistakes. Right now, the opponents are making the Predators pay for their errors.

Get Out the Stapler

Better yet, don't staple Sergei Kostitsyn to the bench. His play has been so atrocious of late that he should be relegated to the press box to watch. His play on the second Oilers goal is inexplicable and inexcusable. A lack of offensive presence and a too casual attitude are killing the Predators.

Better Jump, No Finish

I can't fault the Predators for their effort in general. They had good chances, but once again, could not finish on those chances. Until they bury some pucks, their offense is all sound and fury, but signifies nothing.

Better Hope Rinne Is Mentally Tough...

because this team in front of him is making him look bad.

Final Thoughts

It is now desperation time for the Predators. Their string is short if they are going to make the playoffs, and they are going to have to start putting together a lengthy winning streak.

Right now, I don't see that.

This team is not playing with confidence. Their breakdowns are resulting in goals. Their scorers are not scoring consistently.

Not a great combination of factors.

Now it boils down to those in the room. The have to reach down inside and get their mojo back. It will not come from the coaches. It will come from those guys that put on the sweater each night.

This will be a test of character and heart.

Time to find out what you got, boys.

My three stars:

1. Devan Dubnyk

2. Jordan Eberle

3. Roman Josi

A Look at the Predators: Playoff Contenders or Pretenders

The Nashville Predators are currently 11-11-6 and sit outside the playoffs with 28 points. They have limped through their last 10 games, going 3-6-1, and more troubling, are last in the NHL in scoring.

Predator faithful are questioning if this is a playoff team.

It is a legitimate question.

There is no simple answer to that question, but we can bring some clarity by examining the various components of this team.

So let's take a look at this version of the Predators.

Goaltending

Pekka Rinne has been the workhorse for the Predators, starting 25 of the 28 games the Predators have played. Rinne has a 2.20 GAA and a save percentage of .916. He has faced 632 shots, an average of 25 shots per game. Rinne leads the NHL with 5 shutouts. Last season, Rinne had a 2.39 GAA and a .923 save percentage.

Looking at Rinne's numbers, one would conclude they are not bad. A marginal drop off in save percentage, but an improvement in GAA.

Rinne has been pulled in two consecutive games, and in seven in total this season.

There have been times that Rinne has been mortal, but for the most, his play has been solid. What has plagued Rinne has been the defense in front of him on occasion (more on that in a moment), as there have been numerous times that he has been hung out to dry by the skaters in front of him. And at times, his frustration has boiled over. Witness his slamming of the stick on the post in the first Dallas game as Scott Hannan was beaten badly by a Stars forward in the slot, leaving Rinne no chance to make the save.

One has to wonder how Rinne's frustration level is at this point of the season.

With the Predators anemic offense, both Rinne and Chris Mason have to be nearly perfect for the Predators to have a chance to win each night.

Chris Mason has appeared in 7 games, having started 3. He has a pedestrian 3.10 GAA and an .881 save percentage.

When Mason was signed, it was hoped that he would provide quality goaltending in the backup role. At best, he has been average.

Compared to last season, goaltending is comparable.

Defense

The obvious challenge for the Predators was to replace Ryan Suter. Roman Josi has been that player that has manned the other side of the blue line with Shea Weber. Josi is not Ryan Suter- yet. But the fall off between Josi and Suter has not been as dramatic as many feared. Josi has a great shot, skates well, and is poised and calm with the puck. Through 28 games, Josi is a plus 3 and has 3 goals and 6 assists. Extrapolate that to an 82 game season and you get 9 goals, 18 assists, and a plus 9. In Suter's last season, he had 7 goals, 39 assists, and was a plus 15.

I think those numbers for Josi will only improve.

In 2012, Shea Weber had 19 goals, 30 assists, and was a plus 21. So far in 2013, Weber has 4 goals, 11 assists, and is a plus 4. Over an 82 game season, this would translate to 12 goals, 32 assists, and a plus 12. The decline is understandable as Weber is getting used to a new defense partner and is being denied his cannon shot on the power play.

Kevin Klein has been quietly solid, with 1 goal, 5 assists, and a plus one. Klein is steady and is rarely noticed, which is a good thing as it means he is efficiently doing his job.

Once you get past these three, it gets interesting on the Predators blue line.

Hal Gill, who was expected to eat up big minutes, has been injured for a large portion of the season.

Ryan Ellis is...an adventure. Offensively gifted, he is proving to be a defensive liability. The coaches do a good job of trying to keep him away from the top forwards of the other teams, but Ellis is still a minus 4. While Ellis can provide some offense, he is regularly out muscled by bigger forwards, thus relegating him to more of a specialists role.

Jonathan Blum has gotten stronger, but is still on the smallish side, which is an obvious disadvantage against bigger forwards. Blum has five points (1G-4A) in 15 games, but has been relegated to a perma scratch over the last five games.

The reason for that is the emergence of Victor Bartley. Bartley was called up from Milwaukee and has been in the lineup for the past 5 games. Bartley has no points and is a plus 1, but he has good size, skates well, and makes good decisions with the puck. I don't see Bartley coming out of the lineup the way he is playing.

The blueliner that is having an absolutely miserable season is Scott Hannan. Hannan started well, playing some quality minutes and was generally solid. It seems as if Hannan has now run out of gas. He is a team worst minus 11 and is struggling with defensive coverage. He is routinely beaten in the defensive zone, and has quickly turned into a liability.

With the absence of Hal Gill, the defense has struggled once you get past Josi, Weber, and Klein. I think Bartley will settle in and be a positive contributor, but there is a huge hole in the third pairing, typically Hannan and Ellis. The play of that third pairing continues to trouble the Predators and does not look to improve any time soon.

The defense is weaker than last season.

Forwards

Being last in the NHL in scoring is indicative of how this group has struggled.


And struggle they have.

At times, some of our top forwards have been invisible. And for a team that desperately needs offense, this is unacceptable.

And beyond explanation.

Here are some numbers:

Marty Erat               2012: 71 GP 19G-39A 58 points    2013 27 GP 3G-10A 13 points  (9G-30A in 82)

Sergei Kostitsyn       2012: 75 GP 17G-26A 43 points    2013 27 GP 2G- 9A  11 points  (6G-27A in 82)

David Legwand        2012: 78 GP 19G-34A 53 points    2013 28 GP 6G- 7A  13 points (18G-20A in 82)

Mike Fisher              2012: 72 GP 24G-27A 51 points    2013 28 GP 6G-6A   12 points (18G-18A in 82)

Colin Wilson             2012: 68 GP 15G-20A 35 points    2013 25 GP 7G-12A  19 points (23G-39A in 82)

Gabriel Bourque       2012: 43 GP  7G-12A 19 points     2013 26 GP 9G-  2A   11 points (28G- 6A in 82)

I have taken the production of these forwards for the games played in 2013 and projected it to an 82 game season and compared it to the previous season. What you notice is significant drops in production from Erat, Kostitsyn, and Fisher. Legwand projects to be about the same in goals but significantly drops in assists. For a second line center that has to set up his wingers, this will affect their production. Wilson has stepped up his game, but is currently injured. Bourque shows a significant increase in goal production. The Predators have had Patric Hornqvist in the lineup for only 14 games this season, and his production is sorely missed.

Additionally, The Predators enjoyed good secondary scoring from players like Matt Halischuk and Nick Spaling in 2012. Halischuk had 15 goals and 13 assists in 73 games last year. This season, he has struggled to stay on the roster and produce, having  appeared in 19 games with 1 goal and 4 assists. Spaling appeared in 77 games last season with 10 goals and 12 assists. In 2013, Spals has appeared in 27 games and has 5 goals and 3 assists.

The slump in offensive production has plagued the Predators all season. Unless the production from the forwards improves significantly, the playoffs may not happen.

The forwards are substantially worse than last season.

Coaching

Barry Trotz continues as the coach that has been able to squeeze the most out of his talent, but this season, that talent has not produced. I like the way Trotz and the staff have coached this team, but if there is a criticism, it is sticking with non-producing players for too long. He scratched Kostitsyn in the last game, but is not quick to sit down other players that are not getting it done. Perhaps it is time to sit some of the other forwards that are not playing up to their talent level.

Coaching has remained steady from last season.

General Manager

David Poile has put this team together and these are his draft picks and trades. Is Poile "married" to these players- loath to trade some of them for other options because they are his players? I would submit that this is the case and that he is waiting, perhaps for too long, for some of these players to validate his decisions to sign them, and to sign some to long term, high dollar extensions.

Time for David Poile to make some tough decisions.


As you can see, the Predators are struggling because of the offense slump by key cogs on the team. If the play doesn't improve substantially, or if these players continue in the lineup, the Predator faithful may be looking wistfully at the the playoffs.

Friday, March 15, 2013

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Depending on who is speaking, you will hear that the Social Security Trust Fund (SSTF), the fund that is used to pay social security tax benefits and disability payments, is either broke or has plenty of money and is solvent. The factual answer to that question is critical not only to those receiving benefits and those yet to receive benefits from the fund, but also to the overall financial picture of the country. Most Democrats will say that there is no problem with the SSTF and that it is solvent. Taking a look at the fund, we find that the it holds U.S. Treasury bills and notes and these investments are used to support current and future payments. But what are Treasury bills and notes? They are obligations of... the U.S. government. In effect, the government has placed a bunch of I.O.U's written by...the government into the fund to pay future obligations. Now think about this for a moment: this is no different than you or I writing ourselves an I.O.U. for $20 and then saying we have a "new" $20 to spend. This is critical to understand. We have a massive financial obligation in the form of social security and its current future payments to you and me as beneficiaries. The money that was actually in the SSTF is gone, looted by previous administrations. And Republicans and Democrats are equally at fault in this matter. Bill Clinton raided the SSTF during his administration to the tune of $565 billion; George Bush subsequently tapped the SSTF for a total of $1.5 trillion during his eight years in office. All those real dollars were replaced with I.O.U's in the form of U.S. Treasuries. See the problem? Until we are honest about the real condition of the SSTF, we are just living in a fantasy land about the true financial condition of the fund and the financial condition of this country.

I wish I could get a firm grip on reality so I could get my hands around its throat.

The sequester of federal dollars is now firmly in place, and it is no secret that the Obama administration is trying to make it as painful as possible to score political points. The debate centers on cutting federal spending and beginning to move toward a balanced budget. Democrats want to raise taxes (again) while Republicans want to cut spending. Those on the Left say that spending is not a problem and there is no room to cut significantly to help get the budget in balance. Oh real;y? Here are just a few of the line item expenditures that are currently in the budget: the federal government current owns 55,000 buildings that are vacant or mostly empty. The annual maintenance cost of those building sis $1.7 billion. The U.S. government owns 30% of all acreage in the U.S. This includes our national parks but also an abundance of raw land. The federal government owns 80% of the land in Nevada and Alaska and more than 50% of Idaho. And it wants $2.3 billion to buy more land. Homeland Security has $9 billion in unspent funds in its reserves, yet is cutting TSA agents at airports, making air travel even more painful than it should be. The National Science Foundation just released a $350,000 grant to Purdue University to study how to improve your golf game (Really?). The U.S government just spent $3 million for research on video games; gave $2.6 million to China to teach prostitutes in that country to drink responsibly; $500 million was released for a study to determine why 5 year olds cant "sit still" in kindergarten; and the list of stupidity goes on and on. It is time that all of us get engaged and demand that our elected leaders in Washington get serious about controlling spending.

I would lose weight, but I hate losing.

We all know about the law of unintended consequences: do one thing and there is often an unintended consequence of that action. Obamacare is full of unintended consequences, and here is one that will affect pet owners. Obamacare has a 2-3% federal excise tax on certain medical devices to help fund this boondoggle. The tax is assessed on items such as I.V. pumps, scalpels and anesthesia equipment. So how does this apply to pet owners? Medical equipment used on pets is not taxed under Obamacare, but these items I mentioned and others are considered "dual use" items- medical equipment that can be used on pets and humans. So they are subject to the excise tax. And you know what is going to happen to pet owners that have to take their pet in for a medical procedure. Their cost is going up as veterinarians pass along their higher cost for these devices. So now Rover and Fluffy are helping to subsidize Obamacare. Unintended consequences indeed.

I don't have bad handwriting. I just have my own font.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Mistakes Sink the Predators Against the Canucks

The Nashville Predators continued a critical five game road trip in Vancouver to face the Canucks. The Predators were looking to build on the momentum of a win in Dallas in the first game of this swing, and the task was going to be difficult as Rogers Arena has not been a hospitable place for the Predators.

The Predators had Pekka Rinne in net, while the Canucks went with Roberto Luongo.

The game was a wild affair, with the Predators making numerous mistakes and those aforementioned mistakes wound up in the back of the predators net.

Yet the Predators, facing a monumental deficit going into the third period continued to battle back before eventually falling to the Canucks by a 7-4 margin.

While that sounds like the Canucks ran away with the game, the Predators scrambled back in the third period to draw within a a one goal margin at 5-4. The Canucks stretched the margin to 6-4 on a penalty shot by Henrik Sedin and the final score was an empty net goal by David Booth.

Some observations:

Rinne...Wasn't Rinne

After pitching a shutout in his previous game, Rinne gave up 4 goals on 12 shots. I don't fault Rinne on all of the goals he allowed, but he wasn't as sharp as he usually is. The Predators have to have near perfection from Rinne to win, and tonight, he did not have his best game. Rinne was pulled early in the second period in favor of Chris Mason.

The Young Pups Were The Leaders

Matt Halischuk had a goal and an assist; Nick Spaling had a goal; and Gabriel Bourque tallied his team leading 8th goal, which was a beauty. The young guys brought a 60 minute effort and stepped up their game when the Predators were in danger of being run out of the barn. It bodes well for the Predators that the youngsters are producing and contributing solid minutes. Maybe some of the veterans can take a cue from the play of these young players.

Mike Fisher Is Quietly Playing Some Solid Hockey

Fisher had a goal and has been leading with hustle and physical play. After a slow start to his season, Fisher has been consistent and solid. Again, there are some players on the roster that should follow his example.

Can Marty Erat Find His Game?

Let's face it- Marty is having a miserable season. He has been a passenger for most of the season and has contributed nothing to this team. Marty has too much talent to be this unproductive, but the sad fact remains that the team needs Marty and he is nowhere to be found. If the Predators are going to have success in the regular season, much less the playoffs, Marty is going to have to contribute. The question is how much longer can the coaching staff continue to allow Marty to have big minutes without any production?

How Long Before...

we see Austin Watson or Taylor Beck make an appearance? They are having stellar campaigns in Milwaukee and appear ready to make the jump to the big club. With players such as Erat, David Legwand, and Sergei Kostitsyn not contributing, the Predators may be ready to give these guys a shot at producing on the NHL level.

Final Thoughts

This game looked like it was going to get even uglier than it was going into the third period. Kudos to team for showing some heart and battling back. Like any fan, I don't like the loss, but there are positives on which to build. There was fight and grit in this team, and they kept pressing and scrapping to get back into the game. At 5-4, this was anyones game. By not folding their tent, the Predators showed that they can battle back against bleak odds.

Build on that, boys.

You will need to draw on that positive in upcoming games.

My three stars:

1.Jannik Hansen

2. Andrew Ebbett

3. Matt Halischuk

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Predators Fight to 4-0 Win Over the Stars

The Nashville Predators embarked on a critical five game road trip, making their first stop in Dallas to take on the Stars.

These two teams met earlier in Nashville, with the Predators taking a 5-4 overtime decision in a spirited contest. This one had the makings of another feisty contest, and the teams did not disappoint.

The Predators had Pekka Rinne in net, while the Stars went with Kari Lehtonen.

The Predators had a solid effort in a 4-0 win.

I missed the second period while at my son's hockey game, but I saw enough of the game to offer these observations:

Predators Find Some Grit

Dallas made a commitment to be physical, to the point of gooning up the game in the third period. The Predators responded with grit and physical play of their own, but it was physical play that was in control. The Predators drew penalties and responded with physical play of their own.

I like the response of the team, especially in the third period that saw an old fashioned line brawl. When the Stars get down, they try to use their size and physicality to back down their opponent. Tonight, the Predators did not back down. That is the kind of response that the Predators have to have, as the remaining games will bring out the desperation of every team.

Rinne Was...Rinne

Peks recorded his league leading 5th shutout and was outstanding in net. He made some big saves, especially in the third when the Predators were under siege by a desperate Dallas squad. When Rinne is moving well and tracking the puck like he did tonight, he is nearly unbeatable. And this frustrates the other team, as we saw late in the game by the Stars cheap shots and goon tactics.

Penalty Kill Comes Up Big

The PK was a perfect 4 for 4, and came up with two big kills early in the third period when Dallas was pressing to get back into the game. The Predators are going to need the PK to be stronger than it has been in previous games, and this was a good way to get their mojo back. They need to build on this effort.

Clune Continues To Impress

Rich Clune had another strong game and even scored on a penalty shot. Clune plays a gritty game, but has emerged as a player that is smart with the puck and creates some offense. His style of play gets under the skin of the opponents as evidenced by drawing a game misconduct penalty against the Stars  Jamie Oleksiak late in the game. Clune chose not to engage Oleksiak and watched him sent to the showers while he stayed on the ice. That was a heady play.

Welcome Back Matt

Matt Halischuk set up the Predators first goal with a nifty steal of the puck at the Stars blue line, setting up Nick Spaling for the Predators first goal of the contest. Halischuk had been sent down to Milwaukee but was recalled after two games because of injuries. Halischuk needs to continue to produce, and the Predators need him playing solid hockey.

That Darn Injury Bug...

struck again as the Predators lost Paul Gaustad to an upper body injury. The extent of the injury is unknown, but with Patrick Hornqvist and Colin Wilson injured, the Predators can ill afford to lose more players for an extended period of time.

Stop Me if You Have Heard This before

Once again, Marty Erat and Sergei Kostitsyn played a game and recorded no shots on goal. C'mon guys.. we need scoring, and you are not going to score if you never shoot the puck.

Final Thoughts

A solid win by the Predators that was characterized by gritty play, solid goaltending, and scoring by committee. And it is good to see the committee begin to score again. Shots on net with traffic in front is a winning combination for the Predators. Now, if we can just get some of our forwards untracked and shooting the puck...

This is the kind of win the Predators needed to start the road trip. But this is one game in a critical five game swing. It is imperative that the Predators bring this kind of effort in the remaining road games. I beleive the Predators are going to need to capture at least 6 of the 10 possible points on this trip.

This was a good start.

Now build on it.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Craig Smith

3. Rich Clune

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Predators Lose Wilson and Game to the Wild

The Nashville Predators and the Minnesota Wild met at the Bridgestone Arena, and the game was another typical Predators/Wild contest.

It was like watching paint dry.

Once again, the Wild claimed a 2-1 shootout victory over the Predators.

Pekka Rinne and Niklas Backstrom dueled in net, with each giving up a goal in regulation. Rinne gave up goals in the shootout to Mikko Koivu and Matt Cullen, while Craig Smith had the only tally for the Predators.

Zach Parise scored on the power play in regulation for the Wild, tipping a puck over the glove of Rinne. The Predators returned the favor on the man advantage as David Legwand scored over the glove of Backstrom.

Some observations:

The Injury Bug Bites. Hard

The Predators were already without the services of Patric Hornqvist, who had been injured in the game against Edmonton the previous night. The Predators lost Colin Wilson in the second period as he was hit and fell awkwardly into the end boards. He went in hard and hit his head and shoulder. He was taken to the locker room and did not return. The extent of his injury is not known at this time.

Karma is a Bitch

Public enemy number 1, Lyin' Ryan Suter, assisted on the Wild's only goal in regulation. His shot from the blue line on the power play was tipped by his partner in bromance, Zach Parise, to give the Wild the first score of the game. Later, Suter was called for roughing and David Legwand scored with Suter in the box.

Poetic justice.

Bobby Butler also had his own encounter with karma. In his first game with the Predators, Butler forced the Oilers into taking three penalties and the Predators scored on two of their power play opportunities. Tonight, it was Butler in the box  for hooking that led to the score for the Wild.

Ouch.

No Video Tribute for You

Players that have been on the Predators roster that return for the first time typically get a tribute video. The Predators game ops had one cued up for Suter. Kudos to them for their good judgment in not playing it. The sellout crowd booed Suter lustily every time he was on the ice, and a tribute video would not have been well received.

At Least They are Shooting

Every forward except Bobby Butler, Nick Spaling, and Colin Wilson (in limited time) recorded at least one shot on net. This is a marked improvement from previous games. Now all we have to do is...

Gotta Finish

The Wild do a good job of playing their system and limiting chances. Tonight was no different. Yet the Predators out shot the Wild 24-23 in regulation and had some good chances. Backstrom was strong and many of the shots were from the perimeter. Backstrom did give up rebounds, but the Wild did a good job of cleaning up those opportunities. The Predators have to get more traffic to the net and get a scorers touch from some of their forwards. Fighting for rebounds and getting secondary scoring chances would have gone a long way to changing the outcome.

Someone Give Him a Hug

Lyin' Ryan Suter said after the game his feelings were hurt by the reception he received from the Predator faithful. Probably should have thought about that one, Ryan, before you lied about your intentions and screwed over the franchise last year. Sorry, but we don't take too kindly to people that don't keep their word.

Oh yeah, get used to it.

Final Thoughts

The Predators are now 10-9-6 with 26 points and although they are tied with 8th place Los Angeles, they have played two more games and currently sit in 11th place in the West.

The Predators are going to have to improve their effort and start getting wins. The remaining 23 games of the regular season are going to amount to an extended Stanley Cup playoff, and it is imperative that the Predators start getting as many points as possible.

That means they are going to have to continue to shoot the puck and get traffic to the net. Key injuries are starting to affect the team, and all that means is that others on the roster are going to have to step up.

No passengers, boys.

My three stars:

1. Niklas Backstrom

2. Matt Cullen

3. Pekka Rinne

Friday, March 8, 2013

Predators Find Their Offense in 6-0 Drubbing of the Oilers

Desperately trying to end a three game skid and a goal scoring drought, the Nashville Predators got just what they needed to get healthy against a struggling Edmonton Oilers team at the Bridgestone Arena.

The Predators suddenly found their scoring touch in a 6-0 win before their 24th straight sellout crowd.

Pekka Rinne was in net for the Predators, and recorded his 4th shutout of the season.

Colin Wilson led the way for the Predators offense with two goals and two assists.

Some observations:

The Killer B's

The Predators added forwards Bobby Butler and Zach Boychuk as waiver acquisitions and called up defenseman Victor Bartley from Milwaukee. All three had positive contributions to the win tonight.

Butler showed good jump and a willingness to god to the hard areas. His nose for the puck and ability to move his feet resulted in drawing three penalties against the Oilers. The Predators capitalized on two of the subsequent power plays.

Boychuk has incredible speed and offensive skills. The Predators just may be what he needs to get his game together and stick on an NHL roster. Boychuk made some slick passes, was strong on the puck, and re-directed a Shea Weber blast past Yann Danis for his first goal as a Predator.

I was very impressed with Bartley. He kept his game simple, made good passes on the breakout, and was solid in the defensive zone. Paired with Kevin Klein, he looked comfortable and did a good job of communicating with his partner on the blue line. Bartley even jumped in on several occasions in the offensive zone, and played with a great deal of poise.

The Push

Maybe it was the presence of the new players on the roster. Maybe it was the fact that there could now be some competition for ice time. Whatever the reason, the Predators played like the Predators tonight. They pushed the puck up the ice, played with jump, and looked for shots rather than passes. The Predators out shot the Oilers 34-24 and had a decided edge in offensive zone time.

This is the way the Predators have to play. Not fancy hockey. Simple hockey. Predator hockey. This is their formula to win games, and recently, the Predators had gotten away from that type of hockey. They will need to continue to play like they did tonight to keep winning.

The Wall

Rinne recorded his 4th shut out of the season, and although he was not seriously challenged, he did have to come up with a couple of big saves on Ryan Jones. Jones, a former Predator, had a shorthanded breakaway in the first period and another breakaway chance in the second period. Rinne stoned Jones on both attempts to keep the Oilers off the board and not allow the visitors to get some momentum.

Rinne is an excellent goalie, but has not had much help in front of him in recent games. Tonight, he was solid in net, making some timely saves, and the guys in front of him were much better. This is the combination that the Predators have to bring to the ice each game to win.

Wilson Wows

Colin Wilson played like many have believed he can play. Wilson went strong to the net for his first goal and his second goal was a rocket from the face off circle. Wilson dished out two assists and was strong on the puck and created offense. This is the kind of play the Predators need each game for the talented winger.

Clune Continues To Impress

Rich Clune isn't the most talented player on the Predators roster, but he plays with heart and effort every night. Clune got a goal by going to the hard area in front of the net, sliding home a rebound between the pads of Danis. He also went skate to skate with Oilers heavyweight Mike Brown in a first period fight. Clune skates hard and plays harder, something some of the other players on the roster should note.

Blind Hog

David Legwand scored on a fluke goal late in the first period, flipping the puck from the red line and skipping it past Dubnyk. This was Legwand's first goal since February 16th, and frankly, the Predators need much more from him.

I guess this goal proves the old adage that blind hogs do find acorns.

Hornqvist Hurt

Patric Hornqvist had a Patric Hornqvist goal to open the scoring by tipping a puck past Devan Dubnyk from in front of the net. That was the good. The bad was seeing Hornqvist crunched into the boards  in the second period by Theo Peckham on a questionable hit and leaving the ice with what looked to be a badly injured shoulder. Hornqvist went straight to the locker room and did not return to the game.

This was a game that the Predators had to have. Nashville now has 25 points at the halfway mark of the season. I believe that it will take 55 points to get into the playoffs.

If that is the case, the Predators can ill afford any more losing streaks and will have to elevate their play to get into the playoffs.

This game reinforced to the Predators what they have to do to win. Get pucks to the net, play with heart, and keep it simple.

This is the formula upon which this team has to build in the second half of the season.

It starts tomorrow night.

My three stars:

1. Colin Wilson

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Shea Weber

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Well, the sequester has occurred and the nation didn't implode, even though our Tax and Spender in Chief had hoped that it would. Life has gone on without so much as a bump in the road. Unless you want to tour the White House. In a fit of pique, Obama cancelled all White House tours because supposedly there weren't funds to allow the people's house to be open to the people. The fact is that the total annual cost of White House tours is less than 1 hour of operation for Air Force One. Here is a thought, Mr. President: how about laying off a couple of the White House chefs, or the guy that is paid to do nothing but walk your dog, or most of the staff of White House calligraphers? The waste, mismanagement, and out-right fraud that occurs with our tax dollars that go to the federal government is beyond appalling. One other little snippet about the sequester: Obama wants to make it as painful as possible so that he can get what he wants out of Congress. It is interesting to me that life for most Americans went on as usual even though the federal government was forced to trim $85 billion out of its budget. That should point out to all of us that the bloated and rapacious federal government can be safely scaled back. And life will go on. As usual.

My wife and I laugh at how competitive we are. But I laugh more.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed to a new high this week, and there were huzzahs and high fives from the investing public. So why doesn't it feel so good to see the stock market at this level? To answer that question, let's take a look back at 2007 when the Dow hit its then all time high of 14,164.50 and see how it compares to today.

Average price of gas then:            $2.75                      Now: $3.73

Americans unemployed then:        6.7 million                Now: 13.2 million

Americans on food stamps then    26.9 million              Now: 47.69 million

U.S debt then:                             $9.008 trillion           Now: $16.43 trillion

U.S. deficit then:                          $97 billion                Now: $975.6 billion

GDP growth then:                        2.5%                        Now: 1.6%

Notice the trend? We have spent more, created more debt, slowed the growth of the economy, and put more Americans out of work and onto government assistance. And we continue on the same path. What is that definition of insanity...?                                 

I have a female friend that became a vegetarian, and boy, did she really change. It's like I had never seen herbivore.

One of the fallacies of economic thinking in government circles is that individuals and companies do not respond to tax policy and rates. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office still uses "static" scoring for their projections, which simply means that the CBO does not take into account the effect of higher or lower rates on behavior. We all know that in real life, there are a number of variables that affect our decisions, and taxes can and often do have an impact on our financial decisions. California is a wonderful real life, real time laboratory to see exactly how this works. California has a staggering amount of regulations and taxes on individuals and businesses. Labor, energy, and housing costs are some of the highest in the nation because of the amount of zoning restrictions, business regulations, and taxes. All to make this state "fair" and promote a progressive view of how the world should be. So how is that working out? Here are a few examples: in September, Campbell Soup announced they were closing a 65 year old facility and moving 700 jobs from Sacramento to North Carolina, Texas, and Ohio; Chevron moved 800 jobs from Los Angeles to Houston; Comcast moved 1,000 jobs out of a call center  because "the high cost of doing business there" had made it financial unprofitable; PayPal, Yelp, and Maxwell Technologies have all moved to Phoenix; and the list goes on. States like Texas, Tennessee, and Florida, all of which have no state income tax, have been the beneficiaries of California's misguided tax and spend policies. Much like the Okies that fled to California during the Great Depression in search of opportunity and a better way of life, many Californians are fleeing the state in a reverse migration, searching for a better way of life and economic freedom that has disappeared in their state.

Right now, my apathy is at an all time whatever.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Predators Shop the Bargain Basement, Bring in Help

The Nashville Predators made some acquisitions of players on waivers, claiming Bobby Butler from the New Jersey Devils and Zach Boychuk from the Pittsburgh Penguins. The moves give the Predators some depth at the forward position and hopefully will help jump start their anemic offense.

Additionally, the Predators have recalled defenseman Victor Bartley from Milwaukee.

Butler is a 6', 180 pound right wing that has appeared in 108 NHL games with Ottawa and New Jersey. He was signed by the Senators in 2010 and has been an AHL All Star and well as part of a Calder Cup winning team with Binghamton.

Boychuk was the 14th overall pick in the 2008 entry draft by the Carolina Hurricanes and has appeared in 80 NHL games. Boychuk is a 5' 10", 185 pound left wing and has played in Juniors with Matt Halischuk and Ryan Ellis.

Bartley is a 6' 204 pound 24 year old defenseman that has 26 points in 54 games for the Predators AHL affiliate in Milwaukee.

With Hal Gill injured and Brandon Yip placed on injured reserve, as well as Matt Halischuk sent to Milwaukee on a conditioning assignment, these additions give the Predators some NHL ready depth.

Perhaps more telling is the statement by Head Coach Barry Trotz that some players were getting "too comfortable" and these additions were going to push some players.

That comment is troubling.

There is no secret that some of the veteran forwards that were expected to carry the load have not produced. Marty Erat, Sergei Kostitsyn, and David Legwand have been non-factors this season. Colin Wilson has disappeared of late. Craig Smith started slow, although his game is picking up.

It is no secret that the effort and production of these players is sorely lacking and the team has suffered. The troubling aspect of this is that the coaching staff feels the need to bring in additional players to push veterans and perhaps even to reduce their ice time. Veterans are supposed to lead by their play and their effort.

That has not been happening.

And if it takes bringing in some waiver acquisitions to spur the veterans to an elevated level of play, then this is a necessary move by the coaching staff.

Now it remains to be seen if the staff has the courage to bench some of these veterans if their productivity doesn't improve.

Let's hope they do.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Kings Pummel the Pitiful Predators

The Nashville Predators were looking to salvage their three game West coast swing with a win against the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center. The Predators had dropped their first two games of this important road trip and had looked awful in the process.

The task before the Predators was simple: get the puck on net and get find their scoring touch. As simple as that sounded, it was a monumental challenge for this offensively impaired squad.

Pekka Rinne was in net for the Predators, while the Kings had Jonathan Bernier between the pipes.

The first period was scoreless, with the Predators outshooting the Kings 5-3. The Predators defensive effort was solid as they did not allow a shot on net by the Kings until there was 4:30 remaining in the period. Offensively, the Predators created a few chances but did not generate a consistent offensive push.

The Kings opened the scoring on the power play at 5:28 of the second period as Jeff Carter shoveled a puck toward the net that hit Rinne's pad and skittered through the five hole for a 1-0 lead. The man advantage was set up because of a high sticking penalty on Craig Smith.

That was the only tally of the second period. The Predators out shot the Kings 8-3 for a two period total of 13-6, but had shown no ability to solve Bernier. The Predators would have 50 seconds of carryover power play time to begin the third period.

Jeff Carter got his second goal of the night as the Kings broke in 2 on 2 against the Predators. David Legwand was late in covering Jeff Carter, who got loose in the low slot and beat Rinne, who had no chance on the shot at 4:39 of the third period.

Just 19 seconds later, Carter stole the puck from Roman Josi and broke in alone and beat Rinne to make it 3-0.

The way the Predators offense had sputtered, the Kings lead was probably safe at 1-0. With a 3-0 advantage, the lead would be insurmountable.

The Kings made it 4-0 on the power play as Mike Richards blasted a one timer from the face off circle past Rinne at 7:40.

In a game the Predators desperately needed, they folded their tent, pissed on the fire, and called the dogs home in the third period.

Absolutely awful play by the Predators.

The Kings made it 5-0 at 10:54 as Dwight King beat Gabriel Bourque down the slot and ripped a shot past Rinne.

That was all for Rinne, as he had been hung out to dry by his teammates. Chris Mason entered the game to face the onslaught of the Kings.

Gabriel Bouque ruined Bernier's shutout as he whipped a shot from the slot that went just under the crossbar to make it 5-1 at 13:05.

Fortunately for the Predators, the Kings did not embarrass them further and, mercifully, the clock ran out on this debacle.

Some observations:

  • In general, this team has of late shown no fire and no push back. This is very disturbing. If this team has lost heart and fails to play with character and the grit they have typically shown, this season will get awfully ugly. This team lacks the talent to win on talent alone. They win with heart. Without that, this team is going to get pummeled.

  • It is a sadly repetitive refrain, but once again, the usual suspects were invisible offensively. Legwand, Colin Wilson, and Sergei Kostitsyn had zero shots. Mike Fisher had 1. This is totally unacceptable. When the coaching staff is preaching- no, pleading, for the guys to shoot the puck and your "leaders" and top line players are not doing that, there is a serious problem. It is time for Trotz to begin to take away ice time if these guys are just going to float.

  • I make no secret of my disdain for David Legwand. He is an offensive liability. Tonight, he was a defensive liability, especially at a critical point in the game. For what he is getting paid, I expect more from him. Lots more.

  • Pekka Rinne has to be frustrated. He knows that if the other team scores, the Predators are in trouble. He is having to be perfect every night for the Predators to have a chance. The first goal tonight was on him, as he just misplayed the puck. The next four he was hung out to dry by the players in front of him. Pekka is a great goalie, but no goalie can be perfect in every outing, and his is getting no help from the team in front of him.

  • The truth is that the Predators are not a playoff team. Hell, they are not a very good team as they are constructed. It is past time for General Manager David Poile to look at this roster and tear it apart and rebuild the team.
The Predators have slipped out of the playoff race. The question is will they have the character and the desire to get back into it?

Or, how far will they fall?

My three stars:

1. Jeff Carter

2. Jonathan Bernier

3. Gabriel Bourque

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

Friday, March 1, 2013

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon....

The political theater that is going on in Washington regarding sequestration borders on the absurd. President Obama, who has chosen to play politics rather than lead, has decried the $85 billion in cuts that he put in place if a budget isn't completed, and has threatened cutting essential services and making the sequestration as painful on the American people as possible. If you had to cut your family budget, as many of us have had to do, where would you start? Would you start starving your children? Refuse to pay for their medical care? Yet keep going to the movies or eating out? Common sense says that a family would cut on the fringes or the extras, not the essentials. Yet the "leadership" in Washington has decided that essentials should be cut rather than frills. Obama has said that teachers, firefighters, and emergency responders will be cut. Friends, this is pure politics. $85 billion out the federal budget is the proverbial spit in the ocean when it comes to trimming the gargantuan federal spending and waste that occurs every year, and represents just 2.4% of the total. We all know that there is enormous waste and fat in the federal budget, and to make these threats in an attempt to raise taxes and all the while damaging the economy for political ends is a horrible disservice to the American people.

My wife said the spark had gone out of our marriage, so I tasered her. I will see what she thinks after she wakes up.

Economists tell us that the economy is recovering, but it doesn't feel that way for many of us. The job recovery from the latest recession is the weakest since World War II, but the recovery in wages is even worse. Wages are still lower than they were when the recession began in 2007, and this lower wage level has far eclipsed the previous longest downturn that began in 2001 and ended 2 1/2 years later. In past recessions, wages began to recover as companies paid workers more due to growth in their business. Eventually, wage growth led to more hiring as business improved. Today, real unemployment is running around 14%, and many workers feel fortunate to have a job. These conditions have limited the growth of wages, which in turn continues to limit the growth of the economy. As the economy has struggled to emerge from the recession, the type of jobs that are being added are mostly lower wage jobs, which contributes to this problem. Compared to the recovery from the 2001 recession, there are 3.5 million fewer construction and manufacturing jobs today, jobs that typically pay a higher wage. The National Employment Law Project estimates that of the 1.7 million new jobs added over the past two years, 43% have been in low or minimum wage categories. With the administration foisting the high cost of Obamacare on employers and seeking to further increase taxes, this dire situation doesn't look to improve any time soon.

I wish my caller ID would provide more detail. Not just who is calling, but information such as "wants help moving" or "calling to complain".

Want empirical proof that higher taxes hurt the economy and taxpayers? Wal-Mart has called their February sales results "disastrous" and has placed the blame squarely on the 2% payroll tax hike. We get to watch in real time what happens when people have less money to spend and how it affects the economy. Democrats in Congress insisted that payroll taxes had to go up to pump more money into Social Security and were willing to sacrifice the economy to protect their sacred cow. It is an idiotic position, because taxes alone will not make Social Security solvent. Social Security is a program that was designed 75 years ago and has not been substantially modified since its inception. The assumptions on which the program were established in the 1930's are no longer valid today. Life expectancies are longer; the ratio of workers to beneficiaries has fallen by 70% and is going to get worse; and if the program is not modified, payroll taxes are going to have to increase dramatically. As the Wal-Mart results demonstrate, further increases in taxes will cripple the economy and especially will hurt lower wage workers the most. If it is our desire to keep Social Security intact, serious reforms are going to have to occur. Taxes alone will not save the program.

My motto is "Never say never", which makes it difficult to tell people my motto.

And that, my friends, is my view.