Saturday, February 27, 2016

Predators Blast the Blues 5-0 Behind Forsberg's Hat Trick

The Nashville Predators returned to Bridgestone Arena looking to continue the momentum they had built on the road as they faced off against the St. Louis Blues in their last meeting of the regular season.

They accomplished that task.

The Predators blasted the blues 5-0 as Pekka Rinne picked up his 4th shutout of the season and Filip Forsberg notched his second natural hat trick in three games.

Craig Smith opened the scoring for the Predators as he gathered in the rebound of a Forsberg shot and poked the rebound past Jake Allen for a 1-0 lead. that was the only goal of the first period, although the Predators were swarming the net and had several great scoring chances.

Forsberg would tally his first goal of the game just 54 seconds into the second period as he would pot a rebound of a Petter Granberg shot to make it 2-0.

Forsberg would make it 3-0 with a wicked shot to the far post off an assist from Craig Smith.

The hat trick goal would come from Forsberg on the power play to make it 4-0 to close out the seocnd period.

That goal would chase Allen and Pheonix Copley would man the pipes for the Blues in the third period.

Colin Wilson would tally the only goal of the third period for the final 5-0 margin for the Predators.

Some observations:

  • Forsberg has been on fire recently, and his second natural hat trick in 3 games gives him 26 goals for the season. Forsberg has been good at finding quiet space on the ice and using his wicked wrist shot to find the back of the net. His second goal was a perfectly placed shot to the far post past Allen and is indicative of his scoring touch. Forsberg is physically strong and will battle in the tough areas of the ice, but his ability to find open space is underrated. Getting to those open areas allows him to use his accurate shot to his advantage and he is definitely a finisher, something the Predators need.
  • Forsberg's second hat trick in a week is the first time in Predators history that a player has recorded two hat tricks in a season.Forsberg is tied for the NHL lead in goals in February with 12. It was also Forsberg's first career 4 point game.
  • My goodness, Rinne was solid again in net. He shut down the potent Blues attack, and as the game wore on, you could see the Blues slump, knowing they weren't going to get a puck past the big Finn. Rinne is playing with confidence and his play breeds confidence in the team in front of him. When Rinne is playing the way he has in his last 5 starts, the Predators are deadly confident and it shows in their play. It bodes well for the Predators that Rinne has found his mojo going into the stretch run.
  • Rinne's shutout was the 40th of his career and the 100th in Predators history. 
  • Welcome to the party, Colin Wilson. It has been a long time since the big forward has found the back of the net, and it was good to see him get a goal. He has been playing well on a line with Mike Fisher and Viktor Arvidsson, and was rewarded for his efforts with a nice goal.
  • The Predators have obviously made a commitment to driving the net and that has been essential to their recent success. They have capitalized on rebounds and the traffic they have brought to the net has created havoc for the opponent's defense and netminder. 
  • Shea Weber missed his third consecutive game with a lower body injury.
  • This was the Predators first win of the season over the Blues. They finished 1-3-1 against their Central Division rival.
  • The Predators needed to find some consistency. They have done just that, going 5-0-3 in the month of February.
This was a complete game against a quality opponent and one that should give the Predators some additional confidence going into the stretch run.

Continue to build on it, boys.

Good things await if you keep playing like this.

My three stars:

1. Filip Forsberg

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Craig Smith

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Rinne Leads the Predators To A Big 2 Points With a 3-1 Victory Over the Blackhawks

The Nashville Predators looked to continue their road points streak with a stop at the United Center to take on Central Division rival Chicago in their last meeting of the regular season.

The Blackhawks have won 3 of the 4 meetings between the teams this season.

The first period saw both teams get some good scoring chances but neither able to find the back of the net.

Brent Seabrook broke the scoreless tie early in the second period with a wrist shot from inside the face off circle past a screened Pekka Rinne to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead.

Viktor Arvidsson evened the game at 1 when he drove the net and sent a sharp angle shot over the shoulder of Corey Crawford.

After a scoreless second period, both teams spent most of the third period probing and looking for an opportunity to score.

That came with 1:52 to go in the third period as Mike Fisher outworked two Hawks defenders on the boards in the Hawks zone and slipped a perfect pass onto the tape of Calle Jarnkrok, who one timed a shot over the shoulder of Crawford to give the Predators a 2-1 lead.

Miikka Salomaki scored into the empty net from his own blue line to make it a 3-1 lead for the Predators.

The Predators would close out the Hawks by that margin for a much needed win.

Some observations:

  • Shea Weber missed his second consecutive game with a lower body injury.
  • Pekka Rinne had to be sharp in the first period as the Hawks had several very good scoring chances. Rinne moved well and did a good job of tracking the puck, including a very nice save on a 2 on 1 rush by the Hawks. If Rinne had not been on his game early, the Hawks would have had several scores in the first 20 minutes. Rinne turned aside 15 of 16 shots in the second period, including a breakaway by Andrew Shaw. For the game, Rinne stopped 38 of 39 shots.
  • Viktor Arvidsson has shown no fear in going to the front of the net and capitalizing on his efforts. His 7th goal of the year was a result of hard work and driving the net and it was a thing of beauty, tucking the puck into a very narrow space. The Aardvark is showing that he belongs and is going to be hard to move out of the line up.
  • The Predators set a franchise record by going 10 straight road games without a loss. They have gone 8-0-2 in their last 10 games.
  • Back to Rinne for a moment. The Predators have often relied on Rinne to steal some games throughout his career. This season, that has rarely been the case. But recently, something has changed about Rinne's game. He has been more efficient in his movements, more calm in the net, and most importantly, looks like he has his swagger back. All of that was evident tonight as Rinne stoned the Hawks for 60 minutes and helped the Predators capture a critical 2 points. Hopefully, this is Rinne, and by extension, the team, starting to peak and play exceptional hockey at a time where they need to do so.
  • The Predators blocked 19 shots while the Hawks had 12 blocks.
  • Mike Fisher did yeoman's work tonight, playing a solid game in all zones and picking up 2 assists.
  • The Predators out hit the Blackhawks 39-21.
To say this was a huge win for the Predators is  understating the obvious. The win allows the Predators to maintain their lead over the Avalanche and extend their lead over the Wild (who lost tonight).

More importantly, this win and the total game played by the team tonight is a massive confidence boost for the squad and for Rinne in particular.

The Predators have proven themselves to be successful road warriors.

Now to bring that mojo home.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Mike Fisher

3. Calle Jarnkrok

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Forsberg's Hat Trick Leads the Predators Over the Leafs 3-2

The Nashville Predators traveled to the Air Canada Centre to take on the Toronto Marlies Maple Leafs in the second of a back to back set and looking for an important 2 points.

The Predators got a natural hat trick from Filip Forsberg to a 3-0 lead at the end of 2 periods. The Predators would need every bit of the offense that Forsberg supplied as they held on for a 3-2 win.

Josh Leivo and Morgan Reilly scored in the third period to make the game very interesting.

The Predators had the look of a team that played the night before in the final frame as they were just hanging on, content to dump the puck out of the zone and unable to muster any offensive push.

Forsberg gave the Predators a 1-0 lead at the end of the first period with a power play marker. Forsberg's goal came on the Predators first shot of the game at 5:46 of the first period.

He would tally twice in the second period for the 3-0 lead going into the second intermission.

Josh Leivo would cost Carter Hutton the shut out with a power play goal 2:23 into the third period.

With James Reimer pulled, Morgan Reilly would cut the Predators lead to 1 and cause the pucker factor in Pred nation to increase exponentially.

The Predators would hold off the Leafs over the final minutes of the third to secure the 3-2 win.


Some observations:

  • Shea Weber was scratched tonight with a lower body injury which resulted in some changes in the D pairings. Ryan Ellis was paired with Roman Josi while Petter Granberg was paired with Mattias Ekholm. Barret Jackman returned to the line up and worked the third pairing with Tony Bitetto. Weber is listed as day to day.
  • Filip Forsberg is just a pure goal scorer, and not just with his quick release and variety of shots. Forsberg knows how to find the quiet areas of the ice and get open for quality shots. Forsberg is not afraid to battle in the hard areas, but his ability to find space in the slot is key to his scoring prowess. With the natural hat trick, Forsberg has 9 goals so far in the month of January.
  • Mattias Ekholm has quietly emerged as a solid blueliner. He is strong on the puck and in front of the net and is a very good possession player. His play has solidified the second D pairing along with Ryan Ellis and they have become a quality second D unit.
  • The Predators had their 4th goal of the night wiped off the board off a coaches challenge and it was deemed that Mike Fisher was just offside on a play where Ryan Ellis scored.
  • The Predators have won all 4 of their back to back contests this season.
  • The Predators blocked 24 shots, while the Leafs had 8 blocks.
  • The Predators were 1 for 2 on the power play. Hopefully this unit starts to build on this positive trend. The Predators PK killed 3 of 4 chances by the Leafs.
  • Hutton is 4-0-1 in his last 5 starts and has provided the quality starts that this team needs. Hutts has looked much more calm and composed in the net and the team in front of him is playing like they have confidence when he is between the pipes. 
  • The Predators are 5-1-3 in their last 9 games, capturing 13 of a possible 18 points. 
  • Roman Josi picked up 2 assists and logged 25:21 TOI.
  • The Predators have picked up points in 9 consecutive road games, a new team high.
This game was one that could have easily gotten away from the Predators, but  they hung tough and secured the vital 2 points. These are the games that this team has to win and they took care of business.

Now it gets tougher with games upcoming against the Blackhawks on the road and the Blues at home.

They have to keep taking care of business.

My three stars:

1. Filip Forsberg

2. Carter Hutton

3. Roman Josi

Monday, February 22, 2016

Predators Ride A Strong Game From Rinne to Defeat the Canadiens In A Shootout 2-1

The Nashville Predators began a 3 game road trip by stopping at the Bell Centre to take on the Montreal Canadiens in their second and last meeting of the season. The Predators captured a 5-1 win at Bridgestone Arena in December.

An early goal by Viktor Arvidsson gave the Predators a 1-0 lead just 3:16 into the first period.

A late first period goal by Brendan Gallagher in a goal mouth scramble tied the game at 1 with 1:17 remaining in the first period.

The remainder of regulation was a grinding contest that saw Pekka Rinne and Mike Condon both make some good saves and neither team find the back of the net. Rinne stopped 26 of 27 shots he faced in regulation, while Condon stopped 28 of 29.

For the 12th time this season, the Predators were heading to OT and they were looking for only their 2nd win in the extra session.

The Predators at least didn't lose this game in OT as neither team could score, even though it looked as if Craig Smith would end the game but managed to bat his own shot away from a wide open net.

Craig Smith would redeem himself in the shootout as he was the only player to score to give the Predators a 2-1 win.

Some observations:

  • Though small in stature, Viktor Arvidsson is not afraid to go into high traffic areas and in front of the net. He was rewarded with the first goal of the game by going to the the front of the net and eluded the Habs D to bang a puck behind Condon. I think the Aardvark can mature into a dangerous player with some more physical strength and experience.
  • The Predators defense was victimized by failing to clear the front of the crease in front of Rinne. Brendan Gallagher was able to establish position on Shea Weber and bang a puck past Rinne to tie the game. The defense has been better recently in clearing the front of the net and they cannot lapse back into letting the opponent establish position in prime scoring areas.
  • Rinne was called upon to make some very good saves, especially in the second period as the Canadiens seized momentum early. Rinne has seemed to be more calm in the net and still has the ability to make the athletic save when called upon. He seems to be playing with more confidence lately, and that is good for the Predators. Rinne has allowed just 3 goals in his last 3 starts, and this is the caliber of play that we have to have to rack up points.
  • Craig Smith had a glorious chance to score late in OT and somehow couldn't get the puck into a wide open net. Truly the hockey gods hate the Predators in OT.
  • But how good was it to see the coaching staff put Smith out in the third round of the shootout and to see him beat Condon top shelf. Smith plays with abandon and to see him get redemption with the game winner in the shootout was sweet.
  • The Predators actually played the OT period with purpose and a sense of urgency. While they didn't win in the OT period, at least they were more competitive than have been all season. There is too much offensive talent on this team not to attack and press the play in a 3 on 3 format, and they did that tonight and although they didn't score, it was still a positive outcome.
This was a big win for the Predators as points are now precious. The Predators now have 67 points to move 1 point in front of Colorado with 2 games in hand.It also places them 3 points in front of the Wild, how have been hot of late.

The Predators have to continue to amass points and play with a sense of desperation.

This was a good start.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Craig Smith

3. Viktor Arvidsson 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Predators Continue Their Futility In OT, Fall to the Kings 2-1

The Nashville Predators and the Los Angeles Kings have played 7 consecutive 1 goal games.

Make it 8.

The Kings capitalized on the poor play of the Predators in overtime to take a 2-1 win at Bridgestone Arena.

Jake Muzzin staked the Kings to a 1-0 lead in the first period as his seeing eye shot from the blue line got cleanly through a maze of bodies to find the back of the net behind Pekka Rinne.

Ryan Ellis tied the game with time winding down in the first period and the Predators on the power play. Ellis gathered in a loose puck at the side of the net and chipped the puck past Jonathan Quick to knot the game at 1.

The next 40 minutes saw both teams attack and counter attack to no avail as both Rinne and Quick were solid in net. The Predators best chance to take the lead came early in the third period as Filip Forsberg hit the post from in close.

Even after 60 minutes, the Predators headed to overtime, where they have been abysmal this season.

They continued that trend, as 2 Predators defenders ran into each other, allowing Tanner Pearson a clean shot that beat Rinne just 1:18 into the extra frame for a 2-1 Kings victory.

Some observations:

  • Rinne has elevated his game in his last two starts. He has allowed 1 goal in 120 minutes of regulation, and I can't really fault him for either goal. the first was through a lot of traffic and the OT winner was off a defensive breakdown. If Rinne can continue to play at this level, the Predators will have a good chance to win most nights.
  • The Predators power play has struggled mightily. Yes, I know our goal came off the man advantage, but the power play was 1-6 tonight and rarely threatened Quick. The Predators power play has fallen back into the mode of not moving and creating space and is way too static. This makes it easier for the opponent to defend, and the Kings did a very good job of that tonight. The man advantage unit is going to have to get more urgency and energy if they are going to be successful.
  • The ineptness of the Predators in OT is ludicrous. The team is now 1-10 in OT, and think of the separation this team could have over the trams chasing them in the standings if they were even .500 in OT. It is obvious that this team has not worked on the 3 on 3 format. They look lost and have no offensive threat. Defensively, they are a Keystone Cops unit. This has to improve, but it very well may be that their play in OT will cost them for the post season.
  • This is the second OT loss to the Kings this season having lost 4-3 in L.A. October 31.
There is not much to say about this game. Well, yes there is.

It was a playoff caliber game, and the Predators matched the physicality of the Kings, out skated for the most, and created some chances.

They were also frustrating beyond measure with their poor play on the power play and in OT.

Good teams adjust their game and make positive things happen on the power play and in OT, something the Predators haven't done.

Until that changes, they will continue to be frustrating and will give away points.

My three stars:

1. Tanner Pearson

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Jonathan Quick

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Rinne Pitches A Shutout, Predators Defeat the Bruins 2-0

The Nashville Predators made first period goals by Craig Smith and Filip Forsberg all the scoring they would need as they defeated the Boston Bruins 2-0 at Bridgestone Arena.

Pekka Rinne was outstanding, making 29 saves to record the shutout.

Smith was able to bang home a rebound of a Forsberg shot to give the Predators a 1-0 lead. Smith was parked at the side of the crease and roofed the shot under the crossbar past Tuukka Rask.

Forsberg gathered in a rebound of a Mattias Ekholm shot from the slot and slid the puck under the pads of Rask for his 20th goal of the season and a 2-0 lead.

That would be all the offense the Predators would need as Rinne locked down the net for the Predators and made some excellent saves, including stopping Brad Marchand on a Bruins 2 on 1 break in the second period.

Mike Ribeiro also picked up 2 assists for the Predators.

Some observations:

  • The Bruins are a very physical team, but the Predators matched the physicality of the visitors. The Predators did a good job of winning puck battles, clearing the slot, and winning control of the puck on the boards. In particular, the Predators defense did a very good job of not allowing many scoring chances from dangerous areas on the ice. This is the way the Predators have to play in front of Rinne or Hutton, and tonight they did a good job of taking the body and clearing the front.
  • Rinne was very good tonight. He moved well and was in control of the crease all night. he did an exceptional job of tracking the puck through traffic and looked like the Pekka of old in making some key saves. His play seemed to infuse the team in front of him with confidence, and this is the kind of game Rinne can build upon. 
  • Tonight was Rinne's 39th career shutout.
  • I continue to like the play of Craig Smith. His energy and hustle are starting to pay off in scoring chances and goals. Smith has been driving the net and he has been rewarded for that play. Smith has now recorded back to back games with a goal. The last time he did this was December 10 and 12th.
  • Filip Forsberg has elevated his level of play recently. He now has goals in 6 consecutive games and his offensive dynamism is creating scoring opportunities. More importantly, he is now finishing those chances.
  • Roman Josi and Shea Weber chewed up some minutes tonight. Josi recorded 29:43 TOI and Weber had 28:42. And these are tough minutes against the top line of the opposition and on the penalty kill. these two guys really stood out for their play on the blue line.
  • By contrast, Mattias Ekholm logged 20:55; Ryan Ellis had 21:05: Barret Jackman had 10:32; and Anthony Bitetto had 9:29.
  • Matty Ek picked up an assist but also recorded 2 penalties.
  • The Predators PK was superb, killing off all 4 Bruins power play opportunities
  • The Predators power play was awful, going 0-2 and never threatening Rask. This unit has to improve and get back on track for this team to have success.
  • The Predators are 18-1-2 when leading after 2 periods. They are 22-3-3 when holding an opponent to 2 goals or less.
 This was a complete and solid game by the Predators from the net out. Outstanding goal tending; solid D, and an opportunistic offense combined to put two points on the score sheet.

Now they need to continue this level of play and build positive momentum.

Play like they did tonight, and they will.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Craig Smith

3. Filip Forsberg

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

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Predators Mistakes Cost them In 5-3 Loss to the Capitals

When you play the best team in hockey, you can't make mistakes.

The Nashville Predators made mistakes against the Washington Capitals and those mistakes wound up in the back of their net in a 5-3 loss at Bridgestone Arena.

Shea Weber turned over a puck on what should have been an easy clear from the defensive zone, then compounded that mistake by letting Jason Chimera beat him to the front of the net for the Caps first goal in the contest.

The Predators second mistake was another turnover that resulted in a 2 on 1 break and Tom Wilson buried the shot to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead in the second period.

The Predators drew within 1 as Filip Forsberg recorded his 16th goal on the power play with a sweet shot to the top corner to beat Braden Holtby.

The third period  saw the Caps storm the front of the Predators net and tally twice as Pekka Rinne and the defense in front of him was overwhelmed. Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson were both at the crease and banged pucks past Rinne to make it 4-1.

Looking for all intents and purposes to be over, the Predators cut the Caps lead to 4-3 on a goal by Roman Josi and a  re-direct by Forsberg for his second goal of the night and his 17th of the season.

Alexander Ovechkin sealed the win for the Caps with an empty netter to make the final margin 5-3.

Some observations:

  • The Predators could have rolled over when it was 4-1, but they showed some grit and character to cut the lead to 1 late in the game. That is a positive. The negative for the Predators is that they are now 2-16-3 when they trail after 2 periods. This team is going to have to find a way to win these kinds of games when they are trailing going into the final 20 minutes. This record is telling- they ability to fight back is just not where it should be for this team and this can- and probably will cost them them when it comes to securing a playoff spot.
  • Forsberg continues to play a strong game. The Caps forecheck was aggressive all night, and Forsberg was able to carry the puck  and break the pressure. I really like the way he works in the offensive zone and he has shown that he is not afraid to go into high traffic areas. His second goal was a result of his work in the low slot, and the Predators are going to have to have that kind of play from him and others to be successful. He has 5 points in his last 2 games (3G-2A).
  • The Predators went 1-3 on this 4 game home stand after the All Star break. This team is going to have to get dominant play on home ice to get into the playoffs. Right now, they are not.
  • The Predators are 6-15-4 when they allow the first goal.
  • A nice celebration before the game to honor Mike Ribeiro for his 1000th NHL game.
  • Mattias Ekholm picked up 2 assists tonight and had a solid overall game. His pairing with Ryan Ellis has played some good hockey and are getting some second D pairing minutes on the power play.
  • Calle Jarnkrok has points in his last 3 games (2G-1A) with his assist tonight.
  • The Predators power play was 1-5. The unit has been fairly ineffective in recent games, and it is imperative that they start to produce at a higher level. Too often, there is not a lot of movement when they get in the offensive zone. They did a good job of possessing the puck on the power play but didn't generate many quality chances.
  • Braden Holtby was outstanding. He made some quality saves and showed why he is going to win the Vezina this year.
This was a  game where the Predators needed to play flawless hockey. They did not and it cost them. The Predators are a team that has to battle every night for points, and they battles tonight. But when you play the best team in the League, battling is not enough. Solid hockey, sound hockey is what it takes to win these kinds of games.

This was a measuring stick game. The Predators have shown they can compete but not win against the best.

There is a short time left in the regular season to elevate their game.

My three stars:

1. Marcus Johansson

2. Filip Forsberg

3. Braden Holtby

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Predators Swamp the Sharks 6-2

The first 10 minutes of the first period of the Nashville Predators game against the San Jose Sharks at Bridgestone Arena was all Sharks and saw the Predators register just 2 shots on goal. Pekka Rinne was outstanding, keeping the Sharks off the board with some great saves, but the Predators offense needed to get going.

It finally did on their third shot of the period.

Ryan Johansen sent a spinning backhand pass from behind the net to James Neal in the slot, and Neal unleashed that wickedly quick wrister to beat Martin Jones five hole to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.

That goal opened the door for the Predators as they cruised to a 6-2 victory.

Viktor Arvidsson scored twice. Calle Jarnkrok scored from the slot with a shot that just overpowered Martin Jones, glancing off his glove and into the net. Filip Forsberg added a shorthanded goal and Shea Weber finished the scoring for the Predators with an empty netter.

The Sharks got power play goals from Joe Thornton and Logan Couture for their goals.

Some observations:

  • Pekka Rinne was outstanding tonight. The first 12 minutes of the first period saw the Predators get out skated and trapped in their zone. Rinne made some great saves to keep the Sharks off the board and from seizing momentum. The Predators were outshot 9-1 in the first 10 minutes and had some quality scoring chances, but Rinne made some athletic saves and his work in net seemed to settle down the Predators as they started to geneerate some offense. If Rinne had not been sharp the Predators would have been blown out of the barn. The two power play goals he gave up were just on great plays by the Sharks and there was really nothing more he could do after making some good saves. Credit this win to the effort of Rinne.
  • Calle Jarnkrok drew first line action on a wing with Johansen and Neal, and he had a a strong game. Head Coach Peter Laviolette  has been searching for a winger that can slot in on that first line and Jarnkrok has made a strong case to be that player. His shot from the slot was gloved by Jones but was so strong it bounced out and trickled over the goal line. Hopefully Jarnkrok is that player that can solidify the first line wing spot that has been in flux. He made a solid case for that tonight.
  • Viktor Arvidsson spent a lot of time getting knocked on his ass tonight. I commented to a friend at the game that the Aardvark has to get stronger to play consistently at this level. But wow, when he gets some open ice he can be very dangerous. He showed that as the game went on, first with a beautiful top shelf goal and then with a move that turned Jones inside out. The aardvark has shown some signs of explosiveness and he needs some space to be a difference maker. His hustle and effort are exemplary, and it was good to see him find the back of the net. This was Arvidsson's first multi point game of his career.
  • Filip Forsberg recorded 2 assists and a shorthanded goal for his 102 points for his career. Forsberg plays a lot of quality minutes as well as time on the PK and has shown that he is going to be an elite player in this League. Forsberg recorded his second 3 point game of the season. Of the 2012 draft class, Forsberg, Nail Yakupov, and Alex Galchenyuk have recorded 100 points.
  • Mike Ribeiro played in his 1000th NHL game tonight. Ribeiro celebrated by picking up 2 assists.
  • The Predators are 9-2-2 against the Pacific Division this season.
  • Ryan Johansen's 2 assists gives him 13 points in 13 games with the Predators.
  • Weber's empty net goal was his 14th goal of the season.
This was a quality win against a very good Sharks team. The Sharks have 17 road wins this season and lead the NHL in road victories, so the Predators captured a much need and quality win against a very competitive opponent.

The Predators started very slowly, and this is the kind of start that the Predators cannot have.  Fortunately, Rinne kept them in the game until the team got its skating legs going.

The Predators have shown they can compete against some of the best teams in the League.

Now they need to do it consistently.

My three stars:

1. Viktor Arvidsson

2. Filip Forsberg

3. Ryan Johansen

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Predators Lack Urgency and Effort, Get Shelled By the Flyers 6-3

The Nashville Predators need points. They wasted a great opportunity to pick up 2 points against the Philadelphia Flyers at Bridgestone Arena by playing a half-hearted game and dropping a critical contest by a 6-3 score.

Wayne Simmonds scored twice and the Flyers added goals by Matt Read, Brayden Schenn, and two goals by Claude Giroux, the last an empty netter.

Ryan Johansen, Calle Jarnkrok, and Shea Weber scored for the Predators.

Some observations:

  • The Flyers first goal came as the result of a breakaway after a brutal non-call for interference on the Flyers. Michael Raffl skated into two Predators and took them out of the play, allowing Read to skate in an beat Rinne for the first goal of the game. How the officials don't make that call is beyond me, but it is an embarrassment to the League that a call gets blown so badly.
  • Simmonds scored on a follow up of his breakaway. Rinne made the first stop, but Simmonds gathered his rebound and tucked it between Rinne's skate and the post. The play was set up when Shea Weber broke his stick and in the process of retrieving another one, Simmonds got behind him for the score.
  • The Predators had ample opportunities on the power play, but could only capitalize once off a blast by Weber that he blew past Steve Mason. Other than that score, the Predators power play was inept. They had a 4 minute power play in the first period and generated only 2 shots. The power play is lacking a hard edge and a player that will go to the front of the net and create havoc. Instead, this unit is too content to float and toss the puck around the perimeter. It looks pretty, but is highly ineffective.
  • I am going to call the experiment of constant line juggling by Head Coach Peter Laviolette a failure. The constant changes have disrupted chemistry and leaves the forwards looking uncertain and unsettled. I understand the need to mix up line. Occasionally. Not all the time. And the lack of chemistry and cohesiveness among the forwards is hurting this team.
  • The Predators lack snarl. This team has no edge and a player that will be a shift disturber. There a re talented and dangerous forwards, but the Predators have players that more often than  not are not going to the hard areas and claiming that ice. This makes them very easy to defend and makes it more difficult to score goals in this time of the season where hard hockey is the norm.
  • That said, I like the play of Miikka Salomaki. He is physical and hustles all over the ice. He is by far the most physical forward that the Predators have on their roster. 
  • Rinne didn't have an exceptional game, but two breakaways and a perfect pass to Schenn alone at the side of the crease were difficult to stop. He didn't make some outstanding stops but he didn't get a lot of help in front of him either.
  • Trailing going into the third period, it was almost inevitable that the Predators would absorb another loss. This team has only won 2 games this season when trailing going into the third period. They are now 2-15-3 when trailing after 2 periods, and that is awful.
  • Filip Forsberg will be an elite player. Right now, however, he is on a dry spell and I get the feeling that he is trying to do too much with the puck on his stick. Skating into two or more defenders is usually a formula for turning over the puck, which he did on multiple occasions tonight.
  • Forsberg, Mike Ribeiro, and Barrett Jackman were all -3 tonight. 
The Predators are going to need, I believe, 100 points to make the playoffs. With 30 games remaining and 56 points on their ledger, that means the team is going to have to go 22-8 to get to that point total.

The runway is getting short for this team.

Keep playing without a sense of urgency and desperation, and they will run out of runway very quickly.

My three stars:

1. Wayne Simmonds

2. Claude Giroux

3. Calle Jarnkrok

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Predators Drop Another Game to the Blues 1-0

The St. Louis Blues squared off against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena in a game that took on the characteristics of a heavyweight boxing match.

Both teams probed, took their offensive shots, and waited for the other to make a mistake to give them an opening.

It was the Predators that made the mistake, getting trapped in their own zone for a lengthy period of time and failing to clear the puck. That mistake wound up in the back of their net.

Troy Brouwer deflected a shot by Alex Pietrangelo past Pekka Rinne with 1:05 to go in regulation to give the Blues a 1-0 victory.

The Blues have won all 4 games against the Predators this season.

Some observations:

  • Shots on goal were 11 apiece at the end of 2 periods as neither team would give an inch. That changed in the third period as the Blues had the quality scoring chances while the Predators rarely threatened Brian Elliott. Rinne had to make some huge saves, including a point blank stop on Magnus Paajarvi. Rinne was solid tonight and I can't fault him on the deflection that got past him. The Blues out shot the Predators 12-5 in the third as the offense was virtually non-existent. For the game, the Blues out shot the Predators 23-16.
  • Ryan Johansen had 3 shots on net , but the rest of the Predators had no player record more than 2 shots on goal as the Blues defense did an effective job of choking off the offensive push. The Predators this season have had no answer for the heavy game the Blues play. They had better figure it out, because this is the kind of hockey every team will play between now and the end of the season.
  • The Predators were good in the face off dot, winning 57% of the draws.
  • I liked the game of Calle Jarnkrok tonight. He was aggressive in all zones and played with speed and pace. He was on a line with Craig Smith and Mike Ribeiro and this line created a few quality chances.
  • Unfortunately for the Predators, there were not enough quality chances. Very little traffic to the net meant that Brian Elliott had a fairly easy night.
  • This is the 6th time this season that the Predators have been shut out.
  • There is no doubt that the Central Division is the toughest division in the NHL. If the Predators are going to climb into a solid playoff position, they are going to have to pick up their game against their division rivals. After tonight, the Predators are 6-10-2 against their Central opponents. 
  • The Predators PK was solid, killing off all 3 of the Blues power plays. This unit continues to be effective and has really stepped up their play.
  • On the other hand, the Predators power play was 0-3 and never really threatened the net. This unit has started to go cold, and the team needs this unit to pick up their sense of urgency and pace.
This is a tough loss for the Predators as it is a divisional loss and keeps them barely in the playoff hunt. With a chance to make up some ground  on the Blues and put some distance between the other teams chasing them, they sputtered.

It is not going to get any easier between now and the end of the season. Teams are going to be desperate and playing hard hockey.

They Predators are going to have to do the same.

My three stars:

1. Troy Brouwer

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Alex Pietrangelo

Monday, February 1, 2016

Smashville Sets the Standard During All Star Weekend

The 2016 NHL All Star game is in the books, and it was an overwhelming success. From the play on the ice to the activities surrounding the game, Smashville set the bar higher than ever for this event.

Over the course of the weekend, fans of the game were treated to outstanding entertainment at the Winter Park and at the Fan Fest. They enjoyed interactions with the players, coaches, and the media that cover the game.

And how about the weather. Just a week ago, Nashville was hit with a major snowstorm. All Star weekend saw sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 60's.

I knew the organizing committee had a lot of clout, but that was amazing1

Here are some thoughts and observations about the event:

  • Kudos to all who worked to put this together. It was obvious that lots of planning and forethought had been put into the event to make the fan experience exceptional. The event was laid out with everything in walking distance. This helped ease traffic problems and allowed the fans to mingle and interact easily with each other. People all across the country- fans of every team- got to visit and experience the warmth and hospitality of Smashville. And many discovered what the residents here already knew- Nashville is a gem.
  • There was an abundance of volunteers to make sure that everything went smoothly and that fans knew where to go and had assistance when they needed it. This speaks to the organization of this event and to the people that worked behind the scenes to make it an exceptional experience for those in attendance. The work that went into this effort was massive and everyone, from Predators ownership and staff, the League, and the organizing committee are to be commended.
  • Don't underestimate the proximity of all the venues. I had a chance to talk to some people that had been to other All Star games and to a person they said that having everything in walking distance was a huge plus for this event. Being able to move easily from the Winter Park to the Convention Center to concert venues to the entertainment district downtown was a huge, HUGE, plus. I heard many say this made their experience much more enjoyable.
  • Nashville really had a chance to shine and showcase the talent of the entertainers that call this great city home. And the music community didn't disappoint. One of the consistent comments that I heard from so many visitors was the musical talent that was on display was so impressive. And believe me, they were impressive. The response from visitors at some of the shows was almost giddy. I had a chance to catch Chip Esten's show on the Honda stage at Fan Fest on Saturday and it was impressive. And our guests were impressed. Really impressed.
  • The game itself was better than any All Star game I have seen. There was intensity and competitiveness and an opportunity for the players to shine. It was actually compelling to watch, and that sentiment was echoed to me by friends that watched the game on TV. I think the League has found a format that will work going forward as not only the fans but the players seemed to enjoy the 3 on 2 game.
  • A great crowd for both the skills competition and the game. Enthusiastic, responsive, and loud. And good on the fans for their response to and support of John Scott. A great story that only served to take the event to another level.
Here are some images from the weekend:

Saturday's activities started with a Prayer breakfast at the Renaissance Hotel. Stu Grimson served as Master of Ceremonies and several speakers shared their faith. Mike "Doc" Emrick spoke and was a humble and engaging speaker. I had a chance to visit with Doc after the program and he is a genuine and personable individual.

Former Predators head Coach and current Washington Capitals Head Coach Barry Trotz spoke and gave a powerful testimony and of course was a crowd favorite.

Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene spoke and is quite an impressive young man. Afterwards, he stayed around to visit with those in attendance. Here he is with my son, Matt, and myself.

Chip Esten performs on the Honda stage at the Fan Fest. He drew a large and enthusiastic crowd and was one of the many talented performers that appeared on the various music stages throughout the weekend.

A street scen looking at the Honda Winter Park outdoor stage. The crowds were huge for the many performances. I was about a block away from the stage, which was as close as I could get. Big ups to the sound technicians as the sound that far away was a good as it would be if I were up close.

There were lots of exhibits and interactive games at the Fan Fest. I will say, the Velveeta cheese fountain was the most unusual.

There were lots of opportunities to interact with the players and coaches. here, Pete Weber interviews Roman Josi at the Discover Theater. Fans had a chance to ask questions directly of the players and the interactions and condor from the players was exceptional.

The Western Conference players warm up before the skills competition.

Lee Brice warms up the crowd before the player introductions at the game

The All Stars on the ice for the game introductions

Jennifer Nettles performs at the intermission of the game. Notice a few players came out of the locker room and sat on the ice to take in her performance

The weekend was exceptional. Nashville has stepped up its game and has set the bar extremely high for future games. 

Once again, thanks to all who made this outstanding event happen.