Sunday, December 14, 2014

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

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