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

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