Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Predators Blow Golden Opportunity, Choke Against the Avs

The Colorado Avalanche are out of the playoffs. The Nashville Predators are firmly ensconced in a playoff position.

That didn't mean the Predators game against the Avalanche had the Pepsi Center had no meaning.

A Predators win, coupled with a loss by the St. Louis Blues in their game tonight against Winnipeg, would move the Predators back into the top spot in the Central Division.

St. Louis (and Chicago) complied as they lost their games tonight.

The table was set for the Predators to feast on the Avs and pick up an important two points.

Instead, the Predators choked.

Big time.

After a Calle Jarnkrok goal gave the Predators a 1-0 in a dominant first period, the Predators took just 9 seconds to puke up the lead to the Avs.

Mattias Ekholm fell in the defensive zone, creating a turnover. Jerome Iginla hammered a puck past Pekka Rinne to tie the game. 9 seconds later, Ryan O'Reilly blasted a shot from the slot past Rinne to give the Avs a 2-1 lead.

The Predators tied the game at 2 on a Ryan Ellis power play goal, a rocket from the blue line, and looked to have taken the lead when Roman Josi scored 18 seconds later but the goal was diallowed on a weak incidental contact call on Paul Gaustad as he skated past Semyon Varlamov.

The Predators once again gave up the lead as Joey Hishon scored his first NHL goal with a wrist shot that beat Rinne cleanly.

The Predators pulled Rinne with 1:36 to go in the game, but the Predators couldn't solve Varlamov and went down to a horrific and disappointing loss by a 3-2 margin.

Some observations:

  • Paul Gaustad returned to the line up after being injured by a cheap shot from alex Burrows in the Vancouver game. Mike Santorelli was scratched for the second consecutive game. 
  • I really like this trend of the Predators scoring first. It certainly beats having to fight your way back into a game. Now if we can just learn to hold a lead.
  • The Predators once again show the disquieting trend of being unable to hold a lead. Whether it's being too cautious, lacking intensity, or just plain bad luck, the Predators have shown an inability in the last quarter of this season to hold onto a lead. I am at a loss to explain it, but this lack of intensity and failure to elevate their play has been the bane of the Predators over the last 20 games. This trend is one that will spell immense trouble for the Predators in the playoffs.
  • To be successful in the playoffs, you have to have secondary scoring. The line of Viktor Stalberg, Matt Cullen, and Calle Jarnkrok, running as the third line, has played with a lot of jump and has created some good scoring opportunities. You can't overstimate the play of Cullen. He drives this line and having him healthy and producing is a huge plus for the Predators.
  • While I don't think anyone could have stopped the Iginla goal, the next two goals given up by Rinne were pucks that were stoppable, and he has to stop those if this team is going to win games. We are so used to seeing Rinne play at an elite level, and he has for so much of the season. He is now playing at a good level, and that is a problem for this team.
  • The coaches and players both have talked about hitting another gear and getting playoff ready. I don't see the Predators have another gear. If you can't step up and take care of business against a team that is out of the playoff hunt, if you can't lock down a game, perhaps you don't have another gear. Playoffs are about elevating your level of play, and the Predators have shown they can't elevate their compete level and win critical games.
  • The Predators out shot the Avs 42-23. while Varlamov played an outstanding game, the Predators had a lot of very good opportunities where they couldn't finish. Again, this team has struggled to finish and it is only going to get harder to do so in the playoffs.
The Predators had a golden opportunity to re-take the lead in the Central and didn't have the heart to do that.

And this scares me for this team come playoff time.

My three stars:

1. Semyon Varlamov

2. Joey Hishon

3. Calle Jarnkrok

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