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

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Predators Win A Wild One Over the Senators 7-5


That is the only way to describe the Predators effort against the Ottawa Senators at Bridgestone Arena.

After an atrocious first period that saw the Predators surrender goals to Milan Michalek and two to Zach Smith, the last a short handed goal, The Predators battled back to take a wild 7-5 win.

Colton Sissons, called up to replace an injured Paul Gaustad tallied a first period goal to send the Predators into the intermission trailing 3-1.

The Predators came out flying in the second period and notched three straight goals to take a 4-3 lead.

Shea Weber scored on the power play to make it 3-2.

Just 1:34 later, Roman Josi undressed Eric Karlsson with a sweet move a t the blue line, walked in and roofed shot over the shoulder of Craig Anderson to tie the game at 3.

Austin Watson deflected a puck that Seth Jones shot from the blue line to give the Predators a 4-3 lead 54 seconds after the goal by Josi.

Eric Karlsson beat Pekka Rinne for his first goal of the season just 41 seconds after the Watson goal to tie the game at 4.

Curtis Lazar scored with just 52 seconds left in the second period to send the Sens to the locker room with a 5-4 lead.

That lead would not stand up as Mattias Ekholm, Barret Jackman, and Gabriel Bourque all scored in the third period while the Predators held the Senators off the board to secure a win in a game that was more pond hockey than a structured NHL game.

Some observations:

  • Big ups to Shea Weber. The Captain recorded his 150th goal and 400th point in his 699th game of his career. Weber has been a steady, physical presence on the blue line and has been a consistent scoring threat throughout his career. And in my humble opinion, there is no way Karlsson should have won his Norris Trophy over Weber two years ago. Karlsson is a one dimensional player that can amass points, but Weber is a complete player that plays well in all situations and can put up points. I'm just saying...
  • Big ups to Colton Sisson. He was called up to replace an injured Paul Gaustad and recorded a goal and logged some quality minutes. He was thrown out on the penalty kill as well and was solid.
  • How about the Swedish Chef, Gabriel Bourque getting his first goal tonight? Bourque plays hard and it was good to see him get rewarded for his efforts. he went hard to the front of the net and was able to bat in a rebound off the pads of Anderson for the 7th goal of the night.
  • Did you notice the scoring tonight? 5 of the 7 Predators goals came from defensemen. This is a talented group of blue liners that play solid defense (on  most nights) but can activate and contribute offensively. I would suggest that this is the best blue line corp in the NHL.
  • One could look at the 5 goals allowed and say that Rinne did not have a good night. He wasn't getting much help out front from the skaters in front of him and gave up some goals through traffic. Yet Rinne shut down three break away attempts by the Sens and did make some very good stops during the course of the game.
  • I said the effort by the Predators was relentless. Here are the shot totals by period: 12 in the first; 12 in the second; and 14  in the third. 38 total shots. More importantly, the Predators held the Sens to 10, 3, and 14 shots over the three periods. The Sens went 12 minutes in the second period without a shot.
  • It was good to see the response by the Predators after a bad first period. The Sens have suffered only one road loss before tonight, and one could see the Sens just choking the life out of the Predators in the final 40 minutes. Instead, the Predators stepped up the intensity and took the attack to their opponent. That is the kind of response that the Predators had to have to secure the win.
  • The best line on the ice for the Predators tonight was the 4th line. Bourque (1G-1A), Sissons (1G) and Watson (1G-2A) were major contributors to the win.
  • The Predators were better in the face off dot tonight, winning 56% of the draws.
  • Shea Weber lead the team in shots (6) and blocks (4). Roman Josi led the team in TOI with 24:38.
This was a wild game that took fans for a ride. It certainly is not the way the coaching staff would draw up a game, but the main take away from this contest is that the Predators battled and turned up the intensity to secure the win. That is heartening and a good sign for this team.

My three stars:

1. Austin Watson

2. Gabriel Bourque

3. Colton Sissons

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Predators Fall Flat Agaisnt the Blues 4-0

After a successful road trip, the Nashville Predators returned to Bridgestone Arena and promptly fell flat on their face in a 4-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues.

Although the Predators out shot the Blues 45-28, Blues netminder Jake Allen was rarely called upon to make quality saves.

Pekka Rinne, however, was under assault, as the Blues scored 2 power play goals and then added an even strength goal from former Predator Scottie Upshall and a final goal from Alex Steen to round out the scoring.

Colton Parayko opened the scoring as the Blues moved the puck well on the power play and he was left all alone on the right side of the ice inside the face off dot. His blast beat Rinne to give the Blues a 1-0 lead.

That lead held up until the third period when the Blues erupted for 3 goals. Alex Pietrangelo tallied on the power play to give the Blues a 2-0 lead before Upshall emptied the arena with his marker. Steen added the icing to the cake with his 8th goal of the season to make it 4-0 and seal the win.

Some observations:

  • The Predators continued their uncharacteristically undisciplined played by taking 6 penalties. As in their previous game against the Wild, the Predators PK gave up 2 goals with the opponent on the power play. Continuing to put a man in the box is going to be trouble for the Predators as the pressure on the penalty killers against good teams is tempting fate. The Predators survived the Wild, but good teams are going to capitalize om the power play. Tonight, it cost the Predators.
  • Once again, the Predators were horrific in the face off dot, winning only 22 of 57 draws. Puck possession is critical, and the Predators have been woeful in winning draws, especially in the offensive zone. The Predators are going to have to improve quickly in this area. 
  • On the other side, the Predators Were ice cold with the man advantage. They were 0-5, including 1:46 of a 5 on 3. The power play has got to get going for the Predators to be successful,  and tonight, they were impotent.
  • Colin Wilson, among others, has to get his game going. Tonight, he had 1 SOG, and he has too much talent to be as invisible as he is in recent games.
  • The same can be said for Craig Smith. A non-factor in recent games.
  • The Predators hung Rinne out to dry on the two power play goals. The first goal by Parayko saw all the Predators defenders on one side of the ice, leaving parayko alone to receive the pass and one time the puck past Rinne.
  • The Predators are 0-2-2 when allowing the first goal. They are 0-2-1 when trailing after two periods.
  • The Predators were shut out for the first time this season.
The Predators started a 5 game home stand with a thud. It is easy to say they ran into a hot and very good goalie (they did), but they rarely challenged Allen to make quality saves.

The Predators are going to have to figure out how to play against a quality divisional opponent in the Blues. tonight, they showed they can get shots on the net but every mistake they made wound up in the back of their net. The Predators were found wanting against a quality opponent that they will have to defeat to win their first divsional title.

Learn from this and move on.

My three stars:

1. Jake Allen

2. Colton Parayko

3. Alexander Steen

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Predators Survive Penalties, Hand the Wild Their First Home Loss

The Predators returned to action on their CMA road trip with a stop at the Xcel Energy Center to take on the Minnesota Wild for their first meeting of the season.

This is the Predators first game since their meeting with the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday. The Predators are squaring off against a Wild team that is 5-0 on home ice this season.

Pekka Rinne started between the pipes for the Predators, while the Wild had Devan Dubnyk in net.

After a scoreless first period, Mike Fisher broke the tie in the second period with a snap shot that beat Dubnyk stick side.

That lead stood until 17:36 of the second as the Wild scored on the power play as Marco Scandella beat Rinne to tie the game at 1.

Just 12 seconds into the third period, Roman Josi fired a shot from outside the face off circle that beat Dubnyk through traffic to give the Predators a 2-1 lead.

*I still don't think that Lyin Ryan Suter is better than Josi, and the numbers bear me out*

The Predators tempted fate by taking consecutive penalties and had to kill a 5 on 3. They were successful in that, but during the remaining power play, Matthew Dumba beat Rinne through traffic from the point to tie the game.

Cody Hodgson followed his own shot that Dubnyk could not control and gave the Predators a 3-2 lead. This was his first goal of the season and was a great hustle play to follow his shot.

A weak penalty call against Colin Wilson meant that the Predators were going to finish the final 1:39 down a man.

The penalty killers came up big and the Predators handed the Wild their first home loss by a 3-2 count.

Some observations:

  •  This was the Predators first Central Division contest of the season. Both teams entered the contest with 16 points.
  • While the Predators were finishing 10 days on the road, this was only their 4th game in this 2 week trip. 
  • In his short time with the big club, Mikka Salomaki has brought a physical presence and a good fit to the second line. His physical play has opened up space for Craig Smith and Mike Ribeiro. It has also allowed Colin Wilson to drop to the third line, which has given him more favorable defensive match ups. It will be a big plus for the Predators if both those players can get their game going on their new lines.
  • Salomaki was called up due to an injury to Eric Nystrom, who has missed the last two games.
  • James Neal is a sniper, but you cannot underestimate his physical game. Zach Parise did, and got blown up in the first period by Neal. Parise finished the first period but did not return to the game in the second period and was called out for the remainder of the game with a lower body injury.
  • Pekka Rinne had a lot of work and had to make some good saves with lots of traffic in front. Rinne did a very good job of tracking the puck and being positionally sound to frustrate the Wild.
  • Welcome to the score sheet, Cody Hodgson. It took a while, but glad to see you find the back of the net. Hopefully this will open the door to your scoring touch. The Predators would welcome it.
  • The Predators got sloppy with their penalties, especially in the third period. This is playing with fire against one of the best power play teams in the NHL. I really don't think the Wild were going to score 5 on 5 tonight, but the Predators kept them in the game with their transgressions.
  • This was a very physical game, with not only Parise but Calle Jarnkrok and Paul Gaustad having to take trip to the locker room after getting dinged during play. Both of the Predators were able to return and finish the game.
  • The Predators were out shot 29-24.
  • The Predators blocked 23 shots.
  • The Predators escaped with this win. They had 14 penalty minutes to the Wild's 4 and took the only 4 penalties in the third period.
  • That said, the Predators penalty killers did a very good job against an exceptional power play team. The Predators killed off 5 of 7 chances the Wild had with the man advantage.
 This was a tough game and a scrappy win by the Predators against a tough Divisional opponent.

The thing I like the most about this win is that in times past, this was the type of game that would have seen the Predators wilt in the face of adversity like they faced tonight. Instead, they kept coming at the Wild and refused to quit.

And it was certainly a good way to start play in the division.

My three stars:

1. Cody Hodgson

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Roman Josi

* honorable mention: Mike Fisher