Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Predators Battle Back For A Point, Fall In OT to the Blues

The Nashville Predators were looking to find some consistency in their game, and were trying to build upon the positive momentum from their win last night over the New York Rangers.

Standing in their way was their Central Division nemesis, the St. Louis Blues and their stellar netminder Jake Allen.

The Predators faced a tall task at the ScottTrade Center. The Predators are 0-2 against the Blues and Allen has stopped 73 of 74 shots that the Predators have put on net.

Demitri Jaskin opened the scoring for the Blues as the Predator defense left Jaskin alone at the top of the crease and he was able to bang home a rebound past Carter Hutton for a 1-0 Blues lead.

The Predators answered with a short handed goal by Mattias Ekholm off a clean face off win in the Blues zone by Mike Fisher.

Robby Fabri skated the puck out of the corner and uncontested into the low slot before depositing the puck in the net to give the Blues a 2-1 lead late in the second period.

Kevin Shattenkirk made it 3-1 early in the third period beating Hutton with a long shot from the blue line.

Shea Weber scored from the blue line with a wrist shot with 3:52 remaining to make it 3-2 in favor of the Blues.

The Predators tied the game with 1:32 remaining as a shot from Ryan Ellis was kicked out and Colin Wilson slammed home the rebound. This goal came as a direct result of Wilson driving the net.

The game was heading to overtime, which has been disastrous for the Predators.

It continues to be so for the Predators.

Alex Steen scored at 4:01 of the OT period on a breakaway to give the Blues a 4-3 OT win.

Some observations:

  • Colin Wilson played in his 400th NHL game.
  • The Blues have big, physical forwards and their game plan was to dump the puck deep and put pressure on the Predators defense with intense puck battles. The Predators defense struggled a bit in the first period in handling that pressure but settled down as the period went on.
  • Nice quick shot by Mattias Ekholm with his shorthanded goal. Ekholm is overshadowed by the notoriety of Shea Weber and Roman Josi but has quietly developed into a very solid NHL blue liner. Quite a change from his first stint with the Predators, when then Head Coach Barry Trotz called his play "atrocious".
  •  I don't fault Hutton for the first two goals that he gave up. The Predators defense broke down in front of Hutton and hung him out to dry. That third goal may have been deflected off Seth Jones stick, but man, you just can't give up that kind of goal in this game. Hutton tend to attempt to play pucks with his blocker or his glove, and when he misplays those shots, he usually gives up a goal. I would like to see Hutton get more positionally sound and have his body in a better position to take on those shots.
  • The Blues are a heavy, physical team. The Predators are not. The Predators are always going to struggle against the Blues the way this team is built. Either the Predators are going to have to rebuild their roster and get bigger and more physical (they are not) or they are going to have to upgrade the skill of their forwards to counter this type of game that the Blues play.
  • Once again, the Predators scored a critical goal by...wait for it...driving the net. Kudos to Colin Wilson for going hard to the net to get the tying goal.
  • I ragged on the third goal that Hutton gave up, but he made some great saves in OT before giving up the goal to Steen on the breakaway.
  • The Predators are a dumpster fire in OT. They have yet to display a sense of urgency and look as if they are always playing to get to the shootout. Until this style of play changes, the Predators are going to be awful in OT.
  • The Predators out shot the Blues 33-25, but as said before, the Predators need to finish some of their chances.
  • Playing the second of a back to back, I have to give the Predators full marks for battling back in this game. It would have been easy to roll over, but the fight back was heartening to see.
The Predators are going to have to win these types of games against the tough Central Division opponents. The fight, the compete level was good, but the fact remains the Predators are giving away critical points to teams that are in front of them in the standings.

Soon, that gap cannot be closed.

Take the positives out of this game and bring them to Dallas on Thursday.

My three stars:

1. Jake Allen

2. Alex Steen

3. Colin Wilson

Monday, December 28, 2015

Predators Light Up Lundqvist in 5-3 Win Over the Rangers

The up and down Nashville Predators were definitely up in their contest against the New York Rangers at Bridgestone Arena. They tagged Rangers starter Henrik Lundqvist for 5 goals before chasing him from the game en route to a 5-3 win.

The Predators got 2 goals from James Neal, his first a wicked snipe from the slot that beat Lundqvist to give the Predators a 2-1 lead. His second was the Predators 5th goal, a tap in from the side of the net.

Filip Forsberg opened the scoring for the Predators on the power play with his 10th goal of the season, a blast from the face off circle that beat Lundqvist cleanly over his glove. Forsberg should have had a second goal in the third period but it was waved off after a lengthy review for a weak goaltender interference call on Craig Smith.

Jesper Fast scored to tie the game at 1 in the first period.

Leading 2-1 going into the third, the Predators exploded for 3 goals. Craig Smith scored on a deflection of a Roman Josi shot. Ryan Ellis scored on a shot from the face off circle with the Predators on the power play to make it 4-1 before Neal closed out the Predators scoring.

It got interesting late in the third period. Pekka Rinne was way out of his net to play the puck when he got hit with a massive brain fart. Rinne's clearing attempt went directly to Rick Nash, who promptly fired the puck into the vacated net to make it 5-2.

J. T. Miller scored to make it 5-3 before the Predators closed out the game for a big win.

Some observations:

  • The Predators welcomed back Mike Fisher, who had missed 11 games due to a leg injury. With Fisher's return, Colton Sissons was reassigned to Milwaukee. Fisher logged 16:47 of ice time, recorded one shot, and won 59% of his faceoffs.
  • The Predators opened the game with good jump and out shot the Rangers 15-6 in the first period. The game was a tight checking contest, but it swung in the third period when the Predators made a determined effort to drive the net. Doing this presented problems for Lundqvist and he was under siege with the traffic in front. The determination to get to the net resulted in the Predators breaking the game wide open. This is the way the Predators have to play and it was good to see them make that effort to do so tonight.
  • I like the play of Viktor Arvidsson, especially how he uses his speed to create and carry the puck. But if the Aardvark is going to have a long and successful career in the NHL, he is going to have to get stronger. He gets taken off the puck consistently because he is not strong enough.
  • Dadgum, if Roman Josi isn't one of the smoothest skaters with such good vision on the ice. Josi can break the pressure of any team and is excellent at dishing the puck to the open man. He picked up 2 assists tonight and caused problems for the Rangers defense all night.
  • I have heard so much about the Rangers speed, but the Predators were definitely a faster team tonight. Their speed put pressure on the Rangers D and had them chasing the puck all night. The Predators used that speed to create offensive chances and get quality shots on goal. The Predators out shot the Rangers 35-29 for the game. The Predators also used their speed and  defensive positioning to frustrate the Rangers offensive flow throughout the game.
  • The Predators are 11-1-2 when leading after 2 periods this season. The Rangers are 0-9-1 when trailing after 2 periods.
  • Lundqvist was pulled midway of the third period for Antti Raanta. This is the 4th time in his last 7 starts that Lundqvist has been chased from the game.
  • The Predators power play was 2 for 2 tonight. 
  • The Predators took only one penalty, which they killed.
  • Mike Ribeiro picked up 3 assists tonight and did a great job of distributing the puck. Ribeiro also won 67% of his faceoffs.
  • Craig Smith had a solid game. He scored from the top of the c rease off a deflection of a shot by Roman Josi. Smith did a great job of driving the net and creating havoc in front of Lundqvist.
  • James Neal showed what his quick release can do. He used it to beat Lundqvist cleanly from the slot to give the Predators a 2-1 lead. His second goal came with him parked right at the side of the net. This was Neal's 4th 2 goal game of the season and he now has 15 goals.
  • Former Predator Kevin Klein returned to the blue line for the Rangers after missing 11 games due to an injury.
This was a win that was pure Predators hockey. Using their speed to create and going to the front of the net yielded the kind of results that this team needs to have night in and night out.

Now they have to bring this kind of effort consistently.

My three stars:

1. James Neal

2. Mike Ribeiro

3. Roman Josi

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Predators Fall to the Wings 3-2

Coulda, woulda, shoulda...

This is the story of the Predators season lately.

Apparently the Predators margin to win games is so razor thin that any little mistake will cost them.

This is the case as once again the Predators made just enough mistakes to cost them in a 3-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings at Bridgestone Arena.

Filip Forsberg and Craig Smith tallied for the Predators. Each goal tied the game for the Predators. Forsberg's goal followed a goal by Brendan Smith 45 seconds earlier in the first period.

Riley Sheahan scored on the power play early in the second period. It took Forsberg about 15 minutes to get the equalizer to send the teams into the second intermission tied at 2.

Luke Glendening scored at 6:45 of the the third period and the Predators had no answer this time as the Wings captured the season series.

Some observations:

  • The lack of an elite center for the Predators is glaring. The wingers do a good job of creating, but the Predators lack a center that can dominate the center of the ice and distribute the puck. Until this weakness is corrected, the Predators will continue to be an average team.
  • The Predators rarely pressured Petr Mrazek. When they did, they scored. The truth of the matter is that the Predators have forwards that rarely contribute. I know that it is easy to single out Colin Wilson (and he has had a miserable season), but the third line rarely threatens the net and the 4th line is just not going to get on the score sheet. Until these guys start producing, the Predators will continue to struggle.
  • Forsberg brought his A game tonight. His line always draws the top defenders from the opponent, but Forsberg has shown creativity and drive, something that many of the other Predators forwards lack. They could take a lesson from the way Forsberg plays the game. This was Forsberg's second 2 goal game of the season.
  • Roman Josi continues to impress. He is fearless in carrying the puck and can break the pressure from any opponent. On many nights, he is the Predators best forward (yes, I know he plays defense, but he carries the puck better than anyone wearing a gold sweater) and can create in the offensive zone.
  • Mike Ribeiro picked up 2 assists tonight.
  • Pekka Rinne had to make some good saves, and when he was beaten, the puck was coming through traffic. Rinne battles every night and gives the Predators a chance to win. The opponents know that to beat Rinne they have to get traffic to the net and that is exactly what they have been doing to have success against the big Finn.
  • The Predators power play tonight was fancy but ineffective tonight. Lots of passing, no traffic to the net, and few shots. The power play was 0-3 tonight.
  • The Predators PK killed 2 of 3 Wings man advantage opportunities. The lone Wings score occurred when the Predators allowed Sheahan to get to the front of the net with no challenge from the defense.
This is a Predators team that is going to continue to take one step forward, one step back until production starts to come from more than a handful of players. Early in the season, the scoring was much more balanced. Now it is not.

And the Predators are going to continue to struggle until this changes.

My three stars:

1. Filip Forsberg

2. Mike Ribeiro

3. Brendan Smith

Monday, December 21, 2015

Predators Hang 5 on the Habs In 5-1 Victory

There have been games in the last few weeks where the Nashville Predators outplayed their opponent but came up on the losing end of the scoreboard.

That role was reversed tonight at Bridgestone Arena, where the visiting Montreal Canadiens outshot and outplayed the Predators but came up on the short end of a 5-1 score.

This was the first time the Predators have won back to back games in 4 weeks.

The Canadiens outshot the Predators 36-19 for the game.

The Predators did not record their second shot of the game until 8:40 of the first period, but it was a rocket from Shea Weber that found its way perfectly through a maze of bodies to beat Dustin Tokarski for a 1-0 Predators lead.

The Predators first shot of the second period came 8:22 in with the man advantage, and it was a blast from Roman Josi that hit both posts and fell into the net for a 2-0 Predators lead.

Ryan Ellis gave the Predators a 3-0 lead at 3:08 of the third period as his point shot deflected off a Habs defender and past Tokarski. That goal, the third on just 14 shots, ended Tokarski's night and saw Mike Condon take over the net for the Habs.

Calle Jarnkrok welcomed Condon to the game with a shot from the slot to make it 4-0 for the Predators.

The Habs appeared to have scored midway of the third period, but that goal would be overturned on a challenge from Peter Laviolette as it was deemed that Pekka Rinne had been interfered with trying to make the save.

Montreal would end Rinne's shutout bid with a power play goal by Alex Galchenyuk.

Colin Wilson would score the final goal on an empty netter.

Some observations:

  • The Habs dominated play all night, winning puck battles, controlling the boards, and knocking Predators off the puck. It is a testament to the Predators resolve and resilience in hanging in and getting timely scoring to secure the win.
  • There is no doubt that the Predators D pair of Shea Weber and Roman Josi are the best in the NHL. These two defenders have combined for 19 goals and 32 assists. Even when teams are trying to take away their space and limit their scoring chances, these guys find a way to score. Weber has 15 points in the month of December, the most by any player in the NHL. 
  • Good on Colin Wilson for finally getting his game going. Wilson picked up 2 assists to go along with his empty net goal, his second of the year. Wilson played a solid game, and hopefully this gets him going. Wilson moved up to the second line in an attempt to get his game going, and it was a great call by the coaching staff. 
  • I really liked the play of Colton Sissons and Miikka Salomaki. They played some hard minutes and their effort on the forecheck created some disruption for the Habs as well as being solid in the defensive zone. Sissons was also 50% in the face off circle.
  • Calle Jarnkrok continues to impress and play some very good hockey. Jarnkrok picked up his 6th goal of the season and has been solid in all zones. Jarnkrok has stepped into the role of first line center and has acquitted himself well in that role.
  • You have to realize how much the Canadiens miss the injured Carey Price after watching this game. The inability to make timely saves by Tokarski and Condon cost them this game, because they clearly outplayed the Predators. The Habs have now lost 8 of their last 9 games.
  • The Predators have not lost in regulation to the Canadiens at Bridgestone Arena since March 10, 2003. The Predators are 5-0-3 in their last 8 games against the Canadiens.
  • The Predators were 1 for 3 on the power play and killed off 2 of 3 Habs power plays.
  • The Predators won 31 of 56 faceoffs, good for 55%
  • Pekka Rinne was outstanding tonight. He was under pressure all game and kept the Predators in it in the first period while the Habs were bombing shots at the net. If Rinne had not been as sharp as he was, the outcome of this game would have definitely been different. Rinne tracked the puck well and frustrated the Habs with his glove and his athleticism in net. Rinne has looked like the Rinne of old in the last couple of games and that is a huge positive for this team.
Kinda nice to see the tables turned, eh?

Getting outplayed but coming up with a huge win.

Predators fans have too often recently been on the wrong side of that story, but tonight, the roles were reversed and the Predators picked up a much needed win.

Time to enjoy the holidays and come back Saturday and keep the momentum going.

My three stars.

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Roman Josi

3. Shea Weber

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Predators Stop Losing Streak, Defeat the Wild 3-2

The Nashville Predators needed a fast start against the Minnesota Wild at Bridgestone Arena.

Scoring on your first shot on goal qualifies as fast.

The Predators rode a tip in goal by Filip Forsberg just 46 seconds into the game along with a first period goal from Mike Ribeiro and a second period goal by James Neal to a 3-2 win to snap a 3 game losing streak.

Forsberg tipped in a rebound of a shot by Shea Weber that Devan Dubnyk could not control.

Shea Weber was involved in the Predators second goal as well. The Predators had a two man advantage when Weber launched a blast from the point that was tipped by Dubnyk by Mike Ribeiro for a 2-0 lead.

Pekka Rinne did not have a lot of work in the first period as the Wild could only muster 7 shots. He did face a penalty shot as Ryan Ellis was called for hooking on a break away by Jason Zucker. Rinne was up to the task as he stopped Zucker with his glove to keep the Wild off the board.

James Neal notched his 13th goal of the season in the second period as he beat Dubnyk from the face off circle to give the Predators a 3-0 lead.

The Predators would need every one of those goals as Zach Parise tipped a point shot from Marco Scandella past Rinne to make it 3-1.

Going into the third period, the Wild pressed and tried to make it a game. They did just that as Zucker was able to dig the puck out of the skates of Neal off a face off and get loose in the low slot to beat Rinne over the glove.

Zucker's goal made it 3-2 and upped the pucker factor in the arena exponentially.

The Predators were able to thwart the final push by the Wild and captured a much needed 3-2 win.

Some observations:

  • The Predators won this game in two critical areas: they controlled the neutral zone, both offensively and defensively; and they did an excellent job of getting traffic to the net. The Predators were able to defeat the Wild's trap by making smart passes through the neutral zone and making players available to receive the breakout passes. The Wild try to trap the life out of a team and the Predators consistently broke the trap and got the puck deep. Once they got the puck deep in the zone, they did a good job of retrieving it and controlling the play. They also got traffic to the net and the first 2 goals were a direct result of going hard to the net.
  • The traffic going to the net is something that the Predators have not done consistently in this slump, so it was good to see them make a consistent and concerted effort to do that tonight.
  • The Predators forecheck disrupted the Wild's offensive flow all night. They held the Wild to single digits in shots every period (7, 6, and 9) while also forcing 8 turnovers. The Predators forecheck also allowed the offense to control the puck and this was reflected in their shot totals. They had 39 for the game and had 13, 14. and 12 by period.
  • Those shot totals by the Predators showed they did not take their foot off the gas throughout the game. All too often, the Predators have been content to sit on a lead in the third period and hope for the best. Tonight, they kept attacking throughout the game and it was critical to securing the win.
  • The Predators are 10-1-2 when they lead after two periods.
  • By contrast, they are 2-9-2 when they trail after 2 periods.
  • This is the 19th game this season that the Predators have recorded at least 30 shots on goal.
  • The Predators played a very disciplined game. Ellis was called for hooking that resulted in the aforementioned penalty shot by Zucker. They took one other penalty, a holding call on Viktor Arvidsson in the third period that they killed.
  • The Predators recorded a 5 on 3 power play goal, their first of the season. They Wild gave up their first 5 on 3 goal of the season.
To say that the Predators needed this win is both a blinding flash of the obvious and a huge understatement. The fact that the Predators were able to step up their game and get this win speaks volumes about their character.

Now the big challenge for the Predators will be to start stringing together these kinds of efforts and getting some back to back wins.

My three stars:

1. Mike Ribeiro

2. Shea Weber

3. James Neal

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Predators Can't Hold the Lead, Give up 2 Third Period Goals in 2-1 Loss to the Blues

The Nashville Predators were looking to establish some positive momentum and turn their season back around.

Playing the St. Louis Blues made that task most difficult.

The Predators started well and took a 1-0 lead on a Roman Josi power play goal in the first period.

That lead stood up until the third period when David Backes redirected a puck past Pekka Rinne to tie the game at 1.

Vladamir Tarasenko beat Rinne on a Blues power play to make the score 2-1.

And once again, the Predators couldn't solve Blues netminder Jake Allen as the Blues held on for a 2-1 win.

Some observations:

  • Colin Wilson returned to the line up after missing 4 games due to injury. He was slotted on the third line with Colton Sissons and Cody Hodgson. 
  • With Wilson back in the line up, Austin Watson was the healthy scratch tonight.
  • The Blues have the number one penalty kill in the NHL. It had to be a real confidence booster for the Predators man advantage unit to get the tally from Roman Josi on their first power play attempt. This unit, which had been hot, hit a cold streak in their last few games. This goal was the result of good puck movement and the smarts to exploit a Blues defender that had broken his stick. Hopefully this gets the power play jump started again.
  • Shea Weber picked up an assist on the Josi goal, giving him 20 points on the season. Josi's goal gives him 23 points. The Predators are the only team in the NHL with two blue liners that have 20 points or more. 
  • The Blues have a +15 goal differential in the third period. This is a testament to the ability of the Blues to turn it on in crunch time.The Predators are a +3 in third period goal differential. They have scored 29 times but have given up 26 goals against, indicative of the Predators struggle to lock down teams in the last 20 minutes. 
  • There are a lot of cracks in the Predators facade. One of them is the inability to hold a lead in the third period. Once again, this fault came back to bite the Predators as they surrendered the lead to the Blues. Whether it is a lack of offensive aggressiveness, fear of making a mistake, or just sitting back on their heels and hoping Rinne stops everything thrown at the the net, this strategy isn't working for the Predators. Until they change their play in the third period, they will continue to give up leads and lose games.
  • Allen has faced 71 shots in 2 games against the Predators and has given up one goal. No Predators forward has scored against the Blues this season.
  • The Predators were dominated in the face off circle, winning just 24 of 59 draws for a 40% success rate.
  • The play of Roman Josi continues to stand out. He has emerged as a complete and elite NHL defenseman. He is one of the few bright spots for the Predators.
Let's face it, we are seeing the real Predators. They are a middling team that will struggle to make the playoffs as the roster is built right now.

Unless there are some significant changes, this will be a team that will be lucky to get into the playoffs.

My three stars:

1. Jake Allen

2. Roman Josi

3. Vladamir Tarasenko

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Predators Continue to Struggle, Drop 2-1 OT Decision to the Flames.

The Nashville Predators have not won an overtime game this season.

The Calgary Flames have won 7 OT contests.

That trend continued at Bridgestone Arena as the Nashville Predators dropped a 2-1 overtime decision to the Flames.

The Predators continue to struggle, creating lots of shots but few quality scoring chances. The Predators only goal came a first period penalty shot as Cody Hodgson beat Kari ramo with a nice snap shot to the glove side.

The lead held up until midway of the second period as the Predators defense broke down and allowed T. J. Brodie to skate uncontested down the slot where he beat Pekka Rinne over the shoulder to tie the game at 1.

The game remained scoreless, but not for lack of effort by the Flames. Rinne made several great saves to keep the Flames off the board.

The Predators never really challenged Ramo with good scoring chances and the game was headed to OT.

In the extra session, the Predators turned the puck over and Johnny Gaudreau fed the puck to Kris Russell on a 2 on 1 and Russell buried the shot top shelf for the game winner.

Some observations:

  • There are a lot of problems with this Predators squad right now. One of them is the lack of a strong presence in front of the net. While the Preds are getting shots, there is rarely good traffic in front of the net . Ramo was spitting out rebounds all night long, but rarely were the Predators in a position to retrieve the puck and put follow up shots on the net. Unless that changes, this team will continue to look good on the stat sheet and bad on the scoreboard.
  • Calle Jarnkrok continues to grow in his role as the number one center. He is defensively responsible, has a deft touch with the puck, and is fast becoming the Predators best face off man. He was 10 of 15 in the circle tonight. Jarnkrok is not a true number one, but he is a solid number 2 center and has shown that he is a responsible and solid forward.
  • The Predators struggling penalty kill showed up tonight. Granted, the Flames power play has been abyssmal, ranking 30th in the NHL (the Preds PK is 28th), but the Predators killed off a full two minutes of 5 on 3 after Mike Ribeiro took a penalty and James Neal took a stupid penalty for a shot to the head on the continuation of Ribeiro's penalty. The only shot the Flames got during the two man advantage was a spectacular stop by Rinne on the goal line with his pad. Hopefully this effort tonight gives this unit a bit of confidence and gets them on an upswing.
  • It is obvious that the Predators forwards are struggling and frankly have lost their mojo right now. The shots are coming, but they are not dangerous. Rebounds are controlled by the defense (see point above) and there is little follow up or traffic to disrupt the opposing netminder. Until that changes, this team is going  to have a hard time scoring goals.
There is noit much to say about this game, or the games over the last 6 weeks. The Predators have shown themselves to at best be a middle of the pack team in the West and they will continue to occupy that position until they have some changes up front.

And in the brutally competitive Central Division, middle of the pack may mean being on the outside looking in when the playoffs roll around.

My three stars:

1. Kris Russell

2. Cosy Hodgson

3. T.J. Brodie

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Avalanche Outwork and Outlast the Predators 3-2

The good start that the Predators wanted in their game against the Colorado Avalanche at Bridgestone Arena didn't happen.

A first period saw the Predators outworked all over the ice and trailing to the Avalanche leading 2-0 before Miikka Salomaki tipped home a Ryan Ellis shot  with 7.7 seconds remaining to send the Predators into the intermission trailing 2-1.

Francois Beauchemin scored on the power play on a perfectly placed shot just inside the post on a screened Pekka Rinne for a 1-0 Avalanche lead.

Just 5 seconds after the Predators had killed a second penalty, the Avs scored again as Nick Holden took a perfect pass from Alex Tanguay on a 2 on 1 break to give the visitors a 2-0 lead.

Salomaki was in the hard area at the side of the net when he tipped home a shot from Ellis to make it 2-1.

The second period was scoreless as the Predators out shot the Avs 10-1 but could not get a puck past Semyon Varlamov.

The Predators tied the game just 58 seconds into the third period as Craig Smith beat Varlamov cleanly with a shot from the point.

The Avs scored the game winner by sending a lot of bodies to the net and Andreas Martinsen was able to bat the puck past Rinne for the game winner.

Some observations:

  • The Predators struggled with the Avs trap all night long. They were disrupted trying to get through the neutral zone and were often forced to just dump the puck in the zone. Unfortunately, the Predators rarely retrieved the puck in the zone and the Avs gained possession on most of those plays. The Avs also did a very good job of outworking the Predators along the boards and winning puck battles all night. This forced the Preds to chase the puck all night.
  • On the Avs game winning goal, there were lots of bodies going to the net. This is something that the Predators do not do consistently, and it results in a lot of shots that the opposing netminder is able to play cleanly. Until this changes, the Predators can shoot all they want but they will rarely challenge the net.
  • The Predators PK continues to misfire. They gave up a goal on their first kill as Rinne was screened and could not react to the shot. The Avs second goal came just after a PK as the Predators seemed discombobulated and allowed the Avs a break down the ice. This unit, which looked very good against Chicago, has got to get consistent.
  • Speaking of consistent, the Predators have not won back to back games in over a month. This team plays lights out (Chicago) and then comes out flat and struggles like they did tonight. The lack of consistency is troubling.
  • The Predators got traffic to the net and almost tied the game late in the third period. They hit two posts and a crossbar as Varlamov was scrambling. The difference in this late sequence was that the Predators did a good job of getting traffic in front of Varlamov, some they did not do consistently (there's that word again) for most of the game.
  • Salomaki's goal was his second of his career.
  • Nashville has won only 2 games this season when trailing after two periods. another facet of their performance that has to improve.
Face it, the Predators are a team that has lost their consistency. Win one, lose one (or more). Whether it is a matter of focus or missing injured players, the inconsistency is problematic for this team.

And the Predators cannot be dropping games to teams below them in the standings.

Keep doing that and it will be a very long season.

My three stars:

1. Semyon Varlamov

2. Andreas Martinsen

3. Miikka Salomaki

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Predators Return the Favor, Dominate the Blackhawks 5-1

The Nashville Predators were dominated by the Chicago Blackhawks in their previous game on Tuesday in Chicago.

They returned the favor tonight, blowing out the Blackhawks at Bridgestone Arena by a 5-1 margin.

The Predators rode 3 first period goals by James Neal, Craig Smith, and Filip Forsberg to a lead that was insurmountable by the Hawks.

After a scoreless second period, Patrick Kane scored on a goal that never should have been allowed as Pekka Rinne was shoved into the net and Kane was able to tap home the puck that was knocked loose.

Leading 3-1 and with the potent Hawks offense attacking, Predators fans had to be nervous.

Those fears were calmed when James Neal beat Scott Darling 5 hole for his second goal of the game and a 4-1 lead.

With the Predators on the penalty kill and Darling pulled for an extra attacker, Eric Nystrom was able to gather in the puck and fire it down ice for the empty net goal.

Pekka Rinne was outstanding, returning to form and making some high quality saves to keep the Hawks from grabbing momentum.

Some observations:

  • Paul Gaustad said in his post game comments that the Predators were "pissed" with the way they played in Chicago and wanted to send a message to the Blackhawks. Message delivered. The Blackhawks are a team that the Predators need to surpass in the regular season and if they play like they did tonight, they will accomplish that goal. The Central is so tough, and the Predators need to take care of business in the Division. Games like tonight show that they can do just that.
  • The key to the Predators win tonight was their ferocious forecheck. They did a superb job of disrupting the Hawks breakouts and forced 5 giveaways coupled with 8 takeaways. For most of the night, the Predators did not allow the Hawks to get clean breakouts and move through the neutral zone with speed. This forced the Hawks to try to set up in the offensive zone, where the Predators defense did a good job of limiting scoring chances. This is the way that the Predators have to play to win games, and tonight they were on their game.
  • That isn't to say that the Hawks didn't have some glorious scoring chances. Pekka Rinne was called upon to make so high quality stops and he rose to the occasion. The Hawks had a slow first period but came on strong in the second and third. The Predators out shot the Hawks 18-7 in the first period. The Hawks out shot the Predators 13-8 in the second and 16-8 in the third.
  • The goal that the Hawks scored was off an abominable call (or lack thereof) by the officials. Rinne had secured the puck until he was shoved into the net and the puck squirted loose and Kane was able to score. The lack of consistency by NHL officials is incredible and is a detriment to the game.
  • How about that first goal of the game by James Neal? He absolutely undressed Niklas Hjalmarsson to get to the low slot and beat Darling 5 hole. This game was starting like so many others with the Predators attacking the net but having nothing to show for it. Once Neal scored, it was like a great weight was off the shoulders of the Predators and it opened up the offense. Neal has 7 goals in his last 5 games against the Blackhawks.
  • Roman Josi picked up an assist tonight to extend his point streak to a careeer high 6 straight games.
  • I continue to like the play of Viktor Arvidsson and Calle Jarnkrok. Both Players are playing with great energy and are contributing on both ends of the ice. Both players picked up an assist tonight and are showing they can handle quality mninutes.
  • The Hawks have the 5th best power play in the NHL. Tonight, the Predators PK, which has been bad recently, was perfect, killing all 3 Hawks man advantage opportunities.
  • The Predators had 1 power play opportunity and they cashed in, with Forsberg chipping a puck between Darling and the post.
  • Man it was good to see Craig Smith and Forsberg find the back of the net again. Those guys have to get going consistently and hopefully their play tonight gets them going.
  • Smith's goal was odd to say the least. His shot hit several bodies and then Darling. Darling was out of position and couldn't control the rebound, which seemed to move in slow motion before it finally crossed the line.
  • The Predators are undefeated (9-0-2) when leading after two periods.
This was a solid game and win for the Predators. It came about because the Predators played their brand of hockey and dictated the play for most of the game.

Now they have to consistently bring that level of play in the next game and start building on this positive momentum.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. James Neal

3. Craig Smith

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Predators Bomb Against the Blackhawks

The Nashville Predators faced a stiff test in the second game of a back to back series as they squared off against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center.

They failed the test. Badly.

The Predators dropped a 4-1 decision to their Central Division rivals in a game where Corey Crawford shined in net and the Predators couldn't find a way to get the puck past him.

Dennis Rasmussen redirected a point shot by Andrew Shaw in the first period to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead.

Andrew Shaw scored on a power play to make it 2-0 in the second period.

The Predators would draw to 2-1 on a goal by Eric Nystrom off a beautiful assist from Roman Josi.

That is as close as the Predators would get as Teuvo Teravainen would beat Pekka Rinne early in the third period with a perfectly placed shot to the top corner.

Patrick Kane would add an empty net goal for the final margin.

Some observations:

  • Colin Wilson was scratched due to aggravating a lower body injury in last night's game against the Bruins.Craig Smith moved back up to the second line with Viktor Arvidsson and Mike Ribeiro. 
  • There is no doubt the United Center can be an intimidating place in which to play. The Predators had several guys in their line up that were on UC ice for the first time, and they pressed the attack and played with some poise. 
  • Paul Gaustad has been a good soldier, and I like Paul. But I think Paul's time has passed. He is contributing very little to the Predators this season. He has become average in the face off dot and is a liability in the offensive zone. I believe that it is time to put Salomaki, Watson, and Sissons together on the 4th line. They play with jump and have more offensive pop than than the current 4th line unit. Early in the season, the Watson, Bourque, and Sissons 4th line played exceptionally well and were able to contribute offensively. With Bourque out due to an injury, Salomaki can play on that 4th line and I think it will benefit the Predators to have a more offensively dangerous 4th unit.
  • Roman Josi continues to play at an elite level. He absolutely undressed Duncan Keith with a sweet move to set up the goal by Nystrom. Josi is so smooth and calm with the puck and has exceptional vision on the ice, and he uses those skills to fire his underrated shot or set up teammates.
  • In my view, the difference between the Predators and the Blackhawks is simply this: the Blackhawks have players throughout their line up that can score, and they do so on a consistent basis. The Predators have some talented players, but they are mostly players that disappear for long stretches at a time (Forsberg, Smith, Wilson, to name a few). There are fewer high end players on the Predators roster and their consistency is virtually non-existent. Until that changes, the Predators are going to be an good team but not remotely close to being an elite team.
  • This game was indicative of the Predators talent level. Lots of hustle, fairly good effort, but no one that could finish The Predators talent level has improved, but clearly lags behind teams like the Hawks and Blues. This team tries hard, and will win their fair share of games, but the Predators are who they are- hard working but lacking in elite talent.
  • Want proof? The Predators put 37 shots on goal compared to the Hawks 24. The difference? The Hawks have finishers and the Predators do not.
  • The Predators out hit the Hawks 36-14, which is indicative of the fact they were chasing the puck most of the night.
 The Predators are 0-2 against the elite teams of the Central that they have played (Blues and Hawks) and have yet to play the best team in the Central, the Stars. The Predators are either going to have to get some players going (I'm looking at you, Smith, Forsberg, and Wilson) or they are going to have to seriously upgrade their talent.

Otherwise, they will be scrambling to make the playoffs.

My three stars:

1. Corey Crawford

2. Andrew Shaw

3. Teuvo Teravainen

Monday, December 7, 2015

Josi's Two Power Play Goals Leads the Predators Over the Bruins

The Nashville Predators needed to play a solid game and get a win to boost their confidence and break out of the funk they have been in recently.

The Boston Bruins were just what the Predators needed to accomplish those goals.

Roman Josi had a monster game, scoring two power play goals. Viktor Arvidsson added the game winner in the third period and Carter Hutton made 15 saves as the Predators defeated the Bruins 3-2 at TD Garden.

Down 1-0 off a goal by Kevin Miller, Josi beat Jonas Gustavsson short side top shelf to tie the game.

After Loui Eriksson gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead, Josi struck again on the power play. He stole a clearing attempt by Zdeno Chara and drove the net, turning Gustavsson inside out before burying the puck into a wide open net.

Viktor Arvidsson notched the game winner as he drove in the low slot, got Gustavsson to commit, and then patiently pulled the puck back and slapped it into the open net.

The Predators were able to hold off the Bruins, who had the extra attacker for the final 1:43 of the game to secure the win.

Some observations:

  • Man, if the Predators didn't have bad luck, they would have no luck at all. Kevin Miller's shot hits Roman Josi and deflects into the net. Eventually, the Predators puck luck has to change. Doesn't it?
  • Roman Josi has as good of a shot as anyone on the team. His power play goal was perfectly placed to the top corner. Josi has to be a serious candidate for the Norris Trophy this season if he continues to play at the level he has in this first quarter of the season. Josi now has a 4 game point streak. His second goal of the game was an absolute beauty, taking the puck into the slot and deking Gustavsson out of his jock.
  • The Predators penalty kill continues to struggle. The goal by Eriksson was just too easy as he was alone at the side of the net. Granted, the Bruins have the number one power play in the NHL, but this goal was a cake walk. I don't know why this unit, that has traditionally been in the top 25% of the of the PK units in the NHL, has lost their focus or their mojo or whatever, but it has to be addressed and improved quickly.
  • You really wonder how players like Zac Rinaldo are even in the League. He brings nothing to the game except dangerous hits and questionable play.
  • Colin Wilson had several good chances in close but could not bury a shot. Look up the definition of "snake bitten" in the dictionary and you will see a picture of Wilson. I do appreciate the fact that the coaches are sticking with Wilson and giving him a chance to get his game on track, but Wilson has to get it going soon. The team needs his production and the only way to get his game going is to play his way out of this brutal slump.
  • I continue to like the play of Viktor Arvidsson. You can just see his game continuing to mature and he is willing to go to the tough areas to battle for the puck and get shots on net. The Aardvark was rewarded for his efforts with the go ahead goal in the third period by going to the slot and exhibiting great patience to draw Gustavsson out of the net before potting the goal into the empty net once the Bruins tender was out of position. He has goals in two consecutive games.
  • Calle Jarnkrok centered the first line and he played a very solid game. Jarnkrok has quietly grown in his game. He is the Predators leading goal scorer among the forwards since the 1st of November and is very solid in the defensive zone. The Predators definitely won the deal with the Red Wings when they acquired Jarnkrok for David Legwand.
  • The Predators were 2-5-2 coming into this game. Needless to say, this was a much needed win.
  • The Predators defense did an exceptional job of limiting the Bruins scoring chances, holding them to 17 shots for the entire game. The Predators had 33 shots.
  • The Predators were 2 of 7 on the power play. They were able to kill 2 of 3 power play chances by the Bruins.
  • 5 of the last 7 goals that the Predators have scored have been by defensemen (Weber with 3; Josi with 2). The other 2 goals? The Aardvark, Viktor Arvidsson.
  • Carter Hutton played his best game in a while. He was positionally sound, controlled rebounds, and looked poised in net. Hutton can get scrambly at times, but not tonight. Perhaps most importantly, he didn't give up the goal off the long unscreened shot from the blue line. You certainly can't fault him on the Bruins first goal, a deflection off a Predator that changed direction.
This was a solid 60 minute game by the Predators, one they had to have to try to reverse their fortunes.

Now they have to bring it again in their next game tomorrow night.

My three stars:

1. Roman Josi

2. Viktor Arvidsson

3. Shea Weber

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Predators Can't Hold Leads, Blow Game to the Wings In OT

The Nashville Predators can't stand success.

They managed to blow a 3-1 lead before losing in overtime to the Detroit Red Winds by a 5-4 margin

Brad Richards gave the Wings a 1-0 lead before the Predators reeled off 3 straight goals to take a 3-1 lead late in the second period.

Shea Weber notched 2 power play goals and Viktor Arvidsson got a tally from in front of the net to give the Predators the two goal advantage.

Tomas Tatar scored on a late power play to send the Predators into the second intermission with a 3-2 lead.

Weber would record another power play goal as he blew a point shot past Petr Mrazek to give the Predators a 4-2 lead.

Dylan Larkin wove his way through the Predators defense to beat Rinne under the crossbar to make it 4-3.

Ryan Ellis took a stupid boarding penalty to put the Wings on the power play and Justin Abdelkader scored on a shot from Gustav Nyquist where Rinne was bumped by Abdelkader. The goal was reviewed but allowed to stand.

In overtime, Nyquist beat Rinne on the a breakaway and the Predators had tanked on a game they should have won.

Some observations :

  • Some poetic justice for Shea Weber as the first Detroit goal bounced off of him and past Pekka Rinne. Two goals in the second is a pretty good response, eh? Especially one that bounced off the glass and back of Mrazek, which was confirmed by review. This was Weber's first 2 goal game since January 2015 against Dallas. Weber would add a third power play goal as he blew a shot from the point past Mrazek for his first career hat trick.
  • I continue to like the play of Viktor Arvidsson. The Aardvark has adjusted to the speed of the NHL and is not afraid to bang along the boards and work in front of the net. He is using his speed to find open areas and was rewarded with a goal tonight.
  • Rough start for Seth Jones with two slashing penalties in the first period. 
  • Good to see the power play get going. One of the contributing factors to the Predators spotty play recently has been the weak special teams play. If these units can get going, it will be a great boost to the team.
  • While it was good to see the power play get going, the PK continues to struggle, allowing 2 power play goals in 5 attempts by the Wings. The Predators have allowed 10 power play goals in their last 8 games, a major contributor to their struggles.This unit is going to have to get their game together quickly if the Predators are going to have success.
  • No way the Predators defense should allow Larkin to skate through them like he did for his third period goal. The defense has to step up and take the body. Instead, Larkin was allowed to skate unimpeded until he found the soft spot in the defense to beat Rinne.
  • the boarding penalty by Ryan Ellis late in the game is a penalty that just cannot happen. It was a selfish play as Ellis was going full speed into a player that had his back to the ice and was along the boards. The Predators have to play with more discipline than that with the game in the balance.
  • The Predators have yet to win a game in the overtime session this season. They often look disjointed and lack a sense of urgency and attacking attitude in OT.
  • The Predators were a horrid 39% in the face off circle, which contributed to the Wings possession time.
  • The Predators blocked 20 shots, while the Wings blocked 8.
The Predators continue in their funk and each game exposes another crack in the Predators facade. This team has shown that they can play excellent hockey, and they have shown they can stink it up.

Tonight, they showed they lack killer instinct. yes, the Wings are a dynamic team, but when you have two 2 goal leads, you lock down the  opponent.

Tonight, the Predators let the Wings dictate play in critical times and it cost them the game.

The Predators have no swagger and no one that will step up and take control of a game.

Better find one fast or more trouble awaits.

My three stars:

1. Shea Weber

2. Gustav Nyquist

3. Roman Josi

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Predators Fall to the Panthers 2-1 In Another Frustrating Loss

The Nashville Predators fell to the Florida Panthers at Bridgestone Arena by a 2-1 margin. Another game where the Predators dominated on the shot counter (33-16) but came up short on the scoreboard.

Quintin Howden opened the scoring for the Panthers as the puck took a funny bounce off a stanchion and caromed to Howden in the middle of the ice. That sent Howden in on a breakaway and he beat Pekka Rinne stick side for a 1-0 Panthers lead.

The Panthers took a 2-0 advantage on the power play as Jonathan Huberdeau got free in the slot and beat Rinne over the shoulder.

The Predators would cut the lead to 2-1 as Roman Josi, driving the net, deflected a shot from Craig Smith past Roberto Luongo.

That was a s close as the Predators could get, although they had a shot that beat Luongo and hit both posts with 30 seconds remaining, but the puck did not cross the goal line.

Some observations:

  • The Predators offense was disrupted all night by the forecheck and trap of the Panthers and they could not seem to figure out how to solve it. In game management and adjustments at intermissions have to be made, but it appeared that the Predators made none and  allowed the Panthers to choke down their speed all night.
  • The Predators, by contrast, did not forecheck well. Often they dumped the puck in the zone but there were no Predators able to retrieve the puck. Worse yet, the Predators lost puck battles on the boards all night. 
  • This was the first game that the Predators played without Mike Fisher. He has been placed on IR and will miss at least 4 games with a lower body injury.
  • Calle Jarnkrok moved up to center the second line and played well. He is playing with speed and confidence and you can see his game growing each time he is on the ice. Jarnkrok won 64% of his faceoffs tonight.
  • The Predators got away from what brought them a win against the Coyotes in the previous game. Although they had a lot of shots, there was not a lot of traffic in front of Luongo. This is a league where you have to score goals from the hard areas, and tonight, the Predators didn't make much of an effort to get to those hard areas.
  • The Panthers blocked 21 shots. The Predators blocked 6.
  • This is the first time the Panthers have won a game in Nashville since 1999.
  • The Predators PK is a woeful 77% for the season. In the last 10 games, it is 57%. Awful.
  • The officiating  did not cost the Predators the game, but the late game embellishment call against James Neal was just embarrassingly bad. When a player is tripped with a stick in his skate blade and falls, that is not embellishment, and the NHL should be ashamed of the lack of integrity in the officials on the ice.
  • The Predators are 2-6-2 when they allow the first goal, and they have won only 2 games this season when trailing after two periods.
The Predators are dealing with injuries, and that obviously has an impact on this team. But the fact is that this team is just average right now and outside of Filip Forsberg, lacks a real game changer.

So that means this team is going to have to play gritty hockey that is not fancy but tough.

Time to change, boys.

My three stars:

1. Jonathan Huberdeau

2. Roberto Luongo

3. Roman Josi

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Predators Explode Out of Their Slump, Defeat the Coyotes 5-2

The Nashville Predators have been in a slump and have struggled to score goals and get a bit of puck luck.

Through two periods against the Arizona Coyotes at Bridgestone Arena, the struggles looked as if they would continue. The Predators had out shot the Coyotes 27-10 and had hit 5 posts. When they looked at the scoreboard, they trailed 2-1 and looked as if they would not be able to solve Coyotes goalie Mike Smith.

The hockey gods- along with a lot of hard work by the Predators- changed their fortunes in the third period as the Predators exploded for 4 goals en route to a 5-2 victory.

The Coyotes opened the scoring in the first period on the power play as Oliver Ekman-Larsson sent a seeing eye shot through traffic from the high slot that completely eluded Pekka Rinne.

The Predators returned the favor on a power play in the second period as Calle Jarnkrok redirected a slap pass from Shea Weber between the pads of Mike Smith to tie the game at 1.

Late in the second period, Kyle Chipchura outworked the Predators defense to the front of the net and was able to chip the puck past Rinne to send the Coyotes into the second intermission with a 2-1 lead.

That would be all the Coyotes could get past Rinne and it set the stage for the Predators offense to get on track.

Mike Ribeiro stole the puck in the offensive zone and beat Smith from the slot to tie the game.

Filip Forsberg wove his way through the Coyotes defense and worked to some open space in the slot and beat Smith low stick side to give the Predators their first lead of the game at 4:49 of the third period.

Forsberg would take a nice pass from Ribeiro and laser a wrist shot past Smith to make it 4-2.

James Neal iced the game with an empty net goal to give the Predators their final margin of 5-2.

Some observations:

  • Big ups to the Predators defense. The Coyotes have shown they can be explosive and have some talented players, including dynamic rookie Max Domi and second year man Anthony Duclair. The Predators defense limited the Coyotes to only 15 shots for the entire game. The Coyotes did not register their first shot on goal until 8:34 of the first period. They had 4 shots in the first; 6 in the second; and 5 in the third. The Predators also blocked 18 shots from the Coyotes.
  • I can't fault Rinne for the goals he gave up. The power play was a seeing eye shot that made its way through a maze of bodies, a shot he never saw until it was in the net. The Chipchura goals was just hard work by the Coyotes forward, who worked his way into prime scoring territory and was able to bang the puck past Rinne. Rinne did not have a lot of work, obviously, but he made a spectacular save on Domi in the first period. Domi had an empty net but Rinne was able to reach back with his paddle and sweep the puck off the goal line to keep the Coyotes off the board. Truly a candidate for the save of the year.
  • The injury bug hit the Predators hard again as Mike Fisher crashed into the boards early in the second period and looked to have injured a knee. He was barely able to get off the ice and went straight to the locker room. He did not return to the game.
  • This game had the makings of another frustrating outing for the Predators. The difference this time, and what swung the game in their favor, was that they kept attacking with traffic to the net. Mike Smith was outstanding through two period, turning away some prime scoring opportunities by the Predators. The Predators were relentless in their attack and kept putting pucks on the net with bodies in front. This is something they have not done consistently when they were in their funk, and hopefully they see how this formula can yield success.
  • I really like the play of Calle Jarnkrok. He has stepped up his game and has been flying on the ice and is willing to go to the hard areas. The Predators first goal was a result of Jarnkrok establishing position in the low slot and being able to redirect the Weber pass. Jarnkrok ate up some big minutes after the Fisher injury, playing 25 shifts and logging 20:20 of ice time. He was also 9 of 19 in the face off circle.
  • This is only the second time this season that the Predators have won a game when trailing after two periods.
  • The Predators are now 6-0-1 in their last 7 games against the Coyotes.
  • Shea Weber picked up 3 assists and was a +3 on the night. He led the Predators in TOI with 24:12.
  • Filip Forsberg had a team high 8 shots on goal and had 2 goals and an assist.
  • Roman Josi blocked a team high 5 shots.
  • Colin Wilson was scratched tonight. No word on an injury, but Wilson has been ice cold this season. Cody Bass was called up from Milwaukee and took his place in the line up.
  • Another player that stood out to me tonight was Viktor Arvidsson. He was flying all over the ice and his battle level was better than at any time he has been up with the Predators. He won puck battles and kept plays alive. He logged 21 shifts and 18:57 of ice time.
This was a win the Predators really needed. Hopefully it gets their confidence back where it needs to be and they start finding the net consistently.

Busting out of the slump is sweet.

Now we have to overcome injuries and keep it rolling.

My three stars:

1. Filip Forsberg

2. Shea Weber

3. Mike Ribeiro