Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Predators Blow 2 Leads and 2 points, Fall In Shootout to the Canucks

The Nashville Predators had a prime opportunity to extend their Central Division lead to 5 points by taking care of business against the Vancouver Canucks at the Bridgestone Arena.

The Canucks had played a hard game against the St. Louis Blues the night before, while the Predators had the day off.

The Predators pissed away a point, however, blowing leads twice in the game before losing in a shootout 5-4.

I frankly am pretty disgusted. If you want the box score, you can get it here.

Some observations:

  • This team continues to amaze me at their lack of killer instinct. After a dominant first period that saw the Predators go to the locker room with a 2 goal lead, they were terrible in the second period. The Canucks first goal never should have happened as Pekka Rinne was beaten five hole on an easily stoppable shot. And to give up a shorthanded goal after a brutal Seth Jones turnover at the start of the third is inexcusable. When you have a team, a tired team, down you don't let them back into the game. This is a matter of will over skill, and the Predators lack of intensity and will is disturbing. The playoffs are all about will and grit, and this team seems to be coming up short in that area.
  • That said, it seems that this team isn't comfortable playing with a lead but will battle like hell to get back into a game. I appreciate the compete level when they are behind, but when you have leads, don't get behind. Protect those leads and amp up your intensity level. Instead, the Predators seem to sit back and let Rinne stop shots (think the Ducks game earlier this month). And when Rinne struggles, like he did tonight, this team is in trouble.
  • Rinne was not sharp tonight. Both of the second period goals were goals that Rinne usually eats up. This team leans so heavily on Rinne, and when his game is off, they struggle mightily.
  • The power play continues to baffle me. We score a power play goal from Cody Franson and then the man advantage unit goes cold. This killed the team when they had a 5 minute power play late in the third and one minute into overtime. Five minutes of power play time and we managed 4 shots. This unit continues to worry me and I still feel that this will be a serious problem in the playoffs. One aspect of this unit that puzzles me is the continued inconsistency of getting traffic in front of the opposing goaltender. The Preds tried using Taylor Beck and Gabriel Bourque on the power play to do that but there were long stretches where they weren't on the ice. Bombing shots from the point toward an unscreened netminder is rarely going to get you a goal, but this seems to be the only strategy for this unit.
  • Vancouver played a chippy game and Kevin Bieksa was a classless piece of crap, yapping at an injured Paul Gaustad. Bieksa was given a game misconduct for his classless antics.
  • Mike Fisher had a 3 point night with a goal and two assists. Fisher now has 19 goals on the season. If you had told me that the team would get that kind of production from Fish after rupturing his Achilles tendon in the offseason, I would have seriously doubted you. I am impressed with the effort Fisher brings to the ice every night. Some other players need to follow suit.
  • Seth Jones is...an adventure. He will make an outstanding play and will next shift make a brutal play. His turnover at the Predators blue line while on the power play set up Alex Burrows shorthanded goal. Consistency is definitely an issue for Seth.
  • Shea Weber missed his third game with a lower body injury.
  • Roman Josi continues to impress. His level of play has been solid all season and he has elevated his game of late. Josi had 8 points (4G-4A) in his last 9 games. he had 30:16 of ice time tonight.
  • The Predators were 6-7-2 in March. This trend has to get back on an upswing before the playoffs.
I continue to believe this team has the potential to go far in the playoffs. But if they cannot hold leads and up their intensity level for 60 minutes, the time in the playoffs could be short.

My three stars:

1. Eddie Lack

2. Mike Fisher

3. Alex Burrows

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Predators Burned By the Flames 5-2

The Nashville Predators were playing their third game in 4 days.

It showed, as the Calgary Flames dominated the Predators at Bridgestone Arena, taking a 5-2 victory and sweeping their season series.

It started well for the Predators as Roman Josi opened the scoring with a well placed shot that beat Jonas Hiller to give the Predators a 1-0 first period lead.

That lead evaporated when Lance Bouma was able to gather a rebound in the slot and slip the puck between the pads of Carter Hutton.

Kris Russell gave the Flames a 2-1 lead when his shot hit the skate of Paul Gaustad and deflected past Hutton.

The Flames tacked on two more second period goals. The Predators defense let Michael Ferland alone at the top of the crease and he beat Hutton to make it 3-1.

Jiri Hudler let a shot go that Hutton appeared to stop between his pads, but the puck squirted out and trickled over the goal line to make it 4-1.

Seth Jones gave the Predators some life in the third period when his bullet from the blue line beat Hiller over his shoulder to make it 4-2.

The Predators pulled Hutton for an extra attacker, and predictably gave up an empty net goal by Bouma for the final 5-2 margin.

Some observations:

  • When  you looked at the schedule and saw 4 games in 6 days against some top flight competition (Montreal, Tampa Bay, Washington, and Calgary) and told me that the Predators would take 6 of 8 points, I would have gladly taken that. The Predators played some good hockey during this stretch, and frankly, looked like a tired team at times against the Flames.
  • I don't fault Hutton on the first 3 Calgary goals, but goodness, he has got to stop that 4th goal. That was incredibly soft and dug a hole too deep for the Predators.
  • When the Norris trophy discussions are held, Roman Josi's name has to be mentioned. Josi continues to play at a very high level against the opposition's best forwards and is doing a stellar job. He just brings it every game. His goal gives him 55 points for the season, one shy of the all time record for a Predators defenseman.
  • Seth Jones tied a career record for points (25) with his first period goal. Seth has been up and down this season, but I like the way he has stepped in on the first D pairing with Shea Weber out due to an injury. I have to keep reminding myself that Seth is still a young player and in just his second season in the NHL. He shows lots of upside potential, and patience will be required as he continues to develop.
  • Weber missed his second game with a lower body injury.
  • Mike Ribeiro picked up an assist on the goal by Jones, giving him 499 for his career. He also set a single season mark for assists by a Predators center with 45, passing Jason Arnott.
  • The Predators defense was leaky at times, allowing the flames to have free access to the slot. That may be a fatigue factor, but the Flames are a desperate team and once again, the Predators had difficulty in matching the intensity of a hungry opponent.
  • This was the last set of back to back games in this season for the Predators.
  • The Predators had one power play in the game, and did not score. Once again, the unit continues to struggle to gain the zone and generate quality scoring chances. Same song, same verse.
  • As of tonight, the Predators have 5 games remaining. They have 102 points and lead St. Louis by 3 and third place Minnesota by 7 in the Central Division. Anaheim leads the Western Conference and the League with 103 points.
The Predators play Vancouver at home on Tuesday and are then off until Saturday when they play Dallas at home.

This will give the team an opportunity for some practice and rest and recovery.

They can use it as they sprint toward the playoffs.

My three stars:

1. Lance Bouma

2. Jiri Hudler

3. Roman Josi

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Predators Clinch Playoff Spot With 4-3 Win Over the Capitals, and Scenes From the Road

The Nashville Predators were looking to continue their winning ways going into their game with the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center.

The task was going to be a bit more difficult as Shea Weber was out of the line up and called day to day with the dreaded "lower body injury".

The Predators proved they were up to the task, scoring 3 first period goals on the way to a 4-3 victory.

Moments after killing off a 55 second 5 on 3 advantage for the Caps, Mattias Ekholm, who was one of the Preds in the box, took a puck that was muffed by Curtis Glencross at the Capitals blue line and beat Braden Holtby with a sweet backhand shot to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.

Mike Fisher made it 2-0 with a wrist shot through traffic.

The Capitals former first round pick, Filip Forsberg drilled a wrist shot past Holtby for a 3-0 first period lead and that ended the afternoon for Holtby. He was lifted for Justin Peters after giving up 3 goals on 13 shots.

The Caps scored just 19 seconds into the second period as the Predators got scrambly in their end and Troy Brouwer lifted a puck over a fallen Pekka Rinne.

Brouwer would score a short handed goal as Forsberg made a blind drop pass in the neutral zone that Brower picked off and beat Rinne low to the stick side.

Mike Ribeiro gave the Predators a 4-2 lead after Forsberg won a battle on the wall and passed to Ribeiro in the low slot. He redirected it past Peters to give the Predators some breathing room.

That goal was the game winner because the Caps stormed out and scored just 20 seconds into the third period to make it 4-3. Mike Green scored from the blue line through traffic to cut the lead to 1 and increase exponentially the pucker factor of every Preds fan.

Rinne and the defense were able to shut the door on the Caps to secure the win and a playoff spot. The Predators have now won 4 straight games, including 3 over Eastern Conference playoff contenders (Montreal, Tampa Bay, and Washington).

Some observations:

  • With Weber out of the line up, the defensive pairings were: roman Josi and Seth Jones; Mattias Ekholm and Cody Franson; and Anton Volchenkov and Ryan Ellis. The blueliners were very good today, and I have to give kudos to Volchenkov and Ellis in particular. They got caught several times with Ovechkin's line on the ice and handled themselves very well. And what can you say about Roman Josi? He handled some tough minutes and continues to impress with his poise, solid play, and ability to move the puck.
  • I also really like the play of Mattias Ekholm. He is playing with confidence and has shown some offensive flair. His goal was a beauty, completely fooling Holtby with a quick backhand.
  • I saw Weber in the hotel before the game and spoke with him. He did not appear to be in pain and was moving well. Hopefully he returns to the line up quickly.
  • Filip Forsberg picked up a goal and 2 assists (thank you former Caps GM George McPhee!). But the play that really stood out to me was his work on the wall the win the puck and get it to Ribeiro for the game winning goal. One of the underrated aspects of his game is the strength that he has and his ability to use that strength to win puck battles. That goal was a direct result of his strong effort on the boards.
  • Pekka Rinne was once again solid in net. He stopped 23 of 26 shots and picked up his 41st win of the season. Rinne looks confident and smooth in the net, and there is no doubt the team feeds on that condidence that he brings.
  • The Predators held Alex Ovechkin without a goal. He had 2 goals in their contest against the Predators in Nashville. Ovi has now gone 7 straight games without a goal.
  • The Caps had 45 hits to the Predators 17. That is an indication of how the Predators possessed the puck and forced the Caps to chase.
  • Once again, the penalty kill was excellent, killing off all 5 of the Capitals power plays, including 55 seconds of a 5 on 3. The Caps have a potent offense and power play and the Predators did a good job of foiling their entries into the zone and disrupting their offensive flow.
  • Likewise, the Caps did the same thing to the Predators power play. The Predators even managed to give up a short handed goal off a bone headed drop pass to no one by Forsberg. This unit has got to start performing at a higher level quickly. Please!
This was a very big win by the team, not only for clinching a playoff spot but for meeting the challenge of playing a quality playoff contender and taking care of business in a hostile environment.

Now they have to keep it rolling. Going into the playoffs on a roll is certainly preferable to limping into the postseason.

My three stars:

1. Filip Forsberg

2. Troy Brouwer

3. Mike Ribeiro

Here are some scenes from DC:

The Verizon Center is right in the middle of downtown. The 20 year old barn is a nice facility, but inside is starting to show its age a bit. While Verizon has the naming rights on the facility, notice the big T-Mobil LED ad on the corner of the building.

A view of the arena before the game.

The ladies just can't resist sharp dressed men wearing gold.

My hockey pal and traveling companion Mark Blake on the right and Pete Weber. We had an opportunity to tour the historic National Press Club and have dinner there on Friday night. The history in that facility and some of the exhibits there were amazing.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Predators Defeat the Lightning 3-2, and Scenes From the Road

Boy, it's fun to win hockey games again!

Even if they are the nail-biting, sweat it out to the end kind of games.

The Nashville Predators did just that as they took on the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena. The Predators knocked off the Lightning 3-2, beating a top ranked Eastern Conference team for the second game in a row.

The Lightning opened the game with lots of jump and controlled play in the Predators end of the ice, outshooting them 9-3 through the first ten minutes of the first period.

The positive for the Predators was that they scored on 2 of those three shots.

Mike Ribeiro redirected a shot from the point by Roman Josi that eluded Ben Bishop. Just 40 seconds later, Paul Gaustad batted a puck out of the air off a rebound of a Taylor Beck shot past Bishop to give the Predators a 2-0 lead.

The Lightning cut the lead to 2-1 with just 39 seconds remaining in the the first period as Vladamir Namestnikov beat Pekka Rinne on a wrap around.

Mike Santorelli got his first goal as a Predators as he followed the rebound of his shot and jammed it between the skate of Bishop and the post to make it 3-1.

Brian Boyle cut the lead to 3-2 as the Predators defense completely forgot about him standing in the low slot. He took a pass from J.T. Brown and beat Rinne and give the momentum to the Bolts.

That set up a third period where the game rested on the broad shoulders of Rinne. Rinne didn't disappoint as he made some great saves and got some help from the defense in front of him. Rinne stopped all 11 shots he faced and the Predators captured a confidence building 3-2 win.

Some observations:

  • With the win, the Predators are the first team in the Central Division to reach 100 points. They currently have the Division lead by 1 over the Blues.
  • Rinne was outstanding tonight. He was in control and moved well in the crease. The only time he was caught out of position was on the goal by Namestnikov, and it appeared that he was tangled with one of his defensemen when he tried to push off and come back to the post. Rinne was in control of the game and his team in front of him fed off that effort.
  • Goodness, the power play is just awful. I have no words for this unit and their inability to generate some quality chances. Watch out, because this is going to be an Achilles heel for this team. 
  • Good to see Mike Santorelli finally get on the score sheet. Hopefully this gets him going.
  • Calle Jarnkrok was a beast on the penalty kill and his forechecking frustrated the skilled Lightning forwards and disrupted their offensive rhythm all night. Great effort in a roll that is often overlooked.
Just a brief update, but here are some pictures from the road:

 Amalie Arena is downtown and is a beautiful facility. This is a view of the main entrance and the
The home crowd gathers here before the game and it is a festive atmosphere.

The plaza area is called "Thunder Alley, and this is a view of it before the crowds gather. The band stage is to the right.

 The statue of Phil Esposito on the plaza. Phil was the first General Manager of the Lightning and still does radio color for the team.

 The statue of Dave Andruchuk, the Captain of the Lightning when they won the Stanley Cup. As you can see, it is at the entrance to Thunder Alley.

The massive scoreboard inside of Amalie Arena. You almost feel like you are in Jerry World in Dallas when you see the size of the scoreboard.

 The Arena doesn't have a band stage, but they have a huge organ that is played throughout the game. This is a shot of the stage where the organ sits at the top of the arena.

The arena has two Tesla coils that fire off lightning bolts when the Lightning come on the ice. I have to say, it is one of the coolest things I have seen in an arena.

A huge win for the Predators, one that will hopefully give them more swagger as they sprint to the end of the season.

A final thought: big, BIG ups to the number of Predators fans that made the trip down to support the boys. There was a noticeable amount of gold spread throughout the arena.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Brian Boyle

3. Paul Gaustad

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Predators Return the Favor, Defeat the Canadiens in OT

The two best goaltenders in the NHL as well as two of the best teams went head to head at the Bridgestone Arena as the Nashville Predators dueled with the Montreal Canadiens.

In their first meeting, the Canadiens won in overtime.

The Predators returned the favor, defeating the Candiens 3-2 on a Filip Forsberg power play goal.

Forsberg's heroics were set up by a tripping penalty on P.K. Subban for the Predators 5th power play goal of the night.

Mattias Ekholm opened the scoring with a highlight reel goal. Ekholm stole the puck, split the defense and was tripped. Ekholm got up off his belly, got to his knees, and flipped the puck past Carey Price to make it 1-0 for the Predators.

The Candiens came back strong in the second period, scoring twice to take a 2-1 lead. The Predators failed to clear a puck that Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne should have covered. The puck squirted out into the slot and Brendan Gallagher slammed the puck past Rinne to tie the game at 1.

David Desharnais gave the Habs the lead when the Predators defensive coverage broke down. Desharnais was left alone at the side of the net, and P.A. Parenteau found him with a perfect pass. Rinne had no chance as Desharnais banged home the puck into a wide open net.

Ryan Ellis tied the game in the third period when his flip from the blue line hit the ice 10 feet in front of Price. Filip Forsberg was in front screening Price and the puck took a high bounce and into the net over the shoulder of Price for a 2 all score.

In the overtime, Forsberg stole the puck from Subban and was off on a breakaway when Subban tripped Forsberg. On the ensuing power play, Mike Ribeiro mad a nice pass across the slot and Forsberg buried the game winner over an out of position Price.

Some observations:

  • Mattias Ekholm scored a beauty of a goal. He stole the puck, split the defense, was tripped, and still had the presence to get his stick on the puck and lift it over Price. That goal was the first goal that Price had given up in 166:10 of play. Ekholm has been solid in the defensive end and has shown some surprisingly good offensive flair. That goal had to lift the Predators as it showed they could score against the best netminder in the NHL.
  • Price leads the league with 40 wins. Pekka Rinne is right behind him, picking up his 39th win tonight. Rinne was strong in the net and made some quality saves. Both goals that the Canadiens scored occurred off defensive breakdowns by the team in front of him. The Desharnais goal was especially egregious, as the forward responsible for Desharnais was no where to be found on that scoring play. Rinne was solid and made some very good saves on quality scoring chances by the Habs.
  • Ryan Ellis scored his career high 7th goal with what could be charitably called a fluke goal. The puck took a high bounce over the shoulder of Price, but full marks to Ellis for getting it on net and to Forsberg for doing a good job battling in front of the net and screening Price.
  • Kevin Fiala, the Predators first round draft choice in 2014, made his NHL debut. He logged 11:25 in ice time and put 3 shots on net. The 18 year old has had quite a year, playing in the Swedish Elite League, the World Junior Championships (representing Sweden), the American Hockey League, and now the NHL. And he is not even close to being old enough to buy a beer.
  • Fiala was a call up because Viktor Stalberg was injured in the morning skate. Matt Cullen was also scratched. No word on his status.
  • With the win, the Predators are now 14-8 in overtime.
  • Colin Wilson picked up an assist on the goal by Ryan Ellis, his 100th assist.
  • Mike Ribeiro had 2 assists, giving him 497 for his career.
  • Filip Forsberg picked up his 22nd second goal of the season with his overtime tally. This was his 6th game winning goal of the year.
  • This is the first time that the Predators have won back to back games since February 22nd and 24th.
  • Props to the Predator fans. Tonight's sellout crowd was the 26th of the season, setting a franchise record.
  • Although the game winning goal came on the power play, the Predators power play unit continues to struggle. They were 1-5 tonight and often had trouble just entering the zone. The Predators are going to have to get the power play fixed and become more of a threat with the man advantage or it is going to bite them in the ass in the remainder of the season and in the playoffs.
  • The Predators were 60% in the faceoff circle. Mike Fisher led the way, winning 16 of 20 draws.
  • The Predators out shot the Canadiens 31-29.
The Predators sit 1 point behind St. Louis and Anaheim with 98 points and 4 points ahead of Chicago. With the point tonight, the Canadiens are the first team in the NHL to reach 100 points.

It doesn't get any easier for the Predators as they will have a 2 game roadie with Tampa Bay and Washington, two teams that will look to avenge earlier season losses to the Predators.

Play like you did tonight and you can win those games, boys.

My three stars:

1. Filip Forsberg

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Carey Price

Sunday, March 22, 2015

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

For some time, I have been telling you that the numbers that we get on T.V. and the proclamations from the media talking heads and government officials as to the state of our economy should be taken with a grain of salt.

A very large grain of salt.

Now I want to share an article with you from Michael Snyder of the Economic Collapse blog. Snyder gives you the same information that I have been sharing and makes a cogent case that things are so rosy in our economy.

Here is his blog:

If you believe that ignorance is bliss, you might not want to read this article.  I am going to dispel the notion that there has been any sort of “economic recovery”, and I am going to show that we are much worse off than we were just prior to the last economic crisis.  If you go back to 2007, people were feeling really good about things.  Houses were being flipped like crazy, the stock market was booming and unemployment was relatively low.  But then the financial crisis of 2008 struck, and for a while it felt like the world was coming to an end.

Of course it didn’t come to an end – it was just the first wave of our problems.  The waves that come next are going to be the ones that really wipe us out.  Unfortunately, because we have experienced a few years of relative stability, many Americans have become convinced that Barack Obama, Janet Yellen and the rest of the folks in Washington D.C. have fixed whatever problems caused the last crisis.  Even though all of the numbers are screaming otherwise, there are millions upon millions of people out there that truly believe that everything is going to be okay somehow.  We never seem to learn from the past, and when this next economic downturn strikes it is going to do an astonishing amount of damage because we are already in a significantly weakened state from the last one.

For each of the charts that I am about to share with you, I want you to focus on the last shaded gray bar on each chart which represents the last recession.  As you will see, our economic problems are significantly worse than they were just before the financial crisis of 2008.  That means that we are far less equipped to handle a major economic crisis than we were the last time.

#1 The National Debt
Just prior to the last recession, the U.S. national debt was a bit above 9 trillion dollars.  Since that time, it has nearly doubled.  So does that make us better off or worse off?  The answer, of course, is obvious.  And even though Barack Obama promises that “deficits are under control”, more than a trillion dollars was added to the national debt in fiscal year 2014.  What we are doing to future generations by burdening them with so much debt is beyond criminal.  And so what does Barack Obama want to do now?  He wants to ramp up government spending and increase the debt even faster.  This is something that I covered in my previous article entitled “Barack Obama Says That What America Really Needs Is Lots More Debt“.

Presentation National Debt

#2 Total Debt
Over the past 40 years, the total amount of debt in the United States has skyrocketed to astronomical heights.  We have become a “buy now, pay later” society with devastating consequences.  Back in 1975, our total debt level was sitting at about 2.5 trillion dollars.  Just prior to the last recession, it was sitting at about 50 trillion dollars, and today we are rapidly closing in on 60 trillion dollars.
Presentation Credit Market Instruments

#3 The Velocity Of Money
When an economy is healthy, money tends to change hands and circulate through the system quite rapidly.  So it makes sense that the velocity of money fell dramatically during the last recession.  But why has it kept going down since then?
Presentation Velocity Of M2

#4 The Homeownership Rate
Were you aware that the rate of homeownership in the United States has fallen to a 20 year low?  Traditionally, owning a home has been a sign that you belong to the middle class.  And the last recession was really rough on the middle class, so it makes sense that the rate of homeownership declined during that time frame.  But why has it continued to steadily decline ever since?
Presentation Homeownership Rate

#5 The Employment Rate
Barack Obama loves to tell us how the unemployment rate is “going down”.  But as I will explain later in this article, this decline is primarily based on accounting tricks.  Posted below is a chart of the civilian employment-population ratio.  Just prior to the last recession, approximately 63 percent of the working age population of the United States was employed.  During the recession, this ratio fell to below 59 percent and it stayed there for several years.  Just recently it has peeked back above 59 percent, but we are still very, very far from where we used to be, and now the next economic downturn is rapidly approaching.
Presentation Employment Population Ratio

#6 The Labor Force Participation Rate
So how can Obama get away with saying that the unemployment rate has gone down dramatically?  Well, each month the government takes thousands upon thousands of long-term unemployed workers and decides that they have been unemployed for so long that they no longer qualify as “part of the labor force”.  As a result, the “labor force participation rate” has fallen substantially since the end of the last recession…
Presentation Labor Force Participation Rate

#7 The Inactivity Rate For Men In Their Prime Working Years
If things are “getting better”, then why are so many men in their prime working years doing nothing at all?  Just prior to the last recession, the inactivity rate for men in their prime working years was about 9 percent.  Today it is just about 12 percent.
Presentation Inactivity Rate

#8 Real Median Household Income
Not only is a smaller percentage of Americans employed today than compared to just prior to the last recession, the quality of our jobs has gone down as well.  This is one of the factors which has resulted in a stunning decline of real median household income.
Presentation Real Median Household Income
I have shared these next numbers before, but they bear repeating.  In America today, most Americans do not make enough to support a middle class lifestyle on a single salary.  The following figures come directly from the Social Security Administration

-39 percent of American workers make less than $20,000 a year.
-52 percent of American workers make less than $30,000 a year.
-63 percent of American workers make less than $40,000 a year.
-72 percent of American workers make less than $50,000 a year.

We all know people that are working part-time jobs because that is all that they can find in this economy.  As the quality of our jobs continues to deteriorate, the numbers above are going to become even more dismal.

#9 Inflation
Even as our incomes have stagnated, the cost of living just continues to rise steadily.  For example, the cost of food and beverages has gone up nearly 50 percent just since the year 2000.
Presentation Food Inflation

#10 Government Dependence
As the middle class shrinks and the number of Americans that cannot independently take care of themselves soars, dependence on the government is reaching unprecedented heights.  For instance, the federal government is now spending about twice as much on food stamps as it was just prior to the last recession.  How in the world can anyone dare to call this an “economic recovery”?
Presentation Government Spending On Food Stamps

So you tell me – are things “getting better” or are they getting worse?

Snyder makes some compelling points that all of us would be wise to keep in mind the next time you turn on the television and hear someone say everything is fine and getting better.

It's not.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Predators Get A Much Needed Win Against the Sabres

You hate to say that the Nashville Predators game at Bridgestone Arena against the Buffalo Sabres was a must win game for the Predators.

But it was.

The Predators were looking to snap a 3 game home losing streak and to get back to the type of game that propelled them to the top of the NHL for a good portion of this season.

The Predators brought the effort, and more importantly, they brought the finish to the game and secured a 3-0 victory in front of a sellout crowd.

The Predators came out firing and poured 17 shots on Sabres netminder Matt Hackett in the first period, but could not find the back of the net. Pekka Rinne had relatively little work in the first as he faced only 6 shots.

The Predators finally broke through on the power play late in the second period as Taylor Beck redirected a Shea Weber shot past Hackett. The power play goal came just 5 seconds into the man advantage.

The Predators tacked on 2 more goals in the third period.

Craig Smith banged home his 23 goal of the season as Hackett kicked out a rebound of a Ryan Ellis shot to Smith, who was driving hard to the net.

Mike Fisher added an insurance goal as Viktor Stalberg found Fisher in the high slot and Fisher beat Hackett stick side to make it 3-0.

That was a big goal for the Predators because although the Sabres had not mustered much offense to the third period, they would up the intensity and Rinne made some huge saves to keep the Sabres off the board.

Some observations:

  • James Neal missed his third game with an upper body injury. Colin Wilson, who is listed as day to day, was out with a lower body injury.
  • With those players out of the line up, the Predators called up Viktor Arvidsson from Milwaukee. Arvidsson doesn't have the size of Wilson or Neal, but the kid has some wheels and showed that he is not afraid to go to the hard areas. Arvidsson played on a line with Mike Ribeiro and Gabriel Bourque and finished with 12:52 of ice time, 3 shots, and 1 hit.
  • Craig Smith continues to play some solid hockey. He is not afraid to go to the net and has a nose for the puck. His goal was a direct result of driving the net, blowing past a Sabres defender and his own teammate (Mike Fisher, whom he bowled over to get to the puck) to score.
  • Once again, the Predators faced an opponent who turned it up in the third period, but this time, Pekka Rinne shut the door. He was outstanding in the third period, making some very big and athletic saves, and he stopped Tyler Ennis on a breakaway to keep momentum with the Predators. Rinne was a rock for the Predators and kept Buffalo from seizing momentum in the third, something the Predators have failed to do in previous games. This was Rinne's 4th shutout of the season and his 38th win of the year.
  • Ryan Ellis played a strong game in the defensive zone and picked up 2 assists tonight. The Predators get more dangerous when Ellis can contribute offensively, and it is good to see him back to 100% after missing 21 games.
  • This was the Predators first win on home ice since February 24th against Colorado.
  • The Predators out shot the Sabres 43-24 and out shot them in every period. It was certainly good to see the Predators keep up the effort and intensity for a full 60 minutes.
  • One troubling aspect of this skid has been the tendency for the Predators to give up the first goal. Tonight the Predators got on the board first. How important is that to this team? The Predators are 24-2-4 when they score first.
  • Matt Hackett kept the Sabres in the game and was very good in net. He was under attack all game long, and this game had the makings of another hot goalie stealing a game from the Predators. Full marks to the Predators for their relentless attack all game long.
  • And big ups to the fans of Smashville. This was the 7th consecutive sellout and the 25th of the year, tying a franchise record.
  • The Predators were outstanding in the faceoff circle, winning 63%. Paul Gaustad won all 13 faceoffs he took. This is so important for possession in the offensive zone in particular, and the Predators had their best game of the season in the dot.
  • The Predators PK did a good job, shutting down the Sabres power play including a 4 minute double minor to Craig Smith for high sticking. They did an excellent job disrupting the Sabres offense and limiting scoring chances.
Like I said, this was a must win game for the Predators, and it was good to see the team take care of business.

Nine games are left and it will be against some stiff competition. 

The Predators control their destiny and where they will wind up in the playoffs.

It's up to this team to determine where they will wind up.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Craig Smith

3. Ryan Ellis

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Predators Once Again Blow a Lead, Fall In OT to the Wild

The Nashville Predators are desperate for a win.

Roman Josi did his best to see that would happen.

Unfortunately, the rest of the team didn't follow.

Roman Josi put the team on his back and scored 2 goals 45 seconds apart in the second period to give the Predators a 2-1 lead going into the third period.

Regrettably, this Predators team has lost all ability to close out a game.

Charlie Coyle had given the Wild a 1-0 lead at the end of the first period as he out muscled the Predators mini-me defenseman Ryan Ellis. Coyle struck again in a third period that the Predators once again let slip away. His rocket from the face off circle over the shoulder of Pekka Rinne tied the game at 2.

Just 22 seconds into the overtime, Matt Dumba scored to give the Wild a win and send the Predators to their 9th loss in their last 12 games.

Some observations:

  • The Predators dominated the second period and pumped 11 shots on Devan Dubnyk. Roman Josi got free in the slot and blasted a shot over the shoulder of Dubnyk. Less than a minute later, Josi strucjk again with a well placed shot through traffic that beat Dubnyk on the glove side. The Predators controlled play and out shot the Wild 11-3 and held a decided territorial advantage in the Wild zone.
  • The most troubling aspect about this team that has shown itself through this losing streak is that the opponents have ramped up their intensity and their snappiness while the Predators have not come close to matching that effort. The Wild out shot the Predators 11-6 in the third period, but controlled play for long stretches in the Predators zone. The Predators had no answer, much like in the Ducks game and like many games in this losing skid. This does not bode well for this team. I have said that opponents are playing playoff hockey, while the Predators are not even close. This was another of those games. When the Predators have had the lead, they have been content to stop attacking and just dump the puck out of the zone. They have relied on Rinne to make every save, and this is not a formula for success. Failing to match the intensity and effort of the opponent and losing their offensive edge has cost the Predators the last two games. It will cost them in the playoffs as well.
  • Big ups to Roman Josi, who played his ass off and did his dead level best to carry the Predators to victory. It is a shame the rest of his mates didn't follow suit. There were questions as to whether Josi could be an adequate replacement for Ryan Suter, and Josi has more than answered those questions. He is by far and away a more complete defenseman than Suter. Josi is 5 points away from tying Shea Weber's point total for most points by a Predators defenseman (61 points).
  • For the life of me, I cannot understand why Mike Santorelli is getting top line minutes. Since his acquisition at the trade deadline, Santorelli has shown me nothing. He does not have a point yet is getting prime minutes with James Neal out of the lineup.
This losing skid has exposed the most glaring weakness of this team, and that is the failure to amp up their intensity in tightly contested contests.

Think that intensity is going to be even higher in the playoffs?

The Predators have done nothing different in their style of play. That worked well early in the season, but this is the time of year where effort, intensity, and heart go to another level. The Predators have- so far- shown they are not up to that challenge.

As they slip further in the standings, they are looking at a first round matchup against Chicago. Think the Blackhawks will elevate their game?

The question for the Predators is can they find another gear?

If they can't, it is not going to be fun.

My three stars:

1. Roman Josi

2. Charlie Coyle

3. Matt Dumba

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Predators Blow 2 Goal Lead, Embarrass Themselves in 4-2 Loss to the Ducks

The Nashville Predators looked in control of their game with the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center. After a scoreless first period, the Predators rode goals by Taylor Beck and Roman Josi to a 2-0 lead at the end of the second period.

Looks can be very deceiving.

The Ducks came out flying in the third period and the Predators folded like a cheap suit as the Ducks out skated and out worked the Predators over the final 20 minutes on their way to capturing a 4-2 victory.

Ryan Getzlaf, Nate Thompson,Kyle Palmieri, and Cam Fowler all tallied to destroy the Predators, who looked scared and lifeless in the face of the pressure by the Ducks.

Some observations:

  • Pekka Rinne started even though he played last night. This is the second time this season that Rinne has played back to back games. Rinne was busier in the first period than in last night's game as he faced 10 shots from the Ducks after facing just 22 for the game from the Kings. While it may have looked like Rinne didn't have a good game, giving up 4 goals in the third period, the fact is that the team in front of him hung him out to dry. The play of the Predators in front of Rinne have cost him a chance at any post season hardware, and that is an absolute shame.
  • Mike Fisher is a leader by his play, and a somewhat surprising aspect of his game is his willingness not only to be physical but to drop the gloves when it is necessary. The Ducks like to think they can bully their opponent and they reverted to that mode early in the second period when Ryan Kessler challenged Fisher to drop the gloves. Fisher obliged and held his own against a bigger foe. That response by Fisher not only energized the Predators but sent a message to the Ducks that their tactics would not work.
  • Gabriel Bourque has played some very solid hockey, and his puck handling on the 2 on 1 with Taylor Beck was exceptional. He made Gibson respect his shot and slipped a nice pass to Beck, who buried the shot. Bourque has played a physical game on the fourth line and very sound hockey. good to see him rewarded for his efforts with the assist on the Beck goal.
  • I really like Taylor Beck on the power play. One aspect of the man advantage unit that has been missing is an aggressive net front presence. Beck provides that, as he is hard to move and takes up space. His job is to take away the eyes of the goaltender and clean up rebounds, and he is well suited for that role.
  • Filip Forsberg picked up an assist on the Josi goal, his 33rd of the season.
  • Roman Josi is 5th among NHL defensemen with 48 points and 2nd with 194 blocked shots. Josi has quietly emerged as an elite defenseman in the NHL and plays a complete game in all zones.
  • The Ducks didn't get their first shot on net in the second period until there was 6:26 remaining on the clock. A stellar defensive effort by the Predators in the second period that totally shut down a high powered offensive team.
  • Every Preds fan knew the Ducks would come out pressing in the third period, and they did just that. The mark of a championship team is how they respond to their opponent's pushback. Early on in the third period, the Predators looked like they were just trying to survive. Heck, they were just trying to survive. The response from the Predators was...lacking to say the least.
  • How bad was it in the third period? The Predators let the Ducks dictate the play and the Predators had absolutely no answer. Through the midway mark of the third, the Ducks had out shot the Predators 10-1 and the Predators looked as if the offensive zone was totally off limits. The Ducks out shot the Predators 15-4 in the third period. That is embarrassing and unacceptable.
  • The Predators got a taste of playoff hockey in the third period. If their response is a sign of things to come, it does not bode well for the Predators when the post season rolls around. I hope I am wrong about this assessment, but the total lack of response by the Predators is disheartening to say the least.
This is undoubtedly the most embarrassing loss of the season. The Ducks came out in the third period and punched the Predators in the face and took their lunch money and the team had zero push back.


The Ducks played playoff hockey in the third period. The Predators...well, to be nice all I can say is they didn't bother to show up.

And that is troubling.

My three stars:

1.  Kyle Palmieri

2. Ryan Getzlaf

3. Roman Josi

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Predators Defeat the Kings 2-1, Sweep Season Series

The struggling Nashville Predators needed a win to right the ship and stay in the hunt for the Central Division lead.

They got that win at the Staples Center as the Predators defeated the Kings 2-1 and swept the season series from L.A. 3-0.

Jeff Carter opened the scoring on the power play as Ryan Ellis blocked a shot and it went right on the stick of Carter in the slot. His wrist shot beat an out of position Pekka Rinne to give the Kings a 1-0 lead.

The Predators played with lots of jump and created some good scoring chances, but could not solve Kings netminder Jonathan Quick through two periods.

This game had all the hallmarks of a good effort but bad results for the Predators.

That changed in the third period as Craig Smith scored on the power play and 1:06 later a shot from Viktor Stalberg deflected off the stick of Jake Muzzin and past Quick for the game winning goal.

Some observations:

  • James Neal was out of the game with an upper body injury. Mike Santorelli moved to the top line with Mike Ribeiro and Filip Forsberg. Calle Jarnkrok drew back into the lineup and centered the third line with Matt Cullen and Viktor Stalberg on his wing.
  • Same song, same verse. Once again, the Predators gave up the first goal of the game, this on the power play as Jeff Carter tallied.
  • That power play was the result of a Mattias Ekholm penalty. Matty Ek has had a rough two games, taking three penalties, two of which resulted in the opponent scoring a power play goal.
  • Let's be honest- the Predators power play is not a threat to score. Not even close. And this is hard to understand given the talent that we have at forward. Entries into the zone are scary at best and more often than not result in a turnover that is sent down ice. What puzzles me is that this has been on-going for most of the season. If the man advantage unit is struggling so much, one would think that the system would need to be modified to make it more effective. One would think.
  • That said and the Predators score a power play goal as Craig Smith worked hard in front of the net to poke one past Quick. Smith is not afraid to go in front of the net and he was rewarded for his hard work with his 22nd goal of the season. Prior to Smith's goal, the power play had been 0-18 in their previous games.
  • Viktor Stalberg got his first goal of the season and played a solid game. He had lots of jump, forced some turnovers, and created in the offensive zone. I sure would like to see him build on this and get his game going.
  • Pekka Rinne had no chance on the Kings power play goal, but after that, he was in control. Rinne looked more relaxed in the crease and tracked the puck exceptionally well.
  • I really like the play of Craig Smith, and not just that he scored a power play goal. Smith is absolutely relentless in hunting down the puck and attacking the net. He certainly is not afraid to shoot and drives the puck to the net which creates opportunities for his line mates.
  • The effort by this team was strong and consistent all game. That is a good sign for this team as they have not let the rough patch cause their energy and effort to drop.
  • Maybe the hockey gods are starting to smile on the Predators. Stalberg's shot was one that Quick would have easily handled but the deflection off his defenseman's stick wound up in the back of the net.
  • The Predators win tonight was the 600th for the franchise. It was also Pekka Rinne's 200th win. Does anyone have any doubt about the value of Rinne to this franchise?
  • Before the goal by Craig Smith, the Predators had gone 113:33 without scoring a goal. Ouch.
  • The Predators played some disciplined hockey tonight, taking two penalties for the game, one of which was a coincidental penalty with Stalberg and Dwight King both going to the box for roughing.
  • The Predators blocked 18 shots.
This team has continued to battle through the difficult patch that they have faced. And the only way to get out of a funk is to battle.

They did that tonight.

As long as this team continues to compete like they did tonight, they will be fine.

They will have to. It won't get any easier.

My three stars:

1. Craig Smith

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Jonathan Quick

Friday, March 13, 2015

Predators Fire Blanks, Shut Out By the Sharks

The Nashville Predators continued their road swing out West as they traveled to San Jose to take on the Sharks. San Jose is outside a playoff spot, so the Predators knew they were going to play a team that was desperate and would bring the intensity.

The Predators would match the intensity of the Sharks and would outplay them for most of the game, but as has been the story of the Predators lately, they couldn't finish their chances.

Despite out shooting the Sharks 35-21, the Predators gave up a power play goal to Tomas Hertl and an empty net goal to Tommy Wingels to drop their 7th game in their last 8 outings.

Pekka Rinne did not have a lot of work but did make some good saves from close in. His counterpart, Antti Niemi absolutely stood on his head and thwarted the Predators scoring chances all night.

Some observations:

  • The Predators were guilty of two penalties in the first period and yet still out shot the Sharks 14-6. The Sharks started the game with good territorial advantage but the Predators got a good push back and peppered Niemi with shots. Colin Wilson was especially active in the first period, creating some good scoring chances.
  • Although he hasn't been rewarded in the past few games, Craig Smith has been playing some very good hockey. Smith hunts the puck down in the offensive zone and is dynamic with the puck on his stick. I really like the fact that he goes to the hard areas in front of the net and is willing to battle for rebounds.
  • The Sharks have the 5th best power play in the NHL. The Predators certainly tempted fate by taking 4 penalties in the first two periods and it finally bit them on the 4th penalty kill. The Predators had done a good job killing penalties until the penalty late in the second period when the defense lost Tomas Hertl in front of the net.
  • With the Sharks scoring first, that is 12 times in the lst 13 games that the Predators have allowed the first goal. Ugh!
  • As much as the Predators dominated the first two periods of play, they came out in the third period and were just blah. They managed one shot on net in the first 7 minutes and struggled to even get the puck in the zone.
  • Head Coach Peter Laviolette put his forward lines in a blender in the third period to try to generate some offense. Some chances were created but the Predators couldn't finish. At all.
  • This game played out exactly like the game the Predators played in San Jose in December, a 2-0 loss where the Sharks sealed the win with an empty net goal.
  • The Predators had two power play opportunities and didn't look good against a team that is 25th in the NHL in killing penalties. Once again, they struggled to get in the zone and their movement once in the zone was not good. The lack of an effective power play is going to haunt this team in the remainder of the regular season and in the playoffs.
I can't fault the effort by the Predators in 5 on 5 play. I can fault the inability of the the forwards to finish some very good scoring chances. This team has to finish when they create the prime chances like they did tonight. This has been one of the problems that the Predators have faced in this funk they have been in.

The Predators have now slipped to second in the Central Division. They, like the Blues, have 91 points, but the Blues have 2 games in hand.

If this team doesn't get its mojo back quickly, they run the risk of slipping further.

My three stars:

1. Antti Niemi

2. Tomas Hertl

3. Pekka Rinne

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Streak Is Over! Predators Get Back In the Win Column With Victory Over the Coyotes

The Nashville Predators traveled to Gila River Arena to take on the Arizona Coyotes in a game they desperately needed to win. A six game losing streak has seen the the Predators fall back to the pack in the Central Division and relinquish their top spot in the NHL

It wasn't easy, but the Predators captured a 2-1 overtime victory over the Coyotes.

It wasn't easy at all.

Despite firing 32 shots at Louie Domingue in regulation, the Predators could only find the net once as Paul Gaustad slapped a puck inside the post.

The Coyotes tied the game in the third period on the power play as a shot from John Moore was going well wide of the net but hit Kyle Chipchura's skate and was lofted over the glove of Pekka Rinne.

In the overtime period, the Predators had the only 6 shots taken, and it was the last one from James Neal that was the game winner. He gathered in a shot that had been blocked in the slot and fired the puck home to end that awful 6 game losing streak.

Some observations:

  • Viktor Stalberg was recalled and in the line up tonight. He was on a line with Mike Santorelli and Matt Cullen. Stalberg has all the physical tools, and it sure would be great to see him get his game going. He could add some pop to the Predators offense if his game starts to step up.
  • Finally! That horrific streak of 11 games giving up the first goal is finally over. Paul Gaustad's third goal of the season was the first tally of the game and the first time in what seemed forever that the Predators have had a lead in a game. Getting that particular monkey off the back of this team has got to be helpful.
  • Once again, the Predators have no hockey luck. A shot well wide of the net caroms off Kyle Chipchura's skate and past Pekka Rinne for a goal. That was a power play goal set up by James Neal taking a double minor for high sticking.
  • The Predators power play has got to start converting with some consistency. The unit did improve somewhat in that they got some shots on net, but goodness, if this unit cannot find some consistency and get some pucks in the net, then we will continue to struggle in games. Tonight, the Predators were 0-5 with the man advantage.
  • Maybe it is just me, but it seems that Filip Forsberg is pressing a bit. No doubt he possesses elite skills, but there are times where passing to a teammate instead of trying to carry the puck alone would be the wiser course of action.
  • I liked the jump that the Predators brought to the game tonight. The were energetic and moving well in the offensive zone. They just need to finish some of the quality chances that they had, but this is the kind of offensive effort that should bolster the confidence of the team.
  • The Predators were not as good in the faceoff circle as they have been recently. They won 28 of 57, just under 50%.
  • The Predators out hit the Coyotes 46-32 and blocked 20 shots, both indicative of the effort the team brought to the rink tonight.
Goodness gracious, it feels good to stop that losing streak1

Now that we have stopped it, we have to build on this win and start piling up some points.

This is a good first step.

My three stars:

1. James Neal

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Louie Domingue

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Predators Wilt Under the Pressure From the Jets, Fall 3-1

The Winnipeg Jets continued the Nashville Predators recent misery, handing them a 3-1 defeat at the Bridgestone Arena for the Predators 6th consecutive loss.

The Jets opened the scoring when Andrew Ladd blew past Seth Jones and slipped a pass to Michael Frolik, who had beaten Cody Franson badly driving to the net. Frolik's shot was partially stopped by Pekka Rinne but it was not enough to keep the puck out of the net.

The Predators tied the game at 1 in the second period when a shot from the point by Ryan Ellis made its way through traffic and over the shoulder of Michael Hutchinson.

The elation of that goal was short lived, however, as Rinne kicked out a rebound of a Tyler Myers shot. Shea Weber lost track of Blake Wheeler and he pounded the puck home to give the Jets a lead they would not relinquish.

Drew Stafford added an empty net goal for the final margin.

Some observations:

  • My view of this team is that they overachieved in the first half of the season and are now reverting to who they really are. Many pundits spoke of this team as elite. They are not. Not even close. They are most certainly a good team, but far from elite. When this team plays their game and limits mistakes, more often than not, they will win games. Right now, they are making mistakes and those mistakes are ending up in the back of their net. And they are certainly not playing their game- attacking the net and aggressively fighting for rebounds and position on the ice.
  • The Jets gave the Predators fits all night. They trapped coming out of the defensive zone and in the neutral zone, sending two forecheckers after the puck carrier. This baffled the Predators all night and forced them into bad passes and turnovers. When the Predators could get into the offensive zone, once again the Jets pressured the puck carrier and disrupted the offense. The Predators puck support was terrible and they lost just about every battle for the puck along the boards. Part of this speaks to the effort of the Jets. More troubling is that the Predators didn't adjust and step up their game to match the intensity of the Jets. Elite teams adjust their game. The Predators did not.
  • To that point, their were only two Predators that seemed to be able to consistently handle the puck against the Jets pressure. Filip Forsberg and Roman Josi could carry the puck into the zone against the trap. Rarely could any other Predator. This is going to be a serious problem in the playoffs.
  • How stifling was the Jets defense? They held the Predators to 4 shots on goal in the first period and 7 in the third. The Preds got 10 shots in the second for a total of 21. The Jets had 26 shots on goal.
  • I really like the play of Gabriel Bourque. He was physical and created some scoring chances. He certainly went hard to the net, including a scary first period collision with Hutchinson when he was forchecked into the Jets netminder by Adam Lowry.
  • The defensive pairing of Seth Jones and Cody Franson looked out of sync all night. The Jets first goal was a direct result of bad plays by both. These two just look like they have no chemistry at all. 
  • Franson took a knee on knee hit and crashed into the boards in the second period, and it looked bad. He left the ice with the assistance of the training staff and could put no weight on his left leg. Fortunately, he did return for the third period.
  • It sure would be nice to see Mike Santorelli get his game going. Santorelli has been invisible since he was acquired from the Maple Leafs.
  • Someone on the coaching staff please tell Mike Ribeiro it is okay to take the puck to the net and especially to shoot the puck. Ribeiro had a couple of open looks at the net but chose to try to pass instead. Never pass up a good shot at the net, Ribs.
  • For the 11th straight game, the Predators gave up the first goal. Can we stop this trend? PLEASE! Remember early in the season when we were doing that and we were still winning games? Now the Predators are 19-18-3 when giving up the first goal. See my first bullet point above.
  • Thankfully, this is the last time we play the Jets in the regular season. The Predators captured the season series 3-2.
No doubt this isn't fun for the team and the fans. As fans, we can just sit and stew and vent our frustration. Getting out of this funk is on the team. They are going to have to elevate their game to break this losing streak.

More importantly, they are going to have to play smart. They are going to have to play with heart and passion.

That is the only way out.

My three stars:

1. Blake Wheeler

2. Michael Frolik

3. Ryan Ellis

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Skid Continues: Predators Fall to the Islanders 4-3

The Nashville Predators dropped their 5th game in a row, falling to the New York Islanders 4-3 at Bridgestone Arena.

Once again, the Predators dug a hole that they had to climb out by allowing the Islanders to jump to a 2-0 lead.

John Tavares scored at even strength and Anders Lee scored on the power play to stake the Isles to that 2-0 lead.

Colin Wilson scored off a rebound and scramble around the crease with just 1.2 seconds remaining on the clock in the first period to cut the deficit to 2-1.

The Islanders extended their lead to 3-1 in the third period as Nick Leddy beat Pekka Rinne under his arm. This was definitely a stoppable goal that Rinne just didn't play well.

The Predators came storming back to tie the game as a shot from Ryan Ellis that was going over the crossbar hit Mike Ribeiro in the arm and deflected down and past Jaroslav Halak.

31 seconds after that goal, Craig Smith took a sweet pass through the slot from Filip Forsberg and roofed it from in close to tie the game.

Brock nelson got the game winner when a puck bounced over the stick of Seth Jones in the slot and he buried a shot past Rinne.

Some observations:

  • As good as Pekka Rinne has been this season, he was not sharp tonight. The goal by Leddy was very stoppable. The first goal from Tavares should have never happened. Tavares threw the puck at the crease from a sharp angle and it hit Rinne in the leg and slid through the five hole. Look, Rinne has carried this team this year and has been stellar, but right now he is not cleaning up every mistake. In this skid, there have been some bad defensive breakdowns in front of him. Tonight, he just didn't have his best game. I still believe in him and think he will be fine, but he- and this team- are going to have to fight through this funk.
  • For the 10th straight game, the Predators have given up the first goal. Look guys, this is getting old. No, it is old. In the past five games that we have lost, we have held a lead just once (3-2 going into the third period against Detroit). The task at hand gets a lot easier if you are playing with a lead instead of trying to claw your way back into a game.
  • Colin Wilson's goal was his 20th of the year. This is the first time in his career that Wilson has recorded 20 goals.
  • Filip Forsberg picked up an assist and is tied for the team lead in points with 53 (tied with Ribeiro).
  • During this skid, their has been some miserable periods of hockey played by this team. I cannot fault the effort tonight. The out shot the Islanders 31-26 and played with some good jump for most of the game. That said, the Islanders third goal was a direct result of the Isles outworking the Predators in their zone and keeping them hemmed in for a long stretch.
  • Jaroslav Halak played a good game and made some great stops. The Predators consistently put pressure and shots on the net, and if they continue to do that, they will reverse this skid.
  • Mike Fisher has been playing some inspired hockey and picked up an assist tonight. Fisher has 7 points (3G-4A) in his last nine games.
This is not a fun time for the team or its fans. Let's just let go that "best team in the NHL" line and realize that every team goes through these stretches. The critical aspect is how this team is going to respond to this adversity. The objective now should be to play sound, fundamental hockey and to play with heart and effort.

If they play like they did tonight with that kind of effort, they will get back to their winning ways.

My three stars:

1. Jaroslav Halak

2. Nick Leddy

3. Craig Smith

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Predators Play for 40 Minutes; Not Enough to Beat the Devils

A passionless and lethargic first period doomed the Nashville Predators in their game against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center.

The Predators fell 3-1 to drop their 4th straight game in an embarrassing loss.

Adam Larsson opened the scoring just 58 seconds into the game. Eric Gelinas added a power play goal. Both scores came in the first period when the Predators looked like they thought they could just throw their sweaters on the ice and pick up the win.

Mike Cammalleri was awarded a goal when Seth Jones tripped him as he broke in on the empty net with Carter Hutton pulled for the extra attacker.

After sleepwalking through the first period, the Predators poured 31 shots on net in the final 40 minutes but could only get one puck past Cory Schneider. Mike Fisher got that goal off an assist from Craig Smith.

Some observations:

  • Guess what? For the 9th straight game the Predators gave up the first goal.
  • The Devils scored on 2 of their first 3 shots. Absolutely awful.
  • Part of the problem for the Predators is that the defense looks disorganized if not lost at times. Forwards in particular are doing a lousy job of picking up defenders coming down the slot or forwards that seem to skate through prime scoring areas untouched. This is an aspect of the Predators game that we have not seen recently. And it is a troubling development to say the least.
  • If you are in a slump and having a bit of a struggle, one solution is to get pucks on net and some traffic in front of the net. The Predators didn't get their first shot on net until there was 10:27 remaining in the first period.
  • They managed just 3 shots in the first period. Right now, there is absolutely no jump or push back from this team.
  • Wonder what was said in the locker room at the first intermission? After mustering just 3 shots on goal in the first period, the Predators fired 21 shots on Schneider in the second period while holding the Devils to 6 shots.
  • Generally speaking, I have never been a fan of lots of line juggling. I know there are times it needs to be done to get a player's game going or for match ups, but often time the chemistry of a line is disrupted when a new player is inserted. Mike Fisher's line was partially put back together with Craig Smith joining Filip Forsberg. Fisher's goal was a result of Smith working hard in front of the net and knowing where Fisher would be as he slid the puck to him through traffic.
  • The Predators lost Eric Nystrom to an injury in the second period as he slammed awkwardly into the boards and seemed to injure his ankle.
  • The slow starts and lack of passion by the Predators is baffling, to say the least. This team has had a pretty easy go of it until this recent skid. Now the intensity and the effort is ratcheting up significantly and the Predators haven't remotely kept pace with the play of their opponents.
The Predators can say it wasn't their night (as Mike Fisher did in his post game comments), but the fact is that the Predators haven't played at all like the best team in the NHL. Lacking energy, passion, and desire, the Predators have had their heads handed to them. Expecting to just show up and win these games is a fools errand, and right now,  the Predators are playing the fool.

This funk will not change or dissipate until the players on the ice make it change. And until they decide to make it change, the Predators will continue to skid.

My three stars:

1. Cory Schneider

2. Adam Larsson

3. Eric Gelinas

Monday, March 2, 2015

Predators Dominated By the Rangers 4-1

The Nashville Predators traveled to Madison Square Garden to take on the Rangers and attempt to end a two game losing streak.

The Predators now have a 3 game losing streak.

The Rangers out skated and outworked the Predators all night on the way to a 4-1 victory.

The Predators did not give much help to goaltender Pekka Rinne, often leaving the slot wide open for uncontested snots.

Mark Staal, Chris Kreider, and Dominic Moore all tallied for the Rangers. Derek Brassard picked up 2 assists. Rick Nash finished the scoring with an empty net goal.

Matt Cullen got the lone goal past Cam Talbot off a beautiful assist from Taylor Beck.

Some observations:

  • Lines were juggled for this game. Colin Wilson moved to the top line with James Neal and Mike Ribeiro. Mike Fisher centered Craig Smith and Filip Forsberg. Mike Santorelli centered Matt Cullen and Taylor Beck. Calle Jarnkrok was a healthy scratch.
  • Once again, the Predators gave up the first goal of the game. This is the 8th straight game that the Predators have fallen behind 1-0. While the team has shown great resiliency and the ability to (usually) overcome these deficits, this is a disturbing trend that needs to change. This will be especially true come the playoffs.
  • The defense in front of Rinne has dropped off significantly. Rinne had no chance of the Rangers second goal as Craig Smith was abused by Chris Kreider going down the slot. He blew past Smith and had an easy redirect past Rinne. Dominic Moore was left alone by Taylor Beck for an easy score off a rebound. The cohesiveness and positioning has broken down on several occasions and has allowed the opposition prime scoring chances. Rinne made some great saves in this game, but he cannot be expected to clean up so many mistakes by the D in front of him.
  • Taylor Beck has been in and out of the line up recently and has been a healthy scratch the last three games. His play from his knees to set up Matt Cullen's goal was not only a beautiful play, but it was just a no quit, compete play. This is the type of play that has to happen from all of the forwards for the Predators to be successful. Beck is showing that he wants to stay in the line up with this kind of play.
  • How tough are hockey players? Seth Jones took a puck in the mouth in the second period, which stunned him and left him spitting blood. The puck was in the Predators defensive zone when this happened, so Jones kept his defensive position and blocked another shot. Once the puck was cleared, Jones got to the bench, got some attention from the trainers, and was back on the ice for his next shift.
  • The Predators have been getting a taste of playoff hockey- games that are tight checking and are a fight for space on the ice. They have come up short in these contests, and perhaps more disturbing is that they have been getting outworked for broad stretches of these games. Hopefully, these games are a learning experience and the lesson is learned quickly. Playoff hockey is a different animal, and the Predators have been the prey in these types of games.
  • The Predators power play has reverted to abysmal status. They had 3 power plays in the game that generated just 2 shots, and on two of them did not get a shot. The Predators struggle to enter the zone and get set up, and if this aspect of their game does not improve, it will come back to haunt them. The power play unit has little movement, making it easy to defend, and is awfully predictable. That predictability makes it easy to defend. Too easy.
  • The Rangers jumped on the Predators early and never let them in the game. They out shot the Predators 40-26. They had better jump, won more puck battles, and wanted the game more than the Predators.
The reality of the situation is the play of the Predators has dropped off.

No, that's not exactly right.

They opponents have elevated their intensity and level of play and the Predators have not. Like I said, this is a taste of playoff hockey as the Predators are playing some teams that are desperately fighting for playoff position. This is hungry hockey, and right now the Predators are not playing like a hungry team.

Now it gets interesting.

We will see if the Predators can get hungry and raise their game.

Or if they will continue to get outworked by their opponents.

My three stars:

1.  Derek Brassard

2. Mats Zuccarello

3. Chris Kreider