Saturday, April 4, 2015

Predators Can't Finish, Fall to the Stars In OT

There is no doubt the Nashville Predators are going to make the playoffs.

The question is where will they be seeded.

Tied for first in the Central Division, and with 4 games remaining, every point is precious to the Predators.

The Predators threw away a point for the second consecutive game as they fell to the Dallas Stars 4-3 in overtime at Bridgestone Arena. The Stars scored the game winner by Cody Eakin on a penalty shot. Eakin was awarded the shot after Mattias Ekholm slashed the stick out of Eakin's hand on a breakaway.

Eakin beat Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne 5 hole for the winner.

The Predators got out to a 1-0 lead after Filip Forsberg recorded his 24th goal of the year. Forsberg gathered in a deflected Ekholm shot and quickly deposited the puck past Stars netminder Jonas Enroth.

The Stars scored the next three goals. Travis Moen wristed a shot from the slot past Rinne to tie the game at 1. Tyler Seguin gave the Stars a 2-1 lead with a power play goal. Colton Sceviour made it 3-1 early in the third period.

The Predators began a furious rally to force overtime. Ryan Ellis scored from the slot off a nice pass from Forsberg. James Neal scored on a short side snipe from the faceoff circle to tie the game with 1:56 remaining.

That set up Eakin's goal on the penalty shot. On the play, he split Ekholm and Ellis and had a breakaway, forcing Ekholm to desperately dive and slash the stick out of his hand.

Some observations:

  • The Predators defense was outstanding at times, shutting down the Stars attack, and at others was incredibly leaky. Besides Eakin's breakaway in overtime, the Predators also gave up a breakaway to Tyler Seguin. Rinne got just enough of the shot to cause it to hit the post. Moen's goal came from out-muscling Ellis to get position in the low slot for a point blank shot.
  • Ellis had a nice goal, but he struggled against the bigger forwards for the Stars. As mentioned, Moen used his size to get position in the low slot and Ellis was pushed around quite a bit by Valeri Nichuskin. Ellis has third pairing minutes that protects him to some degree, but when he is caught on the ice against first line players from the other team, he is vulnerable.
  • Paging Colin Wilson...paging Colin Wilson. Wilson has now gone 19 games without a goal, and the Predators desperately need him to find his scoring touch again.
  • Shea Weber, James Neal, and Matt Cullen returned to the line up after missing games due to injury.
  • Mike Ribeiro picked up his 500th career assist on the goal by James Neal.
  • Forsberg now has 61 points (24G-37A) in his rookie season. His 24 goals leads the Predators.
  • Two players really stood out for me (besides the guys that scored) for the Predators: Mike Fisher and Gabriel Bourque. Both played with a high level of intensity throughout the game  and were beasts in all zones. Bourque picked up an assist and both he and Fisher were excellent on the penalty kill. These guys go to the hard areas and battle all night long.
  • I just don't understand our power play. There is continued difficulty getting in the zone and no movement and creativity when (if) they get the puck in the zone. The power play is connecting at 16.6%, and only one other playoff bound team (Anaheim) is ranked below them (16.4%). This is going to be a problem for the Predators in the playoffs.
  • The Predators out shot the Stars 36-24, but many of those shots were from the point with no traffic in front of Enroth. Make no mistake, Enroth made some good saves, but when the Predators were pressing and getting traffic to the net, they created quality scoring chances that gave Enroth trouble.The Predators need to do more of that to be successful.
  • The Predators are 3-0-1 against the Stars and close out the season with their final game in Dallas.
  • How big are the points the Predators are giving away? The Preds have 104 points; St. Louis has 103; and Chicago has 102. St. Louis and Chicago play each other tomorrow.
The Predators need points to secure home ice in the first round of the playoffs. Giving away points like they have in the last two games continues their trend in the final 25% of the season of playing mediocre hockey. The inability to match the intensity of desperate teams does not bode well for the Predators in the playoffs because that is nothing but desperate hockey.

It would certainly be good to see the Predators finish their last 3 regular season games clicking on all cylinders.

Right now, they are sputtering.

My three stars:

1. Jonas Enroth

2. Filip Forsberg

3. Cody Eakin 

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