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

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