Friday, January 8, 2016

Predators Sloppy Play Dooms Them in 5-3 Loss to the Avalanche

Ryan Johansen was on the ice for his much anticipated debut for the Nashville Predators as they traveled to the Pepsi Center to take on the Colorado Avalanche.

While there is much anticipation about the appearance of a legitimate number one for the Predators, the importance of this game for the Predators shouldn't be lost.

The Predators hold the last wild card slot in the West, with 45 points. Colorado sits right behind them with 43 points. Patrick Roy, Head Coach of the Avalanche, called this game a "playoff game" and that only served to emphasize the importance of this game.

In a game as important as this to the Predators, their play was horrendously sloppy. They took 6 penalties and gave up 2 power play goals.

The Predators wasted a strong debut by Johansen with an abundance of penalties and sloppy play on the way to dropping a critical game by a 5-3 score.

Johansen made his presence felt immediately with the Predators on the power play. He held the puck before roofing a shot over the shoulder of Semyon Varlamov into a very small space for a Predators 1-0 lead. That was the Predators first shot of the game, and it was beautiful to see the finish and placement on that attempt.

The Avs evened the game on a power play of their own as they outnumbered the Predators down low and Jerome Iginla was able to gather in a rebound and slam it past Pekka Rinne.

The Predators got trapped in their zone late in the period and couldn't clear the puck. The turnover committed by the Predators resulted in a goal by Cody McLeod to make it 2-1.

Ryan Ellis tied the game at 2:45 of the second period with a wrist shot from the face off circle.

The Avs broke that tie as the Predators gave up a 2 on 1 and Gabriel Landeskog buried the shot to make it 3-2.

Once again, the Predators bounced back to tie the game on a wrist shot by Filip Forsberg from the slot. Johansen would pick up an assist on the play.

Tyson Barrie would break the tie with the Avs once again on the power play as he blasted a shot from the high slot to make it 4-3. On the play, Paul Gaustad's stick had broken, and he tried to get a new one from the bench. That decision left Barrie open for the shot.

And that was certainly not a good decision.

Jack Skille iced the game with an empty net goal with 1.4 seconds remaining on the clock for a 5-3 Avs win.

Some observations:

  • Johansen opened the game on a line with James Neal and Colin Wilson. 
  • My goodness, that first goal by Johansen showed what an elite finisher can do. He fit that shot into an extremely small window. That goal was a goal scorers goal, something the Predators have been lacking.
  • Anthony Bitetto was in the line up and paired with Barret Jackman on the third D pair. 
  • With the arrival of Johansen, players moved down in lines. Calle Jarnkrok centered the second line with Filip Forsberg and Mike Ribeiro on the wings. Mike Fisher centered the third line with Craig Smith and Miikka Salomaki on the wings.
  • The Avalanche opened the game with lots of jump, in fact more than the Predators, which forced the Predators into three penalties in the period. The Predators got lucky in that the Avs wiped out one of their power plays with a penalty on the opening face off of the second Preds penalty. 
  • The Predators defense has broken down numerous times recently, and they continued that trend again tonight. Part of this was the pressure that the Avs forecheck put on the Preds defense; part of it was that the Avs outskated the Predators for much of the game. These uncharacteristic breakdowns have cost the Predators as more often than not, the puck is finding the back of the net.
  • Midway of the game, Filip Forsberg moved up to the first line with James Neal and Johansen. That lined combined for the Predators third goal of the game. they had several shifts together before Wilson rejoined that line early early in the third period.
  • The undisciplined play of the Predators cost them this game. The Avs outworked the Predators all over the ice and forced them into taking way too many penalties. And the Avs have an excellent power play and they burned the Predators when they went down a man. This is the kind of play that this team cannot overcome.
  • Austin Watson had a tough game, recording only 5:50 in ice time and was a -2 for the night.
  • Anthony Bitetto logged 12;20 in ice time and was even +/- for the night.
The Predators looked like a team that didn't have a sense of the importance of this game. As it is, by continuing to fail to take care of business, they now find themselves tied with the Avalanche for the last playoff spot.

And if the Predators continue to struggle and play inconsistently, they won't be tied for long.

They will be on the outside looking in.

My three stars:

1. Ryan Johansen

2. Tyson Barrie

3. Carl Soderberg

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