Friday, October 31, 2014

Predators Fizzle In Loss to the Flames

A Halloween matchup between the Nashville Predators and the Calgary Flames saw the Saddledome turn into a house of horrors for the Predators as they blew a one goal lead going into the third period and dropped a 4-3 decision.

The game featured two hot goaltenders as Pekka Rinne dueled with Jonas Hiller. Rinne entered the game with a 1.71 GAA and a .936 save percentage; Hiller boasts a 1.63 GAA and a .943 save percentage.

After a scoreless first period that saw both teams get some quality scoring chances, the Flames would tally first on the power play as Sean Monohan got loose in front of the net and banged home a rbound that Rinne could not control. Monohan beat Shea Weber to the front of the net and had an easy tap in to give the Flames a 1-0 lead at 4:23 of the second.

The Predators answered at 5:30 of the second period as Craig Smith worked himself open at the side of the net and fired a wrist shot past Hiller to tie the game at 1.

Mike Ribeiro won a face off in the offensive zone back to James Neal, who whipped a wrist shot through traffic that beat Hiller at 11:09 of the second period. Neal got the shot off quickly and Hiller had no time to react as he couldn't pick up the puck through the tangle of bodies in front of him.

The Flames tied the game at 2:36  of the third period as Rinne was under assault and made two saves but gave up a rebound that Jiri Hudler tapped into the open net. Hudler got lost in all the scramble around the net and was all alone for the easy score.

With Mattias Ekholm in the box for tripping, T.J. Brodie tried to pass the puck across the slot, but the puck caromed off the glove of Shea Weber and past Rinne to give the Flames a 3-2 lead at 4:23 of the third.

The wheels were wobbly, but they came off when Johnny Gaudreau scored high glove on the short side to make it 4-2 at 6:37.

Three goals in 4 minutes.


The Predators cut the lead to 4-3 on a James Neal power play goal at 10:47.

That would be all the scoring for the Predators and a game they should have won slipped into the loss column.

Some observations:

  • A very weak goaltender interference call against Colin Wilson led to the Flames first power play, which they capitalized upon. So far in this young season, the officiating in the NHL has been inconsistent at best.

  • The Predators generated some quality scoring chances, and it looked like Hiller was going to put on one of those performances that would thwart the Predators all night. Fortunately, Craig Smith broke Hiller's spell with his third goal in the last two games. good answer just 60 seconds after the Flames had scored and looked to be seizing momentum. it is good to see the Honey Badger starting to heat up.

  • I really like the way Seth Jones has been playing. he has been quietly solid on the blue line and has shown very good offensive instincts. Jones looks stronger physically and is playing with confidence, all of which bode well for his game and for the team.

  • Johnny Gaudreau- "Johnny Hockey" - is a special player. Speed, hockey sense, and a wicked shot. He absolutely undressed Anton Volchenkov with a sick one on one move and forced Rinne to make a great save.
  • James Neal gas a nose for the net and a scorer's mentality. Oh yes, it helps that he can snipe the puck. Refreshing to see, and I think Neal's presence in the line up has helped the other forwards as everyone is firing the puck. I years past, the Predators would frustratingly pass up shots. Not now. And yes, I know part of that is the change in coaching philosophy, but also part of it is the example of a scorer like Neal.

  • The Predators got back on their heels and the Flames took it to them in the third period. Yes, the Predators got some bad breaks, but the Flames jumped on them and took control of the game. That is disheartening, but what I do like is that the Predators fought back and didn't fold.

  • That said, these are the games this team has to win. The Flames have been beset by injuries and have been inconsistent in their play. The Predators need to jump on a team in this situation and get the two points.

  • Giving up three third period goals is just... awful. Gotta have the mentality of locking down an opponent, and more importantly, going out there and doing it. Neither happened tonight.

  • Calgary blocked 36 shots. Wow.

  • The Predators did not kill a penalty tonight, giving up two power play goals in two attempts. The Preds were 1-1 on the power play. Special teams are definitely going to have to improve, and quickly, for this team to have continued success.
This was a game that the Predators gave away. And frankly, they do not have the luxury of doing that in the ultra competitive Central Division.

My three stars:

1. James Neal

2. Jonas Hiller

3. Johnny Gaudreau

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