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

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