Saturday, October 22, 2016

Scenes from the Road- Detroit

The View traveled to Detroit to take in the Predators last game at the Joe. Here are some scenes from the road:

The iconic steps that lead up to the Joe. Both entrances have a lot of steps to contend with, and one has to go through a labyrinthine path to access the handicap entrances.

Once inside, there is a lot of history for the fans to take in. This is one of the displays on the main concourse of the arena.

The impressive statue of the great Gordie Howe. This is a magnificent piece of art celebrating one of hockey's greatest players.

Another statue of a former Red Wing great, Alex Delvechhio.

The Joe. Prior to the game, the scoreboard was running a tribute video to the history of the arena. Notice that Detroit native Bob Seger is on the screen. Many former players and artists that had appeared at the Joe gave their recollections of being in the arena. Very well done tribute.

Surprisingly, there were a lot of signs from Wings fans giving some love to P.K. Subban.

The View found lots of Preds fans in attendance at the game. Unfortunately, the game didn't turn out the way we wanted.

The view from our seats at the first intermission.  Would love to see that many banners hanging in the Bridge someday.

The Joe is a historic and storied hockey venue. She shows her age (38 years), but the history of this barn is phenomenal. The new Little Caesar's Arena is supposed to be spectacular and I can't watch to watch the Predators in that venue. 

Little Caesar's Arena is not a name that  the locals seemed too enthused about, so I propose we call it "The Pizza Palace".

Lots of fantastic history in the Joe, and I hope that carry most of the artifacts over to the new place.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Predators Don't Show Up, Drop Game 7 to the Sharks 5-0

The Nashville Predators have never won a playoff game on the home ice of the San Jose Sharks.

That unenviable trend continued in the 7th game of the Predators second round series against the Sharks.

The Sharks jumped on the Predators early in the game, out shooting the Predators 17-3 in the first period and tallying twice. Joe Pavelski scored on the power play and Joel Ward scored on a breakaway to make it 2-0 after 20 minutes.

Shea Weber had a brutal turnover to Logan Couture, who converted to make it 3-0 early in the second period.

Pekka Rinne was under siege, while Martin Jones had an easy night as the Predators offense never threatened through 2 periods, managing only 8 shots on goal.

Joe Thornton scored on the power play early in the third period to make it 4-0. Patrick Marleau added a goal to make it 5-0.

The Predators were out of gas and getting embarrassed.

Carter Hutton came in to finish the game in net for the Predators, which was just as well because the team in front of Rinne was getting him killed.

The Predators didn't bother to show up in what was arguably their most important game in franchise history and went down to an embarrassing defeat 5-0.

Some observations:

  • The Sharks power play has been lethal in this series. It doesn't help that the Predators often allowed Sharks forwards open ice in the low slot. Pavelski scored the first goal of the game from within 10 feet of the net. The Predators often did not seem to have an answer for the Sharks power play unit.
  • The Predators knew the Sharks would come out with jump to start the game. They did just that, and the Predators had no answer in the first period. through 17 minutes, the Sharks had 15 shots and the Predators only had 2.
  • Pekka Rinne was under siege in the first period (see bullet point above) and had absolutely no help. If he had not made some exceptional saves the game would have been totally out of control for the Predators in the first period.
  • Shea Weber was not good in this game. His awful turnover onto the stick of Logan Couture led to the Sharks third goal. When Weber is not good, this team is going to struggle.
  • Through 2 periods, the Predators managed only 8 shots and never challenged Jones. Not a formula for success.
  • The penalty by Ekholm at the end of the second period was a retaliation penalty and was stupid. it cost the Predators as they gave up their second power play goal to fall behind 4-0.
  • Rinne was just under siege and had no help. I really felt sorry for him because the team in front of him gave him absolutely no help.
It is incredibly disappointing to see this team fall  flat on their face. It doesn't take away from the great run they had, but the frustration and sense of failure is palpable with this lack of effort.

I will have a post mortem on the season in a few days.

They are going to have to find a way to win these types of games and have players that will step up in these big games.

I am still proud of this team.

And we all should be.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Lackluster and Lethargic, Predators Fall to the Sharks 5-1

After their 3 OT marathon, the Nashville Predators and the San Jose Sharks were at it again, this time at the SAP Center. The teams entered game 5 tied at 2 games apiece and both squads looking to play through fatigue and trying to solve the others stellar netminder.

Patrick Marleau gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead, sliding a pass under the stick of Mattias Ekholm and under the pad of Pekka Rinne.

The Predators tied the game after Marleau's goal as the line of Mike Fisher, James Neal, and Colin Wilson continued their torrid play. Fisher was the beneficiary of a fine play by Neal and he poked  a shot by Martin Jones.

The Predators left Joe Pavelski alone in the slot and he beat Rinne with a blistering wrister to make it 2-1 heading into the intermission.

A horrible line change and defensive breakdown sent Logan Couture in alone and he beat Rinne to make it 3-1 early in the second period.

Joe Pavelski scored on the power play to make it 4-1.

Melker Karlsson made it 5-1 when he scored in the final minute against Carter Hutton, who had come in for Rinne.

Some observations:

  • Mike Ribeiro drew back into the line up and centered Calle Jarkrok and Viktor Arvidsson on the third line. This was Ribeiro's first action since being scratched in games 3 and 4.
  • Tommy Wingels was scratched for the Sharks and Dainus Zubrus was inserted as a 4th line forward. Zubrus was seeing his first action since a game against the Arizona Coyotes on April 9th.
  • The Sharks opened the game with lots more jump than the Predators, who were back on their heels to begin the game. Not how the team wanted to start. Instead of taking the attack to the Sharks, the Predators started looking like they were just trying to hold on. That style of play led to the Sharks opening the scoring off a goal by Marleau.
  • The line of Fisher, Wilson, and Neal have gelled almost immediately. Their production has been superb and their play and chemistry have given the Sharks fits in this series. They have combined for 17 points since being put together for the playoffs.
  • Brutal defense by the Predators on Pavelski's goal. Left aloine in the low slot and Rinne never had a chance on the snap shot. The defense has to be aware of where the threats are, especially when the top line of the Sharks is on the ice. Instead, they completely lost the leading goal scorer for the Sharks.
  • What a brutal changes and sloppy defensive breakdown early in the second period by the Predators. That is the inept play that the Predators cannot have against a team the caliber of the Sharks. 
  • This is a disappointing game by the Predators in that they had no push back and no response to the push from the Sharks. Great teams answer, and the Predators were not even remotely close to answering.
  • The Predators won games 3 and 4 on the back of a relentless forecheck. Tonight, the forecheck was spotty at best and mostly non-existent. Letting the Sharks take the zone with speed is not a formula for success for this team, and tonight, that is exactly what the Predators did.
  • Pekka Rinne wasn't good, but the way this team played in front of him tonight, he would have had to be perfect for the Predators to have a chance. He wasn't and the team found itself in a hole from which they could not crawl out.
  • The Predators did not do a good job of getting to the prime scoring areas. The Sharks did a good job of forcing them outside and the Predators did not have anyone creating havoc in front. That has been their formula for success in the playoffs, and tonight, they showed no will or commitment to do that.
  • The Predators have NEVER won a playoff game in San Jose. Let that sink in for a moment.
A hugely disappointing effort by the Predators. You knew the Sharks would come out strong to defend home ice, but the lack of response and effort by the Predators is unacceptable.

With a chance to put the Sharks at a huge disadvantage, the Predators showed no fire, no will, no heart.

Now they have to turn it around and face a must win back at Bridgestone Arena.

Let's hope they have their hearts in it.

My three stars:

1. Joe Pavelski

2. Joe Thornton

3. Mike Fisher

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Predators Bite Back, Defeat the Sharks 4-1

With their backs against the wall and down 2-0, the Nashville Predators needed an attacking, aggressive game to get back into their series with the San Jose Sharks.

Mission accomplished.

The Predators attacked all night and defeated the Sharks 4-1 to cut the Sharks series lead to 2-1.

After a fluky goal by Patrick Marleau, a play in which both Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne misplayed the puck, the Predators scored 4 consecutive goals to secure the win.

And the Predators power play finally woke up, with 2 of those tallies coming with the man advantage.

James Neal opened the scoring with the Predators on the power play with a snipe from below the face off circle that beat Martin Jones high glove side.

Shea Weber made it 2-1 with a howitzer from the slot that Jones is still trying to find.

Up 2-1 going into the third period, the Predators couldn't sit bakc and let the Sharks take the play to them.

The Predators didn't turtle, instead forcing the play in the Sharks zone.

Colin Wilson banked a puck off the back of Jones to make it 3-1.

Filip Forsberg finished the scoring with a power play goal for the final margin of 4-1.

Some observations:

  • Pekka Rinne has been a steady presence in this series but was outstanding tonight. Outside of the crazy play that led to the Sharks only goal, Rinne was a rock between the pipes. He tracked the puck well, especially through traffic. His positioning was sound and his rebound control was excellent. He did a good job of frustrating the Sharks all night. This was big and hopefully gives the team confidence and gets in the head of the Sharks.
  • Mike Ribeiro has had an awful playoff series, both in round 1 and through the first two games of this series. He was a healthy scratch tonight, and frankly the Predators looked better for it. They won the face off battle 36-25 and had more speed and jump with the remixed lines. I don't expect to see Ribeiro back in the line up again for the remainder of the playoffs.
  • With Ribeiro out, the forward lines were: Johansen-Neal-Forsberg; Fisher-Smith-Wilson; Jarnkrok-Aberg-Arvidsson; and Gaustad-Sissons-Salomaki.
  • Pontus Aberg played in his first NHL game on the line with Calle Jarnkrok and Viktor Arvidsson. I can only imagine the butterflies that he must have had, but he acquitted himself well. He used his speed to find open ice and made no glaring defensive mistakes. Aberg has a lot of upside, and this will be a confidence booster for him.
  • Craig Smith isn't 100% healthy, and it shows. he didn't find the score sheet, but he played with a lot of heart and gutted it out tonight. Big props to the Honey Badger for his effort.
  • Colton Sissons was run into the net and I thought he had broken his leg. He was taken to the locker room for x-rays, which were negative, and amazingly, he was back on the ice after missing a shift. That is a hockey player, friends.
  • Woeful officiating tonight. No penalty on the Sissons play; Colin Wilson high sticked in front of the refs and no call. The League is going to have to make a commitment to quality officiating or they will continue to be an embarrassment among professional sports leagues.
  • With his goal, Shea Weber has tied David Legwand for the most playoff goals in team history with 13 goals.
  • Weber, James Neal, Ryan Johansen, Colin Wilson, and Mattias Ekholm are tied for the team lead in playoff goals with 3 each.
  • The Predators blocked 19 shots tonight.
  • Good to see the power play finally start to click. They were 2-5 tonighht, and it is critical that this unit get going. They did tonight and will need to do so with consistency in the upcoming games.
  • The Sharks entered this game having burnt the Predators by going 3-5 on the power play in the first 2 games. Tonight, the Predators PK was excellent, killing all 4 of the Sharks man advantage attempts.
  • This was the Sharks first road loss of the playoffs.
  • Mattias Ekholm led the Predators in TOI with 24:35.
This was undoubtedly a confidence building win for the Predators. They have seen that when they attack and use their speed, the Sharks have difficulty handling the attack.

Now they have to do the same thing again on Thursday.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Shea Weber

3. James Neal

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Predatoes Have Their Chances But Can't Finish, Fall to the Sharks 3-2

The Nashville Predators looked to steal home ice  at the Shark Tank the second game of their series with the San Jose Sharks. The Predators are going to need a full 60 minutes of play and contributions from the top lines to accomplish that task, something that didn't happen in game one.

The Predators played a full 60 minutes with jump and energy this game. Unfortunately, they still came out on the short end of the score by a 3-2 margin.

The Sharks lethal power play capitalized in the second period as Logan Couture tallied to make it 1-0. Pekka Rinne made the initial save, but Couture was left all alone to pick up the rebound and pot a goal into a near empty net.

In the third period, Mattias Ekholm launched a shot through traffic that beat Martin Jones top shelf to tie the game at 1.

Joe Pavelski broke the tie as he was alone to gather in a rebound to make it 2-1.

Joe Thornton hit an empty net goal to make it 3-1.

Roman Josi scored with 3 seconds left to make it 3-2, but there was not enough time for the Predators to tie the game and they will return home down 2-0 in the series.

Some observations:

  • After missing the first game of the series, Craig Smith returned to the line up. The Predators are 4-0 when the Honey Badger is in the line up. They are 0-4 without him. You can't underestimate what Smith brings to the line up. When healthy, his speed and attacking style of play opens up the ice for his line mates, and it is a positive to have him back in the line up.
  • Lots more intensity and jump by the Predators and the Sharks in the first period. The hitting was better by the Predators and they were moving their feet better than in the first game. Now they have to do it for the next 40 minutes.
  • The Predator forwards are going to have to work harder to get to the prime scoring areas. The Sharks do a good job of clearing the front of the net, and this is going to be a matter of want to for the forwards to put pressure on Jones.
  • Some great saves by Rinne early in the second period. The Sharks do a great job in transition and on the rush, and Rinne came up with some huge saves to keep the Sharks off the board.
  • The Sharks scored on the power play after Rinne made the initial save but gave up a rebound. Problematic with that goal is that Logan Couture was allowed a free ride in front of the net with no defenders challenging him. Rinne has to have some help and the Predators defenders have to make life miserable for the Sharks around the net. They did not on that power play.
  • Matty Ek's goal was a perfectly placed shot. But did you see who was taking all sorts of punishment to screen Jones? The smallest guy on the ice- the Aardvark, Viktor Arvidsson. Small guy but perhaps the biggest heart of anyone on the team.
  • This was a full 6o minute game by the Predators, but they are going to have to finish some of their chances. They had some great chances but couldn't finish some of their scoring chances. The guys that are counted on to finish are going to have to do just that if this team is going to have a chance to come back in this series.
  • There was some uncharacteristically leaky D in front of Rinne on the first two goals that the Sharks scored. Having the opponents forwards left alone to have unmolested tap ins is not a formula for success for the Predators.
  • Rinne made some outstanding saves to keep the Sharks off the board and the level of play by the big metminder has given this team an opportunity to win. 
The onus is on the Predators to capture the next two games at Bridgestone Arena. They are going to have to come out with the jump and energy that they displayed tonight.

And they are going to have to finish some of their chances.

My three stars;

1. Joe Pavelski

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Logan Couture

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Predators Wilt In the Third Period, Fall to Sharks 5-2

The Nashville Predators looked to continue their road success in the playoffs with a second round match up against the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center. The Predators won 3 of 4 meetings against the Ducks at the Honda Center and were attempting to build on that momentum.

A scoreless first period saw both teams probe but neither would find the back of the net.

That would change in the second period as Mike Fisher sent the Predators into the second intermission with a power play goal.

The Predators seemed content to sit back and lost their attacking mode, and it cost them. They gave up power play goal to Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture, which were sandwiched around an even strength goal from Joel Ward.

The Predators pulled Rinne for the extra attacker and a Roman Josi shot deflected off Ryan Johansen to make it 3-2 with 1:49 remaining in the game.

Any hopes of a comeback were dashed by an empty net goals by Couture  and Tommy Wingels to make it 5-2.

Some observations:

  • Craig Smith re-aggravated his injury suffered in game 3 of the Ducks series and was out of the line up. Pontus Aberg was called up, but did not play.
  • Eric Nystrom drew back into the line up and was on  the 4th line with Paul Gaustad and Colton Sissons.
  • Good to see the power play finally convert. The man advantage unit was 1-26 against the Ducks and definitely needed to get their groove back. Getting one on their second attempt hopefully gets their mojo going in this series.
  • Both teams had spurts of intensity surrounded by tentative play. The Sharks were backing off defensively and allowed some room for the Predators in the offensive zone. The Predators had moments where they went into a shell and the Sharks peppered Rinne in net. First game jitters...maybe. Rust by the Sharks...perhaps. Look for the intensity and continuous action to ramp up in this game and in this series.
  • The Predators tempted fate by putting the Sharks on the power play and it bit them. A dumb penalty by Johansen allowed the Sharks to get back in the game and get momentum early in the third period. The penalties will happen, but they cannot, CANNOT, be silly penalties.
  • When the Predators get tentative and lose their attack mode, they are not a very good hockey team. The Predators have all season long turtled when they have a lead, and they did again tonight. And that allowed the Sharks to take the game to them and take the lead. This team is going to have to develop a killer instinct and forget going into the shell and hoping Rinne can bail them out.
  • And when you dig a hole with a soft, passive game, it will cost you when you scramble to try to get back in. This is exactly what the Predators did in the third period. Losing their offensive effort and then being forced to chase cost them this game. 
The Predators were in this game, and in fact controlled this game until they decided they could sit back and hope Rinne would be able to hold them off. Letting the Sharks attack and pour shots on the Predators net was not going to succeed.

That style of play didn't work in the regular season. It certainly isn't going to work now.

This team can win this round. They have the talent to do so.

But they will not win if they continue to be passive.

My three stars:

1. Logan Couture

2. Joel Ward

3. Brent Burns

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Predators Step On the Ducks 2-1, Advance to the Second Round

The Nashville Predators were going into the hostile environment of the Honda Center to play their first game 7 in their history. The Anaheim Ducks were trying to exorcise their recent failures in a game 7 match up.

And the Predators are making history.

The Ducks are still trying to exorcise those Game 7 demons.

The Predators came out strong with two first period goals by Colin Wilson and Paul Gaustad to take a 2-0 lead going into the first intermission.

The Predators spent the next 40 minutes absorbing the frantic push by the Ducks. They gave up a power play goal to Ryan Kessler early in the third period to exponentially increase the pucker factor for Pred nation.

Frederick Andersen was outstanding after giving up the first period goals. As good as Andersen was, Pekka Rinne was even better.

No, Rinne was absolutely outstanding.

He was under assault throughout the game, especially in the final 40 minutes. And the big Finn was up to the task. He made some outstanding saves, got some help from a crossbar, and from his D that cleared the puck out of danger.

That effort secured a 2-1 win and a second round match up with the San Jose Sharks.

Some observations:

  • Cody Bass was out of the line up after being injured in game 6. Colton Sissons drew into the line up to replace Bass.
  • This is the first game 7 that the Predators have ever played.
  • Heck of an effort by Colin Wilson to settle the puck and place a perfect backhand under the crossbar. Wilson has been my whipping boy this season, but I have to give him props for stepping up his game in the playoffs. Teams that go deep in the playoffs have to get contributions from their bottom 6 and Wilson has been the best producer for the Predators in the playoffs.
  • How about Paul Gaustad stepping up his game? He has been using his big frame to screen in front of the net and he was rewarded for going to the hard areas with a sweet redirect of the Shea Weber shot just after a power play had ended. This was a huge momentum swing for the Predators and you could hear the air suck out of the Honda Center after that score.
  • Rinne had to come up with some huge saves in the first period to keep the Ducks off the board. The Ducks are talented and they were pressing after going down 2, and Rinne was scrambling but shut the door on the Ducks.
  • The Predators had 4 first year players in the line up. The experience these youngsters are getting is invaluable to their development and bodes well for the future of this team.
  • The best you can say about the second period is that the Predators weathered it. The Ducks had sustained pressure and several quality chances. The Preds are going to have to get their attack mentality back for the third period.
  • Too many times tempting fate and the Ducks finally cash in on a power play. Ryan Kessler perfectly placed a shot past Rinne inside the far post to cut the lead to 1.
  • This game was a perfect example of shoddy officiating. The refs swallowed their whistles and allowed anything short of severing a limb go. And it is a reason that the League continues to struggle with credibility.
  • Goodness gracious, Pekka Rinne was a beast! He made save after save, some spectacular. Rinne was poised and strong between the pipes and was the difference in this game and this series. The Ducks poured pucks on Rinne, totaling 37 shots on net.
What a character win and comeback by the Predators! After losing 3 straight and being given up for dead, the Predators roared back to life and captured the series.

It was a long, tough series. Yet it is a series win that should really boost the confidence of the Predators.

Bask in it, Pred Nation.

It feels good.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Colin Wilson

3. Paul Gaustad

Monday, April 25, 2016

Predators Show Life, Down the Ducks 3-1 to Force Game 7

After looking inept and off their game, the Nashville Predators resurrected Predator hockey and took the game to the Anaheim Ducks at Bridgestone Arena, winning 3-1 and forcing a game 7 in Anaheim on Wednesday.

The first period was a tight checking, scoreless affair.

That changed in the second period when Mattias Ekholm carried the puck behind the net and back out to the face off circle before launching a seeing eye shot through traffic that Frederick Andersen never saw to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.

The Predators extended their lead to 2-0 when Ryan Johansen broke in on a 2 on 1 with James Neal. Johansen drew the defender toward him and made Andersen respect his shot before slipping the puck to Neal, who buried it in a wide open net.

The lone Ducks goal came off a horrid call against Ekholm. After being held for about 6 seconds by Hampus Lindholm, Matty Ek was called for a touch foul. On the ensuing power play, Rinne stopped a shot from the face off circle by Corey Perry, but the puck leaked through his pads and Ryan Kessler was able to tap it in to cut the Predators lead to 2-1.

The third period saw a furious push by the Ducks and occasional counters by the Predators. The play of the game came when Rinne stopped Perry, who was alone in the slot and fired from point blank range. Rinne was positionally sound and kicked the puck out with his pads.

Shea Weber sealed the win with a long range empty net goal.

Some observations:

  • For the first time in team history, the Predators will play a game 7.
  • Also for the first time in team history, the Predators won a game 6 when facing elimination.
  • Shea Weber led the Predators in TOI with 26:34. Roman Josi led the team with 5 blocked shots.
  • Mike Ribeiro has been awful in this series, but I have to give him credit. His play tonight was disciplined and generally solid. He is going to have to play that way in game 7. However, he continues to brutal in the face off dot, going 0-6 tonight.
  • Craig Smith was back in the line up and took his regular spot on the second line wing. You cannot overestimate the value of Smith to this team. His speed and strength on the puck opens up the ice for his line mates. The Predators really missed him over the last 3 games.
  • The Predators did a much better job of attacking the net and going to the hard areas. This is how you are going to score in the playoffs and tonight, they made a commitment to do hard hockey. They will have to do it again on Wednesday night.
  • A sign seen in the Predators locker room after the game: "Noon flight tomorrow. Pack for 6 days." I like the confidence, because if the Predators win on Wednesday, they will open the second round in San Jose.
  • The Predators blocked 21 shots. The Ducks had 11 blocks.
  • The Predators lost Cody Bass in the first period when he went for a big hit, missed, and crashed hard into the end boards.
  • After all the penalties in this series, especially those taken by the Ducks, this game saw only 2 power plays, one by each team. As mentioned earlier, the call against Matty Ek was one of the worst I have seen in any post season game.
This was the Predators team that showed it can compete with the best in the NHL. Attacking hockey, solid goaltending, and sound defense secured this win.

It's a great feeling.

Now they have to build on this and bring in game 7 on Wednesday.

My three stars:

1. James Neal

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Mattias Ekholm

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Predators Implode Once Again and Find Their Backs to the Wall With 5-2 Loss

After puking up two games on home ice, the Nashville Predators traveled to Anaheim trying to regain their mojo and momentum in Game five of their best of seven series. Both teams have won their games on their opponents ice and the Predators were hoping that trend would continue.

The Predators started well, and after a scoreless first period, took a lead on the first goal of the game off a sweet backhand by Ryan Johansen that beat Frederick Andersen to the far post.

That goal lasted all of 34 seconds as a David Perron shot deflected off Roman Josi's skate and fluttered over the outstretched glove of Pekka Rinne to tie the game at 1.

Ryan Garbutt gave the Ducks a 2-1 lead as he jammed a puck between Rinne and the goal post.

Sami Vatenan gave the Ducks a 3-1 lead as he came out of the penalty box and beat Rinne on a breakaway.

Mikka Salomaki drew the Predators to within one goal as he buried the rebound of a Shea Weber blast.

After a stupid penalty by Mike Ribeiro, the Ducks finally converted on a power play and Cam Fowler finally made the Predators as he scored on the first shot of the power play to make it 4-2.

Ryan Kessler finished the scoring with an empty net goal.

Some observations:

  •  The Predators certainly came out with more jump in the first period and created some quality chances. Now they just have to bury them.
  • Is Shea Weber not just a beast. His forearm shiver that flattened Corey Perry is indicative of the strength in the big D man.
  • Craig Smith is still called "day to day". Hopefully the Honey Badger can get back into the series quickly.
  • The Predators looked like the Ducks, taking penalty after penalty. This is flirting with disaster, as the Ducks have the number one power play in the League. One had to feel that the Predators were going to get bitten by all the penalties.
  • That said, the Predators PK unit had worked their tails off this series and in this game.
  • What a sweet backhand by Ryan Johansen for his first goal of the series. That is a goal scorer's goal.
  • And what a flukey goal by David Perron. A big deflection that bounces off the skate of Roman Josi and leaks over the glove of Rinne.
  • Rinne made some very big saves, but he just cannot give up that goal to Garbutt. That is fundamental goaltending- seal the post, yet Rinne did not get it done and it cost the Predators.
  • Mike Ribeiro has been absolutely awful in this playoff series. His penalty was stupid, and frankly, Ribeiro is just not built for the rugged play of the playoffs. Ice is not as open and he cannot compete with the rugged play that occurs in the playoffs. It doesn't help that he loses his temper at the most inopportune times.
  • You cannot understate the effect of the loss of Craig Smith. His skating ability and speed gave the Ducks fits, and with him out of the line up, the Predators have been much less effective.
  • The Predators mistakes and loss of poise cost them in this game, and it will cost them in this series.
The boys backs are against the wall. keep playing as foolishly as they have, and they will have the dubious honor of dropping 4 straight games after taking the first two.

I guess we will find out what the coaching staff and the players are made of on Monday.

My three stars:

1. David Perron

2. Frederick Andersen

3. Ryan Johansen

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Series Even at 2 as Predators Outworked and Outplayed in 4-1 Loss

The Nashville Predators returned to Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday with a 2-0 lead and control of their series with the Anaheim Ducks.

By Thursday night, they had pissed it away.

For the second straight game, the Predators were outworked, lost puck battles, and were stymied in all aspects of their game by the Ducks, losing 4-1 and making it a 3 game series with the Ducks in total control.

The Predators gave up the slot all night and the Ducks took advantage. Ryan Getzlaf, Nate Thompson, Jamie McGinn, and Andrew Cogliano all scored from prime scoring areas as the Predators defense hung Pekka Rinne out to dry.

Frederick Andersen had a busier night than Tuesday, but turned away all but a close in scoring chance from Mike Fisher.

Some observations:

  • The Predators have been outworked all over the ice in these last 2 games. The Ducks have made a commitment to forecheck aggressively and attack the puck, and the Predators look completely confused and helpless against the pressure by the Ducks. It is not like they haven't seen this before, but the Predators have been totally inept in handling the pressure.
  • Speaking of inept, the power play was 0-6. The Predators have only 1 power play goal in 19 attempts in this series. I know the Ducks have the top rated penalty kill, but the Predators have looked particularly bad. If, and that is a big if, they get in the zone, the Ducks have done a good job of attacking the puck and taking away shooting lanes. It doesn't help the Predators that they usually fail to get net front presence and take away the eyes of Andersen. This unit has to get going or it will continue to bite the Predators in the butt.
  • The failure to keep the Ducks out of the slot is disappointing and it will cost the Predators this series. Where the Predators can't get to the slot, the Ducks, by contrast, have had free rein from in close. This has to get cleaned up quickly or the series will be over in 6.
  • Mike Ribeiro has been awful. A non-factor in this series, he has contributed nothing to the play of the team in any zone. This is not a time to be a passenger, but Ribeiro has been nothing but excess baggage. 
  • At least the Predators broke their scoring drought. Until Fisher's goal, the Predators had not scored a goal in 5 periods.
  • The Ducks have the number one power play in the League, and the Predators penalty killers have played their tails off. They killed off all 5 Ducks power plays tonight.
Let's face it, the Ducks have exerted their will on the Predators, and the good guys haven't matched the intensity and effort of their opponent.

Unless they do, this series is over in 6 games.

The next test comes Saturday in Anaheim. We will find out what kind of character this team has.

Hopefully, it will be a positive response.

My three stars:

1. Frederick Andersen

2. Nate Thompson

3. Mike Fisher

Monday, April 18, 2016

Predators Play Smart Hockey in 3-2 Victory Over the Ducks

The Nashville Predators looked to take a 2-0 lead in their first round playoff series against the Anaheim Ducks. The Predators held a 1-0 lead after a 3-2 win in their first game at the Duck Pond...uh...Honda Center.

The Predators knew that the Ducks were going to come out with great intensity and fire as they tried to even the series. They also knew the Ducks would goon it up to take the Predators off their game.

The Predators refused to engage the Ducks in their style of play, instead playing smart hockey in capturing a stellar road win by a 3-2 margin.

Andrew Coglianio staked the Ducks to a 1-0 lead when he blocked a shot a came in on a breakaway and beat Rinne 5 hole to give the Ducks a 1-0 advantage.

That goal was answered by Mattias Ekholm in the last minute of the first period as he beat John Gibson with a beautiful backhand from the slot. 

Craig Smith and Shea Weber added second period goals to give the Predators a 3-1 lead.

Nate Thompson scored with 2:27 to make it 3-2 and increase the heart rate and pucker factor Predators fans everywhere.

With Gibson pulled for the extra attacker, the Predators defenders did their job, thwarting any quality scoring attempts by the Ducks and secured the 3-2 victory.

Some observations:

  • You can see why the Ducks have the number one penalty kill. They attack the puck and do a very good hob of clearing lanes in front of their goalie. The Predators are going to have to do a much better job of getting motion and moving the puck if they are going to be successful in this series.
  • HUGE save in the first period by Rinne. Mattias Ekholm had the puck stripped from him behind the net by Jakob Silfverberg and he fed Ryan Kessler coming down the slot alone. That save was vintage Rinne and is the kind of save that can get into the heads of the Ducks.
  • Matty Ek! Ekholm pinched down low, cruised into the slot, and lifted a beauty of a backhand past Gibson to tie the game with less than a minute to go in the first period. Ekholm has quietly emerged as a solid defender that has some surprising offensive pop. His goal was Forsberg-esque and something you don't expect to see from a blue liner. 
  • The Ducks are a very talented team, but it is in their DNA to be a goon squad. The Predators showed great discipline in not being drawn into the thuggery that the Ducks were trying to foment.
  • How great is it to have an asset like Roman Josi on your blue line. His speed and vision on the ice make him such a dangerous playmaker. He used those assets to help set up the goal by Craig Smith to give the Predators a lead in the second period.
  • Speaking of Smith, his work to find a soft spot in the defense was excellent and his shot was a perfectly placed rocket inside the post for his first goal of the playoffs. The Predators need the Honey Badger to contribute and he is off to a good start.
  • What a rocket by Shea Weber. He just kept pounding away on the point on the power play. Gibson had a clean look, but the Captain just blew a bullet past him for the team's third goal.
  • Full marks to the defense for collapsing in front of Rinne and clearing the front of the net. The Ducks made an intentional effort to run Rinne and crowd him, especially in the third period. The D did a good job of cleaning up rebounds and getting the puck out of danger.
  • For the first time in franchise history, the Predators have won the first two games of a playoff series.
  • The Predators showed superb discipline in not engaging the Ducks in their goonish style of play. Yet the Predators were the more cleanly physical team, pounding the Ducks with hard and clean hits all night. This is a side of the Predators that is fun to watch and I believe has surprised the Ducks.
  • Absolutely stellar defense by the Predators in the third period. Everyone knew the Ducks would be pressing to get back into the game, and the Predators limited the Quack Attack to just 5 shots in the third period.
  • Shea Weber had 27:36 TOI, followed by Roman Josi with 25:47.
This was a quality win by the Predators. They refused to engage in the thuggish play of Anaheim's goons and instead were physical and solid in all zones. Playing disciplined hockey, while the Ducks are running around after the whistle, will continue to frustrate the Ducks and set the Predators up for more success.

This series isn't won, but the Predators have seen the formula to capture it.

Now to bring it home and close it out.

My three stars:

1. Craig Smith

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Shea Weber

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Predators Drop the Final (Meaningless) Game of the Year to the Stars 3-2

The Nashville Predators finished the regular season with a stop at Dallas to take on the Stars. For the Predators, the game meant nothing. In fact, Pekka Rinne, Mike Ribeiro, Mike Fisher, Shea Weber, and Roman Josi did not make the trip.

The game was certainly meaningful for the Stars, however. Win and they have a chance to clinch the top spot in the Central.

After going up 2-0 on goals by Ryan Ellis and Calle Jarnkrok, the Predators gave up a hat trick to Jason Spezza to fall 3-2.

This game was...blah.

It meant nothing, and the best thing about it was that the Predators got out healthy.

Other than that, just...meh.

Of note, Craig Smith, Filip Forsberg, and James Neal played all 82 games for the Predators.

There is not much else to mention about this game.

A full playoff preview will come next week.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Predators Cap An Improbable Comeback With a 3-2 OT Win Over the Coyotes

In a game that was meaningless for the Predators and one in which they played for stretches like it was meaningless, the Predators shocked the Coyotes and the Predator fans with a 3-2 OT win.

The Predators were down 2 goals going into the third period when they supplied the wow factor.

Shea Weber drew the Predators within 1 goal with his 14th power play goal of the season to cut the deficit to 2-1.

Looking for all the world like Predator fans were going home disappointed, the Predators scored with 19 seconds to go. With Pekka Rinne pulled for an extra attacker, Roman Josi launched a shot toward the net that Filip Forsberg redirected past Mike Smith to tie the game at 2.

Overtime has not been kind to the Predators, but they figured it out in their second to last game of the year.

Josi took the puck through the neutral zone with speed, drove the net, and slid the puck past Smith for the improbable game winner just 20 seconds into the extra period.

Some observations:

  • Antoine Vermette gave the Coyotes a 1-0 lead, deflecting a shot off his skate that was going well past the net. Shane Doan scored from the face off circle when the Predators failed to clear the puck. The play by Rinne was solid tonight, and I don't fault him for the 2 goals he gave up. It does point out that the defensive coverage has got to tighten up during the playoffs. There is no doubt Rinne will play his tail off but he is going to have to have some help out front.
  • The Predators struggled for most of the night on the power play. The lone exception was Weber's goal. At times, the Predators wasted a lot of time just trying to get into the zone. That is an area of play that is going to have to improve in the playoffs.
  • Speaking of Weber, he hit 20 goals for the third time in his career. His power play goal was his 14th of the year, tying Andy Delmore and Paul Kariya for a franchise high in power play goals.
  • How about Filip Forsberg? His goal was his 33rd of the season and tied Jason Arnott for the franchise record. The thing about this goal that was exceptional to me is that it came with Forsberg right at the top of the crease battling for position. We have all seen and been amazed by some of his goals, but he has also shown that he is not afraid to go to the hard areas to score. 
  • Big props to the fans. The team finished the season playing 41 home games at 99.2% capacity at the Bridge. 695,828 fans attended games this year, 4800 more than last season. The Predators sold out 35 of their 41 home games this season, eclipsing the previous high of 30 sellouts, set last season.
  • The Predators are now 5-21-5 when they trail after 2 periods.
  • The Predators are now 2-12 in OT.
  • Anthony Bitetto returned to the line up after missing 9 games due to an injury.
As it was in the last game, this win was certainly not a thing of beauty. Yet it was beautiful from the standpoint that the Predators never quit and kept pressing.

And they were rewarded for that effort.

It is that kind of effort that the Predators will need in the playoffs.

My three stars:

1. Roman Josi

2. Filip Forsberg

3. Mike Smith

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Predators Hold Off the Avalanche 4-3

The Nashville Predators have secured a playoff spot, and with 3 games to go, one could say that their game with the Colorado Avalanche at Bridgestone Arena didn't mean anything.

But it did. It meant a lot to both teams.

For the Predators, it was an opportunity to end a 4 game losing streak and sharpen their game. For the Avalanche, it meant keeping their faint playoff hopes alive.

The Predators weren't as sharp as they will need to be in the playoffs, but they did enough good things to defeat the Avalanche 4-3 and begin to build some positive momentum. As for the Avs, their playoff hopes were crushed by the Predators effort.

Colin Wilson opened the scoring with his first goal in 15 games, blasting a shot over the shoulder of Semyon Varlamov.

Filip Forsberg made it 2-0 with a goal that is a legitimate candidate for goal of the year. Watch and be amazed:

Seemingly in control of the pace of the game, Pekka Rinne let in a brutally soft goal on a shot from the goal line by Mikkel Boedker to send the teams into the first intermission with the Predators up 2-1.

The second period saw the Avs dominate possession and the Predators spend much of the period trapped in their own zone. Jerome Iginla sent the teams into the second intermission tied at 2 as he chipped the puck past Rinne from the side of the net.

With the game in the balance, the Predators came out with jump and capitalized. Mike Fisher scored just 36 seconds into the third to give the Predators a 3-2 lead.

That lead stood for all of 1:22 as Shawn Matthias beat Ryan Ellis to a rebound and slapped it into the open net to tie the game

The Predators took the lead for good as Craig Smith took a sweet pass from Forsberg and buried his 21st goal of the year for the game winner.

The Predators had to hold off the Avs for the final 3:40 of the game as Varlamov was pulled for the extra attacker. The Predators compounded their misery when Ryan Johansen took a high sticking penalty with 1:57 left in the game, but the Predators PK came up big to seal the win.

Some observations:

  • That goal by Forsberg was amazing, to say the least. To have the presence of mind to kick the puck between his legs and get it on his forehand, get the stick between his legs, and place the shot perfectly is a talent level that the Predators have not had. Ever.  Couple those sick puck handling skills with his vision and hockey sense and Forsberg is the most talented and dangerous player that the Predators have ever had on their roster.
  • Forsberg now has 32 goals for the season, one goal away from tying the franchise record for 33 goals in a season held by Jason Arnott.
  • Although Rinne let in a bad first goal, he stood tall, especially in the second period when the Avs dominated play. He did a great job tracking the puck through traffic and generally controlling rebounds. 
  • I continue to be impressed with the hustle and heart of Viktor Arvidsson. The Aardvark has to get stronger, but he is fearless and will mix it up in the tough areas. I especially like his motor- the kid goes full tilt every shift.
  • Good to see Colin Wilson get his game going. His first goal was a perfectly placed rocket under the crossbar. Wilson also picked up an assist for a 2 point night. Hopefully Wilson will get his game in gear heading into the post season.
  • Teams that go deep in the post season have to have strong play from their third line. Tonight, the line of Fisher, Wilson, and Arvidsson combined for 2 goals and an asist. If that line can produce consistently then the Predators can have some good results in the post season.
  • Roman Josi and Shea Weber both picked up assists tonight. The gives the Predators D corps a total of 109 points for the season, a new franchise record.
  • The Predators blocked 21 shots tonight, 17 through the first 2 periods.
Not the prettiest win by the Predators, yet it was a good win.

The Predators need to fine tune some aspects of their game and they have two more game to do so. They are going to have to step up their intensity and effort for a full 60 minutes. A period of hockey like tonight's second period usually spells trouble in the playoffs.

So the team has ended a losing streak and has started to build some positive momentum. Learn from the mistakes, tune up the performance.

And most importantly, keep it rolling into the playoffs.

My three stars:

1. Filip Forsberg

2. Colin Wilson

3. Craig Smith

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Predators Blow 2 Goal Third Period Lead, Fall In SO to the Sharks

The Nashville Predators went into the second intermission of their game with the San Jose Sharks at Bridgestone Arena with a 2-0 lead. They built that lead by attacking the Sharks and keeping them off balance, forechecking aggressively and not letting the Sharks get into any offensive flow.

All they needed to do to end a 3 game losing streak was to continue to do those same things over the last 20 minutes.

Easy, right?

Well, nothing is easy with the Predators.

They decided to sit back and go into a shell over the last 20 minutes, and it allowed Tomas Hertl to score twice forcing the game to OT.

Predator fans know all too well that OT is a disaster for this team.

The good news...the Predators didn't lose in OT.

The bad news...the Predators lost in a shootout 1-0 to drop a 3-2 decision that they never, NEVER, should have lost.

Shea Weber opened the scoring for the Predators with a rocket from the blue line over the shoulder of James Reimer to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.

The Predators looked to have made it 2-0 on the power play as the period was winding down, but the goal was deemed to have occurred just a split second after the period expired.

The Predators would make it 2-0 in the second period as Calle Jarnkrok redirected a James Neal shot past Reimer to send the Predators into the second intermission with a lead that should have stood.

Instead, the Predators sat back and let the Sharks dictate play. Hertl made it 2-1 when he banged in a rebound past Carter Hutton.

Hertl struck again when he was able to beat Hutton off a rebound of a Brent Burns shot.

The teams went to OT, and the Predators managed to kill off a penalty and hold the Sharks off the board.

In the shootout, Logan Couture was the only scorer to seal the win for the Sharks.

Some observations:

  • The Predators are certainly not inspiring a sense of confidence heading into the playoffs. Yes, they are in the playoffs, but this team should be sharpening their game. Instead, they are just muddling along, and I am afraid they are not going to be able to flip a switch and turn their game back on when the post season gets here. Sloppy play, defensive breakdowns, and a lack of mental focus are troubling. Hopefully, this team gets its act together in the last 3 games.
  • Stefan Elliott saw action in his second game due to the absence of Ryan Ellis. Elliott looked much better in this game- more confident and positionally sound. Good experience for Elliott.
  • Roman Josi picked up an assist on Weber's goal, his 45th of the year.
  • The Predators continued their awful play in the face off dot, winning only 29% of their draws. This is an area of the Predators game that has to improve quickly.
This team has shown flashes of being outstanding, yet they have also shown glimpses of mediocrity. Until they decide to get consistent and elevate their game, I will not be confident in their prospects in the playoffs.

There are 3 regular season games left, boys.

Time to get your act together.

My three stars:

1. Tomas Hertl

2. Logan Couture

3. Carter Hutton

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Predators Fall Flat Against the Penguins

The Nashville Predators traveled to the Consol Energy Center to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins and were looking for the win that would clinch a playoff spot.

They are still waiting.

Pekka Rinne was under siege by the Penguins and gave up 4 goals- two to Phil Kessel and one each to Kris Letang and Patric Hornqvist, the last 2 power play goals, before being pulled in the third period in favor of Carter Hutton.

Ryan Johansen and James Neal tallied for the Predators. Joey's goal tied the game at 1 and Neal's goal brought the Predators to within one at 3-2. Hornqvist's power play goal stretched the lead back to 4-2.

Nick Bonino made it 5-2 late in the third period.

That was the final score of a game that got away from the Predators, a game where they failed to respond to the attack and pressure of the Penguins.

Some observations:

  • Stefan Elliott made his NHL debut on the Predators blue line. Ryan Ellis was injured in the previous game against Dallas and Elliott was the call up from Milwaukee. Elliott was paired with Barret Jackman.
  • Colin Wilson was a healthy scratch. No surprise there as Wilson has had zero productivity.
  • The Predators are reverting to mid-season form, and that is bad. Every mistake that the Predators are making is winding up in the back of the net. One can look at Rinne and say he played a bad game (it wasn't his greatest, but it was altogether bad), but there was a lot of scrambling in front of Rinne and some defensive breakdowns, especially on Kessel's first goal. The Predators are also regressing in their breakouts and offensive attack, and this is not a good sign as they try to go into the playoffs with some kind of momentum.
  •  In their 3 game losing skid, the Predators have looked stunned by the intensity and pressure of their opponent. This is a very bad sign, because the playoffs are nothing but intensity and pressure. This team has got to begin to again elevate their game or the consequences will not be pretty.
  • The Predators PK was woeful, giving up 2 goals on 4 man advantage attempts by the Penguins.
  • Let's face it, the blue line has gotten unsettled. Elliott looked lost; Jackman was often slow and out of position, and Matty Ek has been getting a bit loose in his coverage. yes, the Preds missed Ellis, but the fact remains that the play on the blue line in front of Rinne has been lax. This group has to get their game back together quickly.
  • I like the response from Johansen and Neal. Both of these players have been consistent in their game and are still contributing.
  • In this skid, the Predators have been getting whipped in the face off dot. Tonight was no different as they won 23 of 53 draws.
  • One difference in the Predators right now is that there is no secondary scoring from the third and 4th lines. The bottom six forwards have to contribute. Goals from the 4th line are gravy, but the third line, that had been clicking, has gone cold. That line has to heat up again for the Predators to have the kind of scoring that they need to have to win games.

This three game losing streak has been ugly. Ugly from the standpoint that in 2 of the 3 games the Predators haven't matched the intensity and desperation of their opponents.

That is not a good sign at all.

And it has to change quickly.

My three stars:

1. Phil Kessel

2. James Neal

3. Kris Letang

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Predators Can't Finish, Fall to the Stars 5-2

The Nashville Predators traveled to Dallas looking to rebound from a lackluster effort the night before in a tough contest with the Stars.

This game would be a good measuring stick for the Predators, not only to see how they would rebound from a bad game but also how they would stack up against the best team in the West.

The Predators would be found wanting.

Ryan Ellis opened the scoring with a short handed goal, a blast past Kari Lehtonen to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.

The Stars would tie the game as the Predators defense completely broke down and lost the Stars Jamie Benn coming over the boards. Benn was sent in on a breakaway and he beat Pekka Rinne 5 hole to tie the game at 1.

The second period saw the Predators crumble, giving up 2 goals in 46 seconds. Radek Faksa scored, beating Ryan Johansen back on defense for an easy tap in. Jason Spezza scored on a shot from the slot to give the Stars a 3-1 lead.

Once again, the Predators had dug a huge hole.

The Predators answered on the power play as Viktor Arvidsson, filling in for the injured Ryan Ellis and getting his first meaningful power play action of the year, blew a shot past Lehtonen to make it 3-2.

A furious rally by the Predators in the third period that saw them hit 3 posts went for naught, as the Stars Patrick Sharp and Jamie Benn hit empty net goals to secure a 5-2 win.

Some observations:

  • Mini-me...uh, Ryan Ellis is a small defenseman, but wow, he can crank a slap shot. He absolutely stepped into one to blow the puck past Kari Lehtonen. Ellis is going to lose the physical match up against the bigger, heavy forwards, but he makes up for it with good hockey sense and that aforementioned wickedly hard shot.
  • Paul Gaustad returned to the line up after missing 10 games. He skated on the left wing of a line centered by Colton Sissons. folks, enjoy Gaustad's last few games with the Predators. He has been a good soldier, but he will not be back next season.
  • What a horrible defensive breakdown by Ellis and Barret Jackman. Completely unaware of the Stars players coming over the boards. Oh yeah, that Stars player coming over the board just happened to be their most dangerous forward, Jamie Benn. Of course, that mistake resulted in a Benn breakaway goal.
  • The Predators lost Ellis in the first period as he went down after taking a shot to the head. He played one more shift after the injury and then did not return.
  • I continue to like the play of Arvidsson. There is no doubt that the Aardvark has to get strong, but goodness, he has to have one of the biggest hearts on this team. He jumped in and played very well on the power play, not looking out of place at all.
  • The push by the Predators in the third period was excellent. The finish was lacking. If the Predators had some puck luck with the post, the outcome might have been different. Coulda, woulda, shoulda.
The Predators brief lapse in the second period cost them another game. This team is good, but against a quality opponent they are not good enough to overcome those lapses.

Let's face it, the remainder of the season is not going to be a cakewalk. This team is going to have to buck up and start playing a full 60 minutes.

Don't back into the playoffs, boys.

My three stars:

1. Jamie Benn

2. Viktor Arvidsson

3. Alex Goligoski

Monday, March 28, 2016

Predators Stumble Out of the Gate in Loss to the Avalanche

With a chance to clinch a playoff spot on home ice against a struggling Colorado avalanche team, the Nashville Predators came out and crapped the bed.

Spotting the Avs a 3 goal lead off sloppy plays, egregious turnovers, and a lackadaisical effort for much of the game, the Predators tried to rally late but fell 4-3.

The Avs jumped out to a quick 3 goal lead in the first period. Mattias Ekholm set up the Avs first goal with a brutally bad turnover, throwing a blind backhand pass right into the slot and onto the tape of Blake Comeau, who had an easy shot past a surprised Pekka Rinne.

Gabriel landeskog made it 2-0 when he out muscled Shea Weber at the front of the net and poked the puck through Rinne's pads.

Jack Skille  made it 3-0 when he skated alone into the slot and banged home a rebound of a Cody MacLeod shot. The poor effort of the team resulted in Rinne being pulled for Carter Hutton.

The Predators showed some life when Craig Smith placed a perfect shot over the shoulder of Semyon Varlamov to make it 3-1 at the end of the first period.

After a scoreless second period, the Avs made it 4-1 off another Predator turnover. Shawn Matthias was the beneficiary and he floated a puck over the shoulder of Hutton with no Predator defender to challenge the effort.

The Predators tried to make it a game late in the third period when Colton Sissons deflected in a Miikka Salomaki shot to make it 4-2.

Roman Josi made it 4-3 with a laser over the shoulder of Varlamov, but that would be it for the Predators as they wasted a chance to capture a critical win.

Some observations:

  • The Avalanche are a desperate team, and everyone knew they would come out with energy and urgency. The Predators were not ready for that effort and they were swamped early in the game. it didn't help that they played some stupid hockey. The Preds better get ready, because this was a taste of playoff hockey, and this game found them lacking in effort.
  • Roman Josi recorded his 13th goal of the season, which gives him 57 points on the year. That is a new franchise record for points by a defenseman.
  • The Predators are now 4-19-5 when they trail after 2 periods.
  • Craig Smith hit the 20 goal mark with his first period goal. That is the third consecutive season that he has tallied at least 20 goals.
  • It sure would be nice to see some production from Colin Wilson, wouldn't it? His offside play negated a goal by Salomaki and he just looks like he couldn't find the back of the net if his life depended on it.
This game was about as bad of a start that this team has had in a long while. They cannot dig the kind of hole that they did in the first period and expect a good outcome. Even worse, their level of play was awful. Stupid passes and poor puck management wound up costing them dearly.

Hopefully they get it out of their system.

If not, they will get trucked tomorrow night in Dallas.

My three stars:

1. Gabriel Landeskog

2. Craig Smith

3. Blake Comeau

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Predators Pummel Columbus 5-1

The Nashville Predators are playing for playoff positioning.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are playing out the string.

That was never more evident at the Bridgestone Arena as the Predators demolished the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-1.

James Neal, Mattias Ekholm. Craig Smith, Shea Weber, and Calle Jarnkrok tallied for the Predators. Boone Jenner notched the lone goal for the BJ's.

Joonas Korpisalo faced a barrage of shots from the Predators, including a franchise record 27 in the first period. He got little help from his teammates, who mustered only 19 shots for the game.

Pekka Rinne had time to listen to his iPod, read a book, and write a couple of notes as the BJ's threatened only once in the game, and that was a goal from Boone Jenner as he poked a rebound past Rinne before the defense could get back into position.

Some observations:

  • This was as complete game by the Predators. Defensively, the Predators took away any quality scoring chances by the BJ's. Offensively, the Predators attacked all night, pouring shots on net. They played disciplined hockey, taking only 2 penalties on the night and killing them both. Perhaps the most heartening aspect of the Predators game was that they attacked all night, never letting their foot off the gas. Too often, we have seen the Predators get a lead and go into a shell. Not tonight. The attack mode was going for a full 60 minutes.
  • I know it is easy to say this was the BJ's and that they have nothing to play for, but I would strongly disagree. These players are playing for contracts and ice time, not to mention pride. Think this type of game doesn't hurt? Think pride and egos weren't bruised? The BJ's have a talented core that has yet to gel (for whatever reason), but they are NHL'ers and they have pride and the self interest to impress their coach or some other NHL team. So yes, there was something to play for on the BJ side of the ice.
  • Since February 12, the Predators have logged more points (33) than any other team in the NHL. The team has gone 14-2-5 during that stretch.
  • All time, Nashville is 54-19-7 against the BJ's, including a 32-5-4 mark at the Bridge.
  • Roman Josi picked up 3 assists to set a franchise mark for assists by a defenseman.
  • Shea Weber's power play goal moved him to second all time in goals for the franchise. Weber's 18th goal of the season gives him 164 for his career, moving him past Marty Erat (163) into second place. behind David Legwand (210).
  • James Neal scored the first goal of the game with a perfectly placed shot to give him 30 goals for the season. The last time the Predators had two 30 goal scorers was 2005-06 when Steve Sullivan and Paul Kariya accomplished the feat.
  • The Predators were only 35% in the face off dot tonight. They can get away with that against a team in the BJ's position. They cannot against a playoff team.
  • The game against the Canucks on Thursday was a slog. Tonight, the Predators came out with jump and out skated the BJ's all night. When the Predators are skating and playing with jump, they are a deadly team that can create all sorts of problems for the opposition.
  • I continue to like the play of Viktor Arvidsson. The Aardvark creates with his speed and puts all kinds of pressure on the opposing D with his pressure and speed. He HAS to get stronger, but the Aardvark is quietly becoming a player that is creating problems for the defenders he faces.
Solid win by the Preds, a win that showed they can be not only explosive but can surgically take apart an opponent. It will get tougher against some desperate opponents, but this team is gelling and playing some great hockey at the right time.

Now to keep it up.

My three stars:

1. Roman Josi

2. James Neal

3. Shea Weber

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Predators Steal 2 Points with Late Comeback, SO Win Over the Canucks

Sometimes, a team steals a point. Occasionally, they steal two.

Tonight, the Nashville Predators did just that, playing lackluster and sloppy hockey for 52 minutes against the Vancouver Canucks before getting goals from James Neal and Filip Forsberg to tie the game in regulation.

In a shootout, Ryan Johansen and Craig Smith scored while only Jared McCann was able to tally for the Canucks, and improbably the Predators escaped with a 3-2 win.

The Canucks had not scored in 235 minutes, yet hung 2 goals on the Predators in the first period.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Bo Horvat gathered in a puck that bounced over the stick of Roman Josi and slid the puck past Pekka Rinne to give the Canucks a 1-0 lead.

The Canucks extended the lead to 2-0 on the power play as Daniel Sedin was alone in the slot and he blasted a puck past Rinne.

The Predators were out worked and out skated for most of the game. That changed 11:56 into the third as James Neal spun loose down low and sniped a shot past Ryan Miller to cut the deficit to 2-1.

Filip Forsberg wrapped in a puck from behind the net to tie the game at 2.

The overtime was scoreless (AT LEAST THE PREDATORS DIDN'T LOSE IN OT!) before the shootout heroics from Johansen and Smith and stop excellent stops from Rinne to secure the win.

Some observations:

  • As horrific as the Predators have been in OT, with this win they go to 4-1 in the shootout.
  • The Predators are 11-2-2 in their last 15 games.
  • When the game is on the line, your key players have to step up. Tonight, James Neal and Filip Forsberg did just that. Neal notched his 29th goal with a perfectly placed shot to the far post. Forsberg was in the high traffic area and beat Miller from behind to tuck the puck inside the post to tie the game. Leadership and effort paid off for two players that have been huge contributors for the Preds during this run.
  • The first 52 minutes of play by the Predators were some of the most putrid hockey they have played in quite some time. They were out worked and out skated and the Canucks forecheck and trap seemed to befuddle the Predators for most of the game. Lazy and sloppy play almost cost them this game. But once they started skating and getting the puck deep, they created some problems for the Canucks. Let's just not wait so late in the game to get it going, mmmkay, boys?
  • The 31st sellout for the team, a new franchise record. Big ups to the fans in Smashville. This was the 12th consecutive sellout for the Predators.
  • Colin Wilson picked up an assist on Neal's goal for his 200th NHL point.
  • Ryan Ellis had an assist on Forsberg's goal for his 100th NHL point.
  • The Predators have played 36 1 goal games this season and have picked up points in 29 of those games (16-7-13).
  • The Predators gave up a power play goal for the first time in 8 games.
  • The Predators held the Canucks without a shot in OT. They had some opportunities to pick up only their second OT win of the season with a 4 on 3 power play for the final 1:59 but could not get good looks and shots. Which is typical of this team in OT.
This game was flat out ugly for most of regulation. Yet the Predators found a way to win and get 2 critical points. The big take away- when this team skates, they are usually going to have a good chance to win. When they stand around, anyone can beat them.

That almost happened tonight.

Learn this lesson.

And keep the points coming.

My three stars:

1. Filip Forsberg

2. James Neal

3. Pekka Rinne

Monday, March 21, 2016

Playoff Preview? Predators De-throne the Kings 5-2

In a potential playoff match up, The Nashville Predators blitzed the Los Angeles Kings 5-2 at Bridgestone Arena behind a 3 goal second period outburst.

Ryan Johansen had a goal and 2 assists; James Neal had a goal and an assist; Mike Fisher added a power play goal; Filip Forsberg scored his 30th; and Roman Josi finished the scoring with an empty netter.

Drew Doughty and Alec Martinez tallied for the Kings.

After a scoreless first period, James Neal took a pass from Ryan Johansen and sniped a shot past Jonathan Quick to open the scoring.

Mike Fisher, on a night where the team honored him for his 1,000th NHL game, took a shot from the face off circle that Quick kicked out to the slot. Fisher followed his shot and poked it past Quick while falling down to make it 2-0.

Filip Forsberg finished the second period scoring, tapping a rebound past Quick for his 30th goal of the season and making it 3-0 Predators.

That scoring outburst would chase Quick from the game and Jonas Enroth would enter the net for the third period.

The Kings started to claw back into the game when Drew Doughty took a shot from the point that hit the stick of Roman Josi and caromed past Rinne to make it 3-1 just 28 seconds into the third period.

Alec Martinez increased the pucker factor among Pred fans with a shot from the point that went through traffic and eluded Rinne to make it 3-2.

Ryan Johansen gave the Predators some breathing room when he redirected a Shea Weber shot over the pads of Enroth to make it 4-2.

Roman Josi added a 200 foot emty net goal to seal the win for the Predators.

Some observations:

  • Filip Forsberg became just the 5th Predator to tally 30 or more goals and the first to do it since Patric Hornqvist in 2009-10. Forsberg just has great hockey sense to go along with his superb skills. He knows how to find the quiet areas of the ice and reads plays well. This allows him to get into prime scoring position and he has the skills set to take advantage. A solid night tonight for Forsberg as he was physical and strong on the puck.
  • Big ups to Mike Fisher. On a night where he was honored for the milestone of 1,000 games, Fisher scored a gritty power play goal and was a force in all zones tonight. Fisher is that solid leader that every team must have, and he does and excellent job in that role. Fisher's goal was all heart, fighting through traffic to get his rebound in the slot, and he had the presence to put the puck in the net while being knocked to the ice. All heart.
  • He didn't get on the score sheet tonight, but Viktor Arvidsson played an excellent game. he used his speed to create in the offensive zone and to harass the Kings on the forecheck. He gives up a lot in stature, but nothing in character. If the Aardvark can get stronger, he will be a dangerous player. 
  • With 2 points tonight, James Neal has 400 career points.
  • In their last 9 games, the Predators are 6-0-3 against the Kings. think this would be an amazing playoff match up?
  • The Predators killed off all 4 of the Kings power plays and have killed off the last 27 man advantage attempts by their opponents.
  • The Predators are starting to assert themselves again on home ice. The now have points in 8 straight games at Bridgestone Arena.
  • Pekka Rinne was outstanding, thwarting some good scoring chances by the Kings. Rinne tracked the puck well, and although he was beaten twice, the shots that beat him were impossible to stop. The confidence that Rinne is playing with has spread to the team in front of him and it is reflected in their level of play. This team will go as far as Rinne will carry them.
  • Roman Josi set a career high for assists with his 41st helper tonight.
  • Before tonight, each of the last 8 games the Predators have played against the Kings have been one goal games. The Predators are 5-0-3 in those games.
This was a solid effort tonight against a very good L.A. team, who is the first Western Conference team to clinch a playoff spot. The Kings are a talented and heavy team, and the Predators showed they can play with the best and beat the best.

This is a great confidence booster for the Predators.

Now that confidence needs to translate into more wins and points.

My three stars:

1. Mike Fisher

2. Ryan Johansen

3. James Neal

Friday, March 18, 2016

Capital Punishment: Capitals Pound the Predators 4-1

The Nashville Predators made a stop at the Phone Booth- the Verizon Center- to take on the Washington Capitals.

The Capitals have emerged from the phone booth looking like Superman this season, having already clinched a playoff spot and looking like the favorite for the President's Trophy. Head Coach Barry Trotz has his team playing like supermen, and the Predators face a daunting task in stopping the high flying Capitals.

Carter Hutton got the start with the Predators having played in Nashville the previous night. Braden Holtby was between the pipes for the Capitals.

After a scoreless first period, the Predators jumped out to a 1-0 lead courtesy of a Filip Forsberg power play goal.

That was the equivalent of the Predators tugging on Superman's cape.

The Caps exploded for 3 second period goals as Daniel Winnik scored twice and T.J. Oshie scored to give the Capitals a 3-1 lead going into the second intermission.

The assault by the Caps continued as Andre Burakovsky scored just 18 seconds into the third period to make it 4-1.

That was all the Capitals would need as the Predators looked lifeless and mustered no challenge in the remainder of the game.

Some observations:

  • Anthony Bitetto was scratched with a lower body injury, and Petter Granberg was back in on the blue line.
  • Don't you know it has to chap the Caps fans to see the success that Forsberg is having? The dynamic young forward is going to be a star in the League and the Caps have nothing to show for that trade with Martin Erat out of the League and Michael Latta having been traded.
  • Good to see the power play click for the second game in a row. This unit has to get some consistency and become a threat.
  • Great passing led to great scoring plays for the Capitals on their first 2 goals. They showed great vision and their passing was surgical. This was especially true on Oshie's goal as Evgeny Kuznetsov made a perfect blind backhand pass to Oshie for an easy goal.
  • That third goal by Hutton was a back breaker. I can't fault him on the first 2 goals- the Caps were spaced perfectly and had the Predators defense chasing. But that third, you just have to stop that one.
  • As hard as it is to say, the Predators just looked outclassed by the Capitals. Yes, I know that this game was the second of a back to back, but the Caps clearly had more talent and were just skating around the Predators all game. It didn't help that the team in front of Hutton didn't give him much help and they looked like they lost their confidence with Hutton in net.
  • Not a good night for Ryan Johansen, who picked up 3 minor penalties and was ineffective in the offensive zone.
  • The Predators took 20 minutes in penalties, including a 10 minute misconduct on Mike Ribeiro.
  • The Predators were dominated in the face off circle, winning just 42% of their draws, which helped the Caps possess the puck for long stretches of the night. 
  • On a positive note, the Predators killed off all 4 of the Caps power play chances, including a late 5 on 3 to end the game (to be fair, the Caps weren't trying to score with the 2 man advantage over the last 35 seconds of regulation).
You could call this game a measuring stick game against the best team in the NHL, and the Predators were found wanting. Yes, the Caps were rested and the Predators were fatigued. But they lacked any jump and the miscues cost them some goals.

It's a learning experience. A painful one.

And the Predators learned that you don't tug on superman's cape.

My three stars:

1. Daniel Winnik

2. Evgeny Kuznetsov

3. Filip Forsberg

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Johansen and Neal Carry the Predators to 4-2 Victory Over the Islanders

The Nashville Predators returned home to the friendly confines of Bridgestone Arena and showed themselves to be less than gracious hosts to the New York Islanders. The Predators dispatched the Islanders 4-2 for their second win in a row and their 4th win in their last 6 games.

James Neal, Ryan Ellis, Ryan Johansen, and Austin Watson (empty netter) tallied for the Predators. Ryan Pulock notched his first NHL goal and Brock Nelson finished the scoring for the Islanders.

Neal and Johansen each had a goal and an assist.

Neal gave the Predators a 1-0 lead going into the first intermission, taking a nice feed from Calle Jarnkrok and burying a shot from the slot past Thomas Greiss.

Pulock tied the game with a shot from the blue line that Pekka Rinne never saw until it hit the back of the net to tie the game.

Ryan Ellis scored with a laser while the Predators were on the power play. Ellis deposited the shot under the crossbar with Mike Fisher in front screening Greiss.

Ryan Johansen took a lead pass from Anthony Bitetto and skated in alone on Greiss. RyJo fired a wicked wrist shot over the glove of Greiss into the top corner to make it 3-1.

Nelson was able to get a shot past Rinne, who got most of the puck but it leaked under his arm and over the goal line to make it 3-2 going into the second intermission.

The only scoring in the third was an empty net goal from Watson with just under a minute remaining.

Some observations:

  • Great vision and on ice awareness from Calle Jarnkrok to set up the Predators first goal. He drew three isles defenders to him and was able to spot Neal and hit him with a perfect backhand pass. The Real Deal made no mistakes in whistling a wrist shot past Greiss.
  • Neal has been on fire recently, tallying 21 (12G-9A) points in his last 28 games. He has 4 goals in his last 2 games and has recorded at least one point in 10 of his last 11 games against the Islanders (7G-9A). 
  • With 2 points tonight, Neal now has 398 career points.
  • The Predators took no penalties tonight.
  • The Islanders took one penalty for the game, and the Predators power play converted (huge sigh of relief) on their opportunity with the man advantage.
  • The Predators are 12-7-2 all time against the Islanders. They are 8-3-0 against the Isles at Bridgestone Arena.
  • Both goalies made some very good saves tonight. Rinne had to scramble in the second period as the Islanders stepped up their game and brought some good pressure. I can't fault him on the Pulock goal that made its way through a maze of bodies, but the Nelson goal should have never happened. Greiss faced considerably more pressure than Rinne in the first period especially, and he made some very good saves, including a spectacular save on a Ryan Ellis backhand from the slot.
  • The Predators offense never stopped coming, though. The Ellis goal was a blast just under the crossbar. Johansen's goal was a pure goal scorer's goal, over the glove and into the top corner. I like the fact that the Predators keep coming with the pressure. This is the formula for success for this team.
  • The Predators did an exceptional job most of the night of disrupting the Isles breakouts. Their forecheck and pressure in the neutral zone negated the speed of the Islanders and made it difficult for their potent offense to find rhythm and space. How effective were they? They held the Islanders to 2 shots on goal in the third period, and for the game, they out shot the Islanders 32-22.
  • The Predators have 1 regulation loss in their last 17 games (11-1-5).
This was a solid win against a very good team. It should give the Predators confidence that they can own the ice at home. They will need to do so if they are to have continued success.

The Predators improved to 36-22-13, good for 85 points. They are 4th in the Central and sit 3 points behind the Blackhawks for 3rd.

They will get an opportunity to close that gap tomorrow night in Washington.

My three stars:

1. Ryan Johansen

2. James Neal

3. Ryan Ellis 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Neal's Hat Trick Leads the Predators to A 3-2 Win Over the Oilers

The Nashville Predators wrapped up 2 weeks on the road with a stop at Rexall Place to take on the Edmonton Oilers. The Predators 14 game point streak was stopped in their last game, a 4-2 loss to the Canucks, and the Predators were looking to get back to the win column to maintain their lead in the Western Conference Wild Card race.

James Neal would carry the Predators to the 3-2 win, scoring all of the Predators goals.

Jordan Eberle and Neal tallied in the first period to send the teams into the first intermission tied at 1. Eberle scored after a turnover by the Predators and was set up by Connor McDavid. Eberle redirected a perfect pass from McDavid in the low slot. Neal tallied off a head man pass from Anthony Bitetto for a breakaway goal.

Iiro Pakarinen took advantage of a broken stick of Mattias Ekholm to make it 2-1 early in the second period, taking a centering pass that Matty Ek could not defend, lifting a shot that floated over the shoulder of Pekka Rinne.. That goal was immediately answered by Neal, who notched his second goal from outside the face off circle with a shot through traffic that beat Laurent Brossoit to tie the game at 2.

Neal would strike again in the third period for his third goal of the game with a wicked wrist shot to give the Predators a 3-2 lead.

The Predators would hold off the Oilers with Brossoit pulled for the extra attacker for the final 1:23. Shea Weber was in the box for the final 12 seconds to give the Oilers a 6 on 4 advantage, but the Predators defenders and Rinne were solid and secured the 3-2 win.

Some observations:

  • After being a healthy scratch for the last 5 games, Barret jackman drew back into the line up. Petter Granberg was a scratch.
  • Connor McDavid was in the line up for the Oilers, having missed the last contest between the two team with a broken collarbone.
  • A brutal turnover by Shea Weber led to the Oilers first goal. Those are the types of plays this team has to clean up or they will be haunted by them in the remainder of this season.
  • Nice pass from Anthony Bitetto to spring James Neal for the Predators first goal. Bitetto had his head up and put the pass right on the tape of Neal's stick. Neal's first period goal was his 24th of the season.
  • Neal carried the Predators offensively, picking up a hat trick. His goals came off his wickedly quick release that left Brossoit with no chance on the shot. When Neal is on, he is a handful for the opposing defense, and he was on tonight.
  • Pekka Rinne had to make some big saves, especially in the second period as the Predators gave up several odd man rushes and breakaways. Indicative of the sloppy play and turnovers by the Predators that gave a dangerous group of forwards from the Oilers some good scoring chances.
  • The third period saw the Predators defense settle down and do a better job of limiting the quality scoring chances by the Oilers. They were especially good at disrupting the Oilers speed coming through the neutral zone.
  • The Predators PK continues their excellent play, killing all 3 of the Oilers power play chances. The PK unit has killed 18 straight power plays.
  • The Predators power play continues to struggle, going 0-2 and not generating any quality chances. Gotta improve this area, boys. 
  • Calle Jarnkrok has continued to blossom on the first line. He plays in all situations and gives the Predators quality minutes and lots of jump. He picked up 2 assists tonight.
  • The Predators picked up 7 out of a possible 10 points on this 5 game road trip.

This game was not pretty by any stretch, but it was a good win against a team that has explosive offensive potential. It is especially heartening to see the team bounce back after the dud of a game against Vancouver.

Kudos to James Neal, who put the team on his back and provided all the offense the Predators would need. It is important to have contributions from all lines and all players, and Neal was superb tonight with his second hat trick as a Predator.

The Preds return home to take on the Islanders on Thursday.

Time to keep piling up the points.

My three stars:

1. James Neal

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Calle Jarnkrok

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Slow Start and Sloppy Defense Cost the Predators In 4-2 Loss to the Canucks

The Nashville Predators have picked up points in 14 straight games. They were looking to make it 15 with a stop at Rogers Arena to take on the Vancouver Canucks.

The Predators started the game acting like just showing up would be good for a win. The Canucks out worked and out skated the Predators all over the ice and for a full 20 minutes. That effort resulted in 2 goals in spite of Pekka Rinne standing on his head to make some great saves. Sven Baertschi and Derek Dorsett both scored off defensive breakdowns to give the Canucks a 2-0 lead.

The Predators showed some life in the second period, getting shots on net and scoring twice. Both goals were set up by great assists by Roman Josi as he set up Mike fisher for the first Predators goal. Fisher drove the slot and redirected Josi's pass past Ryan Miller. His second assist set up Colton Sissons for a sweet goal.

Unfortunately, the Predators defense broke down once again as those 2 Predator goals were sandwiched around a goal by Bo Harvat, who beat the Predators defenders to the front of the net for an easy goal.

The Predators pulled Rinne late in the third period for the extra attacker and Daniel Sedin scored the empty netter to seal the Predators fate and the game by a 4-2 margin.

Some observations:

  •  How about Prince Filip dropping the gloves? Forsberg took exception to a hit on Mike Ribeiro and dropped them with Jake Virtanen. Forsberg picked up his first fighting major of his career. Good to see his response, but you hate to see him run the risk of an injury on that type of play.
  • Rinne has to be superb in the first period. The Predators offense didn't bother to show up and he was under siege. The big netminder was equal to the task, including making a couple of spectacular saves to keep the game from getting out of hand. Unfortunately, the Canucks pressure and defensive breakdowns finally succeeded in getting shots past Rinne.
  • The Predators sluggish starts are disconcerting to say the least. Trying to dig out of a hole is not a formula for success. Tonight, the Predators were sleepwalking in the first period and it bit them in the ass. Standing around and watching a team that will not sniff the playoffs out skate you all over the ice is incredibly disappointing.
  • The Canucks first 2 goals came as a result of Predators defenders getting beat down low (Baertschi) and losing a player in the low slot (Dorsett). The defensive breakdowns left Rinne out to dry and have to be cleaned up. 
  • Good to see the Predators finally wake up in the second period as their relentless pressure finally resulted in a Mike Fisher goal. Fisher's line has been playing some very good hockey of late and they have been getting some positive results.
  • And yet once again,  the Predators D gets beat by a Canuck driving the net. This is ridiculous to see this happen so consistently. Horvat had a clear path to the front of the net by out hustling Ryan Ellis down the ice and to the net.
  • Goodness gracious is Roman Josi good or what? What a fantastic assist on Fisher's goal and then an even better one on the goal by Sissons. Josi is a solid defenseman and an exceptional offensive talent that is so dangerous carrying the puck.
  • The Predators PK has done an excellent job, killing the last 14 man advantage attempts. Some of those have been extended power plays and the Preds have shown great hustle and perseverance in killing the penalties.
  • On the other side, the Predators power play has sputtered, failing on the their last 13 attempts.

The Predators were totally inept in the first period and it cost them.

Oh, and some really sloppy defense that gave the Canucks plenty of prime opportunities.

More disturbing is the fact that the Predators have look disengaged and lethargic for good stretches of their last 2 games, games against teams that are out of the playoff race.

This is an aspect of the Predators game that has to change. It's late in the season and crunch time, and the Predators have got to bring a much better effort if they want to win these games.

Bring this same kind of effort against Edmonton on Monday night and they will get embarrassed.

My three stars:

1. Bo Horvat

2. Roman Josi

3. Ryan Miller

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Predators Flame Out In OT (What Else Is new?) to Calgary

The Nashville Predators are red hot, having gone 9-0-4 in their last 13 games. The Calgary Flames are struggling. Two teams moving in the opposite direction clashed at  the Saddledome in Calgary, with one looking to continue their torrid play and one looking to reverse their fortunes.

Instead, it was the Flames that looked like a team contending for a playoff spot while the Predators were listless and looked tired.

The Predators gave up 2 first period goals in 10 seconds as Johnny Gaudreau hammered in all the scoring the Flames would need to put the Predators in a big hole.

The Predators failed to generate any quality scoring chances in the first 40 minutes- heck, they rarely generated any shots against Joni Ortio, while Carter Hutton gave up the 2 quick goals before settling in and making some good saves under a barrage of shots from the Flames.

Tony Bitetto finally got the Predators on the board with just over 12 minutes to go in the third period as he jumped up on the play and knocked in a rebound for his first NHL goal. Bitetto's marker made it 2-1.

That goal seemed to finally get the Predators going as they peppered Ortio with shots.

That energy translated to a tying goal with the extra attacker on for the Predators with 1:18 remaining in the game. Viktor Arvidsson slid a shot toward the net and Mike Fisher was able to slap it past Ortio to make it 2-2.

And as improbable as it seemed the way this game was unfolding, the Predators had picked up a point and sent the game to OT.

Of course, heading to OT is a guaranteed loss for the Predators and they were true to form as Mikael Backland pots the OT winner as the Predators fall 3-2.

Some observations:

  •  The first goal that Hutton gave up was a wicked good shot by Gaudreau that was perfectly placed. The second goal was one that Hutton cannot allow. He was beaten cleanly through a wide open 5 hole.
  • But on that second goal...what a keystone cops play by the Predators blue liners Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm. Ellis was surprised by the speed of Gaudreau and tripped over his feet, taking out Ekholm in the process. This comedy of errors allowed Gaudreau to break in alone for the shot.
  • The Predators had no jump in the first period and it resulted in Head Coach Peter Laviolette throwing the lines in a blender in the second period. That may work every now and then, but the Predators have yet to show that they respond positively to this tactic each time it has been tried this season.
  • The Predators mustered absolutely no response in the second period, generating just 4 shots on net. One of the hallmarks of this streak has been the Predators ability to respond to adversity and falling behind. In the second period, the Predators showed no push back at all.
  • Hutton did make some good saves as the game wore on. The Predators defense was leaky in front of him and he had to come up big on several occasions to keep the Flames off the board.
  • The Predators did not record their first shot on goal in the third period until there was 12:53 remaining on the clock.
  • Great play by Tony Bitetto to record his first NHL goal. He jumped up in the play and had a yawning net to slam home the puck. And a heck of an assist from Mike Fisher, who slid the puck over to Bitetto while on his butt.
  • Viktor Arvidsson continues to impress with his jump and overall level of play. The Aardvark was once again using his speed to create some chances for he and his line mates. I really like the play of Arvidsson and how he has settled in on the wing. Arvidsson picked up assists on both of the Predators goals in regulation.
  •  Once again, the Predators look lost and apathetic in the OT period. Their loss drops their record in the extra frame to 1-12. That is just freaking unbelievable. Win half these games and this team is contending for the Central Division crown.
This was an ugly game by the Predators, but I will take the point. It goes without saying that this team  doesn't believe it can win in OT and they play like it. Yet, you take small victories,and the point is important.

The Predators ran their consecutive point streak to 14 games and they now have 81 points.

Get some rest and get back on the horse on Saturday night.

My three stars:

1. Johnny Gaudreau

2. Viktor Arvidsson

3.Mike Fisher