Saturday, February 28, 2015

Predators Can't Hold A Lead, Fall to Wings 4-3

Defensive breakdowns and an unlucky bounce doomed the Nashville Predators as they dropped a 4-3 decision to the Detroit Red Wings at Bridgestone Arena.

This was the Predators second loss in a row on home ice, where they have been dominant this season.

Tomas Tatar scored the game winner with the Wings on the power play as his shot deflected off the stick of Roman Josi and past Pekka Rinne.

The Wings jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals from Brendan Smith and Drew Miller. Miller's goal was one that Rinne would like to have back as he got most of the shot but it trickled over his pad an into the net.

The Predators would answer just 30 seconds after the Miller goal as Matt Cullen would gather in a rebound that Jonas Gustavsson could not handle. Cullen banged in the loose puck in the blue paint to make it 2-1.

Mike Fisher scored from in close, roofing a shot over the shoulder of Gustavsson to tie the game midway of the second period.

The Predators took a 3-2 lead on the power play as Shea Weber unleashed a bomb that Gustavsson did not see until it hit the back of the net to send the Predators into the second intermission with their first lead of the game.

Alexey Marchenko tied the game at 3 with a perfectly placed blast that went top corner on Rinne.

Tatar's game winner came at 9:06 in the third.

Although the Predators had two late power plays, they could not get the equalizer.

Some observations:

  • The Predators got 9 shots on net in the first period, but rarely challenged Gustavsson. The Predators seemed content to shoot from the point and hope to get rebounds and second chance opportunities. They did not even come close. The momentum swung to their favor in the second period when they started attacking the net. This is the Predators most effective style of play, and when they get away from that, the Predators are a very average team.
  • The Predators got very sloppy and undisciplined in the third period. Of the 8 penalties the Predators took in the game, 5 came in the third period. One was a weak embellishment call on Filip Forsberg after he was tripped. Regardless, the Predators made the hill a lot steeper having to kill off 8 minutes with Detroit on the power play.
  • Mike Ribeiro was 5 for 7 in the faceoff circle, but lost every offensive zone draw he took. this is just frankly a huge momentum killer for the Predators. he was replaced on the top line by Mike Fisher late in the game for some more prowess on the faceoff dot. However, Fisher was not any better, going 8 of 20.
  • Pekka Rinne made some huge saves in the first period as the Wings had several quality scoring chances. As mentioned, he would like to have had Miller's goal back, one that was easily stoppable. There was nothing he could do on Tatar's game winner as the puck completely changed direction off of Josi's stick.
  • The Predators were 1-7 on the power play. They had two opportunities late in the game but never seriously challenged Gustavsson. While Weber got some good looks, the Predators rarely had traffic in front of Gustavsson, and this is the aspect of the power play that has to improve. That, and just getting the puck into the zone.
  • The Predators defense has not been as sharp recently. The team has given up 8 goals in their last 2 games and some breakdowns have resulted in the puck finding the back of our net. Part of this is getting Cody Franson meshed with his defense partner. Part of it is just some uncharacteristically sloppy play.
  • Ryan Ellis was scratched for this game. His knee is still not healed well enough to play and there is no word as to when he might be back in the lineup.
  • The Predators have a much more potent offense, but this trend of giving up the first goal in the game is troubling. It will be even more troubling in the playoffs.
  • Roman Josi picked up two assists, his 8th multi-point game this season.
  • Shea Weber led the team in TOI with 30:15.
  • The Predators had 15 games in the month of February and went 10-4-1.
The Predators level of play over the past few games has fallen from elite to average. Playing average hockey against good teams often leads to a loss, and this is what the Predators are facing right now.

It is no time to panic, but it is time for the team to pay attention to the details and elevate their game.

My three stars:

1. Tomas Tatar

2. Matt Cullen

3. Drew Miller

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Wild Tame the Predators 4-2

The Minnesota Wild took down the Nashville Predators by a 4-2 margin at Bridgestone Arena by reverting to their roots.

Early in their history, the Wild were a trapping team that would try to choke the life out of the opposition and rely on some timely goal scoring.

They did just that tonight, especially in the third period, as their trap game had the Predators completely out of sync.

The Wild opened the scoring off an Eric Haula blast that Pekka Rinne never saw.

Mike Fisher would tie the game as he muscled a puck past Devan Dubnyk. That lead would be short lived, however, as Kyle Brodziak would beat Rinne under the crossbar for a 2-1 lead.

Once again, the Predators tied the game as Mike Fisher sprung Craig Smith for a breakaway and he popped the puck under the crossbar.

The Predators couldn't keep the Wild off the board as the defense broke down and left Nino Neiderreiter alone in the slot and he beat Rinne to give the Predators a 3-2 lead. at the end of the second period.

The third period was when the Wild exerted their will and completely disrupted and smothered the Predators. The Preds had difficulty even entering the zone, and when they did they rarely challenged Dubnyk.

Neiderreiter sealed the win with an empty net goal.

Some observations:

  • This game is an indication of the type of games that will be played in the playoffs, and the Predators have struggled this season with these types of games where the opponent aggressively forechecks them all game. The Predators were completely out of rhythm in the third period, having trouble getting through the neutral zone and setting up their offense. This is something the Predators are going to have to improve markedly if they want to have success in the playoffs.
  • This game also pointed out that the Predators need a truly talented center that can carry and distribute the puck. This is the most glaring weakness on the roster right now, and I don't know if it can (or will) be corrected at the trade deadline.
  • The Predators wilted under the pressure from the Wild and were a turnover machine tonight. The Predators turned it over 17 times to just 6 for the Wild.
  • Since being acquired by the Wild, Dubnyk is 14-3-2. He has played well, and the Wild do an excellent job of protecting him in front of the net. Dubnyk was spitting out rebounds, but rarely did the Predators get to them for second chance opportunities.
  • Mike Ribeiro did not have a good game. He had 3 giveaways, was a non-factor in the offensive zone, and was a -3 on the night. He won just 38% of his faceoffs.
  • Craig Smith reached the 20 goal club for the second year in a row. He has 8 points (6G-2A) in his last 7 games.
  • Roman Josi has settled in on the top D pairing with Shea Weber. How has he compared this season with the man he replaced, Ryan Suter? This season, Josi has 44 points (11G-33A) and is a +20. Suter has 30 points (2G-28A) and is a -1. I like our replacement better.
  • Ryan Ellis returned to action after missing 21 games with a knee injury. He was paired with Seth Jones on the third D pair.
  • Interestingly, Ellis and Cody Franson (who was on the second D pair with Mattias Ekholm) did not see the ice for the final 10 minutes of the game. Ellis played 11:29 and Franson played 12:50.
Not the kind of game the Predators are used to playing, and this game pointed out some weaknesses for the Predators.

There are some things that need to be tweaked and improved upon. I believe this team will do that in the regular season games remaining.

They better.

My three stars:

1. Nino Neiderreiter

2. Mike Fisher

3. Kyle Brodziak 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Avalanche Buried By the Predators 5-2

Just 4 minutes into the game, Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon scored a fluke goal. His shot was going wide of the Predators net but caromed off the skate of Roman Josi and past Predators netminder Pekka Rinne to give the Avs a 1-0 lead.

What could have been a momentum building goal for the Avalanche was answered just 16 seconds later as Calle Jarnkrok stole the puck at the Predators blue line and torched Semyon Varlamov top shelf to tie the game.

From that point on, it was all Predators as they out shot the Avalanche 41-20 and scored four more goals before surrendering a late power play goal en route to a 5-2 win over their Central Division rival.

Craig Smith, Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg, and Eric Nystrom all tallied for the Predators.

John Mitchell scored a power play goal with 1:19 left in the game for the Avs final goal.

Pekka Rinne didn't have a lot of work, but did make several big time saves to keep the Avalanche from getting back in the game.

By Contrast, Semyon Varlamov faced a barrage of rubber from the Predators before being pulled in the third period for Reto Berra.

The Predators shut down the high octane offense of the Avalanche, limiting them to 8 shots through the first 40  minutes. The Predators gave up 12 shots in the third, but by then, the game was out of reach for the Avalanche.

Some observations:

  • Big ups to Captain Shea Weber. He dropped the gloves with Gabriel Landeskog after Landeskog launched himself at Roman Josi and hit him high. Weber picked up 17 minutes in penalties (2 for instigation; 5 for fighting; and a mandatory 10 minute misconduct for instigation). But Weber sent a message to the Avalanche that those types of questionable hits wouldn't be tolerated. The Avs got the message, as no further hits of those type occurred. This is the type of leadership that Weber has brought all season, and it was good to see him step up for a teammate.
  • Filip Forsberg notched his 21st goal of the season just 54 seconds into the third period. Forsberg used his quick release from the slot to beat Varlamov under the crossbar and chase him from the game. Forsberg has 51 points (21G-30A) in 60 games and leads all rookies with a +20.
  • The Avalanche entered the game having won 4 of their previous 5 games and had scored 19 goals in those 5 contests. The Predators did an excellent job of disrupting the Avs entries into the zone and choked them off in the neutral zone. They rarely allowed the Avs to get into the offensive zone cleanly and were aggressive in the defensive zone. Their defensive play was reflected in the shots the Avs got on net. They had 3 in the first period; 5 in the second; and 12 in the third.
  • Craig Smith continues his strong play. He scored on a rocket from the face off circle that beat Varlamov to the far post. Smith has 7 points (5G-2A) in his last 7 games. Smith has been aggressive in all zones and is playing with lots of jump.
  • Eric Nystrom scored from the defensive zone on a Predators PK. Coach Patrick Roy had pulled Reto Berra for the extra attacker to give the Avs a 6 on 4 advantage. That proved to be a bad decision as Nystrom battled on the boards and got control of the puck. He fired it down the ice and the puck landed flat and slid into the net. This was Nystrom's 7th goal of the season and undoubtedly his most unusual.
  • I really like the line of Mike Santorelli and Colin Wilson centered by Jarnkrok. They have excellent speed, control the puck, and created some good scoring chances. This line looks like it can be a potent one for the Predators, and it will be interesting to see how they gel.
  • The Predators continue to be dominant on home ice. They are a League best 26-3-1 at the Bridge.
  • This is the 8th time this season that the Predators have registered 40 or more shots.
  • The Predators are 26-6-2 when they out shoot their opponent, the best in the NHL.
  • Pekka Rinne won his 35th game of the season, best in the NHL. (Can you say Vezina?)
  • Calle Jarnkrok's goal was his first in 19 games. jarnkrok has been playing well but has not been able to find the net. Great to see him respond like he did tonight after being scratched in the Predators previous game against Buffalo.
  • Last season, the Predators goal differential (goals for/goals against) was a -19. Through tonight's game, the Predators goal differential is +43. The Predators are scoring 2.92 goals per game, 8th best in the NHL. They are allowing 2.27 goals per game, 2nd best in the NHL. The turnaround in the play of this team is remarkable.
  • The Predators now have 89 points. The Ducks have 83; the Blues have 80. In the Eastern Conference, the Canadiens have 83 and the Islanders have 82.
This was a dominant win against a divisional rival that is hungry, talented, and fighting for a playoff spot.

The kind of effort that has to happen every night in this sprint to the end of the season.

My three stars:

1. Craig Smith

2. Roman Josi

3. Calle Jarnkrok

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Predators Salvage Two Points With A Shootout Win Over the Sabres

The Nashville Predators went into their game with the Buffalo Sabres with a mandate to shoot the puck.

They did just that at First Niagara Center, firing 36 shots on Sabres goalie Michael Neuvirth in regulation.

It took regulation, overtime, and for the second game in a row for the Predators, a shootout, before the Predators prevailed 2-1.

Neuvirth was up to the challenge, stopping 35 of those shots he faced, giving up a late power play goal to Mike Ribeiro.

Ribeiro's goal was critical for the Predators because they had given up a second period goal to Tyler Ennis when the a bad line change left Ennis wide open and he beat Carter Hutton to give the Sabres a 1-0 lead.

The Predators defense, other than that breakdown, was generally good. They held the Sabres to 13 shots in regulation, although they gave up two breakaways that Hutton made great saves to stop.

In the overtime, the Predators had the final minute on a power play, but could not capitalize.

In the shootout,  Mike Santorelli and Filip Forsberg scored for the Predators in a four round shootout while Tyler Ennis was the only scorer for the Sabres as the Predators won the game 2-1.

Some observations:
  • Lines were juggled once again for this game. Neal, Ribeiro, and Forsberg were reunited. Fisher centered Craig Smith and Matt Cullen. Mike Santorelli centered Colin Wilson and Taylor Beck. Nystrom, Gaustad, and Bourque remained intact on the 4th line.
  • D pairs were Weber, Josi; Ekholm, Franson; and Jones and Bitetto.
  • Paul Gaustad returned to the First Niagra Center, where he played 479 games for the Sabres.
  • In their last two games, the Predators had gotten away from what has brought them success. Too many cute plays in the offensive zone and breakdowns in the defensive zone and it has cost them. Simple hockey- getting pucks to the net and attacking have been replaced with attempting fancy passes and the results have shown in their play of late. This team is good, but getting away from their fundamentals is not going to yield consistently good results. This game saw them get back to getting pucks on net and attacking the goal. That is how they are going to have to play to continue to win games.
  •  Carter Hutton played a very good game, with the only Sabres goal coming off a bad line change by the Predators that resulted in Ennis beating Hutton on a shot that would have been very difficult to stop. Hutton stopped two breakaways and made some good saves through the course of the game.
  • The power play struggled for most of the night. The first 5 chances the Predators had did not generate much quality in terms of shots and there wasn't a great sense of urgency. That said, Mike Ribeiro did convert on the Preds 6th opportunity to tie the game. Their 7th power play, which came with 2:58 remaining in the game, was totally inept and didn't generate a shot.
  •  The 8th Predators power play came with 1 minute remaining in overtime. Once again, the man advantage unit could not get control of the puck and create any quality chances.
  • You have to give props to Michael Neuvirth. The Predators threw 36 shots at him in regulation and he made some outstanding saves to keep the Sabres in the game. You can't fault the Predators for their effort in the offensive zone and for getting pucks to the net. Neuvirth was just solid between the pipes, and this game looked for all the world like a hot goalie was going to steal a game from the Preds.
  • The Predators got 38 shots through on Neuvirth, but the Sabres also blocked another 23 shots. Think Head Coach Laviolette's message to shoot the puck got through to these guys?
  • The Predators now have 87 points, and are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. Anaheim and Montreal have 81; the Islanders, Tampa Bay, and St. Louis have 80. 

This wasn't a pretty win by any stretch, but it was a pretty win.


Pretty from the standpoint that the Predators never relented in their attack and kept persevering a red-hot goalie that almost stole a game.

That relentlessness is going to be needed in the last quarter of this season.

My three stars:

1. Mike Ribeiro

2. Michael Neuvirth

3. Filip Forsberg

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Predators Phail In Philly, Phall in Shootout 3-2

The Nashville Predators continued their three game Eastern Conference road trip with a stop in Philadelphia to take on the Flyers.

Someone should have told the Predators it was a 12:00 start.

The Predators were guilty of sleep walking through most of the game before a third period goal from Craig Smith tied the game to send it to overtime.

Wayne Simmonds scored on deflection to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead in the first period. Colin Wilson answered to tie the game at one after 20 minutes.

It was improbable that the Predators would be tied as they could only generate 3 shots on net.

Ryan White was left alone in the slot and beat Rinne stick side for the only goal in the second period.

The Predators got on the board 23 seconds into the third period as Mike Fisher set up Craig Smith for his 18th goal.

After a scoreless overtime, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmons scored in the shootout, while Matt Cullen and Craig Smith were stopped by Rob Zepp.

Some observations:

  • Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli had a day of practice on Friday and were in the line up for the Predators. Santorelli was on the third line with Calle Jarnkrok and Matt Cullen, while Franson was paired with Mattias Ekholm on the second D pair.
  • The Predators offense was totally inept in the first period. Mustered only 3 shots on goal against a 33 year old rookie back up goaltender who has played all of 6 games. This is where the Predators need to turn up the intensity and get pucks to the net and challenge the goalie. Instead, they were sleep walking in the first period.
  • By contrast, the Flyers were pumping pucks at the net. Rinne faced 13 shots and was beaten on a terrific redirected shot by Wayne Simmons.
  • The ineptitude of the Predators offense continued in the second period as they could only get 4 shots on net. The Predators looked totally out of sync and had absolutely no intensity and compete level. This is both puzzling and disturbing as the Predators offense looked totally disjointed. No one was stepping up to make plays or to try to generate any fire on the team. This is an aspect of the Predators game that we have only rarely seen this season, and now for the second game in a row, it becomes worrisome.
  • Pekka Rinne made a huge stop on Ryan White early in the third period, who had the puck alone at the top of the crease. Goodness, the compete level and athleticism of Rinne are off the charts. He would later make a couple of spectacular saves on Mark Streit and Claude Giroux. Frankly, the only reason the Predators were even in this game was the play of Rinne.
  • The Predators continue to get good production from Colin Wilson and Craig Smith. Both tallied goals to get the Predators back into the game. For Wilson, it was his 19th of the season and it was the 18th for Smith. One of the strengths of this team this year has been balanced and consistent scoring.
  • By forcing overtime, the Predators still have not lost back to back regulation games this season.
  • The Predators power play was awful. They had 2 chances with the man advantage and generated one shot.
This was a game where the Predators salvaged a point, and that is the only positive that you can take away from it. A lack of intensity and focus bit the Predators in the butt.

Hopefully, this is not the start of a trend.

For the Predators, they need to get back to simple, hard nosed hockey and quit trying to make the cute plays. That has been their formula for success, and we have seen in the last two games what happens when they get away from that formula.

They get their chance to try to play that way tomorrow in Buffalo.

My three stars:

1.  Wayne Simonds

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Rob Zepp

Friday, February 20, 2015

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

In 1971, then President Richard Nixon took the United States off the gold standard. When the U.S. was on the gold standard, every new dollar printed by the Treasury Department had to be backed by an equivalent amount of gold. This constrained the growth of dollars- and debt- and forced our country to live within its means.

Once off that gold standard, U.S. dollars became a "fiat" currency, simply meaning that the dollar was backed solely by the creditworthiness of our government and it was worth whatever we, and the markets, said it was worth.

More importantly, the growth in dollars was no longer tied to growth in our national economy but instead how fast we could print new dollars.

These new dollars, brought into existence out of thin air and at the whims of those in power in Washington, have been used to expand the entitlements offered by the federal government, on defense spending, and on numerous wasteful projects.

In essence, our government has spent well beyond the revenue it takes in from all taxes and fees it collects. Our government is no different than a person that spends beyond his income and makes up the difference by using a credit card.

How bad is it?

From the 1950's through the latter part of the 1990"s our debt as a percentage of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) stayed fairly steady at 140%. With the advent of unconstrained printing of dollars and the corresponding spending of those dollars, debt to GDP stands at 300% today.

Where has that money gone?

With essentially unlimited dollars to spend, the federal government has spent to make sure everyone has a house and car (sub-prime loans backed by the government); fought numerous wars; overseen an explosive growth in entitlement programs; and the list goes on.

It is estimated that the excess dollars created since the 1970's to the present is $35 trillion. That means we as a nation have overspent our income by an enormous amount. In essence, we have run up a credit card bill of $35 trillion.

But that doesn't paint an accurate picture. According to Dr. Laurence Kotlikoff, Chairman of the Economics Department at Boston University and former Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors under President Ronald Reagan, our actual debt should factor in our future obligations that we have promised to pay under entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. If we add those obligations, our real debt is closer to $220 trillion according to Dr. Kotlikoff.

Those numbers are staggering.

And Kotlikoff says that to pay this indebtedness would require a permanent tax increase to 59% and a cut in federal spending of 38%.

Neither of which are going to happen.

But something will happen, even if we do not not enforce fiscal discipline on ourselves.

Just like an individual that gets overextended on their debt, our country has gotten overextended.We can survive as long as other countries are willing to continue to loan us money by buying our bonds. Just like an individual can continue to survive as long as they can get another credit card.

When that credit runs out, it can be financially disastrous for that individual

And it can be for our country as well.

While our debt is being ignored by our leaders in Washington, we need to pay attention to the dire fiscal straits we are in, and we need to demand that our leaders in Washington begin to address our profligate spending.

If we as a nation don't exact some real fiscal discipline, it will be ugly and will be life changing for all of us.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Predators Run Aground Against the Islanders

The New York Islanders rode a three goal outburst in the first period and added two more goals in the third period in a 5-2 drubbing of the Nashville Predators at Nassau Coliseum.

The resurgent and talented Islanders are the best team in the East, and they showed it in this game, using their speed and tenacity and a bit of puck luck to dominate the Predators.

Brian Strait, Johnny Boychuk, and John Tavares scored in the first period before Filip Forsberg was able to score late in the period to make it 3-1.

James Neal notched his 21st goal of the season in the second period to make it 3-2 going into the third.

The wheels came off for the Predators as Nick Leddy scored off a rush and Roman Josi tried to clear a rebound and banged it off Pekka Rinne's pads and into the goal to make it 5-2 Islanders. Josh Bailey had taken the shot and was credited with the goal.

Jaroslav Halak had a fairly easy night, stopping 30 of the 32 shots he faced.

By contrast, Pekka Rinne was under siege for most of the night as the Isles got an abundance of quality scoring chances as the Predators defense was spotty at best.

Thankfully for the Predators, the Islanders didn't score again and make it worse.

Some observations:

  • Nice gesture by the team to let Anthony Bitetto lead the team on the ice for the pre-skate. Bitetto is a native of Island Park, NY and had family in attendance.
  • The Islanders had significantly more jump than the Predators in the first period and that set the tone for the game. Rinne was under assault with some quality scoring chances by the Islanders and if he had not made some good saves, the score could have been much worse.
  • Filip Forsberg gave the Predators some life in the first period, recording his 20th goal of the season with an Isles defender hanging all over him. We have all marveled at his skill set, but an underrated aspect of his game is his strength. He is surprisingly strong and very hard to knock off the puck.
  • Eric Nystrom leveled Mikhail Grabovski with a booming hit in the first period. Nystrom caught Grabovski with his head down and planted his shoulder in the chest of the Isles forward. Grabovski was rattled by the hit and hit his head on the ice when he fell. Scary moment off a clean hit as Grabovsky didn't move for quite a while. The stretcher was called, but eventually Grabovsky got to his feet and skated to the locker room. Hopefully he did not sustain a serious injury. No penalty was called on Nystrom on the play.
  • James Neal just has a wickedly good release on his shot. He displayed that release on a rocket for his 21st goal of the year.
  • Lines were juggled as Forsberg was reunited with Craig Smith and joined by Mike Fisher on the top line. Forsberg needs dynamic and creative line mates and frankly, I don't think he had them with Beck and Jarnkrok. Mike Ribeiro dropped down to the second kline to center James Neal and Colin Wilson.
  • Uncharacteristic turnovers and defensive breakdowns hung Pekka Rinne out to dry. The Isles got numerous uncontested shots from the slot and quality chances off the rush. Rinne would have had to been perfect to stop the onslaught from the Isles. He wasn't and he got very little help from the team in front of him.
  •  The Islanders did a great job of winning most of the puck battles and throttling the Predators rush through the neutral zone. The offense never seemed to find its rhythm and get in gear. This has been a problem for this team at times this season and is one that will have to be corrected.
  • The Predators had 17 shots on net in the first period. After that, they had 8 in the second and 7 in the third. They were outworked and outhustled by the Islanders in the final 40 minutes, and that is reflected in the score. by contrast, the Islanders consistently brought offensive pressure, netting 40 shots on Rinne. 
  • Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli have cleared their paperwork and should be in the line up for Saturday's game.
After winning 6 straight games, the Predators couldn't bring the effort and intensity to capture a 7th consecutive win against a very talented Islanders squad.

If this is a measuring stick game, the Predators came up woefully short.

If this is a learning experience, then it will be good for the Predators.

Time to get back on the horse on Saturday against the Flyers.

My three stars:

1. John Tavares

2. Nick Leddy

3. James Neal

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Predators Filet the Sharks 5-1

Outside of Bridgestone Arena, it was frigid and icy. Inside the barn, it was red hot as the Nashville Predators dominated the San Jose Sharks for a 5-1 victory.

The Predators spotted the Sharks a 1-0 lead when Matt Irwin split the Predators defense and was wide open going down the slot. His wrist shot beat Pekka Rinne over his blocker for the first score of the game.

That was the only goal Rinne allowed as he stopped 42 of 43 Sharks shots. Some of his saves were absolutely amazing.

After that Sharks goal, the Predators ran off 5 straight goals to secure the win.

Shea Weber opened the scoring for the Predators as he blasted a shot from the blue line that went over the shoulder of Sharks netminder Alex Stalock to tie the game.

Craig Smith got the first of his two goals of the night as Stalock gave up a rebound that fluttered in the air. Smith, showing freat eye hand coordination, batted the puck out of the air and past Stalock to give the Predators a 2-1 lead.

The second period opened with the Predators on the power play, and Smith notched his second goal going to the front of the net and jamming a rebound between the skate of Stalock and the post for a 3-1 lead.

Just 50 seconds later, Paul Gaustad took a pass from Gabriel Bourque and wristed the puck past Stalock for a 4-1 lead.

While the Predators were enjoying the three goal lead, the Sharks had no quit and kept attacking. With the Predators on the penalty kill, Rinne made 4 saves on a frantic scramble in his crease. Rinne stopped three quick shots with his pad and then plucked a shot from Joe Pavelski out of the air that seemed destined for the back of the net.

James Neal rounded out the scoring off a beautiful assist from Mike Ribeiro. Ribeiro held the puck in at the Sharks blue line, spun around and found Mattias Ekholm, who got the puck to Neal. Neal snapped a wrist shot past Stalock for the Predators final goal and a 5-1 lead, the final margin of victory.

Some observations:

  • I tweeted during the game that if Pekka Rinne doesn't win the Vezina and the Hart, it will be criminal. Rinne is absolutely amazing with his athleticism and his compete level, and some of his saves are incredible. The sequence in the second period when the Sharks were on the power play exemplifies his play this season. The Sharks tried three times to jam the puck past Rinne and he stopped all three attempts. Rinne had to be strong to turn back those point blank attempts, kicking out each attempt. He then tracked the shot from Pavelski and squeezed it it between the glove and the mask. After the whistle, you could see the looks on the faces of the Sharks, at to a man it was disbelief that they didn't score. Rinne was under pressure the entire game and was up to the challenge that the Sharks presented. Rinne picked up his League leading 34th win.
  • I really liked the way the Predators attacked the Sharks throughout the game. Sharks score first? No big deal. The Predators just stepped on the gas and buried the Sharks under a relentless attack. The Predators have shown they can score brom the blue line- historically they have been good at that and they are again this year. But now they have a talented and explosive group of forwards that can score consistently and that is a welcome change for this team.
  • James Neal scored his 20th goal of the season. This is the 7th consecutive season that Neal has scored at least 20 goals.
  • This was the Predators 6th straight win, a season high.
  • Kudos to the hardy fans that braved the ice and frigid conditions to show up for the game. The attendance was 8,215, and they were vocal and loud all night supporting the Predators.
  • Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli, recently acquired in a trade from Toronto, were listed as scratches for the game as they were still getting their visas and other paperwork in place so they can join the team. 
  • Because of the scratches of Franson and Santorelli, Anthony Bitetto was a late recall from Milwaukee. Bitetto was not at the arena for the pre-skate and missed some time in the first period until he jumped on the ice for his first shift about 5 minutes into the game.
  • Mike Ribeiro picked up two assists in the game tonight, his first being a beauty to set up Craig Smith's first goal. Ribeiro has such excellent hockey sense and on ice awareness and his ability to distribute the puck has been critical to the success of the team this season.
  • There are a lot of things that are different about the Predators this season, but one aspect of this team that I really like is that this team just keeps attacking throughout the game. Rarely does this team get back on their heels, which was a characteristic of past Predator teams. That attacking style has paid dividends, as the Predators are 17-11-2 when the opposition scores first.
  • Good to see the fourth line getting some scoring. Paul Gaustad was set up for his goal on a sweet pass from Gabriel Bourque. This was Gaustad's second goal of the season and his first since the Predators second game of the year.
  • I said Craig Smith is a streaky scorer in my last game recap. Well, Smith now has 3 goals in his last 2 games and 17 on the year. Let's hope the hot streak continues.
Although the Sharks have struggled, going 1-4-1 in their last 6 games, they are a talented and desperate team, fighting for a wild card spot. They are a team that can explode for goals and they have historically given the Predators problems.

That is why this win is so important for the Predators. Not only does it extend the Predators lead over the Blues in the Central, but it gives the team the confidence that they can not only play with the Sharks but dominate them.

And the Sharks have been a team in the past that has given the Predators fits. Having the confidence that as a team you can defeat an old nemesis does nothing but good things for the Predators as they head toward the playoffs.

Now it's on to the road and away from the friendly confines of the Bridge.

And it's time to bring this kind of effort in hostile environments.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Craig Smith

3. Shea Weber

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Fans and Predator Players Celebrate Gnashvegas

The annual Gnashvegas event was held at Bridgestone Arena and Predators players, executives, and the broadcast team mingled and enjoyed great food and fellowship to benefit the Predators Foundation.

Gnashvegas is one of the signature events of the Predators Foundation and the players get an opportunity to meet the fans in a casual and fun environment.

Proceeds from the event go to the Predators Foundation to be distributed among many charitable organizations in our community.

Blackjack, poker, and roulette were some of the games that the fans enjoyed with the players, along with an excellent variety of foods from local restaurants.

Here are some pictures from tonight's event:

The event was held on the floor of the Bridgestone Arena with numerous food stations from local restaurants along with tables for various games of chance.

Assistant General Manager Paul Fenton, his wife, and Claudia Weber, wife of Predators play by play announcer Pete Weber

Pekka Rinne gives an interview with a local television station

Shea Weber and Eric Nystrom visit with fans at the event

James Neal has a visit with some of the guests 

The View, Tami and Brent Peterson, and Claudia Weber

I had a chance to talk with Roman Josi about the trade for Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli. Josi said that the team was really excited about the addition of Franson and that he thought that the blue line was in great shape, and that they were glad to welcome Franson back to the team. He felt that Santorelli was a great addition to the forwards and that he would give them the depth they needed for a playoff run.

This event is a great fund raising event for the Foundation and the fans of the team have done an excellent job of supporting the Foundation's events like Gnashvegas..

While it is a fun evening for the fans and players, more importantly, it helps to raise funds for the support of many charitable organizations by the Predators Foundation.

The Foundation continues to be an important and vital cog in the support of numerous worthy enterprises in our community.

Kudos to the Foundation for a great event and for their continued support of many worthwhile organizations.

Predators Bolster Roster, Acquire Santorelli and Franson From Toronto

The Nashville Predators didn't wait for the trade deadline to make a move that will add depth for a playoff run.

The Predators acquired forward Mike Santorelli and defenseman Cody Franson from the Toronto Maple Leafs. They sent roster forward Olli Jokinen, prospect Brendan Leipsic, and a 2015 first round draft pick back to Toronto.

The Predators re-acquired two players that they originally drafted in Santorelli and Franson. Santorelli was a 6th round draft pick in 2004 (178th overall). Franson was selected in the 5th round (78th overall) in the 2005 draft.

Both signings add depth and versatility to the Predators roster which will be essential in the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs.

My view is that these were good adds for the Predators, and both Santorelli and Franson have to be ecstatic about coming to the top team in the NHL.

Here is the press release from the Predators:

-Predators acquire a pair of players originally drafted by the team-

Nashville, Tenn. (February 15, 2015) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the team has acquired defenseman Cody Franson and forward Mike Santorelli from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Nashville’s first-round selection in the 2015 Draft, and forwards Brendan Leipsic and Olli Jokinen.

“In preparation for the 2015 playoff run, our goal was to add a veteran defenseman who could play in all situations and a proven forward who could move up and down lineup based on the situation,” Poile said. “We were fortunate to do this in the same transaction with players who are in the prime of their careers more than two weeks before the Trade Deadline in order to give them more time to contribute and gel with their teammates.”

“Both Cody and Mike were drafted, developed and began their NHL careers here. They know our organization and still have former teammates and friends on the roster. We are fully confident that they will seamlessly fit into our team.”

Franson, 27 (8/8/87), was selected by the Predators 78th overall (third round) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft and was a member of the 2010-11 Nashville club along with current Preds Shea Weber, Colin Wilson, Mike Fisher and Pekka Rinne, that won the first playoff series in franchise history. Hailing from the same hometown as Weber – Sicamous, British Columbia – Franson has amassed 32 points (6g-26a) in 55 games this season for the Maple Leafs, and 165 points (34g-131a) in 377 career NHL games. From 2007-09, he played with Nashville’s primary developmental affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals, and from 2009-11, he posted 50 points (14g-36a) in 141 regular-season games and seven points (1g-6a) in 16 Stanley Cup Playoff games with the Predators.

“Cody brings size, offensive ability and the capacity to play in all situations to our lineup,” Poile said. “He is the perfect component to round out our defensive corps and give us eight proven NHL defensemen.”

Santorelli, 29 (12/14/85), was selected 178th overall (sixth round) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, 80 picks and two rounds before the Predators selected Rinne. The 6-0, 190-pound forward posted a 20-goal, 41-point season with the Florida Panthers in 2010-11, and has 29 points (11g-18a) and a +7 rating in 57 games for Toronto in 2014-15. In 314 career NHL games, the Vancouver native has 116 points (54g-62a). Santorelli posted three points (2g-1a) in 32 games with the Predators from 2008-10, in addition to amassing 74 goals and 171 points in 207 AHL games with the Milwaukee Admirals from 2007-10.

“Mike is a versatile player that can move up and down the lineup based on the situation,” Poile said. “He has fantastic speed, is excellent in the face-off circle, and can play all three forward positions if called upon. He is an excellent complement to our existing group of forwards.”

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Predators Defeat the Devils 3-1

For two periods and about half of the third, the New Jersey Devils played rope-a-dope with the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena.

The Predators threw a barrage of shots at Cory Schneider but found themselves tied at 1 with the Devils and less than 4 minutes remaining on the clock.

That's when Mike Ribeiro, Victor Bartley, and Colin Wilson worked a perfect tic tac toe pass through the slot resulting in Wilson burying the game winning goal.

Shortly after, Craig Smith would jam home another goal and the Predators would defeat the Devils by a 3-1 margin.

The first period was a shooting gallery for the Predators. They fired 20 shots on net to just 3 for the Devils.

Matt Cullen got the Predators on the board, carrying the puck from behind the net and beating Devils netminder Cory Schneider to the far post.

Schneider kept the Devils in the game, making some outstanding saves to keep the Predators from blowing the game wide open.

On the other end of the ice, Pekka Rinne was bored, facing only 3 shots and never seriously challenged.

The Devils got their legs going and their offensive pressure in the second period, and it resulted in the visitors getting back in the game.

The Devils tied the game on a power play in the second period when Steve Bernier backhanded a shot off the end boards over the glove of Rinne.

Rinne made an outstanding save on Mike Cammalleri in the second period to keep the score knotted at one.

That set up the heroics by Wilson and Smith in the third period as the Predators notched their 24th win on home ice.

Some observations:

  • Head Coach Peter Laviolette juggled his lines for this game. Colin Wilson and James Neal moved to the top line, centered by Mike Ribeiro. Mike Fisher centered Matt Cullen and Craig Smith on the second line. Calle Jarnkrok centered Filip Forsberg and Taylor Beck on the third line. Paul Gaustad centered Eric Nystrom and Gabriel Bourque on the fourth line. While you can't argue with the results of goals from the top two lines, I absolutely think that it was a waste to have Forsberg on that third line.There was not a lot of chemistry (okay, there was none) on that line and Jarnkrok and Beck are not good complimentary players to Forsberg's play making skills. Hopefully this is a short lived experiment with Forsberg on that line.
  • Anton Volchenkov was a scratch and Anthony Bitetto was in the line up. Bitetto logged 14:12 on the third D pair and has looked like he is getting more comfortable and settled in on the blue line.
  • Matt Cullen's goal was his first since December 20th. It was his 5th goal of the season.
  • Mattias Ekholm returned to the line up after being injured against the Florida Panthers last Sunday. Matty Ek played a solid 17:15 and was a +2 for the night.
  • Good to see the Honey Badger Craig Smith get back on the score sheet. His goal and assist were his first points since January 29th. Smith is a streaky scorer and let's hope this is the start of a scoring streak for Smith.
  • Pekka Rinne was not severely tested throughout the game, but he came up with a huge save on Mike Cammalleri in the second period. He slid across the crease and batted the puck out of harm's way with his arm. This was a key save as the Devils had gotten their legs and were starting to take the attack to the Predators. Rinne has the ability to make those highlight reel saves during the course of the game and swing momentum back to the Predators.
  • How important is Rinne to this team? In his last 16 games played, Rinne is 14-1-1, capturing 29 out of a possible 32 points for the team. If Rinne doesn't win the Vezina (and probably the Hart as well), it will be a crime.
  • Colin Wilson continues his strong play. Schneider robbed him in the first period, but Wilson just keeps playing a strong and determined game. Good to see him find the back of the net for the game winner and his 18th goal of the season.
  • You have to give props to Cory Schneider. He fought all night and made some great saves to keep the Devils close.He faced 21 shots in the first period alone and 38 shots for the game. Having played last night in Chicago, it looked like he finally wore down late in the game, but he was outstanding and the reason the Devils were still in the game late in the third period.
  • Jaromir Jagr played in his 1,525th game tonight, 13th in NHL history. His game tonight moved him past Brendan Shanahan.
  • The Predators are 15-5-1 against Eastern Conference opponents, including an 11-0 record at the Bridge.
  • The Predators have 82 points and are 6 points ahead of the Blues, who were off tonight, and 10 points ahead of Chicago, who was also idle. The are 5 points ahead of the Ducks, also off tonight.
This game had the makings of a trap game- an Eastern Conference opponent that had played the night before and has struggled this season. Add in an outstanding goalie and the Predators had to fight to pull out the win.

The difference in this team than in previous iterations is that they did fight for the win. They were relentless in their attack and just kept attacking until they secured the win.

They will have to keep up that intensity in the weeks ahead.

My three stars:

1. Colin Wilson

2. Matt Cullen

3. Cory Schneider

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Predators Ground the Jets 3-1

Shea Weber wasn't at the morning skate because he wasn't feeling well, and he was called a game time decision for the Predators in their game against the Winnipeg Jets at Bridgestone Arena.

Weber was in the line up, and the Predators were glad to have him as he tallied a goal and 2 assists in leading the Predators to a 3-1 win over the Jets.

Weber opened the scoring on the power play as he launched a bomb from the face off that beat Ondrej Pavelec cleanly 4:47 into the first period.

The Jets answered with a power play goal of their own as a Dustin Byfuglien shot from the point was redirected past Pekka Rinne by Michael Frolik to tie the game at 1 in the first period.

The Predators used another power play goal in the second period to take a 2-1 lead. Filip Forsberg skated the puck into the face off circle and snapped a wrist shot top corner past Pavelec. James Neal was screening in front of Pavelec, and he didn't know the puck was past him until he heard the goal horn.

The Predators had played fairly evenly with the Jets through two periods, but in the third, the Jets applied pressure and dominated the Predators in time of possession and zone time.

The Predators didn't help themselves by taking consecutive penalties by Victor Bartley and Shea Weber, which gave the Jets 91 seconds of 5 on 3 advantage.

The Predators penalty killers stepped up and blocked shots and Rinne made a couple of spectacular saves to keep the Jets off the board.

James Neal iced the game with a wrap around goal that went between the pads of Pavelec for the final margin of 3-1.

Some observations:

  • Colin Wilson was back in the line up and played a strong game. he was robbed in the first period by a great save from Pavelec, but Wilson was active in all zones and did a great job with puck possession. He played 13 minutes of solid hockey, including delivering a booming hit on T.J. Galiardi behind the Jets net.
  • With Wilson back in the line up, Viktor Stalberg was reassigned to Milwaukee.
  • Filip Forsberg's power play goal was a perfectly placed shot to the top corner. Forsberg has such good hockey sense and patience with the puck and on this goal saw that he was not being pressured by the Jets defense and skated in until Neal got the screen and placed the shot into the small space that he had to shoot. This was Forsberg's 19th goal of the season and gives outright ownership of the Predators rookie scoring record. Forsberg has 11 points (4G-7A) in his last 11 games.
  • Tyler Myers and Drew Stafford made their debuts for the Jets after being traded from the Sabres. Late in the third period, Myers was welcomed to the Central Division when he took a Weber slap shot off his knee. The shot dropped Myers and he was barely able to get back to his feet. James Neal exploited this to get around Myers and the net for the final goal. Myers barely made it to bench and went directly to the locker room and did not return to the game.
  • With the win, the Predators are the first team in the NHL to reach 80 points.
  • Roman Josi continues his strong play and picked up two assists tonight. This gives Josi 40 points (10G-30A), a career high.
  • James Neal tallied his 19th goal of the season. He is tied with Forsberg for the lead in goals.
  • The power play has had its struggles this season, but tonight it was clicking. They were 2-6 and Neal's goal came just after a power play expired. The Predators did a good job of getting pucks to the net and both Neal and Mike Fisher did a good job of screening in front of Pavelec. Simplifying the power play like the Preds did tonight has yielded some positive results.
  • The Jets are a talented team and they are fighting to maintain their playoff position. In truth, they are a desperate team and they played like it tonight. There were stretches of the second period and most of the third period where the Jets dominated puck possession and exhausted the Predators defenders. 
  • Because of that, Rinne had to make some fantastic saves. He was especially sharp in the third period, making a diving save of a Bryan Little shot. He was very good in the 5 on 3 and was a calming presence for the Predators defense when the Jets were pressing to get the tying goal.Rinne stopped 32 of 33 shots he faced and picked up his League leading 32nd win.
  • Rinne is also 7-0-0 against the Jets.
  • This was the Predators first home win by more than one goal since January 16th (5-1 against Vancouver).
  • This was the Predators 4th straight win. The Predators are now 23-3-1 on home ice.
This was a solid win against a hungry team that is fighting to stay in the playoff race. The Jets are talented and desperate, and the Predators responded to the challenge they presented.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Shea Weber

3. Filip Forsberg

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

In A Battle of the Best, Predators Beat the Lightning In OT

The Best of the West, the Nashville Predators, faced the Beast of the East, the Tampa Bay Lightning, at Bridgestone Arena. The Predators took this game in over time 3-2 for a League leading 22 home ice wins.

A spirited first period was scoreless but not for lack of effort by both teams. Andrei Vasilevskiy stoned Mike Ribeiro from point blank range with a sprawling pad save, while Pekka Rinne stopped all 10 shots he faced.

The Predators got on the board in the second period on goals by Seth Jones and Taylor Beck. Jones ripped a slap shot over the shoulder of Vasilevskiy and inside the far post that hit the goal net and came out so fast it was called a no goal by the on ice officials. After a video review, the call was corrected and Jones had his 6th goal of the season and the Predators had a 1-0 lead.

Taylor Beck made it 2-0 as he battled to the front of the net and slammed home a rebound of a Paul Gaustad shot. The goal was purely a result of Beck fighting through a defender to get to the front of the net and getting into prime scoring position.

Going into the third period leading 2-0, the Predators needed to play good defense and continue to generate chances in the offensive zone.

That didn't happen as the Lightning totally outworked and out hustled the Predators and tallied twice to tie the game.

Brett Connolly got the Bolts on the board as he banged home a rebound of a Valtteri Filppula shot. Connolly got to the front of the net unchallenged by the Predators defense and Rinne had no chance to stop the shot.

Nikita Kucherov tied the game with his 21st goal, and the Predators were back on their heels and chasing the puck throughout the period.

Regulation ended with the teams tied at 2.

In overtime and with time winding down, James Neal fired a wrist shot from the face off circle that beat Vasilvskiy between the pads for the game winner.

Some observations:

  • The Predators turned the puck over 14 times, the bulk of those coming in the 3rd period. Several of those turnovers resulted in Rinne having to make some good saves to keep the Lightning off the board. Puck management was about as poor as I have seen in a while, and turning the puck over like the team did tonight is a formula for disaster. This area has to improve because good teams are more often than not going to make you pay for sloppy puck management.
  • Once again, an aggressive forecheck by an opponent caused all sorts of problems for the Predators. The Lightning have some very talented players that play good team defense and they stymied the Predators on their breakouts and coming through the neutral zone, especially in the third period. Puck support was horrible tonight, as often a defenseman would be pressured by two forecheckers and have no one making themselves available for a pass. This often resulted in turnovers and the Predators be bottled up in their defensive zone.
  • Great to see the line of  Gaustad, Eric Nystrom, and Taylor Beck rewarded with a goal tonight. They often draw the toughest defensive assignments and it was good to see them get on the scoresheet tonight.
  • Speaking of Gaustad, Beck, and Nystrom, they were matched up against Steven Stamkos most of the night. Stamkos is arguably the best player in the NHL and they held him without a point tonight.
  • With the injury to Mattias Ekholm, Anthony Bitetto was called up from Milwaukee. Bitetto logged 10:09 of ice time and dropped the gloves with Brett Connolly, whom he proceeded to hammer. Bitetto is a big body who is not afraid to mix it up physically and skates well. He was paired with Victor Bartley tonight on the third D pairing.
  • Viktor Stalberg was also called up with Colin Wilson injured. Stalberg played on the second line with Mike Fisher and James Neal and picked up an assist tonight. I would really like to see Stalberg get his game going. He is big and fast and has a good shot. If he can find consistency to his game, he could be a big contributor for the Predators.
  • Seth Jones continues to mature and elevate his game. His goal was a rocket of a shot, perfectly placed inside the far post. Jones is drawing some bigger minutes on the second D pair and is playing well. With his goal tonight, he has a career high five game point streak (3G-2A).
  • The Predators have a league best 24-4-6 record in one goal games.
  • James Neal's overtime goal was his 5th game winning goal of the season.
  • The Predators won 57% of their faceoffs and were led by Paul Gaustad, who won 14 of 19 for 74%.
  • Shea Weber led the Predators in TOI with 30:56.
  • The Lightning have a very good young goalie in Andrei Vasilevskiy. He is athletic and made some very good saves, especially a first period save on Mike Ribeiro.
Make no mistake, the Lightning are an excellent team with lots of talented players. This wasn't a pretty win, but it was a win nevertheless. The Predators continued to attack and press and prevailed because they didn't back down.

There are some things to work on and improve, but the fact is that the Predators found a way to win and still sit first in the NHL.

And the view from there is great.

My three stars:

1. James Neal

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Andrei Vasilevskiy

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Predators Defeat the Panthers In a Shootout Again

In their first meeting in Nashville, the Predators held a 2-0 third period lead over the Florida Panthers before the Panthers scored 2 late in the third period to send the game to a shootout, which the Predators eventually won.

In their rematch in Florida, the roles were reversed as the Panthers had a 2-0 third period lead until the Predators scored twice in the third period to tie the game.

As in the first meeting, the game between these two teams went to a shoot out.

Once again, the Predators won in a shootout. And once again, Filip Forsberg got the game winner.

Deja vu, anyone?

After a scoreless first period, the Panthers used some sloppy play by the Predators to gain a 2-0 lead in the second period. Thomas Fleischman scored after Matt Cullen turned the puck over at the Predators blue line.

Aaron Ekblad, the Panthers stellar rookie, scored on a delayed penalty when he crashed the net and chipped a puck over the shoulder of Carter Hutton.

Roberto Luongo had a fairly easy time of it until the third period, when the Predators tallied twice on the power play.

Seth Jones scored from the point with Taylor Beck in front screening Luongo to make it 2-1.

Filip Forsberg scored from the slot with a shot over the shoulder of Luongo to tie the game at 2 with just under 5 minutes remaining in the game.

After a scoreless overtime, the game went to a shootout.

Matt Cullen, Craig Smith, and Filip Forsberg scored for the Predators, while Brad Boyes and Nick Bjugstad scored for the Panthers. Hutton stopped Dave Bolland in the fourth round to set up the heroics by Forsberg.

Some observations:

  • Colin Wilson missed this game and is called day to day with an upper body injury after absorbing a big hit in yesterday's game with the Rangers. Wilson was injured in the first period and did not play in the remainder of the game.
  • Olli Jokinen, a healthy scratch the last three games, was back in the line up and was on a line with Mike Fisher and James Neal.
  • The Predators faced brothers in back to back games. Kevin Hayes played against the Predators in the Rangers game, and his brother, Jimmy Hayes, was playing for the Panthers.
  • Mattias Ekholm left the game in the second period and did not return with an upper body injury after being ridden hard into the end boards.
  • The Predators did not look good at all on their entries into the zone. They didn't have much flow and were often disorganized throughout the game. They were also guilty of several turnovers, which cost them as the Panthers were able to convert them to goals.
  • Seth Jones scored on the power play and now has points in 4 straight games. Jones is elevating his game and just looks like he is getting stronger as the season grinds on, and this is good to see.
  • What a snipe by Filip Forsberg on the power play late in the third period to tie the game. Forsberg has great puck sense and gets to the scoring area. More importantly, he finishes his scoring chances. This was Forsberg's 18th goal, which ties Alexander Radulov's rookie goal scoring record.
  • High marks to the Predators power play. They weren't getting much done 5 on 5, but were able to convert two critical power plays to tie the game and pick up a point.
  • The Predators had been 1-3-2 in the second half of back to backs before todays game.
  • The Predators were out shot 36-25 in the game, including a 15-4 Florida advantage in the third period.
  • The Predators blocked 20 shots in front of Hutton.
  • I thought Hutton played a good game. He had to make some really good saves with traffic in front of him and kept the Predators in the game until they could get the tying goal.
  • Shea Weber led the Predators in TOI with 31:49. Roman Josi had 30:15 and Seth Jones had 25:30.
This was certainly not the best game that the Predators have played, and if we are honest, they stole the two points. They were outplayed throughout the game by a rested Panthers squad and looked dead in the water until the third period.

Yet this is what good teams do- they win some games they are not supposed to win.

With the win, the Predators now have a 4 point lead over the Blues and have leapfrogged the Ducks, who are playing this afternoon.

The Predators are now 35-12-6 and their next 4 games are at home.

Time to pile up some points.

My three stars:

1. Filip Forsberg

2. Carter Hutton

3. Aaron Ekblad

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Blue Line Powers Predators Past Blue Shirts

The Blue Shirts from Broadway traveled to an different Broadway, one filled with honkey tonks and musicians singing sad songs. It was the New York Rangers that left Nashville singing their own sad song as the Nashville Predators got back to their winning ways with a 3-2 victory.

After Rick Nash scored on the power play to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead early in the second period, the Predators used goals by Roman Josi and Shea Weber to take a 2-1 lead going into the second intermission.

Ryan McDonagh tied the game in the third period with a shot through traffic before Mike Ribeiro scored the game winning goal at 7:14 of the final frame. Ribeiro blasted a shot from the face off circle past Cam Talbot for his 700th career point.

Pekka Rinne picked up his league leading 30th win and his first since coming back from a knee injury. He made 30 saves on 32 shots for the win.

Talbot, playing in place of an injured Henrik Lunqvist, stopped 20 of 23 shots, including a first period flurry from the Predators and a point blank shot from Filip Forsberg in the low slot in the third period.

Some observations:

  • With the three points from the blue line ( Josi 1G-1A and Weber 1G) today, the Predators defensemen have 36 goals and 134 points, the most in the NHL. Josi picked up his 10th goal of the season, while Weber tallied his 12th goal.
  • Josi had a stellar game and is shooting more. While his shot doesn't rival Weber's, it is a very good shot and his slap shot from the circle beat Talbot cleanly.
  • Good night, Weber's bomb from the back of the face off circle was a blast. If that puck had hit Talbot, it might have gone through him.
  • Rangers Coach Alain Vigneault did a good job of trying to keep Rick Nash and his line away from Shea Weber. That meant that Seth Jones was often on the ice when the Nash line was on the ice. Jones and Matty Ekholm did a good job of keeping that line in check, not allowing an even strength point.
  • The Rangers are a talented team that brought an aggressive forecheck and once again, it created problems for the Predators. They often had a difficult time getting out of the defensive zone and struggled through the neutral zone. This almost cost the Predators as they turned the puck over several times at their blue line, allowing the Rangers to keep possession in the offensive zone.
  • Colin Wilson got blown up by Dan Girardi with a huge open ice hit in the first period and did not return. He was listed as being out with an upper body injury. 
  • The Rangers lost Jesper Fast in the second period with a sprained knee.
  • The Predators had not beaten the Rangers on home ice since February 28th, 2004.
  • The Rangers had won 3 straight coming into this game and were 7-1-0 on the road against Western Conference teams.
  • The Predators were dominant in the face off circle, winning 41 of 64. 
  • The Predators did a much better job of playing disciplined hockey, taking two penalties in this game. A nice change after the parade to the penalty box over the past few games.
  • The Predators had a nice tribute video to Kevin Klein in his first game back to the Bridge since being traded to the Rangers.
  • The Predators are 11-0-1 after losing the previous game, and are a league best 21-3-1 on home ice.
This was a big bounce back win by the Predators and it puts them back into first place in the Central Division with 74 points. The Blues are in second with 72 points, and the Predators are one point behind the Ducks, who have 75.

The grind of February continues with the Predators on the road tomorrow against Florida with another 2:00 start.

My three stars:

1. Roman Josi

2. Mike Ribeiro
3. Ryan McDonagh

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Predators Embarrassed By the Ducks 5-2

In a prime time battle between the top two teams in the NHL, the Nashville Predators proved one thing.

They are not ready for prime time.*

The Anaheim Ducks came into the Bridgestone Arena and owned the Predators, winning most every puck battle and dominating the Predators on the way to a 5-2 win.

The Ducks led 4-0 on two goals by Jakob Silfverberg, the first of which came off a horrible gaffe between Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber while the Predators were on the power play. Rinne and Weber botched a simple dump in by the Ducks and left the puck laying in the crease, which Silfverberg happily deposited into the net.

Sami Vatanen, Matt Belesky, and Silfverberg again scored for the Ducks, who had a 4-0 lead going into the third period.

The Predators finally showed a little bit of life in the third period as Colin Wilson scored at even strength and James Neal added a power play goal.

Whatever dreams of a miraculous comeback by the Predators were snuffed when CoreyPerry added a late period empty netter to make the final margin 5-2.

Some observtions:

  • The Predators acted like they had never seen an aggressive forecheck like the Ducks employed and they were flummoxed and discombobulated throughout the game by the pressure the Ducks brought. this is disconcerting, because the good teams are going to forecheck the daylights out of their opponents, especially in the playoffs, and the Predators had better quickly learn how to handle the pressure.
  • The Predators had very little compete level until the third period, and by then it was too little too late. The Ducks won puck battles all night and the Predators had no answer. The disturbing aspect of this is that the Ducks played hard and the Predators had little push back.
  • Colin Wilson was the best player on the ice all night for the Predators. He hustled and competed, something most of his teammates did not. Kudos to Wilson for notching his 17th goal and his 36th point, both career highs.
  • Pekka Rinne returned to the net and got no support in front of him. The first goal occurred because of a brutal mishandle of the puck between he and Weber. The second goal was a redirect that completely eluded him. He had little chance on the other two goals that occurred on a power play and a defensive breakdown. all in all, Rinne looked like he moved well, but there was the inevitable rust after the layoff.
  • When you are down 2-0 at the start of the second period, it is probably not good to give the opponents about 5 minutes of power play time. Yet that is what the Predators did. Undisciplined and sloppy play and the Predators couldn't climb out that hole, giving up a power play. Frankly, it could have been worse.
  • The Predators out shot the Ducks 24-2 in the third period, but could only get two pucks past Frederik Andersen. If they had brought that effort in the first two periods, the outcome might have been different.
This was an incredibly disappointing game for the Predators. They were completely outclassed in the first two periods and had too many sloppy plays and little fight.

It's a learning experience.

And I hope we learned our lesson.

My three stars:

1. Jakob Silfverberg

2. Anyone in a Ducks sweater

3. Colin Wilson

*stick tap to my friend Scott Roland for the suggestion

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Predators Win 9th Straight at Home, Defeat the Leafs 4-3

The Nashville Predators have won 8 straight games and have been practically unbeatable on home ice.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have lost 9 straight games and have struggled mightily, winning just 3 games in their last 21 contests.

Yet the Leafs gave the Predators all they could handle at Bridgestone Arena before dropping a 4-3 decision to the Predators.

The Predators jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead off a beautiful shorthanded goal by Seth Jones, who stole a pass at the Predators blue line and roofed a shot under the crossbar, and a power play blast by Shea Weber that blew past Jonathan Bernier.

After a stellar first period, the Predators intensity level dropped in the second period, and the Leafs cut the lead to 2-1 as Daniel Winnik beat Carter Hutton with an unscreened shot from the high slot.

Bernier was cut by a skate late in the second period and James Reimer entered the game with the Predators going on the power play. The Predators couldn't take advantage of Reimer with the power play to finish the period and the carry over time in the third.

That seemed to energize the Leafs as they scored two quick goals. Nazem Kadri scored on a wrist shot and 37 seconds later Mike Santorelli cleanly beat Hutton from the face off circle to give the Leafs a 3-2 lead.

Bernier reentered the game and was victimized by Mike Fisher, who took a pass from Colin Wilson and lifted a puck over the shoulder of Bernier from in close.

Colin Wilson got the game winner off a rebound of a James Neal shot. Fisher was in front screening Bernier, who couldn't control the puck and it squirted out to side of Bernier's left pad. Wilson drove the net and slammed the puck home before Bernier could get his glove on the puck.

Some observations:

  • Carter Hutton... man, you made some great saves, and your save in the third period off a puck that was deflected several times was absolutely ridiculous. Hutton was off balance, reached around behind him and swatted away a puck the was about to cross the goal line. That said, you are frustratingly inconsistent. Too often, Hutton gets beat on unscreened shots that just get blown past him. If he could get this aspect of his game together, I would certainly have more confidence in his game. As it is, that inconsistency has plagued him in nearly every game he has played this season, and that has to improve.
  • You cannot overstate the value of Mike Fisher to this team. Fisher had a goal and 2 assists and battled in front of the net and in the corners all night. The game winning goal was a direct result of Fisher screening Bernier and battling for the puck. His goal was the result of some sweet hands as he was able to elevate the puck from in close. Frankly, I never expected to see Fisher contributing at this level after missing a month at the start of the season while recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon. I am glad I have been proven wrong.
  • Colin Wilson had a goal and an assist tonight. His goal was his 16th of the year and tied a career high. His 35 points also ties a career high. Wilson has consistently elevated his game this season and is a big part of the Predators success.
  • Seth Jones not only showed some great hands to score a shorthanded goal for the Predators but also showed some very good speed as he went from a dead stop at the Predators blue line to full speed for the break away.
  • Jones shorthanded goal was the Predators third shorty this season. It was Jones first career SHG.
  • This is the first time in the history of the Predators that a defenseman has scored a shorthanded goal (Jones) and a power play goal (Weber) in the same game.
  • The Predators set a franchise record with 9 consecutive home wins.
  • While the Predators got a first period power play goal, the Predators last power play in the third period was an absolute clustertruck. Poor puck decisions and puck handling led to several shots by the Leafs that were good scoring chances and resulted in Hutton having to make an incredible save to keep the Leafs off the board. Sometimes it appears that the Preds power play tries to get too cute rather than keep it simple and gain the zone.
  • I really like the play of Mike Ribeiro, but please, Ribs, shoot the puck when you have an open lane. Ribeiro passed up a shot on several occasions while looking for a pass and it resulted in turnovers. 
  • Former Predators assistant head Coach Peter Horachek has the unenviable job of being the interim head Coach of the Leafs. While the Leafs have struggled, Horachek has instilled greater defensive responsibility among his charges and they made it a difficult night for the Predators.
  • Paul Gaustad won 73% of his faceoffs; Mike Ribero won 71%, his best night as a Predator.
  • Bernier missed the last minute of the second period and the first five minutes of the third as he cut his left leg with his skate while making a sprawling save on a Matt Cullen breakaway. Bernier required 12 stitches to sew up the cut. He gave up all 4 goals to the Predators.
  • The Leafs loss was a franchise record 10th consecutive loss.
  • The Predators are 11-5-1 against the Eastern Conference.
This was a win, but the Predators made it way more difficult than it should have been with some stretches of uninspired play.

But here is the bottom line- it was a win.

And it was an important win to keep them on top of the Central Division. They currently sit in first with 72 points, 2 ahead of St. Louis and 8 ahead of Chicago.

They will be tested on home ice on Thursday against Anaheim.

My three stars:

1. Colin Wilson

2. Mike Fisher

3. Mike Santorelli

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Predators Pound the Penguins 4-0

The Nashville Predators bounced back from a tough road loss with a solid road win in Pittsburgh, defeating the Penguins 4-0 at Consol Energy Center.

The Predators got some scoring form some unlikely names, as Gabriel Bourque and Eric Nystrom followed a goal by Roman Josi to make it 3-0 Predators at the end of two period. Mike Fisher added a power play goal in the third period.

After a Josi blast that beat Marc-Andre Fluery through traffic, Gabriel Bourque buried a shot from the slot after a Penguins turnover to give the Predators a 2-0 first period lead.

Taylor Beck forced a turnover in the Penguins zone and Eric Nystrom made a beautiful move to beat Fluery late in the second period to make it 3-0.

Mike Fisher added a power play goal in the third period to make it 4-0.

Carter Hutton had an outstanding game in net, making some great saves and picking up his first shutout of the season and his third win.

Some observations:

  • The line of Gabriel Bourque, Matt Cullen, and Calle Jarnkrok have been playing well with lots of energy and creating some scoring chances. It was good to see that line rewarded with the goal by Bourque. Needless to say, if that line can get going, it bodes well for the Predators.
  • Roman Josi continues his high level of play. He has a very good shot and has opened his game up offensively this season. He is solid defensively and is very creative and dangerous offensively. Ryan who?
  • The Predators did a much better job on the forecheck and in the neutral zone of disrupting the Penguins passing lanes and creating turnovers which led to some very good scoring chances. When the Predators are skating and using their speed, they are very difficult team for opponents to play against.
  • The Predators parade to the penalty box is troubling. They took three penalties in the second period and put the potent Penguins power play to work. Big ups to the PK unit that has done an excellent job since the All Star break in killing penalties, but this is playing with fire.
  • What a sweet move for a goal by Eric Nystrom. Nystrom is a "glue" player that doesn't score much but is dependable in all situations and plays with high energy. Nice to see him get rewarded with a marker. Kudos to Taylor Beck for setting that goal up with a nice forecheck to create the turnover that led to the goal.
  • Teams that go deep in the playoffs have to get contributions from their third and fourth lines. Good to see these two lines for the Predators starting to contribute. Now they must do so consistently.
  • Filip Forsberg picked up two assists. We are used to seeing him on the score sheet, and two assists don't seem remarkable, but consider that Forsberg is now drawing the attention of the opponent's top defenders. I know one of those assists came on the power play, but it exemplified the vision and puck handling skills of this budding young superstar. High marks to Forsberg for continuing to produce against top flight competition.
  • Carter Hutton looked more relaxed and made some very good saves, especially early in the game when the Penguins were getting a lot of traffic to the net. Good to see a solid outing from Hutton.
  • Hutton got a lot of support from the skaters in front of him as the Predators blocked 18 Pens shots.
  • The Predators held the Penguins to 5 third period shots and 21 for the game.
A very good  road win and solid bounce back game for the Predators, one they need with St. Louis continuing to win and trying to close the gap on the Predators.

The team was very good in all phases of the game today.

They will need to continue to play this way in a very busy January.

My three stars:

1. Carter Hutton

2. Roman Josi

3. Filip Forsberg