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

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