Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Predators Refuse to Lose, Defeat the Blues 3-2


That was the Nashville Predators in their contest at the Bridgestone Arena against the St. Louis Blues in front of a raucous standing room only crowd.

The Predators overcame a talented and feisty Blues team and a blown goal call that negated a Predators score to defeat the Blues 3-2 and maintain their lead over their Central Division rival.

Shea Weber had two goals, including the game winner while the Predators were shorthanded. Gabriel Bourque had a stellar game, picking up a goal and an assist. Bourque scored just 5 seconds after a goal by Filip Forsberg was ruled no goal.

Olli Jokinen had his first multi point game as a Predator, picking up two assists.

Both teams played the night before, with the Predators game going to a shootout while the Blues won in regulation. Yet it was the Blues that looked like the more tired team as the Predators dominated stretches of play and out shot the Blues 47-28.

Weber gave the Predators a 1-0 lead with a wrist shot that beat Blues netminder Brian Elliot over the glove at 18:05 of the first period.

The Blues tied the game as Chris Butler beat Pekka Rinne through traffic and off the leg of Weber 50 seconds into the second period.

The Blues made it 2-1 on a 3 on 1 down low, passing the puck around until T. J. Oshie was able to bury a shot past Rinne, who had no chance on the shot.

The Predators looked to have tied the game as a Filip Forsberg shot tumbled over the pads of Elliot and just across the goal line. It was ruled no goal on the ice, and after a lengthy review, the War Room in Toronto ruled there was inconclusive evidence that the puck had crossed the goal line.

Guess they didn't have that angle to look at when they were making their review.

Gabriel Bourque tied the game at at 16:06 of the second period as he kicked the puck from his skate to his stick at the top of the crease and beat Elliott with a low shot to the stick side.

Weber got the game winning goal with the Predators on the penalty kill. Roman Josi started a 2 on 1 and slid a pass to Weber, who rifled a shot over the shoulder of Elliott at 9:02 of the third period.

The Predators were able to hold off the Blues for the remainder of the period, including 1:40 with Elliott pulled for the extra attacker for the critical 3-2 win.

Some observations:

  • Can't say enough good things about Gabriel Bourque and his play of late. He has made the most of his time settling into the fourth line. He has played with jump and has been a demon on the forecheck. Tonight, he created several turnovers off the forecheck. He absolutely abused Jay Bouwmeester on his goal, driving through the Blues defender and straight to the net for his score. I like his energy, his hustle, and his compete level, and it was good to see him rewarded for his efforts by getting on the score sheet tonight.
  • When was the last time you saw two defensemen on a 2 on 1 rush? On the penalty kill? I have mentioned roman Josi's skating ability before, and his speed and ability to handle the puck set up the game winner. But how about Shea Weber jumping into the rush from in front of his own net and flying down the ice? I have said that I think Weber is skating better this season than he has in any of his professional seasons and it showed tonight. 
  • Weber's shorthanded goal was the first shorthanded goal the Blues have allowed this season.
  • Speaking of Weber, his shot placement on his two goals was perfect. Under the crossbar for his first and wired over the blocker and shoulder of Elliott for his second.
  • Weber's shorthanded goal was the first shorty for the Predators this season.
  • Balanced scoring has been the hallmark of this team this season. The fourth line of Bourque, Jokinen, and Paul Gaustad combined for 5 points (1G-4A) and were a +7 tonight.
  • The Predators are 14-2-1 on home ice this season. Protecting home ice is critical and the Predators have done a great job of doing that. And kudos to the home crowd for bringing it once again tonight. The noise and support for the team are noticed by not only the Predators but by their opponents as well.
  • Anton Volchenkov returned to the line up after missing five game dues to an injury. Matt Cullen was scratched due to an upper body injury.
  • Brian Elliott returned to action for the Blues after missing 14 games due to an injury.
  • The Predators kept their foot on the gas all game, and despite the great work in net by Elliott, they just kept firing shots on goal. They had 12, 18, and 17 shots in each period. They were relentless in getting the puck on net and creating chances.
  • By contrast, they held the Blues to 28 total shots: 8; 8; and 12 for each period.
  • 36 games into the season and the Predators have not lost back to back games.
  • The Predators are 24-9-3, good for 51 points. They are 1 point behind the Blackhawks, who were idle tonight, and 4 points in front of the Blues.
This was a great bounce back after the disappointing loss the night before. And it was against a good St. Louis squad that is challenging the Predators for second place in the Central.

This was a total team effort, the kind the Predators are going to need as they prepare for a grueling stretch in the month of January.

My three stars:

1. Shea Weber

2. Gabriel Bourque

3. Olli Jokinen

Monday, December 29, 2014

Predators Give Away a Point, Fall in SO to the Blackhawks

The Nashville Predators traveled to Chicago to face the Blackhawks in their last regular season meeting. The game would also determine first place in the Central Division where the Blackhawks currently lead the Predators by two points. The Predators are 1-1-1 against the Hawks in their previous matchups.

Pekka Rinne was in net for the Predators while the Hawks had Corey Crawford between the pipes.

The Predators jumped on the Hawks in the first period, outshooting them 18-12 and carrying the play for much of the period.

Roman Josi staked the Predators to a 1-0 lead at 11:50 with a blast from the face off circle just after the Predators had killed of a Blackhawks penalty.

Colin Wilson battled in front of the net and got a shot from close in that Crawford could not control. Craig Smith followed Wilson's shot a put a wrister inside the post to make it 2-0 at 17:12.

James Neal made it 3-0 off a pass from Wilson that bounced off his leg and past Crawford at 7:28 of the second period. Neal drove to the net and created traffic in front of Crawford and put himself in perfect position to deflect the shot from Wilson.

The Hawks cut the lead to 3-1 as Brad Richards scored just after the Predators had killed off a penalty at 10:33.

The Blackhawks pulled to within 1 at 15:38 as the puck was slid in under Rinne by Andrew Shaw in a scramble around the goal crease.

The Predators saw their lead evaporate as Marian Hossa tied the game on the power play at 17:43. Hossa wired a shot over the shoulder of Rinne into the top corner.

Just as the Predators had jumped on the Hawks in the first period, the Hawks responded with the significant push back of their own. The Predators were dominated after their third goal, registering just one shot on goal in 11 minutes of the second period.

James Neal scored on the power play with just under a minute to play in the second period as Filip Forsberg took a shot that was kicked out by Crawford and on to the stick of Neal, who buried the puck into the open net at 19:04 of the second.

A good response by the Predators, but one that should not have been necessary.

Chicago tied the game with 1:13 left in the game as a shot through traffic could not be controlled by Rinne and Brian Bickell slammed home the rebound.

In the overtime, both teams had some chances and Rinne in particular had to come up with some big saves. Neither team could find the back of the net and the game would be decided in a shootout.

In the shootout, Jonathan Toews tallied the only goal and the Blackhawks won the game 5-4.

Some observations:

  • Colin Wilson continues his strong play. I have spoken about his speed and puck handling, but the Predators second goal was a result of Wilson going to the hard area in front of the net and battling to get the shot off. Wilson has shown that he is not afraid to battle in front of the net, and that is a dimension that the Predators need.
  •  Roman Josi is just smooth. He is a solid defender that has great speed, deft puck handling skills, and a deceptively good shot. When he carries the puck and joins the rush, it's like having another highly skilled forward on the ice.
  • James Neal elevates his game against elite competition. He has 5 goals in 4 games against the Blackhawks this season. I really like the chemistry that is developing between Neal and Wilson.
  • Up 3-0 and seemingly in control of this game, the Predators got back on their heels and let the Blackhawks take the play to them for the bulk of the second period. This type of play- going into a shell and letting the opponent dictate the play- is not the way you can play against an elite team like the Hawks. When the Predators are attacking and playing their game, they are the equal of any team in the League. When they sit back as they did for a majority of the second, they can get blown out of the barn.
  • The Hawks have a very potent power play. The Predators did a good job on the penalty kill tonight, killing 4 of 5 Hawks power plays in regulation.
  • Rinne gave up some goals with a lot of traffic in front of him. I can't fault him for those goals as the Hawks had a lot of traffic and a lot of whacks at the puck from in close. The defense has to do a better job of clearing the front of the net and helping him out. That said, Hossa did beat Rinne cleanly with a blast on the power play.
The Predators gave away a point tonight. this was a game that they should have locked down and put away but didn't.

Learn from it.

My three stars:

1. James Neal

2. Colin Wilson

3. Jonathan Toews

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Power Play Propels Predators Past Philly 4-1

Yes, you read that headline right.

After struggling on the power play all year, especially on home ice, the Predators used three power play goals and an empty netter to defeat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 at the Bridgestone Arena.

Filip Forsberg opened the scoring on the power play, skating off the wall and sniping a shot over the pad of flyers goalie Ray Emery at 9:41 of the first period.

The Flyers tied the game at 1 at 6:50 of the second period as the Predators turned the puck over and the Flyers had a 2 on 1 break. Claude Giroux snapped a shot over the glove of Pekka Rinne.

The Predators had 1:15 of 5 on 3 in the second period, and Mike Fisher was able to tap a puck past Emery in a scramble in front of the crease. The play was set up by a shot from Forsberg that Emery could not control, and Fisher did a good job of fighting for the puck.

With the Predators still on the man advantage, Colin Wilson skated the puck off the half wall and snapped a perfectly placed shot over the shoulder of Emery and inside the far post to make it 3-1.

Wilson sealed the win with an empty net goal at 16:42 of the third period. Wilson was able to steal the puck at center ice and used his speed to separate from a Flyers defenseman to bury the puck in the open net.

Some observations:

  • The Predators have not lost back to back games this season.
  • This is just the second time this season that the Predators have won on home ice by more than one goal. The only other time was a 4-1 win over Dallas in the season opener.
  • Colin Wilson has really been playing well and tonight set a career high by scoring a goal in three straight games. His power play goal was a beauty, a perfectly placed shot that sailed over the shoulder of Emery inside the far post. Wilson is using his speed and puck handling ability to create scoring chances and more importantly is playing with confidence. His play has been integral to the Predators success this season.
  • Shea Weber had an assist and set a career high with an assist in five straight games.
  • The Predators were much better in the face off circle tonight, winning 57% of their draws. This obviously was beneficial to their puck possession numbers.
  • The Predators penalty kill came up big tonight, killing all three of the Flyers power plays including 58 seconds of a 5 on 3 to open the second period.
  • The power play finally showed some life, going 3 for 4. Mike Fisher did a good job of screening in front of the goal and the puck movement was better. Hopefully this gives this unit more confidence in the games ahead. Until this game, the Predators had only scored two power play goals on home ice all season.
  • Forsberg's 14th goal of the season ties him with Craig Smith for third for goals scored by a Predators rookie. He is just 4 points behind Alexander Radulov for most points by a Predators rookie. Forsberg continues to impress with his hockey sense and his nose for the net.
  • The tandem of Shea Weber and Roman Josi is quickly developing into an elite defensive pairing. They are complimentary players that play to each others strengths. Tonight, they did a superb job of shutting down the top line of the Flyers and contributing in the offensive end with 3 points (Weber 1A; Josi 2A). Think the Flyers wish they had Weber?
  • Pekka Rinne had a solid outing, stopping 26 of 27 shots and making some quality saves to keep the Flyers off the board.
  • The Predators out shot the Flyers 38-27, including a 17-9 advantage in the second period that was aided by the Flyers penalties.
A solid win after the Christmas break for the Predators and it is encouraging to see this team focused and continuing to play at a high level.

They will need to continue to do so as the schedule is going to get a lot tougher in the coming 4 weeks with 4 sets of back to backs.

My three stars:

1. Filip Forsberg

2. Colin Wilson

3. Pekka Rinne

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas day is almost here, and for many, the anticipation is building. Children eagerly await the delivery of presents on Christmas morning, while many families look forward to visits with loved ones. Christmas is both joyful and hectic as we try to make memories with loved ones, find the perfect gift, and get everything just right.

The Christmas story calls us to remember that a perfect gift was delivered to mankind. Yet that perfect gift, though highly anticipated by a people longing for a king, was not easily recognized or appreciated. And he was delivered in less than ideal circumstances.

Born to a scared and perplexed couple, he came into the world alone and among the farm animals in a manger. This heavenly gift was birthed homeless and in squalor, wrapped in rags, and laid in a feed trough. And he was born with a price on his head.

That is the paradox of Christmas.

That first Christmas was messy, certainly didn't meet expectations, and happened in less than ideal circumstances.

The Light of the world, the Hope of mankind was not the gift of the king his people desired. He was a helpless baby. The Almighty had put on flesh and had become one of us, but not as a liberating warrior king. God had become man.

Instead, this perfect gift was totally dependent on the care of others. He got cold; he was hungry; he cried; and he felt what we feel.

As we celebrate Christmas, recall that the perfect gift has been given to us. We have a gift of hope, of light that has pierced the darkness, and of love.

May the joy and peace of this Christmas season be yours throughout the coming year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Bruins Stop the Predators Win Streak With a 5-3 Victory

The Nashville Predators traveled to TD Garden to take on the Boston Bruins in their final meeting of the year. The Predators captured a 3-2 shootout win in their first meeting in Nashville.

Pekka Rinne got a rest and Carter Hutton got his fourth start of the season for the Predators, while the Bruins had Tuukka Rask in net. Hutton was looking for his first win of the season.

The Predators came into the contest having gone 7-3 in their last 10 games and winning three straight. The Bruins are 3-5-2 in their last ten games.

The Predators were looking for a fast start to take the home crowd out of the game.

They didn't get it

Brad Marchand roofed a shot from the slot over the shoulder of Hutton to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead at 2:01 of the first period.

But this is the Predators and they answered back at 7:35 of the first as Colin Wilson took a pass from James Neal and put a backhand top shelf to tie the game at 1.

David Krejci blew a puck past Hutton from the face off circle on the power play to make it 2-1 at 9:35 of the first period.

Calle Jarnkrok stole the puck from Gregory Campbell at the Bruins blue line and whipped a puck through the legs of Dennis Seidenberg and past Rask to tie the game at 2 at 11:31 of the first.

A back and forth first period that saw both teams play to a draw degenerated into a second period controlled by the Bruins

The Bruins took a 3-2 lead at 5:52 of the second as Loui Eriksson took a pass and was all alone at the side of the net and roofed a shot over Hutton, who had no chance on the play.

Brad Marchand scored his second goal off a pass that was deflected across the slot and he had a wide open net into which to shoot the puck. His goal came at 10:51 of the second period.

The third period opened with the Predators on the power play, and as usual, they di nothing with the man advantage.

The Predators did not help their cause as the power play ended and James Neal took a penalty for slashing and an extra two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The Predators did a good job on the penalty kill and were able to snuff out the Bruins scoring chances and managed two shorthanded shots on goal.

The Predators got to within one goal as Taylor Beck beat Rask over the shoulder at 6:48 of the third period.

That was all the Predators could muster and Loui Eriksson sealed the win with an empty net goal with 33 seconds remaining for a 5-3 win.

Some observations:

  • Craig Smith remained on the top line with Mike Ribeiro and Filip Forsberg. Smith has shown a lot of jump in his game while on that line and has tallied three goals in two contests on the top line.
  • Goodness, I like the play of Colin Wilson this season. he is playing smart hockey and taking the puck to the net. he is using his physical skills to create scoring chances and more importantly, he is finishing those chances this season. He just looks more confident on the ice and is playing his best hockey since he has been in the League.
  • Mattias Ekholm assisted on the first two Predator goals and has been playing some solid hockey of late. His defensive game is sound and he has shown some offensive flair. He has settled in with Ryan Ellis to form a solid second D pairing.
  • The Predators offense did not have a lot of jump. Just 10 shots on goal through two periods, and the Bruins did a great job of forechecking and disrupting their offensive flow. I know they played the night before and may have been a bit leg weary, but the Predators are going to have several back to backs after the Christmas break and they are going to have to play through that fatigue.
  • I like Carter Hutton, but he just doesn't look confident in net. His play all night was scrambly, and he was almost caught out of position a couple of times. I know he didn't have a chance on two of the Bruins goals, but he has to make some stops when the team needs them. The fact is that Hutton is going to have to get some wins for this team.
  • James Neal lost control in the third period. Not only did he take a selfish unsportsmanlike conduct penalty but he also got tagged with a 10 minute misconduct that effectively eliminated his services in the third period. He cannot commit those kinds of out of control plays and be a leader that this team needs. Neal had 14 of the 18 penalty minutes the Predators collected in the game.
  • The Bruins have a good young defenseman in Dougie Hamilton. I really like the way he plays the game. He is smart and physical and will be a fixture on the blue line for the Bruins for a long time.
  • Taylor Beck and Calle Jarnkrok continue to play some solid hockey. They are both strong on the puck and play full tilt when they are on the ice. It's fun to watch these young players grow in their roles.
  • The Predators power play is just horrid. That unit looks disorganized and just doesn't have any flow once they get in the zone. I know that I continually harp on this, but it is apparent that this unit has not come close to developing any chemistry, and that is going to be a problem for this team.
  • As flat as the Predators were in the first two periods and especially in the second, they were dominant in the third. They controlled the puck for long stretches in the offensive zone and created some great scoring chances with their speed and puck possession. Unfortunately, they waited until the third period to begin playing this way.
  • The Predators were a woeful 24 of 64 in the faceoff circle.
The Predators certainly didn't have their best game, but they did show some fight, especially in the third period.

Now they get some much needed time off for the holidays.

Time to get back to their winning ways on Saturday against the Flyers.

My three stars:

1. Brad Marchand

2.Patrice Bergeron

3. Calle Jarnkrok

Monday, December 22, 2014

Predators Blast the Blue Jackets 5-1

The Nashville Predators traveled to Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets, one of the hottest teams in the NHL at the moment. The Jackets entered the contest 8-0-1 for the month of December, while the Predators have been solid at 6-2 for the month.

Pekka Rinne was in net for the Predators and Sergei Bobrovsky was between the pipes for the Jackets.

The first period was scoreless only because of some good fortune for the Predators. The net came off the moorings as Rinne pushed off the post just as Nick Foligno slid the puck into the net. After review, the goal was disallowed.


The first legitimate goal of the game came at 7:47 of the second period as Victor Bartley sprung Colin Wilson with a long lead pass. Wilson beat Bobrovsky short side to make it 1-0.

The Predators made it 2-0 at 9:25 as Mike Ribeiro corralled a pass from Shea Weber at the Jackets blue line and started a 2 on 1 rush with Craig Smith. Ribeiro faked the shot and passed to Smith who buried the puck in the open net.

The Predators made it 3-0 on Seth Jones first goal of the season. Jones drove the puck in on net and slid it between the pads of Bobrovsky at 6:31 of the third period.

The Predators extended the lead to 4-0 just 44 seconds later as Filip Forsberg worked hard in the corner to control the puck. He was able to do so and found Craig Smith alone in the face off circle. Smith blasted a puck past Bobrovsky for his second goal of the night.

That was it for Bobrovsky as Curtis McElhinney came into the game for the Jackets.

The first shot that McElhinney faced found the back of the net as Mike Fisher blew a shot over his shoulder off a 2 on 1 rush at 8:43 of the third.

Rinne lost his shutout as Alex Wennberg scored for the Jackets on the power play at 15:38 of the third.

That was it for the scoring as the Predators closed out a dominant game by a 5-1 score.

Some observations:

  • James Neal returned to the line up and dropped down to a line with Calle Jarnkrok and Taylor Beck. Craig Smith remained on the top line with Filip Forsberg and Mike Ribeiro.
  • Victor Bartley had a strong game and has stepped into the line up in the absence of Anton Volchenkov. He was sound in the defensive zone and drove the net when the opportunity presented itself in the offensive zone. This quite a luxury for the Predators to have a 7th defenseman that can step into the line up and play a solid game.
  • Colin Wilson has been playing exceptionally well. His puck possession ability has helped the Predators control games and his speed and puck handling ability have created some quality scoring chances. Good to see him rewarded tonight with the goal.
  • Mike Ribeiro is such a smart player. His fake shot allowed Smith to deposit an easy goal in the second period. That experience and hockey savvy has been an underrated part of his game and has undoubtedly been beneficial to some of the younger forwards on the roster.
  • Goodness, I like the killer instinct of this team. Rather than sitting back and trying to protect a 2 goal lead in the third, the Predators kept attacking and were rewarded in the third period. Quite a change from years past.
  • The last Blue Jacket regulation loss was against the Predators on November 29th.
  • This was the last of the two meetings this season between the former division rivals.
  • As solid as this game was, the power play continues to be worrisome. They did not register a shot on two of their power play opportunities and were 0-4 tonight.
The Predators played a complete game. They were much better defensively and were dynamic in the offensive zone, capitalizing on their scoring chances. They took on a red hot Jackets team and easily defeated them with a solid game in all zones.

A final game against the Boston Bruins awaits before the Christmas break.

My three stars:

1. Craig Smith

2. Colin Wilson

3. Pekka Rinne

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Predators Overcome Phantom Goal, Defeat Wild In OT 6-5

After three days off, the Nashville Predators were back in action, traveling to Minnesota for their first meeting of the season with the Wild. The Predators are currently third in the Central Division with 42 points, while Minnesota is 5th with 34 points.

The Predators would be missing James Neal off the top line as he did not make the trip due to illness. Craig Smith moved to the top line line to replace Neal.

The Predators have won 4 of their last 5 contests. The Wild have dropped 4 of their past 6 games.

Pekka Rinne manned the crease for the Predators, while the Wild had Darcy Kuemper between the pipes.

The Wild got off to the start they wanted as Jason Zucker cruised unmolested down the slotand lifted a shot over the shoulder of Rinne to make it 1-0 just 1:10 into the contest. Zucker took a nice pass from Jason Pominville and beat Ryan Ellis right down the middle of the slot for the easy score.

Calle Jarnkrok answered for the Predators with his third goal of the year as he forced a turnover and drove the net. He faked kuemper to ice ice danced around him to deposit the puck into the empty net at 4:37 of the first period.

The Wild took a 2-1 lead at 6:37 as Rinne made a save off a Charlie Coyle shot but the puck went off the skate of Zach Parise and past Rinne.

The Predators tied the game at 13:58 as Victor Bartley threw the puck from behind the goal line and Matt Cullen deflected it short side over the shoulder of Kuemper. Bartley had joined the rush and although he lost the puck had the presence of mind to spot Cullen and flip it back toward the net.

The Predators took their first lead of the game as Craig Smith controlled a face off won by Mike Ribeiro and lifted a backhand shot that hit Kuemper in the shoulder and fluttered into the net at 18:14.

What a Wild (pardon the pun) first period. The Predators out shot the Wild 14-6.

The second period opened with the Wild making a change in net as they brought in Niklas Backstrom.

The Wild tied the game on a power goal, but review showed the puck never crossed the goal line. A further replay seemed to show Derek Roy fishing the puck out from under Rinne when it was across the goal line. The goal was awarded to Marco Scandella.

That would be the only scoring in a bizarre second period. The Predators needed to get their mojo back and take the game in the third period.

That mojo came in the form of Filip Forsberg as he drove into the zone, fired a shot wide and gathered his own rebound and banged the puck into the net for a 4-3 Predator lead at 1:48 of the third period.

The Predators made it a 2 goal lead on the power play (A POWER PLAY GOAL!!) as Roman Josi blasted a shot from the blue line over the shoulder of Backstrom at 9:05 of the third period.

That two goal lead was short lived as Zach Parise redirected a shot on the power play to make it 5-4 at 10:46 of the third period.

The Wild tied the game with the extra attacker on the ice and just 48 seconds remaining. thomas Vanek knocked home a rebound of a Rinne save to tie it a 5.

In the overtime, Mattias Ekholm worked from behind the net to a soft spot in front of the net and fired a wrist shot over the shoulder of Backstrom for the game winner.

Some observations:

  • Taylor Beck returned to the line up after missing 4 games with a concussion.
  • Paul Gaustad was placed on injured reserve with a lower body injury. Viktor Stalberg has been added to the roster but was not active tonight.
  • Victor Bartley was in the line up due to Anton Volchenkov being scratched. Although not as physical as Volchenkov, he plays a solid game and was responsible for the primary assist on the Predators second goal.
  • The Predators were guilty of allowing the Wild to drive the slot too many times in the first period. Leaky defense cost them the two goals that they gave up. That leaky defense cost them a regulation win as well as the Predators left too many Wild forwards alone in front of the net throughout the game.
  • The bounce back ability of this team continues to impress. Giving up the first goal or falling behind doesn't seem to faze this team as they just keep pushing back in the face of adversity. This is a remarkable turnaround from last season, and while it points to a different mindset, I also believe it points to the confidence these players have in their talent and in one another.
  • Mike Fisher was called for a double minor for hooking, a call I have never seen before. The explanation was that he committed two different penalties so both were called. Again, a call I have never seen before.
  • The Wild's third goal was specious at best. Called no goal on the ice, there was no video evidence that the puck crossed the goal line, just an inference that it had. This may sound like sour grapes, but if the League wants to keep any credibility that it has, it must do a better job on these kind of calls. This one was a total cluster.
  • Filip Forsberg continues his strong play. His 13th goal of the season was a heady play, essentially passing the puck to himself before banging it into the open net. He shows no signs of slowing down and continues his torrid play.
  • Olli Jokinen played in his 1200th game tonight.
  • Scary moment in the second period as Mike Ribeiro was plowed into the boards by Eric haula. No call on the play, and Ribeiro retreated to the locker room for a brief period but returned to the game.
  • Mattias Ekholm showed great patience in scoring the game winner, finding a soft spot a placing the shot in high for the game winner. One of the noticeable differences in the Predators game this season is how active the defense is in the offensive zone, and Ekholm's game winner was the result of his play down low in the offensive zone.
  • One could look at the score and say Rinne didn't have a great game. Undoubtedly, it was not his best game, but he didn't get a lot of help in front of the net as the Wild had, for the most, a free reign in front of the net.
The Predators showed some character in winning this game. They kept coming back, overcame adversity and horrible officiating, and just would not quit.

That is the mark of a team that can do great things.

My three stars:

1. Mattias Ekholm

2. Zach Parise

3.Craig Smith

My View

Christmas is a season of great expectations.Children get excited about what presents will await them on Christmas morning. Families get prepared -and stressed- over the expectations of the holidays; having the house decorated  just right; the perfect Christmas dinner; and the arrival of relatives.

Sometimes, our expectations exceed reality. We get disappointed when this happens and fail to see the good, the blessings that surround us.

In ancient times, the nation of the Jews had great expectations as well. they longed for a king that would lead them. More specifically, they wanted a warrior king that would help them throw off the oppression of their Roman occupiers and lead them to prominence and greatness.

Contrary to the expectations, a king did come, but not in power, grandeur, and as a warrior.There was no coronation as a king in the worldly sense.

Instead, the new king came in simplicity and in less than kingly circumstances.

Born in a manger among the farm animals not to royalty but to common parents, the king came as a vulnerable, weak, dependent child with a price on his head.

Certainly not what the Jews nor the world had expected.

Yet this child was the hope of the world. Immanuel- God with us.

Expectations not met, but hope fulfilled.

This is the message of the Christmas season. Expectations are often unmet. Disappointment results. Yet if we look past our expectations and the expectations that the world foists upon us, we see that there is hope. There is light in the darkness. There is a joy that surpasses human expectations and circumstances.

This Christmas season, wait expectantly, not for the perfect present or experience, but for the Perfect Present.

God with us.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Predators Stop the Bruins In a Shootout

The Nashville Predators returned to Bridgestone Arena for one game against the Boston Bruins before departing on the road until after Christmas. So playing in front of the home crowd, where the Predators have been almost unbeatable, and against a team in the Bruins that has struggled to score lately, this looked like a matchup that would favor the Predators.

Instead, the Predators found themselves in a battle with the Bruins before they won it in a shootut.

Regulation and overtime ended tied at 2. Derek Roy scored the only goal in overtime and Pekka Rinne stopped all three Boston shooters for a 3-2 win for the Predators.

After a scoreless first period that saw both teams register 9 shots, the Bruins opened the second period absolutely dominating the Predators. They had the first 8 shots on net and tallied the first goal of the game just after their power play expired. The Bruins were swarming the net and got 4 shots on goal before Milan Lucic was finally able to get a puck past Rinne to make it 1-0.

The Predators answered with just 30 seconds to go in the second. With Lucic in the box for hooking, Shea Weber let a shot go from the blue line that was tipped by Mike Fisher in front past Tuukka Rask to tie the game.

The Predators took a 2-1 lead early in the third as James Neal passed the puck off the end boards right to the stick of Mike Ribeiro. He fired a rocket over the shoulder of Rask for his 9th goal of the season.

That lead lasted just under 2 minutes as Reilly Smith drove around James Neal and was able to slide the puck past Rinne.

Both teams has some chances in the remainder of regulation but neither could find the back of the net.

In overtime, the Predators were a turnover machine and Rinne had to make some huge stops to keep the Bruins off the board.

Roy notched the only goal in the shootout to secure the 3-2 win and the valuable second point for the Predators.

Some observations:

  • If Pekka Rinne doesn't get serious consideration for the Vezina and the Hart, then the Pro Hockey Writers will have committed a criminal offense. Rinne has been outstanding so far this season and some of his saves have just been amazing. In overtime in particular he was outstanding, stopping the Bruins on a breakaway. He did a good job of tracking the puck through traffic and kept the Predators in the game while the offense was absent early in the second period. Rinne came into the game with a .937 save percentage and stopped 33 of 35 shots for a .943 save percentage in this game. 
  • Rinne has now stopped 14 straight shootout attempts.
  • The Predators power play goal tonight was their first power play goal on home ice since the home opener on October 9th. Yikes! This does point out, however, how strong the Predators have been at 5 on 5 scoring.
  • The Predators penalty kill stopped all three of the Bruins powers plays. The Bruins first goal came just 8 seconds after their power play had expired.
  • Remember how bad the Predators were in shootouts last season? They are 4-1 in the skills competition this season.
  • The resiliency and the strength of the Predators is reflected in how well they have played in the one goal games. With the win tonight, they are now 13-4-2 in contests decided by one goal.
  • Roman Josi led all Predators in TOI with 31:12. He has been playing at a very high level and against the best forwards of the opponent. He and Shea Weber have developed into one of the elite D tandems in the NHL.
  • Speaking of Weber, one aspect of his game that has really stood out to me is how well he is skating this season. He seems faster and has been more active jumping into the offensive rush and creating some scoring opportunities in the offensive zone.
  • David Poile has moved into second all time in the NHL for wins by a General manager. He now has 1,171, passing Harry Sinden.
  • The Predators opened the second period back on their heels and were atrocious. They did not register their first shot on goal until the 14 minute mark of the period. A time out by Head Coach Peter Laviolette jolted the Predators back to life.
  • Filip Forsberg picked up an assist for his 30th point of the year.
  • The Predators are now 20-8-2, good for 42 points, and the win tonight keeps the Predators on pace with the Blackhawks and Blues, who have 45 and 44 points respectively. The Predators have 2 games in hand on the Blackhawks and 1 game in hand on the Blues.
  • The Predators have not lost back to back games this season.
This was a hard fought, scrappy win by the Predators against a team that has lots of talent, the Bruins injuries notwithstanding.

More importantly, this keep the Predators right in the thick of a very competitive Central Division race.

They will have a chance to add to their win total on Thursday in their first meeting with the Minnesota Wild.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Mike Ribeiro

3. Tuukka Rask

Sunday, December 14, 2014

My View

Most of you know that I use this version of my blog to post something about economics or politics, and believe me, there is no shortage of material right now.

However, in this Advent season, I am going to turn my attention to writings that reflect the hope that we celebrate.

One of my favorite stories is from the late Paul Harvey, a master story teller and a keen observer of human nature.

Here is his story of the birds at Christmas.

The Man and the Birds
by Paul Harvey
The man to whom I’m going to introduce you was not a scrooge, he was a kind decent, mostly good man. Generous to his family, upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn’t believe all that incarnation stuff which the churches proclaim at Christmas Time. It just didn’t make sense and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn’t swallow the Jesus Story, about God coming to Earth as a man.

“I’m truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, “but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve.” He said he’d feel like a hypocrite. That he’d much rather just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. And so he stayed and they went to the midnight service.

Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound…Then another, and then another. Sort of a thump or a thud…At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. But when he went to the front door to investigate he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They’d been caught in the storm and, in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his large landscape window.

Well, he couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter, if he could direct the birds to it.

Quickly he put on a coat, galoshes, tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light, but the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in. So he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail to the yellow-lighted wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them…He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms…Instead, they scattered in every direction, except into the warm, lighted barn.

And then, he realized that they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me…That I am not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Because any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him.

If only I could be a bird,” he thought to himself, “and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to safe, warm…to the safe warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see, and hear and understand.”
At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind. And he stood there listening to the bells – Adeste Fidelis – listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas.

And he sank to his knees in the snow.

Predators Lackluster Effort Leads to Loss to the Sharks

The Nashville Predators traveled to San Jose to face the Sharks in the last game of a three game road trip. The Predators won the first two games of this road swing and were looking to build on that momentum against a Sharks team that always plays the Predators tough in their barn.

A total defensive breakdown by Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm allowed Tomas Hertl to be left alone in front of the net and he was able to get a puck past Rinne after the initial save to make it 1-0 Sharks at 5:01 of the first period.

The Sharks spent the remainder of the period dominating the Predators and controlling play. The Predators had no jump and were chasing the puck all period. if not for the play of Rinne, this game would have gotten out of hand early.

The Predators were going to need to regroup and come out with more energy in the second period.

The Predators effort was hampered when early in the second period Shea Weber delivered a booming check to Ty McGinn along the boards. Both players left the game and went to their respective locker rooms. Weber's absence left the Predators with 5 defensemen.

The Sharks continued to play with energy and jump while the Predators looked a step slow and back on their heels. Rinne's strong play was the only thing keeping the Predators close.

The Predators offense, much like the first period, was non-existent. they managed only 4 shots on net while the Sharks had 11. whatever offensive flow, magic or whatever that the Predators had displayed so far this season had completely disappeared in the first 40 minutes of this game. Without argument, this was the worst 40 minutes of hockey this team had played all season.

The Predators had a bit more jump in the third period and actually created a few good scoring chances. They continued to struggle connecting on their passes and the puck support in the offensive zone was weak, often short circuiting offensive possessions.

The Predators pulled Rinne with 1:46 remaining for the extra attacker and the Predators lost the face off and Joe Thornton promptly put it into the empty net for a 2-0 Sharks lead.

The game would end at that score. The way the Predators played tonight, they were not going to overcome a one goal lead, much less two.

Some observations:

  • The Predators looked out of sync and sluggish in the first period and were thoroughly outplayed by the Sharks. No offensive flow and on their heels in the defensive zone and the Sharks pounced on the Predators. Rinne was very busy in the first and had to make some good saves to keep the score from being worse than it was. The Sharks out shot the Predators 18-7 and had good pressure in the offensive zone while the Predators never mounted a challenge to Niemi.
  • The 18 shots were the most allowed in a period by the Predators this season.
  • Weber missed about half of the second period as he had to get his armed stitched after landing on McGinn's skate.
  • Paul Gaustad missed his second game in a row with a lower body injury.
  • All season long, the Predators defense has been more active in the offensive zone, and they did that again tonight. A pleasant change from years past.
  • Kudos to James Neal for being willing to drop the gloves when provoked. He handled himself well in his first fight of the year.
  • Too many cute passes on the power play and not enough meat and potatoes of getting the puck to the net and scrapping for rebounds. This has been a problem for the power play unit all season. The power play unit just plain makes it too easy for the opponents to defend.
  • Pekka Rinne was absolutely outstanding. He made some great saves and had lots of pucks coming at him. His save in the second period on Patrick Marleau was a thing of beauty. Without his solid netminding, this game would have been embarrassing for the Predators.
  • Once again, the Predators were not good in the face off dot. This is one of the areas of their play that is going to have to improve.
  • This was the second time this season that the Predators have been shut out.

This was just a weak effort by the Predators, and although they had a bit of push back in the third period, it was not nearly enough.

This game shows this team can't just step on the ice and expect to chalk upo a win. Bring a half-hearted effort and this will be the result.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Tomas Hertl

3. Joe Thornton

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Predators Use Fast Start, Strong Finish to Crush the Coyotes

The Nashville Predators traveled to Phoenix to take on a struggling Arizona Coyotes team. While the Coyotes have struggled so far this season, this was a team that the Predators could not take lightly. The Coyotes desperately needed a win and they would like nothing more than to secure one against the Predators who had beaten them in a shootout earlier this year in Nashville.

Pekka Rinne was in net for the Predators while Mike Smith was between the pipes for the Coyotes.

Antoine Vermette opened the scoring for the Coyotes on the power play at 4:11 of the first period. Vermette was alone in the high slot and beat Rinne, who was screened on the play.

Once again, the Predators found themselves in a hole to open the game. They would need to respond and get momentum back on their side.

They did just that in a big way.

Mike Fisher answered on a Predators power play as he redirected a pass from Shea Weber past Smith at 6:57.

What on earth is going on here!? We CAN score on the power play.

The Predators scored just as their second power play expired as James Neal was crashing the net and was able to redirect the rebound of a Mike Fisher shot past Smith at 11:06 of the first period.

The Predators made it 3-1 at 18:30 of the first period as James Neal drove into the zone and through the Coyotes defense. His drive to the net made Smith come out to respect the shot. Instead, Neal found Ryan Ellis alone at the side of the net. Neal slid a pass to Ellis, who tapped it into a wide open net.

Response delivered.

The second period was scoreless, but the Predators used their speed to create some scoring chances. On the defensive end, the Predators did a good job of disrupting the Coyotes offense.

Calle Jarnkrok made it 4-1 at 2:33 of the third period by battling in front of the net for a loose puck. Jarnkrok managed to get his stick on the puck and poke it past Smith in a maze of bodies around the crease.

Olli Jokinen made it 5-1 when a pass from Colin Wilson deflected off Jokinen's skate and between the pads of Smith at 7:20 of the third. This was Jokinen's second goal of the season.

That was it for the scoring and the Predators pocketed their second win on this three game road trip by the 5-1 margin.

Some observations:

  • Derek Roy returned to the line up after missing 4 games due to injury.
  • A power play goal!! Mike Fisher finally notched one for the Predators off assists from Shea Weber and Filip Forsberg. this was Fisher's first goal since returning to action.
  • I really like the hustle and effort of Colin Wilson. He was physical and flying all over the ice tonight. If there is an example of a player responding to a new voice in the room, it is Wilson.
  • Roman Josi is quietly emerging as an elite defenseman. He can be physical if necessary, but his real strengths are his puck handling and playmaking ability. He is a perfect compliment to his defense partner Shea Weber.
  • Calle Jarnkrok has also elevated his game recently. He has shown strength on the puck and a willingness to battle as was evidenced by his goal tonight. I think Jarnkrok has a lot of upside in his game and it is good to see him playing a strong game in all zones.
  • The Coyotes came into this game having lost their last 7 games on home ice. Facing a fragile team, the Predators did just what they needed to do- get pucks on net and make Smith scramble. The response after the Coyotes opened the scoring was perfect: pressure Smith and make him move and they were rewarded for their efforts.
  • The Coyotes travails on home ice point out the necessity of defending home ice. How good is it that the Predators have done just that this season? Defending home ice is critical to securing playoff position, and so far this season, the Predators have done just that.
  • The Predators out shot the Coyotes 38-32. They also blocked 15 shots by the Coyotes.
This was a good road win by the Predators against a team they should have beaten. That they did so in such a convincing fashion is encouraging.

The Predators will have to continue to play a complete game. They will get a big test against the Sharks on Saturday night.

My three stars:

1. Mike Fisher

2. James Neal

3. Calle Jarnkrok

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Predators Start Road Trip With 3-0 Win Over the Avalanche

The Nashville Predators looked to get back to their winning ways as they traveled to the Pepsi Center to take on the Colorado Avalanche in the first of five meetings these teams will have this season.

This was the first game of a three game road swing out west for the Predators.

The Avalanche have been beset with injuries, notably to their starting goalie, Semyon Varlamov. Calvin Pickard drew the starting assignment and faced Pekka Rinne in net for the Predators.

It would be important for the Predators to get off to a fast start and they did just that as Filip Forsberg scored off a breakaway, roofing the shot over the shoulder of Pickard at 2:23 of the first period. this was Forsberg's 12th goal of the season.

That goal stood up until the third period when Gabriel Bourque got an empty netter at 18:10 to make it 2-0.

James Neal added another empty netter at 19:02 to seal the 3-0 win.

In between, there was a lot of up and down hockey with both teams creating some scoring chances and both goaltenders turning away said chances.

Some observations:

  • Forsberg's first period goal was a beauty off a nice pass from Gabriel Bourque. Forsberg was patient and waited for Pickard to drop to the butterfly before elevating the shot. Forsberg's hockey sense and maturity on the ice continue to impress. 
  • Anton Volchenkov returned to the line up after missing the Chicago game. Taylor Beck was out of the line up with a concussion and did not make the trip. Paul Gaustad returned to action, but only briefly as he played only about half the first period before re-aggravating the lower body injury that has kept him out of the last three games.
  • The lines were juggled, with Mike fisher centering Matt Cullen and Craig Smith on the second line while Calle Jarnkrok centered Colin wilson and Olli Jokinen on the third line.
  • The Predators caught a HUGE break late in the second period as Gabriel Landeskog had a wide open net into which to shoot the puck and instead he hit the pipe.
  • Mattias Ekholm played a solid game and is growing in confidence on the ice. He is quietly physical and handles the puck well. tonight, He was solid in the defensive zone and physical in the corners and in front of the net. Good to see his game getting consistently better.
  • The Predators did a good job in the defensive zone of disrupting the Avs offense. They did a good job of getting in the passing lanes and collapsing around the net to limit scoring opportunities.
  • Rinne had to make some good saves on the quality scoring chances that the Avalanche generated. It is certainly good to have Pekka back healthy and playing at the top of his game. this was Rinne's third shutout of the season.
  • His counterpart, Pickard, made some very good saves as well, absolutely robbing Olli Jokinen in close in the third period.
  • Gabriel Bourque has played with a lot of jump since his return to the line up. I have always liked his hustle and effort, but he has been in a tremendous scoring drought. tonight he was rewarded for his efforts with a goal and an assist. good to see him get on the board.
  • The Predators out shot the Avalanche 36-26.
  • The Predators were 0-6 on the power play, including a 4 minute double minor to Jerome Iginla. As bad as this unit is, I was encouraged to see more movement and working for shots. they will score on the man advantage eventually. Right?
  • The Predators have not lost back to back games this season.
A good start to the road trip  There is no doubt that injuries have depleted the Avalanche, but they are still a team with lots of talent. Tonight, the Predators did a good job of shutting down that talent.

They travel to Phoenix to take on the Coyotes Thursday.

Keep it rolling.

My three stars:

1. Gabriel Bourque

2. Filip Forsberg

3. Pekka Rinne

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Predators Fall to the Blackhawks 3-1

The Nashville Predators relinquished first place in the Central Division by dropping a 3-1 decision to the Chicago Blackhawks at the Bridgestone Arena.

The Hawks took a 2-0 lead into the third period off goals by Brandon Saad and Marian Hossa before Colin Wilson answered just 34 seconds into the third  with a wicked wrist shot that beat Scott Darling.

The Hawks cemented their first regulation win of the season over the Predators with a Hossa empty net goal.

Some observations:

  • I can't fault Predators netminder Pekka Rinne for either of the goals that he gave up. Saad's goal looked to hit the stick of defenseman Roman Josi and the shot whistled over his shoulder. The second goal to Hossa was caused by Colin Wilson being late to get back into defensive coverage. Rinne gave up a rebound and Hossa had an open net into which to shoot the puck.
  • The Predators puck support in the offensive zone was just about as bad as I have seen it all season. Often, a puck carrier was out manned and had no one coming to support. This stymied the offense all night.
  • This was the Hawks first regulation win over the Predators in three meetings this season.
  • The Predators were once again weak in the face off dot, especially in the offensive zone. The Predators won 44% of their faceoffs and often lost them in the offensive zone allowing the hawks to get the puck down ice and short circuiting any Predators offensive threat. Mike fisher won 15 of 29 faceoffs for 52%. Mike Ribeiro was 8 of 19 (42%); Matt Cullen was 2 of 6 (33%); Calle Jarnkrok was 1 of 6 (17%); Olli Jokinen was 3 of 4 (75%); and Colin Wilson was 1 of 3 (33%). this is an area that has been weak all season and needs to improve.
  • Colin Wilson continues his strong play. He had probably the best jump of any of the Predators forwards and made it a game with his goal early in the third period. Wilson has 8 points (5G-3A) in 10 games since returning from an injury on November 13.
  • The Predators previous 7 games had been decided by one goal. This is the first game to be decided by more than one goal since the Predators defeated the maple Leafs 9-2.
  • To the Predators fans that sold their tickets to Blackhawk fans- shame on you. I know that you made a lot of money for your ticket, but this is our barn and you allowed drunken bandwagon fans of a division rival to occupy our barn. I have no words- at least no words that I can print- for you.
Frankly, the boys got outplayed from start to finish in this one. The Hawks are a very good team and we needed to bring our best tonight to defeat them.

We didn't.

So now we begin a road trip that takes us out west for some winnable games.

Time to get back to business.

My three stars:

1. Scott Darling

2. Marian Hossa

3. Colin Wilson

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Predators Spoil Brodeur's Debut, Win Big Divisonal Game Against the Blues

The St. Louis Blues are a very good team.

The Nashville Predators are better.

The Predators defeated the Blues 4-3 at Bridgestone Arena in a battle of two teams tied atop the Central Division with 34 points. With the win, the Predators take over sole possession of first place with 36 points.

Martin Brodeur made his debut this season, getting the start in net for the Blues.

The Predators started slowly and were outskated by the Blues in the first 5 minutes of the game. The Blues opened the scoring as their leading scorer, Vladamir Tarasenko was the beneficiary of a nice give and go and put the puck by Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne.

The slow start and early score by the Blues prompted Predators head Coach Peter Laviolette to call a time out and he used the break to scorch the Predators.

The Predators responded as Filip Forsberg scored to tie the game. Forsberg's goal was his 11th f the season and gives him 25 points (11G-14A) in 25 games.

Eric Nystrom was left alone in the slot, and he whipped a shot past Brodeur to make it 2-1, which is the way the first period ended.

The Predators extended their lead to 3-1 just 1:25 in the second as Mike Ribeiro took a pass from James Neal and had an open net into which to shoot the puck.

The Blues pulled to 3-2 off the second goal of the night from Tarasenko. The Blues won a face off in the Predators zone and Tarasenko scorched a shot past Rinne at 3:51 of the second.

The Predators made it 4-2 at 9:30 of the third period as Colin Wilson was sprung on a breakaway by a nice pass from Roman Josi and he beat Brodeur with a backhand.

That goal proved to be the game winner as once again the Blues pulled to within one off a blast from Jaden Schwartz at 12:32.

The Predators held off the Blues for the remainder of the period with some good saves by Rinne and some good defense to capture a critical 4-3 win against the Blues.

Some observations:

  • Filip Forsberg continues to impress, not only with his physical skills but with his maturity and hockey sense. Forsberg was not intimidated by the physical play of the Blues and handled himself well. His puck handling ability and hockey sense are amazing, and he was rewarded with a goal and an assist tonight. Foesberg comes to play every night, but especially shows up in big games. He now has 7 points (3G-4A) in three games against the Blues.

  • Speaking of Forsberg, Marty Brodeur had been in the NHL for three years when Forsberg was born.

  • Colin Wilson has really elevated his game, using his speed and size to create scoring opportunities. I am really encouraged by his play this season and how he is finding the net. Good to see him get rewarded with a goal tonight, even sweeter that it was the game winner.

  • Goodness... Vladamir Tarasenko is good. Two goals tonight and he was a force all night. Going to be interesting to see what kind of contract he signs after his entry level contract expires.

  • The Predators out shot the Blues 16-12 in the first period. After that, it was all Blues as they out shot the Predators 11-4 in the second and 9-4 in the third. Thank goodness for Pekka Rinne.

  • Rinne had some very good saves, and had no chance on the give and go first goal of the Blues. The second goal was a blast from outside the face off circle that Rinne didn't see and the third goal was a rocket from Schwartz that beat him cleanly.

  • The Predators power play was 0-2. I'm not going to talk about it anymore. It is just bad.

  • On the other hand, the Predators penalty kill unit is rounding into form. They stopped all three Blues power play opportunities, including a bogus too many men on the ice call by the officials.

  • Paul Gaustad was out of the line up with a lower body injury. Gabriel Bourque drew into the line up and was on a line with Olli Jokinen and Matt Cullen.

  • Roman Josi picked up an assist and now has points in four straight games, which ties a career high.

  • Establishing your home ice advantage is critical in this league. Over the past two season, the Predators have failed to do that. They have reversed course this season, going 11-1-1 on home ice this year.

  • The Predators top line of Neal, Ribeiro, and Forsberg combined for 6 points against the Blues. Big time players step up in big games.

  • Pekka Rinne won his league leading 17th game tonight.

  • Shea Weber and Roman Josi were outstanding, shutting down the Blues top line. Weber lead the Predators in TOI with 29:14.
A huge divisional win for the Predators, but it doesn't get any easier as another divisional rival comes to town Saturday.

Time to bring it against the Blackhawks.

My three stars:

1. Mike Ribeiro

2. Vladamir Tarasenko

3. Filip Forsberg

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Predators Can't Match the Hurricanes Intensity, Fall 2-1

The Nashville Predators traveled to Raleigh to take on the Carolina Hurricanes and were looking to extend their four game winning streak. They faced a Hurricanes team that had struggled so far this season but had speed and talent.

This game had all the makings of a trap game for the Predators as their next two games would be against divisional foes St. Louis and Chicago.

It was a trap.

That speed and talent of the Hurricanes was on display in the first period as Andrej Nestrasil threw a blind pass toward the net that was redirected past Pekka Rinne to give the Canes a 1-0 lead.

The second period saw both teams trade some chances but neither could score.

The third period opened with the Predators looking to get the equalizer, but it was the Hurricanes that struck on a shot from just inside the blue line by Victor Rask that beat Rinne to make it 2-0 Hurricanes just 55 seconds into the period.

Mike Ribeiro made it a 2-1 game at 15:14 of the third period as he backhanded a shot past a sprawling Cam Ward. This was Ribeiro's 7th goal of the season and he did a good job or corralling a pass from Roman Josi to set up the goal.

The Predators got their first power play of the game with one minute remaining in regulation. With Rinne pulled, the Predators were skating 6 on 4.

Unfortunately, the power play for the Predators once again drew blanks and the Predators dropped the game by the final score of 2-1.

Some observations:

  • Jeff Skinner's first period goal was amazing. One handed redirect that was impossible for Rinne to stop. Skinner continues to cause the Preds trouble. He had a hat trick in their last meeting in Nashville last season.

  • The Predators had some good chances throughout the game, but it seemed that the team was looking for the perfect pass and the pretty goal. Sometimes you have to muck and grind and score from the hard areas.

  • As much as the Hurricanes stymied the Predators offensively, I like the fact that the team continued to press and attack and create some scoring chances.

  • Cam Ward played a very good game for the Hurricanes, stopping 32 of 33 shots and making some very good saves. The Predators had some good chances but just could not bury the tying goal.

  • The Predators out shot the Hurricanes 33-25 and 15-6 in the third period.
Not much you can say about this game. The Predators were outskated for the first 40 minutes and lacked the intensity they showed in the third period. Unfortunately, it was too little too late.

The Predators need to get back to playing a full 60 minutes.

It starts Thursday night against St. Louis.

My three stars:

1. Cam Ward

2. Jeff Skinner

3. Mike Ribeiro