Thursday, March 6, 2014

Predators Feeling Blue: Drop 4th Straight to St. Louis

Remember when the Nashville Predators used to have their way with the St. Louis Blues?

Go back several seasons and a game against the Blues was almost a guaranteed win for the Predators.

Over that span of time, the Blues have drafted well and developed their offensive talent, and that talent has developed into one of the elite teams in the NHL.

By contrast, the Predators have devolved into a bunch of grinders that give a good effort but have a woeful lack of skill.

That yawning gap in talent was on display at the Bridgestone Arena as the Blues beat the Predators for the 4th straight time by a score of 2-1. that score belies the fact that the blues were the clearly dominant team and controlled play for much of the game.

Ian Cole opened the scoring at 4:03 of the first period as he fired a shot off a face off win through traffic that beat a screened Pekka Rinne to give the Blues a 1-0 lead.

The Predators answered at 10:28 of the first as Patric Hornqvist threw a shot to the front of the net from the goal line that was re-directed by Nick Spaling over the shoulder of Ryan Miller to tie the game at 1.

That was it for the Predators as they rarely challenged Miller.

The blues scored the game winner as Magnus Paarjarvi took a pass from roman Polak and skated past Ryan Ellis and beat Rinne to the far side post at 15:27 of the second period.

The Predators could rarely muster any offense and struggled just getting the puck through the neutral zone and establishing any offensive flow.

This was an ugly loss as it clearly exposed the talent gap between the Predators and a team that was consistently below them in the standings just a few years ago.

The troubling aspect of this game is that it clearly shows that this talent gap will not quickly or easily be closed by the Predators.

Some observations:

  • The Predators have now lost 6 of their last 7 games. This team is not bound for the playoffs, and the lack of talent is going to haunt this team and their fans for several years.

  • Patric Hornqvists assist was his 100th of his career.

  • The Predators do not have a forward that can cosnsitently carry the puck into the offensive zone against a talented defense. The Predators had to almost exclusively resort to a dump and chase game, and they lost most of those puck battles all night.

  • Puck support by the Predators was awful. Often, when the Predators got the puck in the zone, the Blues out numbered the puck carrier and forced turnovers. The Predators had 10 giveaways to 4 by the Blues.

  • How ineffective were the Predators forwards? The Predators had 21 shots on goal, and 13 of those came from defensemen.

  • Newly acquired Patrick Eaves was in the lineup, playing on the fourth line with Paul Gaustad and Rich Clune. Eaves had 6:59 of ice time and was a -1 for the night.

  • This was the Predators first game without David Legwand. Those that know me or read this blog know that he has not been a favorite of mine. My problem with Legwand was simply that I believe that he did not play with heart and was grossly overpaid for what he brought to the ice. That is simply my opinion, and I don't expect all of you (any of you) to agree with me. It is telling to me that the management of the team could not answer the question of whether or not the Predators would be a better team without Legwand. And there is the enigma: Legwand was a talented player that never played to his potential or his talent level. Time will tell if this team is better or not without him. I think his absence will not affect this team adversely.

  • Rinne was called upon to make some  huge saves once again to keep an opponent off the board. He also stopped Alex Steen on a penalty shot.

  • The woeful Predators offense has scored just one goal in each of their last three games.

  • I do not like the defensive pairing of Michael Del Zotto and Ryan Ellis. You have two puck moving defensemen that do not play a physical game. The larger and more physical forwards of the Blues pushed around Ellis in particular all night. I thought the pairing of MDZ and Seth Jones that had been used in previous games was a more effective tandem.

With the playoffs out of the picture, the Predators now have to focus on improving their game and building for next season. It is encouraging to see that this group is still competing.

It would be even more encouraging to see this team begin to produce consistent scoring.

My three stars:

1. Magnus Paarjarvi

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Ian Cole

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