Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Predators Battle Back For A Point, Fall In OT to the Blues

The Nashville Predators were looking to find some consistency in their game, and were trying to build upon the positive momentum from their win last night over the New York Rangers.

Standing in their way was their Central Division nemesis, the St. Louis Blues and their stellar netminder Jake Allen.

The Predators faced a tall task at the ScottTrade Center. The Predators are 0-2 against the Blues and Allen has stopped 73 of 74 shots that the Predators have put on net.

Demitri Jaskin opened the scoring for the Blues as the Predator defense left Jaskin alone at the top of the crease and he was able to bang home a rebound past Carter Hutton for a 1-0 Blues lead.

The Predators answered with a short handed goal by Mattias Ekholm off a clean face off win in the Blues zone by Mike Fisher.

Robby Fabri skated the puck out of the corner and uncontested into the low slot before depositing the puck in the net to give the Blues a 2-1 lead late in the second period.

Kevin Shattenkirk made it 3-1 early in the third period beating Hutton with a long shot from the blue line.

Shea Weber scored from the blue line with a wrist shot with 3:52 remaining to make it 3-2 in favor of the Blues.

The Predators tied the game with 1:32 remaining as a shot from Ryan Ellis was kicked out and Colin Wilson slammed home the rebound. This goal came as a direct result of Wilson driving the net.

The game was heading to overtime, which has been disastrous for the Predators.

It continues to be so for the Predators.

Alex Steen scored at 4:01 of the OT period on a breakaway to give the Blues a 4-3 OT win.

Some observations:

  • Colin Wilson played in his 400th NHL game.
  • The Blues have big, physical forwards and their game plan was to dump the puck deep and put pressure on the Predators defense with intense puck battles. The Predators defense struggled a bit in the first period in handling that pressure but settled down as the period went on.
  • Nice quick shot by Mattias Ekholm with his shorthanded goal. Ekholm is overshadowed by the notoriety of Shea Weber and Roman Josi but has quietly developed into a very solid NHL blue liner. Quite a change from his first stint with the Predators, when then Head Coach Barry Trotz called his play "atrocious".
  •  I don't fault Hutton for the first two goals that he gave up. The Predators defense broke down in front of Hutton and hung him out to dry. That third goal may have been deflected off Seth Jones stick, but man, you just can't give up that kind of goal in this game. Hutton tend to attempt to play pucks with his blocker or his glove, and when he misplays those shots, he usually gives up a goal. I would like to see Hutton get more positionally sound and have his body in a better position to take on those shots.
  • The Blues are a heavy, physical team. The Predators are not. The Predators are always going to struggle against the Blues the way this team is built. Either the Predators are going to have to rebuild their roster and get bigger and more physical (they are not) or they are going to have to upgrade the skill of their forwards to counter this type of game that the Blues play.
  • Once again, the Predators scored a critical goal by...wait for it...driving the net. Kudos to Colin Wilson for going hard to the net to get the tying goal.
  • I ragged on the third goal that Hutton gave up, but he made some great saves in OT before giving up the goal to Steen on the breakaway.
  • The Predators are a dumpster fire in OT. They have yet to display a sense of urgency and look as if they are always playing to get to the shootout. Until this style of play changes, the Predators are going to be awful in OT.
  • The Predators out shot the Blues 33-25, but as said before, the Predators need to finish some of their chances.
  • Playing the second of a back to back, I have to give the Predators full marks for battling back in this game. It would have been easy to roll over, but the fight back was heartening to see.
The Predators are going to have to win these types of games against the tough Central Division opponents. The fight, the compete level was good, but the fact remains the Predators are giving away critical points to teams that are in front of them in the standings.

Soon, that gap cannot be closed.

Take the positives out of this game and bring them to Dallas on Thursday.

My three stars:

1. Jake Allen

2. Alex Steen

3. Colin Wilson

Monday, December 28, 2015

Predators Light Up Lundqvist in 5-3 Win Over the Rangers

The up and down Nashville Predators were definitely up in their contest against the New York Rangers at Bridgestone Arena. They tagged Rangers starter Henrik Lundqvist for 5 goals before chasing him from the game en route to a 5-3 win.

The Predators got 2 goals from James Neal, his first a wicked snipe from the slot that beat Lundqvist to give the Predators a 2-1 lead. His second was the Predators 5th goal, a tap in from the side of the net.

Filip Forsberg opened the scoring for the Predators on the power play with his 10th goal of the season, a blast from the face off circle that beat Lundqvist cleanly over his glove. Forsberg should have had a second goal in the third period but it was waved off after a lengthy review for a weak goaltender interference call on Craig Smith.

Jesper Fast scored to tie the game at 1 in the first period.

Leading 2-1 going into the third, the Predators exploded for 3 goals. Craig Smith scored on a deflection of a Roman Josi shot. Ryan Ellis scored on a shot from the face off circle with the Predators on the power play to make it 4-1 before Neal closed out the Predators scoring.

It got interesting late in the third period. Pekka Rinne was way out of his net to play the puck when he got hit with a massive brain fart. Rinne's clearing attempt went directly to Rick Nash, who promptly fired the puck into the vacated net to make it 5-2.

J. T. Miller scored to make it 5-3 before the Predators closed out the game for a big win.

Some observations:

  • The Predators welcomed back Mike Fisher, who had missed 11 games due to a leg injury. With Fisher's return, Colton Sissons was reassigned to Milwaukee. Fisher logged 16:47 of ice time, recorded one shot, and won 59% of his faceoffs.
  • The Predators opened the game with good jump and out shot the Rangers 15-6 in the first period. The game was a tight checking contest, but it swung in the third period when the Predators made a determined effort to drive the net. Doing this presented problems for Lundqvist and he was under siege with the traffic in front. The determination to get to the net resulted in the Predators breaking the game wide open. This is the way the Predators have to play and it was good to see them make that effort to do so tonight.
  • I like the play of Viktor Arvidsson, especially how he uses his speed to create and carry the puck. But if the Aardvark is going to have a long and successful career in the NHL, he is going to have to get stronger. He gets taken off the puck consistently because he is not strong enough.
  • Dadgum, if Roman Josi isn't one of the smoothest skaters with such good vision on the ice. Josi can break the pressure of any team and is excellent at dishing the puck to the open man. He picked up 2 assists tonight and caused problems for the Rangers defense all night.
  • I have heard so much about the Rangers speed, but the Predators were definitely a faster team tonight. Their speed put pressure on the Rangers D and had them chasing the puck all night. The Predators used that speed to create offensive chances and get quality shots on goal. The Predators out shot the Rangers 35-29 for the game. The Predators also used their speed and  defensive positioning to frustrate the Rangers offensive flow throughout the game.
  • The Predators are 11-1-2 when leading after 2 periods this season. The Rangers are 0-9-1 when trailing after 2 periods.
  • Lundqvist was pulled midway of the third period for Antti Raanta. This is the 4th time in his last 7 starts that Lundqvist has been chased from the game.
  • The Predators power play was 2 for 2 tonight. 
  • The Predators took only one penalty, which they killed.
  • Mike Ribeiro picked up 3 assists tonight and did a great job of distributing the puck. Ribeiro also won 67% of his faceoffs.
  • Craig Smith had a solid game. He scored from the top of the c rease off a deflection of a shot by Roman Josi. Smith did a great job of driving the net and creating havoc in front of Lundqvist.
  • James Neal showed what his quick release can do. He used it to beat Lundqvist cleanly from the slot to give the Predators a 2-1 lead. His second goal came with him parked right at the side of the net. This was Neal's 4th 2 goal game of the season and he now has 15 goals.
  • Former Predator Kevin Klein returned to the blue line for the Rangers after missing 11 games due to an injury.
This was a win that was pure Predators hockey. Using their speed to create and going to the front of the net yielded the kind of results that this team needs to have night in and night out.

Now they have to bring this kind of effort consistently.

My three stars:

1. James Neal

2. Mike Ribeiro

3. Roman Josi

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Predators Fall to the Wings 3-2

Coulda, woulda, shoulda...

This is the story of the Predators season lately.

Apparently the Predators margin to win games is so razor thin that any little mistake will cost them.

This is the case as once again the Predators made just enough mistakes to cost them in a 3-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings at Bridgestone Arena.

Filip Forsberg and Craig Smith tallied for the Predators. Each goal tied the game for the Predators. Forsberg's goal followed a goal by Brendan Smith 45 seconds earlier in the first period.

Riley Sheahan scored on the power play early in the second period. It took Forsberg about 15 minutes to get the equalizer to send the teams into the second intermission tied at 2.

Luke Glendening scored at 6:45 of the the third period and the Predators had no answer this time as the Wings captured the season series.

Some observations:

  • The lack of an elite center for the Predators is glaring. The wingers do a good job of creating, but the Predators lack a center that can dominate the center of the ice and distribute the puck. Until this weakness is corrected, the Predators will continue to be an average team.
  • The Predators rarely pressured Petr Mrazek. When they did, they scored. The truth of the matter is that the Predators have forwards that rarely contribute. I know that it is easy to single out Colin Wilson (and he has had a miserable season), but the third line rarely threatens the net and the 4th line is just not going to get on the score sheet. Until these guys start producing, the Predators will continue to struggle.
  • Forsberg brought his A game tonight. His line always draws the top defenders from the opponent, but Forsberg has shown creativity and drive, something that many of the other Predators forwards lack. They could take a lesson from the way Forsberg plays the game. This was Forsberg's second 2 goal game of the season.
  • Roman Josi continues to impress. He is fearless in carrying the puck and can break the pressure from any opponent. On many nights, he is the Predators best forward (yes, I know he plays defense, but he carries the puck better than anyone wearing a gold sweater) and can create in the offensive zone.
  • Mike Ribeiro picked up 2 assists tonight.
  • Pekka Rinne had to make some good saves, and when he was beaten, the puck was coming through traffic. Rinne battles every night and gives the Predators a chance to win. The opponents know that to beat Rinne they have to get traffic to the net and that is exactly what they have been doing to have success against the big Finn.
  • The Predators power play tonight was fancy but ineffective tonight. Lots of passing, no traffic to the net, and few shots. The power play was 0-3 tonight.
  • The Predators PK killed 2 of 3 Wings man advantage opportunities. The lone Wings score occurred when the Predators allowed Sheahan to get to the front of the net with no challenge from the defense.
This is a Predators team that is going to continue to take one step forward, one step back until production starts to come from more than a handful of players. Early in the season, the scoring was much more balanced. Now it is not.

And the Predators are going to continue to struggle until this changes.

My three stars:

1. Filip Forsberg

2. Mike Ribeiro

3. Brendan Smith

Monday, December 21, 2015

Predators Hang 5 on the Habs In 5-1 Victory

There have been games in the last few weeks where the Nashville Predators outplayed their opponent but came up on the losing end of the scoreboard.

That role was reversed tonight at Bridgestone Arena, where the visiting Montreal Canadiens outshot and outplayed the Predators but came up on the short end of a 5-1 score.

This was the first time the Predators have won back to back games in 4 weeks.

The Canadiens outshot the Predators 36-19 for the game.

The Predators did not record their second shot of the game until 8:40 of the first period, but it was a rocket from Shea Weber that found its way perfectly through a maze of bodies to beat Dustin Tokarski for a 1-0 Predators lead.

The Predators first shot of the second period came 8:22 in with the man advantage, and it was a blast from Roman Josi that hit both posts and fell into the net for a 2-0 Predators lead.

Ryan Ellis gave the Predators a 3-0 lead at 3:08 of the third period as his point shot deflected off a Habs defender and past Tokarski. That goal, the third on just 14 shots, ended Tokarski's night and saw Mike Condon take over the net for the Habs.

Calle Jarnkrok welcomed Condon to the game with a shot from the slot to make it 4-0 for the Predators.

The Habs appeared to have scored midway of the third period, but that goal would be overturned on a challenge from Peter Laviolette as it was deemed that Pekka Rinne had been interfered with trying to make the save.

Montreal would end Rinne's shutout bid with a power play goal by Alex Galchenyuk.

Colin Wilson would score the final goal on an empty netter.

Some observations:

  • The Habs dominated play all night, winning puck battles, controlling the boards, and knocking Predators off the puck. It is a testament to the Predators resolve and resilience in hanging in and getting timely scoring to secure the win.
  • There is no doubt that the Predators D pair of Shea Weber and Roman Josi are the best in the NHL. These two defenders have combined for 19 goals and 32 assists. Even when teams are trying to take away their space and limit their scoring chances, these guys find a way to score. Weber has 15 points in the month of December, the most by any player in the NHL. 
  • Good on Colin Wilson for finally getting his game going. Wilson picked up 2 assists to go along with his empty net goal, his second of the year. Wilson played a solid game, and hopefully this gets him going. Wilson moved up to the second line in an attempt to get his game going, and it was a great call by the coaching staff. 
  • I really liked the play of Colton Sissons and Miikka Salomaki. They played some hard minutes and their effort on the forecheck created some disruption for the Habs as well as being solid in the defensive zone. Sissons was also 50% in the face off circle.
  • Calle Jarnkrok continues to impress and play some very good hockey. Jarnkrok picked up his 6th goal of the season and has been solid in all zones. Jarnkrok has stepped into the role of first line center and has acquitted himself well in that role.
  • You have to realize how much the Canadiens miss the injured Carey Price after watching this game. The inability to make timely saves by Tokarski and Condon cost them this game, because they clearly outplayed the Predators. The Habs have now lost 8 of their last 9 games.
  • The Predators have not lost in regulation to the Canadiens at Bridgestone Arena since March 10, 2003. The Predators are 5-0-3 in their last 8 games against the Canadiens.
  • The Predators were 1 for 3 on the power play and killed off 2 of 3 Habs power plays.
  • The Predators won 31 of 56 faceoffs, good for 55%
  • Pekka Rinne was outstanding tonight. He was under pressure all game and kept the Predators in it in the first period while the Habs were bombing shots at the net. If Rinne had not been as sharp as he was, the outcome of this game would have definitely been different. Rinne tracked the puck well and frustrated the Habs with his glove and his athleticism in net. Rinne has looked like the Rinne of old in the last couple of games and that is a huge positive for this team.
Kinda nice to see the tables turned, eh?

Getting outplayed but coming up with a huge win.

Predators fans have too often recently been on the wrong side of that story, but tonight, the roles were reversed and the Predators picked up a much needed win.

Time to enjoy the holidays and come back Saturday and keep the momentum going.

My three stars.

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Roman Josi

3. Shea Weber

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Predators Stop Losing Streak, Defeat the Wild 3-2

The Nashville Predators needed a fast start against the Minnesota Wild at Bridgestone Arena.

Scoring on your first shot on goal qualifies as fast.

The Predators rode a tip in goal by Filip Forsberg just 46 seconds into the game along with a first period goal from Mike Ribeiro and a second period goal by James Neal to a 3-2 win to snap a 3 game losing streak.

Forsberg tipped in a rebound of a shot by Shea Weber that Devan Dubnyk could not control.

Shea Weber was involved in the Predators second goal as well. The Predators had a two man advantage when Weber launched a blast from the point that was tipped by Dubnyk by Mike Ribeiro for a 2-0 lead.

Pekka Rinne did not have a lot of work in the first period as the Wild could only muster 7 shots. He did face a penalty shot as Ryan Ellis was called for hooking on a break away by Jason Zucker. Rinne was up to the task as he stopped Zucker with his glove to keep the Wild off the board.

James Neal notched his 13th goal of the season in the second period as he beat Dubnyk from the face off circle to give the Predators a 3-0 lead.

The Predators would need every one of those goals as Zach Parise tipped a point shot from Marco Scandella past Rinne to make it 3-1.

Going into the third period, the Wild pressed and tried to make it a game. They did just that as Zucker was able to dig the puck out of the skates of Neal off a face off and get loose in the low slot to beat Rinne over the glove.

Zucker's goal made it 3-2 and upped the pucker factor in the arena exponentially.

The Predators were able to thwart the final push by the Wild and captured a much needed 3-2 win.

Some observations:

  • The Predators won this game in two critical areas: they controlled the neutral zone, both offensively and defensively; and they did an excellent job of getting traffic to the net. The Predators were able to defeat the Wild's trap by making smart passes through the neutral zone and making players available to receive the breakout passes. The Wild try to trap the life out of a team and the Predators consistently broke the trap and got the puck deep. Once they got the puck deep in the zone, they did a good job of retrieving it and controlling the play. They also got traffic to the net and the first 2 goals were a direct result of going hard to the net.
  • The traffic going to the net is something that the Predators have not done consistently in this slump, so it was good to see them make a consistent and concerted effort to do that tonight.
  • The Predators forecheck disrupted the Wild's offensive flow all night. They held the Wild to single digits in shots every period (7, 6, and 9) while also forcing 8 turnovers. The Predators forecheck also allowed the offense to control the puck and this was reflected in their shot totals. They had 39 for the game and had 13, 14. and 12 by period.
  • Those shot totals by the Predators showed they did not take their foot off the gas throughout the game. All too often, the Predators have been content to sit on a lead in the third period and hope for the best. Tonight, they kept attacking throughout the game and it was critical to securing the win.
  • The Predators are 10-1-2 when they lead after two periods.
  • By contrast, they are 2-9-2 when they trail after 2 periods.
  • This is the 19th game this season that the Predators have recorded at least 30 shots on goal.
  • The Predators played a very disciplined game. Ellis was called for hooking that resulted in the aforementioned penalty shot by Zucker. They took one other penalty, a holding call on Viktor Arvidsson in the third period that they killed.
  • The Predators recorded a 5 on 3 power play goal, their first of the season. They Wild gave up their first 5 on 3 goal of the season.
To say that the Predators needed this win is both a blinding flash of the obvious and a huge understatement. The fact that the Predators were able to step up their game and get this win speaks volumes about their character.

Now the big challenge for the Predators will be to start stringing together these kinds of efforts and getting some back to back wins.

My three stars:

1. Mike Ribeiro

2. Shea Weber

3. James Neal

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Predators Can't Hold the Lead, Give up 2 Third Period Goals in 2-1 Loss to the Blues

The Nashville Predators were looking to establish some positive momentum and turn their season back around.

Playing the St. Louis Blues made that task most difficult.

The Predators started well and took a 1-0 lead on a Roman Josi power play goal in the first period.

That lead stood up until the third period when David Backes redirected a puck past Pekka Rinne to tie the game at 1.

Vladamir Tarasenko beat Rinne on a Blues power play to make the score 2-1.

And once again, the Predators couldn't solve Blues netminder Jake Allen as the Blues held on for a 2-1 win.

Some observations:

  • Colin Wilson returned to the line up after missing 4 games due to injury. He was slotted on the third line with Colton Sissons and Cody Hodgson. 
  • With Wilson back in the line up, Austin Watson was the healthy scratch tonight.
  • The Blues have the number one penalty kill in the NHL. It had to be a real confidence booster for the Predators man advantage unit to get the tally from Roman Josi on their first power play attempt. This unit, which had been hot, hit a cold streak in their last few games. This goal was the result of good puck movement and the smarts to exploit a Blues defender that had broken his stick. Hopefully this gets the power play jump started again.
  • Shea Weber picked up an assist on the Josi goal, giving him 20 points on the season. Josi's goal gives him 23 points. The Predators are the only team in the NHL with two blue liners that have 20 points or more. 
  • The Blues have a +15 goal differential in the third period. This is a testament to the ability of the Blues to turn it on in crunch time.The Predators are a +3 in third period goal differential. They have scored 29 times but have given up 26 goals against, indicative of the Predators struggle to lock down teams in the last 20 minutes. 
  • There are a lot of cracks in the Predators facade. One of them is the inability to hold a lead in the third period. Once again, this fault came back to bite the Predators as they surrendered the lead to the Blues. Whether it is a lack of offensive aggressiveness, fear of making a mistake, or just sitting back on their heels and hoping Rinne stops everything thrown at the the net, this strategy isn't working for the Predators. Until they change their play in the third period, they will continue to give up leads and lose games.
  • Allen has faced 71 shots in 2 games against the Predators and has given up one goal. No Predators forward has scored against the Blues this season.
  • The Predators were dominated in the face off circle, winning just 24 of 59 draws for a 40% success rate.
  • The play of Roman Josi continues to stand out. He has emerged as a complete and elite NHL defenseman. He is one of the few bright spots for the Predators.
Let's face it, we are seeing the real Predators. They are a middling team that will struggle to make the playoffs as the roster is built right now.

Unless there are some significant changes, this will be a team that will be lucky to get into the playoffs.

My three stars:

1. Jake Allen

2. Roman Josi

3. Vladamir Tarasenko

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Predators Continue to Struggle, Drop 2-1 OT Decision to the Flames.

The Nashville Predators have not won an overtime game this season.

The Calgary Flames have won 7 OT contests.

That trend continued at Bridgestone Arena as the Nashville Predators dropped a 2-1 overtime decision to the Flames.

The Predators continue to struggle, creating lots of shots but few quality scoring chances. The Predators only goal came a first period penalty shot as Cody Hodgson beat Kari ramo with a nice snap shot to the glove side.

The lead held up until midway of the second period as the Predators defense broke down and allowed T. J. Brodie to skate uncontested down the slot where he beat Pekka Rinne over the shoulder to tie the game at 1.

The game remained scoreless, but not for lack of effort by the Flames. Rinne made several great saves to keep the Flames off the board.

The Predators never really challenged Ramo with good scoring chances and the game was headed to OT.

In the extra session, the Predators turned the puck over and Johnny Gaudreau fed the puck to Kris Russell on a 2 on 1 and Russell buried the shot top shelf for the game winner.

Some observations:

  • There are a lot of problems with this Predators squad right now. One of them is the lack of a strong presence in front of the net. While the Preds are getting shots, there is rarely good traffic in front of the net . Ramo was spitting out rebounds all night long, but rarely were the Predators in a position to retrieve the puck and put follow up shots on the net. Unless that changes, this team will continue to look good on the stat sheet and bad on the scoreboard.
  • Calle Jarnkrok continues to grow in his role as the number one center. He is defensively responsible, has a deft touch with the puck, and is fast becoming the Predators best face off man. He was 10 of 15 in the circle tonight. Jarnkrok is not a true number one, but he is a solid number 2 center and has shown that he is a responsible and solid forward.
  • The Predators struggling penalty kill showed up tonight. Granted, the Flames power play has been abyssmal, ranking 30th in the NHL (the Preds PK is 28th), but the Predators killed off a full two minutes of 5 on 3 after Mike Ribeiro took a penalty and James Neal took a stupid penalty for a shot to the head on the continuation of Ribeiro's penalty. The only shot the Flames got during the two man advantage was a spectacular stop by Rinne on the goal line with his pad. Hopefully this effort tonight gives this unit a bit of confidence and gets them on an upswing.
  • It is obvious that the Predators forwards are struggling and frankly have lost their mojo right now. The shots are coming, but they are not dangerous. Rebounds are controlled by the defense (see point above) and there is little follow up or traffic to disrupt the opposing netminder. Until that changes, this team is going  to have a hard time scoring goals.
There is noit much to say about this game, or the games over the last 6 weeks. The Predators have shown themselves to at best be a middle of the pack team in the West and they will continue to occupy that position until they have some changes up front.

And in the brutally competitive Central Division, middle of the pack may mean being on the outside looking in when the playoffs roll around.

My three stars:

1. Kris Russell

2. Cosy Hodgson

3. T.J. Brodie

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Avalanche Outwork and Outlast the Predators 3-2

The good start that the Predators wanted in their game against the Colorado Avalanche at Bridgestone Arena didn't happen.

A first period saw the Predators outworked all over the ice and trailing to the Avalanche leading 2-0 before Miikka Salomaki tipped home a Ryan Ellis shot  with 7.7 seconds remaining to send the Predators into the intermission trailing 2-1.

Francois Beauchemin scored on the power play on a perfectly placed shot just inside the post on a screened Pekka Rinne for a 1-0 Avalanche lead.

Just 5 seconds after the Predators had killed a second penalty, the Avs scored again as Nick Holden took a perfect pass from Alex Tanguay on a 2 on 1 break to give the visitors a 2-0 lead.

Salomaki was in the hard area at the side of the net when he tipped home a shot from Ellis to make it 2-1.

The second period was scoreless as the Predators out shot the Avs 10-1 but could not get a puck past Semyon Varlamov.

The Predators tied the game just 58 seconds into the third period as Craig Smith beat Varlamov cleanly with a shot from the point.

The Avs scored the game winner by sending a lot of bodies to the net and Andreas Martinsen was able to bat the puck past Rinne for the game winner.

Some observations:

  • The Predators struggled with the Avs trap all night long. They were disrupted trying to get through the neutral zone and were often forced to just dump the puck in the zone. Unfortunately, the Predators rarely retrieved the puck in the zone and the Avs gained possession on most of those plays. The Avs also did a very good job of outworking the Predators along the boards and winning puck battles all night. This forced the Preds to chase the puck all night.
  • On the Avs game winning goal, there were lots of bodies going to the net. This is something that the Predators do not do consistently, and it results in a lot of shots that the opposing netminder is able to play cleanly. Until this changes, the Predators can shoot all they want but they will rarely challenge the net.
  • The Predators PK continues to misfire. They gave up a goal on their first kill as Rinne was screened and could not react to the shot. The Avs second goal came just after a PK as the Predators seemed discombobulated and allowed the Avs a break down the ice. This unit, which looked very good against Chicago, has got to get consistent.
  • Speaking of consistent, the Predators have not won back to back games in over a month. This team plays lights out (Chicago) and then comes out flat and struggles like they did tonight. The lack of consistency is troubling.
  • The Predators got traffic to the net and almost tied the game late in the third period. They hit two posts and a crossbar as Varlamov was scrambling. The difference in this late sequence was that the Predators did a good job of getting traffic in front of Varlamov, some they did not do consistently (there's that word again) for most of the game.
  • Salomaki's goal was his second of his career.
  • Nashville has won only 2 games this season when trailing after two periods. another facet of their performance that has to improve.
Face it, the Predators are a team that has lost their consistency. Win one, lose one (or more). Whether it is a matter of focus or missing injured players, the inconsistency is problematic for this team.

And the Predators cannot be dropping games to teams below them in the standings.

Keep doing that and it will be a very long season.

My three stars:

1. Semyon Varlamov

2. Andreas Martinsen

3. Miikka Salomaki

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Predators Return the Favor, Dominate the Blackhawks 5-1

The Nashville Predators were dominated by the Chicago Blackhawks in their previous game on Tuesday in Chicago.

They returned the favor tonight, blowing out the Blackhawks at Bridgestone Arena by a 5-1 margin.

The Predators rode 3 first period goals by James Neal, Craig Smith, and Filip Forsberg to a lead that was insurmountable by the Hawks.

After a scoreless second period, Patrick Kane scored on a goal that never should have been allowed as Pekka Rinne was shoved into the net and Kane was able to tap home the puck that was knocked loose.

Leading 3-1 and with the potent Hawks offense attacking, Predators fans had to be nervous.

Those fears were calmed when James Neal beat Scott Darling 5 hole for his second goal of the game and a 4-1 lead.

With the Predators on the penalty kill and Darling pulled for an extra attacker, Eric Nystrom was able to gather in the puck and fire it down ice for the empty net goal.

Pekka Rinne was outstanding, returning to form and making some high quality saves to keep the Hawks from grabbing momentum.

Some observations:

  • Paul Gaustad said in his post game comments that the Predators were "pissed" with the way they played in Chicago and wanted to send a message to the Blackhawks. Message delivered. The Blackhawks are a team that the Predators need to surpass in the regular season and if they play like they did tonight, they will accomplish that goal. The Central is so tough, and the Predators need to take care of business in the Division. Games like tonight show that they can do just that.
  • The key to the Predators win tonight was their ferocious forecheck. They did a superb job of disrupting the Hawks breakouts and forced 5 giveaways coupled with 8 takeaways. For most of the night, the Predators did not allow the Hawks to get clean breakouts and move through the neutral zone with speed. This forced the Hawks to try to set up in the offensive zone, where the Predators defense did a good job of limiting scoring chances. This is the way that the Predators have to play to win games, and tonight they were on their game.
  • That isn't to say that the Hawks didn't have some glorious scoring chances. Pekka Rinne was called upon to make so high quality stops and he rose to the occasion. The Hawks had a slow first period but came on strong in the second and third. The Predators out shot the Hawks 18-7 in the first period. The Hawks out shot the Predators 13-8 in the second and 16-8 in the third.
  • The goal that the Hawks scored was off an abominable call (or lack thereof) by the officials. Rinne had secured the puck until he was shoved into the net and the puck squirted loose and Kane was able to score. The lack of consistency by NHL officials is incredible and is a detriment to the game.
  • How about that first goal of the game by James Neal? He absolutely undressed Niklas Hjalmarsson to get to the low slot and beat Darling 5 hole. This game was starting like so many others with the Predators attacking the net but having nothing to show for it. Once Neal scored, it was like a great weight was off the shoulders of the Predators and it opened up the offense. Neal has 7 goals in his last 5 games against the Blackhawks.
  • Roman Josi picked up an assist tonight to extend his point streak to a careeer high 6 straight games.
  • I continue to like the play of Viktor Arvidsson and Calle Jarnkrok. Both Players are playing with great energy and are contributing on both ends of the ice. Both players picked up an assist tonight and are showing they can handle quality mninutes.
  • The Hawks have the 5th best power play in the NHL. Tonight, the Predators PK, which has been bad recently, was perfect, killing all 3 Hawks man advantage opportunities.
  • The Predators had 1 power play opportunity and they cashed in, with Forsberg chipping a puck between Darling and the post.
  • Man it was good to see Craig Smith and Forsberg find the back of the net again. Those guys have to get going consistently and hopefully their play tonight gets them going.
  • Smith's goal was odd to say the least. His shot hit several bodies and then Darling. Darling was out of position and couldn't control the rebound, which seemed to move in slow motion before it finally crossed the line.
  • The Predators are undefeated (9-0-2) when leading after two periods.
This was a solid game and win for the Predators. It came about because the Predators played their brand of hockey and dictated the play for most of the game.

Now they have to consistently bring that level of play in the next game and start building on this positive momentum.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. James Neal

3. Craig Smith

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Predators Bomb Against the Blackhawks

The Nashville Predators faced a stiff test in the second game of a back to back series as they squared off against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center.

They failed the test. Badly.

The Predators dropped a 4-1 decision to their Central Division rivals in a game where Corey Crawford shined in net and the Predators couldn't find a way to get the puck past him.

Dennis Rasmussen redirected a point shot by Andrew Shaw in the first period to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead.

Andrew Shaw scored on a power play to make it 2-0 in the second period.

The Predators would draw to 2-1 on a goal by Eric Nystrom off a beautiful assist from Roman Josi.

That is as close as the Predators would get as Teuvo Teravainen would beat Pekka Rinne early in the third period with a perfectly placed shot to the top corner.

Patrick Kane would add an empty net goal for the final margin.

Some observations:

  • Colin Wilson was scratched due to aggravating a lower body injury in last night's game against the Bruins.Craig Smith moved back up to the second line with Viktor Arvidsson and Mike Ribeiro. 
  • There is no doubt the United Center can be an intimidating place in which to play. The Predators had several guys in their line up that were on UC ice for the first time, and they pressed the attack and played with some poise. 
  • Paul Gaustad has been a good soldier, and I like Paul. But I think Paul's time has passed. He is contributing very little to the Predators this season. He has become average in the face off dot and is a liability in the offensive zone. I believe that it is time to put Salomaki, Watson, and Sissons together on the 4th line. They play with jump and have more offensive pop than than the current 4th line unit. Early in the season, the Watson, Bourque, and Sissons 4th line played exceptionally well and were able to contribute offensively. With Bourque out due to an injury, Salomaki can play on that 4th line and I think it will benefit the Predators to have a more offensively dangerous 4th unit.
  • Roman Josi continues to play at an elite level. He absolutely undressed Duncan Keith with a sweet move to set up the goal by Nystrom. Josi is so smooth and calm with the puck and has exceptional vision on the ice, and he uses those skills to fire his underrated shot or set up teammates.
  • In my view, the difference between the Predators and the Blackhawks is simply this: the Blackhawks have players throughout their line up that can score, and they do so on a consistent basis. The Predators have some talented players, but they are mostly players that disappear for long stretches at a time (Forsberg, Smith, Wilson, to name a few). There are fewer high end players on the Predators roster and their consistency is virtually non-existent. Until that changes, the Predators are going to be an good team but not remotely close to being an elite team.
  • This game was indicative of the Predators talent level. Lots of hustle, fairly good effort, but no one that could finish The Predators talent level has improved, but clearly lags behind teams like the Hawks and Blues. This team tries hard, and will win their fair share of games, but the Predators are who they are- hard working but lacking in elite talent.
  • Want proof? The Predators put 37 shots on goal compared to the Hawks 24. The difference? The Hawks have finishers and the Predators do not.
  • The Predators out hit the Hawks 36-14, which is indicative of the fact they were chasing the puck most of the night.
 The Predators are 0-2 against the elite teams of the Central that they have played (Blues and Hawks) and have yet to play the best team in the Central, the Stars. The Predators are either going to have to get some players going (I'm looking at you, Smith, Forsberg, and Wilson) or they are going to have to seriously upgrade their talent.

Otherwise, they will be scrambling to make the playoffs.

My three stars:

1. Corey Crawford

2. Andrew Shaw

3. Teuvo Teravainen

Monday, December 7, 2015

Josi's Two Power Play Goals Leads the Predators Over the Bruins

The Nashville Predators needed to play a solid game and get a win to boost their confidence and break out of the funk they have been in recently.

The Boston Bruins were just what the Predators needed to accomplish those goals.

Roman Josi had a monster game, scoring two power play goals. Viktor Arvidsson added the game winner in the third period and Carter Hutton made 15 saves as the Predators defeated the Bruins 3-2 at TD Garden.

Down 1-0 off a goal by Kevin Miller, Josi beat Jonas Gustavsson short side top shelf to tie the game.

After Loui Eriksson gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead, Josi struck again on the power play. He stole a clearing attempt by Zdeno Chara and drove the net, turning Gustavsson inside out before burying the puck into a wide open net.

Viktor Arvidsson notched the game winner as he drove in the low slot, got Gustavsson to commit, and then patiently pulled the puck back and slapped it into the open net.

The Predators were able to hold off the Bruins, who had the extra attacker for the final 1:43 of the game to secure the win.

Some observations:

  • Man, if the Predators didn't have bad luck, they would have no luck at all. Kevin Miller's shot hits Roman Josi and deflects into the net. Eventually, the Predators puck luck has to change. Doesn't it?
  • Roman Josi has as good of a shot as anyone on the team. His power play goal was perfectly placed to the top corner. Josi has to be a serious candidate for the Norris Trophy this season if he continues to play at the level he has in this first quarter of the season. Josi now has a 4 game point streak. His second goal of the game was an absolute beauty, taking the puck into the slot and deking Gustavsson out of his jock.
  • The Predators penalty kill continues to struggle. The goal by Eriksson was just too easy as he was alone at the side of the net. Granted, the Bruins have the number one power play in the NHL, but this goal was a cake walk. I don't know why this unit, that has traditionally been in the top 25% of the of the PK units in the NHL, has lost their focus or their mojo or whatever, but it has to be addressed and improved quickly.
  • You really wonder how players like Zac Rinaldo are even in the League. He brings nothing to the game except dangerous hits and questionable play.
  • Colin Wilson had several good chances in close but could not bury a shot. Look up the definition of "snake bitten" in the dictionary and you will see a picture of Wilson. I do appreciate the fact that the coaches are sticking with Wilson and giving him a chance to get his game on track, but Wilson has to get it going soon. The team needs his production and the only way to get his game going is to play his way out of this brutal slump.
  • I continue to like the play of Viktor Arvidsson. You can just see his game continuing to mature and he is willing to go to the tough areas to battle for the puck and get shots on net. The Aardvark was rewarded for his efforts with the go ahead goal in the third period by going to the slot and exhibiting great patience to draw Gustavsson out of the net before potting the goal into the empty net once the Bruins tender was out of position. He has goals in two consecutive games.
  • Calle Jarnkrok centered the first line and he played a very solid game. Jarnkrok has quietly grown in his game. He is the Predators leading goal scorer among the forwards since the 1st of November and is very solid in the defensive zone. The Predators definitely won the deal with the Red Wings when they acquired Jarnkrok for David Legwand.
  • The Predators were 2-5-2 coming into this game. Needless to say, this was a much needed win.
  • The Predators defense did an exceptional job of limiting the Bruins scoring chances, holding them to 17 shots for the entire game. The Predators had 33 shots.
  • The Predators were 2 of 7 on the power play. They were able to kill 2 of 3 power play chances by the Bruins.
  • 5 of the last 7 goals that the Predators have scored have been by defensemen (Weber with 3; Josi with 2). The other 2 goals? The Aardvark, Viktor Arvidsson.
  • Carter Hutton played his best game in a while. He was positionally sound, controlled rebounds, and looked poised in net. Hutton can get scrambly at times, but not tonight. Perhaps most importantly, he didn't give up the goal off the long unscreened shot from the blue line. You certainly can't fault him on the Bruins first goal, a deflection off a Predator that changed direction.
This was a solid 60 minute game by the Predators, one they had to have to try to reverse their fortunes.

Now they have to bring it again in their next game tomorrow night.

My three stars:

1. Roman Josi

2. Viktor Arvidsson

3. Shea Weber

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Predators Can't Hold Leads, Blow Game to the Wings In OT

The Nashville Predators can't stand success.

They managed to blow a 3-1 lead before losing in overtime to the Detroit Red Winds by a 5-4 margin

Brad Richards gave the Wings a 1-0 lead before the Predators reeled off 3 straight goals to take a 3-1 lead late in the second period.

Shea Weber notched 2 power play goals and Viktor Arvidsson got a tally from in front of the net to give the Predators the two goal advantage.

Tomas Tatar scored on a late power play to send the Predators into the second intermission with a 3-2 lead.

Weber would record another power play goal as he blew a point shot past Petr Mrazek to give the Predators a 4-2 lead.

Dylan Larkin wove his way through the Predators defense to beat Rinne under the crossbar to make it 4-3.

Ryan Ellis took a stupid boarding penalty to put the Wings on the power play and Justin Abdelkader scored on a shot from Gustav Nyquist where Rinne was bumped by Abdelkader. The goal was reviewed but allowed to stand.

In overtime, Nyquist beat Rinne on the a breakaway and the Predators had tanked on a game they should have won.

Some observations :

  • Some poetic justice for Shea Weber as the first Detroit goal bounced off of him and past Pekka Rinne. Two goals in the second is a pretty good response, eh? Especially one that bounced off the glass and back of Mrazek, which was confirmed by review. This was Weber's first 2 goal game since January 2015 against Dallas. Weber would add a third power play goal as he blew a shot from the point past Mrazek for his first career hat trick.
  • I continue to like the play of Viktor Arvidsson. The Aardvark has adjusted to the speed of the NHL and is not afraid to bang along the boards and work in front of the net. He is using his speed to find open areas and was rewarded with a goal tonight.
  • Rough start for Seth Jones with two slashing penalties in the first period. 
  • Good to see the power play get going. One of the contributing factors to the Predators spotty play recently has been the weak special teams play. If these units can get going, it will be a great boost to the team.
  • While it was good to see the power play get going, the PK continues to struggle, allowing 2 power play goals in 5 attempts by the Wings. The Predators have allowed 10 power play goals in their last 8 games, a major contributor to their struggles.This unit is going to have to get their game together quickly if the Predators are going to have success.
  • No way the Predators defense should allow Larkin to skate through them like he did for his third period goal. The defense has to step up and take the body. Instead, Larkin was allowed to skate unimpeded until he found the soft spot in the defense to beat Rinne.
  • the boarding penalty by Ryan Ellis late in the game is a penalty that just cannot happen. It was a selfish play as Ellis was going full speed into a player that had his back to the ice and was along the boards. The Predators have to play with more discipline than that with the game in the balance.
  • The Predators have yet to win a game in the overtime session this season. They often look disjointed and lack a sense of urgency and attacking attitude in OT.
  • The Predators were a horrid 39% in the face off circle, which contributed to the Wings possession time.
  • The Predators blocked 20 shots, while the Wings blocked 8.
The Predators continue in their funk and each game exposes another crack in the Predators facade. This team has shown that they can play excellent hockey, and they have shown they can stink it up.

Tonight, they showed they lack killer instinct. yes, the Wings are a dynamic team, but when you have two 2 goal leads, you lock down the  opponent.

Tonight, the Predators let the Wings dictate play in critical times and it cost them the game.

The Predators have no swagger and no one that will step up and take control of a game.

Better find one fast or more trouble awaits.

My three stars:

1. Shea Weber

2. Gustav Nyquist

3. Roman Josi

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Predators Fall to the Panthers 2-1 In Another Frustrating Loss

The Nashville Predators fell to the Florida Panthers at Bridgestone Arena by a 2-1 margin. Another game where the Predators dominated on the shot counter (33-16) but came up short on the scoreboard.

Quintin Howden opened the scoring for the Panthers as the puck took a funny bounce off a stanchion and caromed to Howden in the middle of the ice. That sent Howden in on a breakaway and he beat Pekka Rinne stick side for a 1-0 Panthers lead.

The Panthers took a 2-0 advantage on the power play as Jonathan Huberdeau got free in the slot and beat Rinne over the shoulder.

The Predators would cut the lead to 2-1 as Roman Josi, driving the net, deflected a shot from Craig Smith past Roberto Luongo.

That was a s close as the Predators could get, although they had a shot that beat Luongo and hit both posts with 30 seconds remaining, but the puck did not cross the goal line.

Some observations:

  • The Predators offense was disrupted all night by the forecheck and trap of the Panthers and they could not seem to figure out how to solve it. In game management and adjustments at intermissions have to be made, but it appeared that the Predators made none and  allowed the Panthers to choke down their speed all night.
  • The Predators, by contrast, did not forecheck well. Often they dumped the puck in the zone but there were no Predators able to retrieve the puck. Worse yet, the Predators lost puck battles on the boards all night. 
  • This was the first game that the Predators played without Mike Fisher. He has been placed on IR and will miss at least 4 games with a lower body injury.
  • Calle Jarnkrok moved up to center the second line and played well. He is playing with speed and confidence and you can see his game growing each time he is on the ice. Jarnkrok won 64% of his faceoffs tonight.
  • The Predators got away from what brought them a win against the Coyotes in the previous game. Although they had a lot of shots, there was not a lot of traffic in front of Luongo. This is a league where you have to score goals from the hard areas, and tonight, the Predators didn't make much of an effort to get to those hard areas.
  • The Panthers blocked 21 shots. The Predators blocked 6.
  • This is the first time the Panthers have won a game in Nashville since 1999.
  • The Predators PK is a woeful 77% for the season. In the last 10 games, it is 57%. Awful.
  • The officiating  did not cost the Predators the game, but the late game embellishment call against James Neal was just embarrassingly bad. When a player is tripped with a stick in his skate blade and falls, that is not embellishment, and the NHL should be ashamed of the lack of integrity in the officials on the ice.
  • The Predators are 2-6-2 when they allow the first goal, and they have won only 2 games this season when trailing after two periods.
The Predators are dealing with injuries, and that obviously has an impact on this team. But the fact is that this team is just average right now and outside of Filip Forsberg, lacks a real game changer.

So that means this team is going to have to play gritty hockey that is not fancy but tough.

Time to change, boys.

My three stars:

1. Jonathan Huberdeau

2. Roberto Luongo

3. Roman Josi

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Predators Explode Out of Their Slump, Defeat the Coyotes 5-2

The Nashville Predators have been in a slump and have struggled to score goals and get a bit of puck luck.

Through two periods against the Arizona Coyotes at Bridgestone Arena, the struggles looked as if they would continue. The Predators had out shot the Coyotes 27-10 and had hit 5 posts. When they looked at the scoreboard, they trailed 2-1 and looked as if they would not be able to solve Coyotes goalie Mike Smith.

The hockey gods- along with a lot of hard work by the Predators- changed their fortunes in the third period as the Predators exploded for 4 goals en route to a 5-2 victory.

The Coyotes opened the scoring in the first period on the power play as Oliver Ekman-Larsson sent a seeing eye shot through traffic from the high slot that completely eluded Pekka Rinne.

The Predators returned the favor on a power play in the second period as Calle Jarnkrok redirected a slap pass from Shea Weber between the pads of Mike Smith to tie the game at 1.

Late in the second period, Kyle Chipchura outworked the Predators defense to the front of the net and was able to chip the puck past Rinne to send the Coyotes into the second intermission with a 2-1 lead.

That would be all the Coyotes could get past Rinne and it set the stage for the Predators offense to get on track.

Mike Ribeiro stole the puck in the offensive zone and beat Smith from the slot to tie the game.

Filip Forsberg wove his way through the Coyotes defense and worked to some open space in the slot and beat Smith low stick side to give the Predators their first lead of the game at 4:49 of the third period.

Forsberg would take a nice pass from Ribeiro and laser a wrist shot past Smith to make it 4-2.

James Neal iced the game with an empty net goal to give the Predators their final margin of 5-2.

Some observations:

  • Big ups to the Predators defense. The Coyotes have shown they can be explosive and have some talented players, including dynamic rookie Max Domi and second year man Anthony Duclair. The Predators defense limited the Coyotes to only 15 shots for the entire game. The Coyotes did not register their first shot on goal until 8:34 of the first period. They had 4 shots in the first; 6 in the second; and 5 in the third. The Predators also blocked 18 shots from the Coyotes.
  • I can't fault Rinne for the goals he gave up. The power play was a seeing eye shot that made its way through a maze of bodies, a shot he never saw until it was in the net. The Chipchura goals was just hard work by the Coyotes forward, who worked his way into prime scoring territory and was able to bang the puck past Rinne. Rinne did not have a lot of work, obviously, but he made a spectacular save on Domi in the first period. Domi had an empty net but Rinne was able to reach back with his paddle and sweep the puck off the goal line to keep the Coyotes off the board. Truly a candidate for the save of the year.
  • The injury bug hit the Predators hard again as Mike Fisher crashed into the boards early in the second period and looked to have injured a knee. He was barely able to get off the ice and went straight to the locker room. He did not return to the game.
  • This game had the makings of another frustrating outing for the Predators. The difference this time, and what swung the game in their favor, was that they kept attacking with traffic to the net. Mike Smith was outstanding through two period, turning away some prime scoring opportunities by the Predators. The Predators were relentless in their attack and kept putting pucks on the net with bodies in front. This is something they have not done consistently when they were in their funk, and hopefully they see how this formula can yield success.
  • I really like the play of Calle Jarnkrok. He has stepped up his game and has been flying on the ice and is willing to go to the hard areas. The Predators first goal was a result of Jarnkrok establishing position in the low slot and being able to redirect the Weber pass. Jarnkrok ate up some big minutes after the Fisher injury, playing 25 shifts and logging 20:20 of ice time. He was also 9 of 19 in the face off circle.
  • This is only the second time this season that the Predators have won a game when trailing after two periods.
  • The Predators are now 6-0-1 in their last 7 games against the Coyotes.
  • Shea Weber picked up 3 assists and was a +3 on the night. He led the Predators in TOI with 24:12.
  • Filip Forsberg had a team high 8 shots on goal and had 2 goals and an assist.
  • Roman Josi blocked a team high 5 shots.
  • Colin Wilson was scratched tonight. No word on an injury, but Wilson has been ice cold this season. Cody Bass was called up from Milwaukee and took his place in the line up.
  • Another player that stood out to me tonight was Viktor Arvidsson. He was flying all over the ice and his battle level was better than at any time he has been up with the Predators. He won puck battles and kept plays alive. He logged 21 shifts and 18:57 of ice time.
This was a win the Predators really needed. Hopefully it gets their confidence back where it needs to be and they start finding the net consistently.

Busting out of the slump is sweet.

Now we have to overcome injuries and keep it rolling.

My three stars:

1. Filip Forsberg

2. Shea Weber

3. Mike Ribeiro

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Predators Look Uninspired in 4-1 loss to the Sabres

The Nashville Predators returned to the friendly confines of Bridgestone Arena after a grueling 5 game road trip that saw the team go 1-3-1. Returning home to face the Buffalo Sabres, the Predators looked to build some positive momentum and get their game righted.

They squandered that opportunity by dropping a 4-1 decision to the Sabres in a game that was highlighted by uninspired play by the Predators.

Mike Fisher staked the Predators to a 1-0 lead on the power play off a beautiful pass from James Neal. Neal's pass was backwards and through his legs to Fisher, who was wide open at the side of the net. Fisher's wrist shot beat Chad Johnson cleanly for his second goal in as many games.

Juuse Saros got the start, his first in the NHL, as Carter Hutton was injured and unable to play. Saros kept the Sabres off the board in the first period and the Predators went into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead.

The Predators looked to have taken a 2-0 lead, but an awfully weak goaltender interference call against Viktor Arvidsson negated a goal.

Arvidsson would figure prominently in the game as he was called for a 5 minute major for cross checking and a game misconduct later in the second. On the ensuing power play, Jamie McGinn and Sam Reinhart would score to give the Sabres a 2-1 lead going into the third.

Reinhart would tally again  and Ryan O'Reilly would score to make it 4-1. The Predators never seriously threatened Johnson after Fisher's goal and they would flop on home ice, continuing their trend of poor play that has seen the slump grow worrisome to Predator fans.

Some observations:

  • Juuse Saros was generally good in net, although the third goal he let in was a bit soft. it appeared that it was kicked in off his skate on a shot that was stoppable. Otherwise, Saros looked positionally sound and tracked the puck well. 
  • The goaltender interference call against Arvidsson was weak and embarrassing for the League. if a play is driving the net and shoved into the goaltender, which Arvidsson was, then goaltender interference, in my opinion, cannot be called. That was a huge momentum swing in this game.
  • I like Arvidsson, but has to get stronger if he is going to stick in the NHL. He gets knocked off the puck easily and loses a lot of puck battles. This is a man's league and Arvidsson is going to have to get man strong if he is going to make it in this League.
  • The cross check call against Arvidsson really hurt the momentum of the team. That is a penalty that cannot happen, no matter how heated the play is at the moment.
  • The Predators are playing, at best, some very average hockey right now. The forwards are not creating and the offense is very predictable. The puck is more often than not going back to the point and a lot of shots are not getting through. When shots do get through, there is no traffic in front of the net. Until the offense gets more energized and less predictable, the results are going to be predictable, and they will not be good. 
  • The absence of several key forwards, notably Colin Wilson and including Filip Forsberg and Craig Smith, have hurt this team. The Predators are not getting consistent production out of these key players and it has hurt the offensive output. Until these guys start producing consistently, this team will continue to struggle.
  • Craig Smith skated in his 300th game.
  • Back to Arvidsson for a moment. he cross checked Carlo Calaiacovo and was given the major and game misconduct. It was reported that Calaiacovo had a dented trachea after the game. It remains to be seen if Arvidsson will have a hearing with the NHL for this hit.
  • Mike Fisher is one of the few Predators that has brought it recently. He now has a goal in three straight games.
  • Roman Josi led the Predators in TOI with 25:36.
The Predators are a team that is struggling right now. The are playing predictable hockey, and with the exception of a few games in this slump, have been average at best.

Until that turns around and the Predators elevate their game, the struggles will continue.

My three stars:

1. Sam Reinhart

2. Chad Johnson

3. Mike Fisher

Friday, November 27, 2015

Predators Road Trip Ends With a Thud, Fall to the Flyers In OT

The Nashville Predators wrapped up a five game road trip with an afternoon matinee in the City of Brotherly Love to take on the Flyers. The road trip has been a disaster for the Predators, as they have dropped 3 of 4 games, being shut out in three of the games and being outscored 13-3.

The game started well for the Predators as Filip Forsberg scored on a wicked wrist shot from the slot to beat Michael Neuvirth just 1:19 into the game to give the Predators a 1-0 lead. That lead stood for less than 3 minutes as Michel Del Zotto beat Pekka Rinne to the top corner to tie the game.

Colin McDonald broke the tie in the third period as he beat Eric Nystrom to the front of the net and was able to slid a shot between Rinne and the post for a 2-1 lead.

This game looked as if it was going down the toilet until Mike Fisher won a puck battle in front of the net and banged the puck past Neuvirth to tie the game at 2 with just 20 seconds remaining in regulation.

In the overtime, the Predators were guilty of a specious too many men on the ice call, and the Flyers capitalize on the power play as Shayne Gostisbehere ripped a shot from the slot to beat Rinne to give the Flyers a 3-2 win.

Some observations:

  • With Paul Gaustad being injured in the Buffalo game and Miikka Salomaki being placed on injured reserve, the Predators recalled Colton Sissons from Milwaukee.
  • Welcome back, Filip Forsberg! Fosberg's first period tally was his first goal in 17 games and the Predators definitely need Prince Filip to start heating up. And wow, does Forsberg have a quick release. The puck was barely on his tape before it was in the back of the net. this was Forsberg's 3rd goal of the season.
  • Part of the Ptredators woes on this road trip has been the Predators lack of effectiveness on the power play. They are 0-13 going into this game and 1 for their last 19 with the man advantage. This unit is going to have to improve their efficiency for this team to have success in this season.
  • The injury bug is starting to bite the Predators as they lost Gabriel Bourque for the game after a first period injury. Bourque doesn't score a lot but logs some important minutes on the third line and on the penalty kill.
  • The Flyers did a good job of disrupting the Predators breakouts and in the neutral zone. The Predators like to attack with speed, but the Flyers broke up passes and slowed the Predators attack. This is where the Predators need to get the puck deep and work hard to retrieve it, something they did inconsistently in this game and have done in previous games where they have struggled.
  • Filip Forsberg looked as if he were the only Predator on the ice ready to play. The rest of the team was spotty in their play and lacked any jump. Maybe it is the end of a grueling road trip, but this team cannot come out without fire in their belly and expect to win many games.
  • In this game, and throughout this road trip, the Predators gave up way too many odd man rushes. whether it is defensive breakdowns or poor puck management, the Predators need to clean up this aspect of our game. This puts too much pressure on Rinne to solve these problems and more often than not bites this team in the ass.
  • Mike Fisher is not an elite, number one center. Age and injuries limit his ability to claim that status. But dang, he probably has as big of a heart as anyone on this team. His goal late in regulation was just a matter of will and heart and that is something that can't be coached. 
  • I know this has been a tough rough trip, both physically and mentally, and it showed. The Predators just didn't seem to have the jump they normally would and lost the majority of puck battles and time of possession to the Flyers. Hopefully coming home for a few games will be a boost for this team.
  • The Predators were out shot 6-1 in OT and never threatened the Flyers net. Again, a lack of urgency and hustle doomed them. 
This road trip will hopefully serve as a wake up call to this team. It takes attention to detail, playing with grit and jump, and bringing from the first to the last whistle to win games. If they do not, it will be ugly when they start to do battle in the Division.

My three stars:

1. Filip Forsberg

2. Michael Neuvirth

3. Shayne Gostisbehere

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Drought Is Over! Predators Score 3 to Defeat the Sabres 3-2

The Nashville Predators traveled to First Niagara Center to face the Buffalo Sabres in their fourth consecutive road game, a game in which they were trying to find the back of the net for the first time on this trip.

The first three games were a miserable experience for the Predators, having been outscored 11-0 and dropping three straight.

Carter Hutton gave Pekka Rinne the night off and was outstanding in the first period as the Sabres swarmed the Predators and possessed the puck for long stretches of time in the offensive zone.

Even though the Predators were being badly out shot and out played, they would strike first.

The Predators goal drought would end in the first period as Mike Fisher banged home a rebound past Linus Ullmark to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.

Craig Smith made it 2-0 one minute into the second period with a blast from the face off circle that caromed off the crossbar and into the net.

Cody Hodgson made it 3-0 off a beautiful pass through the slot from Gabriel Bourque, and suddenly the Predators seemed to have found their scoring touch.

That goal would chase Ullmark and Chad Johnson would come into the net for the Sabres.

Evander Kane scored from just inside the blue line to make it 3-1 on a goal that Hutton definitely should have snared.

The Sabres pulled Johnson for the extra attacker and they scored as Jack Eichel notched his 7th of the season to make it 3-2 with 1:19 remaining in the third period.

A late flurry by the Sabres was not enough and the Predators hung on for a 3-2 win.

Some observations:

  • This game saw several players look across the ice and see some of their old teammates. Paul Gaustad and Cody Hodgson were former Sabres while Cody Franson and David Legwand were once on the Predators roster.
  • Mike Fisher's goal was vintage Predator hockey, get to the net and battle for the rebound. This is an aspect of the Predators game that has been missing recently. That goal was set up by Colin Wilson battling in front of Ullmark and keeping the play alive. The Predators have to get more of this type of play.
  • In this three game losing streak, the Predators have dominated in puck possession and shots but came up short. Tonight, in the first period, the Sabres dominated in puck possession and shots but were losing 1-0. Hockey is sure a funny game.
  • Good to see Fisher and Smith find the net. Both these guys have been in a mini slump and hopefully it will get them going.
  • The Hodgson goal was off a sweet pass from Bourque, but that play was possible because Calle Jarnkrok had rotated to the blue line and did a good job keeping the puck in the zone. Bourque did a great job of gathering in the rebound and getting his head up to spot Hodgson, who more importantly, finished the play.
  • The Predators lost Paul Gaustad late in the second period to an upper body injury and he did not return to the game.
  • The Predators power play has failed them on this road trip and did not look good again tonight. They had 47 seconds of a 5 on 3 and generated no quality scoring chances. This unit showed no movement or sense of purpose when they had an opportunity to really put the Sabres ina  deep hole.
  • Carter Hutton played a mostly strong game, letting in a soft goal by Kane late in the second period. I don't know what it is about Hutton but he is good for allowing an opponent to score from long distance every game, usually on an unscreened shot, as this goal was. Hutton did make some very good saves and generally looked good in net. Out of the net, not so much, as he went almost to the hash marks to play a puck and was flipped head over heels by Marcus Foligno. Hutton was especially sharp in the first period when the Sabres out shot the Predators 11-3.
  • The Predators were out shot 32-20 by the Sabres.
  • Hutton improved to 4-0 lifetime against the Sabres.
  • The Predators did a good job of blocking shots, recording 17 to 5 for the Sabres. 
  • The Predators were 23 of 54 in the face off dot, which contributed to the Sabres huge advantage in puck possession.
 This wasn't a pretty win, but you know what?

It was a win, which this team desperately needed.

And it was good to see them get the monkey off their back and score some goals.

Now they have have to build on this momentum and start stringing together some wins.

My three stars:

1. Mike Fisher

2. Carter Hutton

3. Craig Smith

Monday, November 23, 2015

Predators Scoring Woes Continue In 3-0 Loss to the Rangers

The Nashville Predators looked to right the ship after dropping their last two games by a combined 8-0 score. The task doesn't get any easier for the Predators as the stop in New York to take on the Rangers.

The Rangers have been nearly unbeatable at home, going 9-1-1 in Madison Square Garden.

The Predators had ample opportunity to break their shut out streak in the first period, having 7:21 of power play time and out shooting the Rangers 14-3, but could not solve Henrik Lundqvist.

After the final 39 seconds of the Predators power play to open the second period had ended, Rick Nash got the puck away from Roman Josi and took the puck into the Predators zone and beat Pekka Rinne with a wrist shot from the face off circle.

The Predators defense broke down in the second period and left Derek Stepan alone in front of the net and he was able to beat Rinne to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead early in the third period.

Kevin Hayes beat Rinne from the blue line on the power play to make it 3-0, and with the Predators scoring woes, this game was over.

Heck, with the Predators scoring woes, this game was over a 1-0.

Mercifully, the Rangers didn't score again to embarrass the Predators further, and they captured a 3-0 win over the woeful and struggling Predators.

Some observations:

  • Mike Fisher was reunited with Craig Smith and Colin Wilson, while Mike Ribeiro centered James Neal and Filip Forsberg. Reuniting these lines will hopefully generate some positive offensive results after the past several games where Head Coach Peter Laviolette had put the lines in a blender.
  • James Neal played in his 500th NHL tonight.
  • The Predators first period was as good of a period of hockey that the Predators have played in a while. The Predators peppered Lundqvist with shots, many from the point, but could not find the back of the net. I still say that the Predators are lacking a player that can dominate the front of the net and this has been a part of their recent scoring woes.
  • In the last 3 games, every mistake- EVERY mistake- has wound up in the back of the Predators net. A turnover by Josi led to the Nash goal and a defensive breakdown resulted in the Stepan goal. This is run of bad puck luck for the Predators that is part not so good hockey and part pissed off hockey gods.
  • This game turned in the first period when the Rangers were back on their heels and the Predators couldn't convert on their 4 power plays. The Predators did a good job of getting in the zone but failed to generate much traffic in front of Lundqvist. If the Predators are not going hard to the net they are going to to have trouble scoring. This is part of the problem for the Predators offense right now.
  • The Predators, in particular James Neal, have taken some dumb and selfish penalties lately. I don't fault a penalty that occurs off a tough and aggressive hockey play, but some of these penalties are occurring when a player loses their focus and does something stupid. The Predators have to clean up this nonsense in their game.
  • Good to see Ryan Ellis get back on the ice after blocking a shot off the inside of his leg. This was the same type of block that knocked Ellis out of the line up for several games. It looked bad when it happened.
  • For the second game in a row, Mike Ribeiro was tagged with a 10 minute misconduct. Ribeiro is one of many Predator forwards that has contributed nothing over the past 3 games and has shown a frustratingly undisciplined level of play.
  • The Previous worst scoring slump for the Predators was 176 minutes. The Predators have now gone approximately 210 minutes without a goal. Their last goal was midway of the second period against the Anaheim Ducks 4 games ago.
  • The scoring drought of some of the key forwards is getting ridiculous. Forsberg, Smith, Wilson, Neal, and Fisher are struggling and they have to get their game going quickly.
  • The Predators hit two posts, but that was a close as they got to scoring in the game.
The Predators out shot the Rangers 31-19, but frankly it doesn't matter if they cannot find the back of the net.

The Predators have gotten away from hard hockey, a style of play that sends lots of traffic to the net with the intent of gaining position and refusing to yield that space. Right now, the Predators are a fancy team without the grit necessary to score goals.

Unless that changes, things are going to get even uglier.

My three stars:

1. Henrik Lundqvist

2. Rick Nash

3. Kevin Hayes

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Predators Look Awful In a 4-0 Loss to the Wild

The Nashville Predators looked to bounce back from an off game last night against Columbus as  they took on the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center.

Instead, the Predators stunk up the rink as they showed no fire and little effort in dropping a 4-0 decision to the Wild.

Lyin' Ryan Suter, Mikael Granlund, Jonas Brodin, and Thomas Vanek scored for the Wild. Suter and Vanek's goals came on the power play.

The Predators hung Pekka Rinne out to dry and never challenged Devan Dubnyk, who sat in his rocking chair with an easy night.

The lack of intensity and attack by the Predators is hugely disappointing as they showed no mental toughness and push back against the Wild in an important divisional game.

Some observations:

  • Eric Nystrom and Paul Gaustad returned to the line up for the Predators. As a result, Colton Sissons was reassigned to Milwaukee. Miikka Salomaki was a healthy scratch.
  • Cody Hodgson moved up to the first line with Mike Fisher and James Neal. Colin Wilson dropped down to the third line.
  • Good night, another odd man rush results in a goal against the Predators. This is the third goal in two games that has come as a direct result of the Predators being outmanned in the defensive zone. I don't know if this is because the lines have been jumbled and there is some confusion but this is really frustrating to see the Predators breakdown like this.
  • The Predators continue their undisciplined play as they made a steady march to the penalty box. of the 6 goals that the Wild have scored against the Predators this season, 4 have come on the power play. One of their even strength goals in this game came just 13 seconds after their power play had ended. Tonight, the Predators had 30 minutes in penalties, including a 10 minute misconduct against Mike Ribeiro.
  • Rinne was under assault in this game and got no help from the skaters in front of him. He managed to make some very good saves, but couldn't keep the Wild from storming the net and putting follow up shots on goal, something the Predators have failed to do in their last two games.
  • The disturbing aspect of these last two games, besides the loss of discipline, is the lack of intensity and push back from this team, especially the forwards. The Preds forwards have stopped attacking and as such have generated zero quality offensive chances. If they continue to play this way, this will be a very ugly road trip.
  • The Predators have been shut out in back to back games and have been outscored 8-0. 
  • OUCH
There was nothing good at all to say about this game. The Predators were awful and showed no heart in this loss.

They had better figure it out quickly.

My three stars:

1. Thomas Vanek

2. Lyin' Ryan Suter

3. Devan Dubnyk

Friday, November 20, 2015

Predators Start Road Trip By Falling Flat, Lose to the Blue Jackets 4-0

The Nashville Predators begin a grueling 6 games in 9 nights stretch with a stop in Columbus to face former Division rival Blue Jackets.

The Jackets struggled to open the season but have regained some semblance of respectability under new Head Coach John Tortorella.

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

Maybe the Predators thought they could just show up and chalk this one up as a win. Nothing could be further from reality.

The game opened in the worst possible way for the Predators, as the Jackets scored on their first two shots of the game. Gregory Campbell got lost by the defense and was alone in the slot and took a perfect pass from behind the net from Kirby Rychel. Campbell snapped a shot over the glove of Rinne for a 1-0 lead.

Ryan Johanson took advantage of a Predators turnover, setting up a 3 on 2 and Johanson was able to get the puck in the net just before Brandon Saad knocked the net off the moorings.

The Predators mounted some offense in the remainder of the first period but could not solve Bobrovsky.

The second period saw the Predators give up a 2 on 1 that the Jackets capitalized upon on just their second shot of the period. Boone Jenner took the shot and got his own rebound and batted it past Rinne to give the Jackets a 3-0 lead.

Scott Hartnell added an empty net goal as the Predators failed miserably to show up for this game and dropped an embarrassing 4-0 decision.

Some observations:

  • The Jackets played last night and lost the game to Ottawa. yet the Jackets opened the game with a lot more jump than the Predators. By the time the Predators got into the game, they were looking at a 2-0 deficit. The Predators have done a good job of starting fast this season, but they did not tonight and were in a hole before they had even worked up a sweat. This is the kind of start that this team can ill afford to have.
  • The Predators were guilty not only of a lot of turnovers, but uncharacteristically lost the majority of puck battles. This team is good, but they are not good enough to play without their characteristic intensity.
  •  Interesting change on the power play as Gabriel Bourque was inserted for Colin Wilson on one unit to provide the big body in front of the net.
  • The Jackets lost two defensemen to injury in the first period- Fedor Tyutin and Cody Goloubef. It was reported that Goloubef was taken to the hospital after taking a puck to the face  off a shot. The Jackets reported that he had a broken jaw as a a result of the shot.
  • The Predators were guilty of several turnovers that wound up in the back of their net. The Jackets second and third goals both came off turnovers that created odd man rushes at the net. Being sloppy with the puck cost the Predators and while Rinne is usually spectacular, he was outmanned and swarmed by the Jackets on those goals. 
  • The Predators threw a ton of shots at the net-    to be exact, but rarely was Bobrovsky called upon to make a quality save. The Predators, as Coach Kevin  McCarthy said at the first intermission, were trying to be too cute. The Predators have a skilled team but their bread and butter is getting shots to the net with traffic. Tonight, there was not a lot of traffic and Bobrovsky had a lot of clean looks at shots coming his way.
  • Unbelievably, the Predators are now 5-4-2 when they out shoot their opponent, while they are 6-0-1 when they are out shot.
  • Paging Filip Forsberg... Forsberg now has gone 10 games without a goal
  • Paging Colin Wilson... Wilson has now gone forever without scoring a goal. Both Wilson and Forsberg have been non factors in recent games, and the Predators have to have positive contributions from these two players.
  • Bobrovsky was good in this game,  no doubt, but what is puzzling is that the Predators couldn't put any more pressure on the Blue Jackets D when they were down to just 4 for the game. The forwards did not do a good job of getting the puck behind the Jackets D and punishing them with the forecheck.
  • Give credit to the Jackets skaters. They blocked 26 shots by the Predators. This is a hallmark of a Tortorella coached team, but the Predators have to get the puck through and create chances. 
This was an awful way to start the road trip, and it will not get any easier tomorrow night in Minnesota.

It is going to take a much better effort from the Predators to win that game.

Hopefully we got this stinker out of our system.

My three stars:

1. Sergei Bobrovsky

2. Ryan Johansen

3. Boone Jenner

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Predators Capture the Season Series Over the Ducks With 3-2 Win

Some games, a team steals a win. That is just what the Nashville Predators did to the Anaheim Ducks at Bridgestone Arena.

The Predators rode goals from Shea Weber, James Neal, and Mikka Salomaki to a 3-2 victory over the Ducks.

Rikard Rakell and Mike Santorelli tallied for the Ducks.

Weber staked the Predators to a 1-0 lead with the Predators on the man advantage. His blast from the point blew past Frederik Anderssen to give the Predators a 1-0 lead in the first period.

The Ducks tied it on Rakell's goal to tie the game at 10:47 of the first period as he beat Pekka Rinne on a wrap around to the far post..

James Neal broke the tie with his 9th goal of the season at 13:13 of the first period. Neal's goal came off a harmless flip from center ice that skipped in front of Anderssen and squirted between his pads.

Mikka Salomaki extended the lead to 3-1 as he tipped a shot from Mattias Ekholm between the pads of Anderssen.

That was it offensively for the Predators as the Ducks took over the game. Pekka Rinne made some outstanding saves, including stopping Carl Hagelin on a break away as well as the follow up shot from Hagelin.

The Ducks dominated possession in the third period and Mike Santorelli finally broke through, poking a puck into the net off a goal mouth scramble at 5:33 of the third period to make it 3-2.

The Predators managed to hang on behind the stellar play of Rinne to capture a hard fought- and very ugly- win by that one goal margin.

Some observations:

  • Rinne was outstanding tonight. he did a great job of tracking the puck through traffic, and there was a LOT of traffic in front of Rinne tonight. His save on the Hagelin break away was a thing of beauty and he thwarted the follow up by Hagelin as well. He also stopped Andrew Cogliano on a break away just a few moments later. The team rode the broad shoulders of Rinne to this win because the skaters in front of him were back on their heels for most of the night. This game was vintage Rinne. He had the aura of invincibility and it frustrated the Ducks all night. He made a season high 38 saves tonight.
  • This is the first game of the season where the Predators were totally dominated. The Ducks time of possession very lopsided in their favor and they kept the Predators back in their defensive zone from midway through the second period to the end of the game. The Ducks out shot the Predators 40-21 for the game. Their dominance started in the second period when they out shot the Predators 19-9 and in the third by an 11-4 margin. The Predators did not record their first shot on net in the third period until there was just 6:33 remaining.
  • The Predators did chase Anderssen, who gave up 3 goals on 10 shots, including the Steve Bernier-esque soft goal from center ice (Bernier is the Toronto goalie that gave up a similar goal last night). Anton Khudobin, who played last night in Carolina, finished the game.
  • The Ducks have the number one penalty kill in the NHL. Weber's goal on the Predators first power play was a missile that Anderssen never saw but must have heard as it whistled past him into the net.
  • However, the Ducks penalty kill took over after that power play goal. They stymied the Predators power play, often stealing the puck at the Predators blue line and creating some good scoring chances. The Predators were 1 for 7 on the power play and looked very ineffective against the Ducks penalty killers.
  • On the other side, though, the Predators penalty killers were stellar. The Ducks wer 0-8 on the man advantage.
  • The Predators took a lot of sloppy penalties, giving the Ducks too many chances in this games. Two tripping penalties, two roughing penalties, and unsportsmanlike conduct, and an interference penalty left the Predators a man down too often in this game.
  • Last season, James Neal had a total of 20 penalties. With 2 penalties tonight, Neal now has been called for 12 penalties so far this season. 
  • I really like the younger players- Salomaki and Watson in particular- being trusted in the penalty kill situation. They are logging some hard minutes and have earned the trust of the coaching staff with their play. This is critical for the this team in a long season to have these young players eating up some hard minutes.
  • Roman Josi picked up an assist on Weber's goal and that is his 100th assist in his career. he is the 6th Predators defenseman in history to record 100 assists.
  • The Predators went 3-1-1 on this 5 game home stand. It is so important to defend home ice, and the Predators have been making it tough for opponents to come into Bridgestone Arena.
  • The Ducks, as they are prone to do, decidied early on they wanted it to be a physical contest. Indeed, they thought they could goon it up and intimidate the Predators. In the first period, Kevin Bieksa decided to drop the gloves with Mike Fisher. Once the officials broke up the fight, Bieksa was minus a tooth and we saw no more running around from Bieksa for the rest of the game.You can see the fight, including a nice slow motion of Bieksa losing a chicklet here
This was not a pretty win, but it was a win, and they don't grade them on style points (thankfully).

Now the Predators embark on a tough roadie, with 6 games in 9 nights, including two sets of back to backs

They will have to play with the heart and mettle they have shwon recently.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Mikka Salomaki

3. Shea Weber

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Jets Crash and Burn, Pummeled By the Predators 7-0

The Nashville Predators were looking to get their offense back on track after a lackluster performance in their last game.

The Winnipeg Jets were just what they needed.

The Jets were pummeled by the Predators 7-0 at Bridgestone Arena that saw an abundance of scoring and penalties.

The Predators were handed 72 penalty minutes. The Jets, frustrated and gooning up the game after falling behind by a large deficit, were called for 84 minutes in the sin bin*

*That number could change as the official game sheet is not in hand as of this writing.

The Jets, losers of their last 4, were desperate for a good start and looking to get back to the win column against a division rival.

That didn't happen, as the Predators torched starter Michael Hutchinson for 3 goals on 7 shots.

Calle Jarnkrok, Craig Smith, and Seth Jones lit up Hutchinson for 3 goals in the first 12 minutes of the first period. That was all for Hutchinson as Ondrej Pavelec came on in relief.

Pavelec was welcomed to the game 2 minutes later as Mike Ribeiro scored.

Pavelec would give up 3 more goals. James Neal would score in the second, and Jarnkrok and Mattias Ekholm would notch goals in the third for the final margin of 7-0 for the Predators.

The Jets never threatened Pekka Rinne, who had to turn away only 20 shots.

Some observations:

  • The Jets were obviously frustrated with the losing streak and the way the game went tonight. And they decided to goon it up. Cheap shots and unnecessary rough play resulted in both teams sending a steady parade of players to the penalty box. How bad was it? Take a look at the Predators penalty box in the third period:
This was after all 5 players from each team on the ice were sent to the box for unsportsmanlike conduct calls

  • Good to see Calle Jarnkrok stepping up his game. he has settled in to the third line center position and is playing some very good hockey of late. Jarnkrok is playing with confidence and seeing the ice well. Now he is finding the back of the net and this is adding some pop to that line.
  • Craig Smith had a goal and 2 assists. He has always worked hard, but has not been rewarded on the score sheet. His goal tonight was his first in 10 games, and hopefully this opens the door for his game to continue to find the net.
  • How snake bitten is Colin Wilson? For the second game in a row, he worked to find open ice but rang a shot off the post. It is just a matter of time until he starts to find the net.
  • Seth Jones scored his first goal of the season. Good for Jones, as it took him 31 games to score his first goal last season.
  • Isn't this Predators offense fun to watch? They have scored 15 goals in their last 3 games, and when they are skating, they are a dangerous team that can put the puck in the net.
  • Pekka Rinne recorded his 38th career shut out tonight. He has 112 games where he has allowed 1 goal or less. Rinne is 8-1 all time against the Jets.
  • Filip Forsberg picked up an assist and now has a 3 game point streak (3A).
  • The 4 goals the Predators scored in the first period are the most goals in a period since their game against Toronto on 11/18/2014, when they scored 5 goals in the third period of that game.
  • James Neal has 14 goals against the Jets, the most against any team.
  • The 156 minutes (so far) in this game were the most penalty minutes in any NHL game this season. The Predators 72 minutes in penalties was the third highest in team history.
  • Nashville is 9-1-1 when scoring first.
Although this was rough game, mostly initiated by the Jets, the Predators maintained their composure and kept their foot on the gas. When the Predators are skating, they are a dangerous and explosive team, and it showed tonight as they took the game to the Jets for 60 minutes.

This was a good response game by the Predators after the snooze fest in their previous game.

And how sweet was it to put on this kind of show on a Hockey Night In Canada game?

Good to show those folks in the Great White North that hockey in the South, especially in Smashville, is pretty damn good.

Now to finish off the 5 game game homestand with this kind of game against the Ducks on Tuesday.

My three stars:

1. Craig Smith

2. Calle Jarnkrok

3. Pekka Rinne

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Predators Trapped By the Leafs, Fall In A Shoot Out

The struggling Toronto Maple Leafs ventured into Bridgestone Arena to take on the high flying Nashville Predators, and on paper, this should have been a game the Predators would chalk up in the win column.

However, the game is played on the ice, and the Leafs played a perfect road game in defeating the Predators in a shootout 2-1.

The Leafs, under new Coach Mike Babcock, looked like an incarnation of the early version of the Minnesota Wild when they were coached by Jacques Lemaire. The Leafs trapped all night long and choked the offensive life out of the Predators, holding them to just 22 shots for the game. This included the Predators having 1:50 of power play time in the overtime period.

The Leafs did a good job of disrupting the Predators breakouts and rush through the neutral zone all night. When the Predators did challenge the net, James Reimer was equal to the task.

The Predators finally broke through on the power play in the third period as Shea Weber tallied his 5th goal of the season.

The Predators let the Leafs tie the game on a defensive breakdown. Tyler Bozak beat Filip Forsberg back through the slot and capitalized on the mistake, roofing a shot over the shoulder of a sprawling Pekka Rinne.

The Predators couldn't capitalize with the lengthy man advantage in overtime, mustering only 1 shot on goal in the 5 minute period. The Leafs managed just two shots in the extra period.

The shootout went to 5 rounds before Peter Holland beat Rinne with a forehand snap shot to give the Leafs a 2-1 win.

Some observations:

  • The Predators were woeful in the shootout with 3 of the 5 shooters failing to get off a shot. Too much talent to waste chances like that.
  • Shea Weber played in his 700th NHL game. Calle Jarnkrok played in his 100th NHL game.
  • This is the first time this season that the Leafs have won consecutive games. They defeated the Stars in their previous game.
  • The Leafs trapped all game and the Predators could not seem to figure out how to handle the pressure. After pouring 45 and 38 shots on goal in their previous two games, the Predators could muster only 22 shots in regulation and overtime, and many of those were not quality shots. The Predators are going to have to figure out how to handle this type of pressure because as the season goes along, they will face teams that will attempt to thwart their speed.
  • The Predators were much better in the face off dot, winning 59% of their draws. Calle Jarnkrok won 78% of his draws while Mike Ribeiro won 71%.
  • Speaking of Ribeiro, he has been invisible in the offensive zone recently. Ribeiro needs to elevate his game to make the second line go, and his play has been average at best recently.
This was a trap game (literally) for the Predators and they fell victim to a team that is playing for jobs and pride. The Predators did not match the effort of the Leafs and it showed on the scoreboard.

It's time for a better effort in the next game.

My three stars:

1. James Reimer

2. Tyler Bozak

3. Shea Weber