Monday, February 15, 2016

Predators Give Away A Point, Fall to the Stars In OT 3-2

The Nashville Predators got a taste of playoff hockey at Bridgestone Arena when they faced off against the Dallas Stars in their second meeting of the year.

The game was physical, tight checking, and intense. In the end, the Stars prevailed in overtime, not on an exceptional play but on a line change that was laughably inept by the Predators. In fact, it would have been hilarious except that it cost the Predators the game.

Trying to get a change with tired players on the ice, Filip forsberg tumbled over the boards and fell flat on his face, allowing the Stars an odd man rush that resulted in  a Mattias Janmark goal to decide the game in favor of the Stars by a 3-2 score.

The teams got there by Craig Smith scoring on a rebound of a Mattias Ekholm shot  past Antti Niemi to send the Predators into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead.

The first 10 minutes of the second period was owned by the Stars. With the Predators on a power play, they gave up a shorthanded goal to Cody Eakin, who placed a shot in the short side corner past Carter Hutton to tie the game at 1.

The Stars took a 2-1 lead as the Predators defense left Ales Hemsky alone in front of the net and he roofed a shot over Hutton.

The Predators tied the game at 2 when Smith controlled the puck behind the net and found Filip Forsberg in the slot and he buried the shot to tie the game at 2 at the end of the second period.

After a scoreless third period that saw both teams get some chances, including a glorious chance by Jamie Benn who was once again left alone in front of the net but was stoned twice by Hutton, the teams headed to overtime.

The extra period has not been kind to the Predators.

It was not again tonight, as the horrible line change left Janmark alone at the side of the net to gather in a rebound of a Tyler Seguin shot and deposit into the open cage.

Some observations:

  • The Predators are going to have to figure out how to play in OT. With tonight's loss, they are 1-9 in the extra five minutes. That's 9 points left on the table for a team that desperately needs points. While the poor line change cost them tonight, the Predators also did not register a shot. I don't know what the problem is for this team in OT. Lots of open ice and talented players but they have not gelled all season long. This is an aspect of their game that has to improve.
  • A tough, physical game that saw the Predators hold their own against a talented Stars team has to be a confidence boost. After getting trucked by a 5-1 margin on New year's Eve, the Predators skated hard and were equal to the task against the Stars tonight. I expected the Stars to have some pushes, but the Predators weathered those and were able to battle back against a very talented squad. While they would have wanted the 2 points, this is the kind of game that this team can continue to build upon.
  • I thought Carter Hutton was outstanding tonight. He made some exceptional saves, including 2 on Benn with 4  minutes to go that helped to secure a point. Hutton has looked more calm and positionally sound and his play has solidified the confidence of the coaches to insert him into the line up.
  • Craig Smith played his rear end off tonight. he was all over the ice battling for the puck and creating scoring chances. His goal came from a simple play of driving the net and following a shot. If Smith can continue to play with this intensity, the points will come for him. He had a goal and an assist tonight.
  • There were 3 other players that stood out to me tonight: Viktor Arvidsson; Miikka Salomaki, and Anthony Bitetto. Arvisson played with his usual speed and energy but was stronger on the puck and created some scoring opportunities. Salomaki is a consistent physical presence on the 4th line and uses that physicality to separate players from the puck and disrupt the opponent's offensive flow. Bitetto has apparently secured the third D pairing with Barrett Jackman. Bitetto is physical and does not shy away from contact. He has grown in confidence and is playing a solid all around game.
  • Forsberg now has 5 goals in his last 5 games. His goal tonight was his 19th of the year.
  • The Predators have one regulation loss in their last 8 contests (6-1-1) at Bridgestone Arena against the Stars. The last time the Stars won in regulation at Bridgestone was April 12, 2013.
This is a game that had many positive aspects for the Predators, but it also one that they let a second point get away.

This team has to limit mistakes and learn to put games away.

They are showing signs of turning the corner.

They need to do so quickly.

My three stars:

1. Mattias Janmark

2. Craig Smith

3. Carter Hutton

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