Showing posts with label Roberto Luongo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Roberto Luongo. Show all posts

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Predators Rally Past Vancouver for 2-1 Win

The Nashville Predators began a western Canada road trip with a stop in Vancouver to take on the Canucks. The Predators came into the game having won three of their last four games and were looking to build on that momentum.

Michael Del Zotto, acquired the day before from the New York Rangers for Kevin Klein, made his debut with the Predators.

Carter Hutton was in net for the Predators, and he has been playing well of late. The Predators were going to need another strong outing from Hutton against the talented Canucks squad.

And Hutton came up big in a scoreless first period. He stopped all 13 shots he faced, making some solid saves. The Canucks were aided in that first period by 6 minutes of power play time. Hutton and the penalty killers did a good job of keeping the Canucks off the board.

Taking those penalties is not a formula for beating the Canucks, and the Predators were going to have to be more disciplined in the second period.

The only score in the second period came when Chris Higgins tipped a Dale Weiss shot that was going wide of the net over the shoulder of Hutton.

As for the Predators, they had not really challenged Roberto Luongo through the first two periods. The offensive urgency and effort were going to have to improve in the third period.

The Predators got that response at 3:28 of the third period as Craig Smith beat Luongo short side with a snap shot to tie the game at 1. This was Smith's 16th goal of the season.

The Predators took a 2-1 lead on the power play as Seth Jones fired a shot from the blue line that was re-directed by Nick Spaling in front of Luongo Luongo. Spaling's goal came at 12:38 of the period.

The Predators defense was able to make that goal stand up, and they captured the 2-1 win.

Some observations:

  • Scott Nichol, Predators Director of Player Development, was behind the bench replacing Coach Lane Lambert, who stayed in Nashville to be with his wife, who is undergoing chemotherapy treatment. All of the fans of the Predators certainly send our best to her.

  • Del Zotto looked good for having made a cross country flight and joining the team today. he had good jump, a nice shot from the point, and showed that he can move the puck.

  • Nice response by the Predators in the third period. After a rather lifeless first two periods, the Predators took over in the third period. They got their feet moving and created some quality scoring chances by shooting the puck and getting to the net.

  • Hutton was very good again. He stopped 35 of 36 shots and did a good job of controlling rebounds and was tracking the puck well. Early in the year, it appeared that Hutton was scrambling a bit in net. Now, he looks to be more poised and fluid, and his game has benefitted.

  • The Canucks were without Head Coach John Tortorella, who missed his second game behind the bench as he serves his 15 day suspension.

  • The Predators won for only the 6th time this season when the opponent scores first.
The Predators continue tomorrow night in Calgary and are looking to keep the momentum going.

They will have to do so to get back into the playoff hunt.

My three stars:

1. Carter Hutton

2. Nick Spaling

3. Craig Smith

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Canucks Cruise Past the Predators 3-1

The Nashville Predators faced off against the Vancouver Canucks at Bridgestone Arena looking to get back on a winning streak. The Predators had dropped two straight games and needed to pick up points to keep within striking distance of a playoff spot.

The Predators are going to have to wait another game to try to get on track.

Marek Mazanec was in net for the Predators, while the Canucks went with Roberto Luongo between the pipes.

Throughout the game, the Predators pressured Loungo and created some quality scoring chances, but were only able to finish one time. Patric Hornqvist fed Colin Wilson from the low slot and Wilson buried his shot past an out of position Luongo.

That score came just 30 seconds after the Canucks scored in the second period. Brad Richardson caught Mazanec cheating off the post and banked a shot off the Predators goaltender into the net to give the Canucks a short lived lead.

The Canucks took control in the third period as Ryan Kessler scored twice for the margin of victory.

His first goal came off a rebound of a Jason Garrison shot that ricocheted into the low slot. Kessler outmuscled David Legwand to the puck and beat Mazanec in close at 7:37 of the third.

Kessler tallied his second goal on a power play from the low slot off a rebound of another Garrison shot. Kessler lifted the shot over the pads of Mazanec with Ryan Ellis trying to defend.

The Predators pulled Mazanec with over two minutes to go for the extra attacker. They were further aided by a penalty to Kevin Bieksa with a minute to go in the game, but the Canucks swarmed the Predators and they were unable to get a shot off.

Some observations:

  • The Predators gave up their first power play goal in 8 games.

  • The Predators power play was 0-2, continuing their string of futility. The power play continues to have trouble entering the zone and establishing itself. Once inside the zone, there is still a lack of movement and puck support. Frankly, this is hard to explain.

  • Ryan Ellis struggled with the physical play of the Canucks forwards. I am still unconvinced that Ellis is capable of logging regular minutes against forwards with size and strength.

  • Colin Wilson tallied a goal for the second game in a row. The Predators need Wilson to heat up and begin scoring consistently. Hopefully this is the beginning of such a streak.

  • I am not sure what is goalie interference after tonight. Dan Hamuis bumped Matt Hendricks into Luongo, and Hendricks was called for interference. Later, Patric Hornqvist jostled with Hanuis and Hamuis ran into Luongo. Hornqvist was called for goalie interference, even though he had no contact with Luongo. Referee Kelly Sutherland made both calls.

  • The line of David Legwand, Viktor Stalberg, and Gabriel Bourque has gone cold. This line has tremendous potential, but has failed to produce consistently and it is hurting the team. This line desperately needs to get their game going again.

  • The normally reliable Paul Gaustad was 3 for 11 in the face off circle. Mike Fisher was the only Predator that was even for the night, winning 7 of 14. The Canucks owned the face off circle, and this hurt the Predators and their puck possession all night.

  • The Predators had some very good scoring chances, but could not finish. This has been a problem for this team and will continue to be a problem the way it is constructed.
The Predators have dropped 3 straight games and desperately need to turn this around. The team is dealing with injuries to their blue line, but every team is dealing with injuries.

The effort and work ethic is going to have to continue to get back in the win column.

And finish their chances.

My three stars:

1. Ryan Kessler

2. Roberto Luongo

3. Colin Wilson

Monday, April 15, 2013

Canucks Crush the Predators 5-2

The Vancouver Canucks rolled into Bridgestone Arena and rolled over the Nashville Predators 5-2. It was not without a fight, literally and figuratively.

The Predators competed well as the mix and match lines of call ups and regulars brought a good effort, out shooting the Canucks 38-24, but once again, the inability to finish haunted the Predators.

After falling behind 2-0 after one period on goals by Ryan Kessler and Derek Roy, the Predators fought back in the second period to tie the game. Sergei Kostitsyn set up the first goal by controlling the puck behind the Vancover net. He found Nick Spaling in the low slot, and Spals one timer beat Roberto Luongo over his glove to make it 2-1.

The Predators tied the game at 2 as Bobby Butler drove to the face off circle and rifled a shot that beat Luongo to the far post.

The Canucks took a 3-2 lead after a brutal roughing call against Hal Gill. Alex Burrows slashed Gill at least 6 times with no call, but Gill was called for the penalty after taking Biting Burrows to the ice at the side of the Predators net.

Vancouver scored almost immediately on the power play as Jason Garrison notched a goal just 6 seconds into the man advantage.

The Canucks added 2 goals in the third period to make it 5-2 before the officials (Dan O'Halloran and Mike Leggo) lost control of the game with 3 minutes left. After a brawl that saw players on both sides ejected with game misconducts, the clock ran out and the Predators skid continued.

Some observations:

Gotta Finish

The Predators poured 19 shots on Luongo in the second period and had 14 more shots than the Canucks for the game. That is the positive. The negative is that they could not finish their chances, and part of this is that the Predators need more traffic in front of the net. At times, they did this, but too often, a presence in front of the net was missing. Shots from the point were mostly handled by Luongo, and the Predators need to do a better job of taking away the clean looks that opposing netminders are getting.

Bang For The Buck

Outside of Rich Clune, the Predators need someone that can bang and hit and be an overall shift disturber. Daniel Bang has shown flashes of being able to be that physical presence. He is a big body and doesn't seem to mind the contact. As he settles in, the hope is that he will become more of a physical presence.

Butler Starts to Shine

Bobby Butler has the tools, but he needs to consistently apply his talent. over the past few games, he has begun to play with confidence, battling for the puck, using his speed, and he has a deceptively good shot that we saw tonight. If Butler can continue to elevate his game, he is going to make a strong case to stay on the roster next season.

Captain Courageous

I liked the response of Shea Weber to the cross check on Rinne. The Canucks are notorious for the cheap and borderline dirty play, and the way you stop it is the way Webs responded. Swift, sure, and certain. Touch our goalie in a cheap way like the Canucks did and pay the price. A character move by the Captain.

Final Thoughts

The Predators will get no sympathy form the teams that remain on the schedule, and Predator fans are going to endure a rough and dismal stretch as injuries have decimated this team. But what you want to see is a strong compete level and a response to adversity. You want to see the call ups step up and contribute in all situations. They have been doing that, and although there is a significant talent gap for the Predators, one cannot fault the effort.

This is what this team can build upon for next season.

Character forged in difficult circumstances.

My three stars:

1. Ryan Kessler

2. Roberto Luongo

3.Daniel Sedin

Friday, March 15, 2013

Mistakes Sink the Predators Against the Canucks

The Nashville Predators continued a critical five game road trip in Vancouver to face the Canucks. The Predators were looking to build on the momentum of a win in Dallas in the first game of this swing, and the task was going to be difficult as Rogers Arena has not been a hospitable place for the Predators.

The Predators had Pekka Rinne in net, while the Canucks went with Roberto Luongo.

The game was a wild affair, with the Predators making numerous mistakes and those aforementioned mistakes wound up in the back of the predators net.

Yet the Predators, facing a monumental deficit going into the third period continued to battle back before eventually falling to the Canucks by a 7-4 margin.

While that sounds like the Canucks ran away with the game, the Predators scrambled back in the third period to draw within a a one goal margin at 5-4. The Canucks stretched the margin to 6-4 on a penalty shot by Henrik Sedin and the final score was an empty net goal by David Booth.

Some observations:

Rinne...Wasn't Rinne

After pitching a shutout in his previous game, Rinne gave up 4 goals on 12 shots. I don't fault Rinne on all of the goals he allowed, but he wasn't as sharp as he usually is. The Predators have to have near perfection from Rinne to win, and tonight, he did not have his best game. Rinne was pulled early in the second period in favor of Chris Mason.

The Young Pups Were The Leaders

Matt Halischuk had a goal and an assist; Nick Spaling had a goal; and Gabriel Bourque tallied his team leading 8th goal, which was a beauty. The young guys brought a 60 minute effort and stepped up their game when the Predators were in danger of being run out of the barn. It bodes well for the Predators that the youngsters are producing and contributing solid minutes. Maybe some of the veterans can take a cue from the play of these young players.

Mike Fisher Is Quietly Playing Some Solid Hockey

Fisher had a goal and has been leading with hustle and physical play. After a slow start to his season, Fisher has been consistent and solid. Again, there are some players on the roster that should follow his example.

Can Marty Erat Find His Game?

Let's face it- Marty is having a miserable season. He has been a passenger for most of the season and has contributed nothing to this team. Marty has too much talent to be this unproductive, but the sad fact remains that the team needs Marty and he is nowhere to be found. If the Predators are going to have success in the regular season, much less the playoffs, Marty is going to have to contribute. The question is how much longer can the coaching staff continue to allow Marty to have big minutes without any production?

How Long Before...

we see Austin Watson or Taylor Beck make an appearance? They are having stellar campaigns in Milwaukee and appear ready to make the jump to the big club. With players such as Erat, David Legwand, and Sergei Kostitsyn not contributing, the Predators may be ready to give these guys a shot at producing on the NHL level.

Final Thoughts

This game looked like it was going to get even uglier than it was going into the third period. Kudos to team for showing some heart and battling back. Like any fan, I don't like the loss, but there are positives on which to build. There was fight and grit in this team, and they kept pressing and scrapping to get back into the game. At 5-4, this was anyones game. By not folding their tent, the Predators showed that they can battle back against bleak odds.

Build on that, boys.

You will need to draw on that positive in upcoming games.

My three stars:

1.Jannik Hansen

2. Andrew Ebbett

3. Matt Halischuk

Friday, February 22, 2013

Canucks Slip Past the Predators 1-0

The Nashville Predators faced off against the Vancouver Canucks at the Bridgestone Arena in their first meeting of the year, and the Canucks won the goaltending duel by a 1-0 margin.

The winning goal was scored by Dale Weise at 9:14 of the third period as Maxim Lapierre carried the puck low in the Predators zone as the Predators were making a line change. Lapierre fired a shot that Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne kicked out with his right pad. The Predators defense was not in position because of the change and Wiese was all alone to bang in the rebound.

Roberto Luongo was stellar in goal, especially in the first period as the Predators fired 13 shots on net. Throughout the game, both Luongo and Rinne came up with big saves.

The Predators opened the game with good jump, dominating the Canucks in the first period with 13 shots and good defense. Vancouver did not record its first shot on net until 12:27 of the first, and its second at 3:37.

That  changed in the second and third periods, as the Vancouver defense stepped up and Nashville could only record 5 shots in each period. Nashville had a power play late in the game and pulled Rinne for the extra attacker, but could not get a shot on net.

Some observations:

  • Rinne was tested in the second and third period and came up with some great saves, most notably on Jannik Hansen, who had a point blank shot from the low slot. Rinne had no chance on the goal by Wiese as the Predators line change behind the play left Weise alone in the slot.

  • The fourth line of Nick Splaing, Rich Clune, and Matt Halischuk was strong and played with good jump. They created several scoring opportunities and presented problems for the Canucks with the match up.

  • After the strong start, the Predators offensive effort faded fast, and this is disappointing. Gabriel Bouque , David Legwand, and Nick Spaling did not record a shot on net. The Predators have to have players that get shots on net, and more importantly, they have to have players that can finish. This was the story of the game for the Predators offensively in that they could not finish their chances.

  • The Canucks were going to make defensive adjustments, and they were very effective in the second and third period. However, the Predators lost  a lot of puck battles and as a result, the Canucks had a lot of offensive zone time. The Predators have to be stronger on the puck and more determined to win these puck battles to establish their offense. 

  • The Canucks lost defenseman Kevin Bieksa, who took two shifts in the second period and then went to the Canucks locker room. He left the game with a lower body injury.
The Predators played a tight game with the Canucks, who lead the Pacific Division are are 3rd in the West. That is a positive.

The Predators will look at this game as one that got away. Finish a couple of those chances and the Predators have a victory. Keep the offensive pressure up and the outcome may have been different.

Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

Disappointing yes. But there is no time to dwell on this as the Predators meet the Red Wings tomorrow night.

Finish your chances and the outcome will be different boys.

My three stars:

1. Roberto Luongo

2. Dale Weise

3. Pekka Rinne

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Predators Vanquish Vancouver 3-1

The Nashville Predators continue through the Murderer's Row segment of their schedule by facing the Vancouver Canucks at Bridgestone Arena, facing a Canucks team that had won four straight games and had not lost in regulation in their last 13 games.


No doubt.


No way.

The Predators faced a tall task in attempting to shut down the potent Canucks offense, and they would be relying on the solid play of netminder Pekka Rinne to backstop the effort. New Predator Hal Gill would be called on to play some solid minutes against the Canucks second line led by Ryan Kessler.

Both were outstanding.

Roberto Luongo was in net for the Canucks, and he came up with some big save against the Predators to keep the score respectable.

The first period was scoreless, but both teams created some good chances. The Canucks cycle game worked very well in the first period, and the first five minutes of the contest was spent in the Predators zone. The Predators weathered the attack and got their feet moving and started skating with the Canucks, generating some chances but, like the Canucks, were unable to capitalize on their opportunities.

The first period ended with the Canucks out shooting the Predators 12-11.

The fireworks started in the second period, and it was the Predators that capitalized first. With Henrik Sedin in the box for tripping, the Predators went to work on the power play. Ryan Suter found Mike Fisher alone at the side of the net and whipped a pass to him. Fisher took took whacks at the puck and got it to trickle over the goal line to give the Predators a 1-0 lead at 5:42 of the second period.

The Predators gave the Canucks an opportunity to get right back into the game, as Colin Wilson was in the box for hooking. The Predators PK once again was solid, killing the penalty.

Once again, the Predators PK unit was called upon to kill another penalty, as Francis Buillon was called for tripping at 12:29. The unit did more than kill the penalty as Mike Fisher got control of the puck at the Predators blue line. Fisher froze Sami Salo with a great move and started a 2 on 1 break with Sergei Kostitsyn. With Alex Edler back on defense, Fisher drove the net and sent a backhand saucer pass to a streaking Sergei Kostitsyn. Kostitsyn showed great eye hand coordination as he got the puck on his stick and one time a shot past a falling and flailing Luongo to make it 2-0 Predators at 13:16 of the second.

The Canucks would cut the lead to 2-1 at 16:52 of the second as Roman Josi had the puck along the boards but fell. He managed to slipped the puck to David Legwand, who also fell and turned the puck over to Dale Weise. Weise was able to walk in alone and roofed a backhand over Rinne's blocker for the score.

Late in the period, Canucks pest Alex Burrows boarded Shea Weber near the Predators bench. There was no call, and Weber responded by throwing Burrows to the ice. Burrows apparently failed to realize who he was facing, as he decided to drop the gloves with Weber. Weber quickly slammed Burrows to the ice without a punch being thrown. Frankly, Burrows is lucky that Weber didn't throw a punch.

If you are going to poke the bear, you had better have a pair.

Vancouver out shot the Predators 13-8 in the second, and went to the locker room trailing by one. Although the Predators had the lead, it was going to be a war in the third period, and it was critical that the Predators not sit back as they had done in the Dallas game in the third period. They would not survive the Canucks if they did so.

The third period was a back and forth affair, with both teams creating some very good chances. The majority of those went to the Predators, and Luongo made some good saves to keep the Predators off the board and the Canucks within one goal.

That would change at 17:09 as David Legwand would fire a wrist shot of a puck that was on edge and the shot cleanly beat Luongo over his shoulder to give the Predators a 3-1 lead.

With Luongo pulled for the extra attacker, the Predators held off the final push of the Canucks for a big 3-1 win. The win pushed the Predators to 76 points, within 8 of Western Conference leading Detroit and within 3 points of idle St. Louis.

Pekka Rinne was again solid in net. Perhaps his biggest save came in the second period as he dove across the net and deflected a shot from Aaron Rome with his blocker to keep the game 2-0 at that time. With the win, Rinne now leads the League with 33 victories.

The addition of Hal Gill showed how important the big defenseman will be to the Predators effort in the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs. Gill was matched up against Ryan Kessler's line and he continually frustrated  Kessler with his physical presence. Kessler was held to 3 shots on goal, no points, and was a -1.

The Predators finished their season series with the Canucks 2-1-1.

This was a solid win by the Predators as they skated well and showed they can compete with one of the best teams in the West. Not only compete, but vanquish them.

The road ahead gets no easier for the Predators. Tough divisional opponent St. Louis is up next.

Play this kind of game, and you will vanquish them as well.

My three stars:

1. Mike Fisher

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Sergei Kostitsyn

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Vancouver Slips Past the Predators in a Shootout 4-3

Two plays.

Two plays victimized the Predators in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks at the Bridgestone Arena. Two defensive breakdowns led to two quick first period goals by the Canucks en route to a 3-1 first period lead. The Predators fought back to force the shootout, but fell in the sixth round to the Canucks as the visitors won the shootout 2-1.

Pekka Rinne got the start in net for the Predators, and he gave up the first goal of the game with Vancouver on a power play. Ryan Kessler beat Rinne with a snap shot from just inside the face off circle at 11:42 of the first period. To this point in the game, the Predators had out shot the Canucks 9-3.

The Predators answered at 13:47 of the first as Colin Wilson took a pass from David Legwand and fired a wrist shot a Roberto Luongo. Bobby Lou let the puck slip between his arm and his body for the tying goal.

With the home crowd in full throat and momentum with the Predators, it appeared as if they had an opportunity to get control of the game.

That is when the first of two bad plays by the Predators occurred.

The Predators were caught in a bad line change and the Canucks capitalized. Byron Bitz scored off a feed from Henrik Sedin as he walked in on Rinne and beat him with a quick wrist shot. The Predators defensive coverage was not in position, and the Canucks made them pay for the mistake at 18:21.

Just 23 seconds later, Daniel Sedin split the defense of Kevin Klein and Roman Josi and buried a shot from the low slot to give the Canucks a 3-1 lead.

Two bad plays, two goals, and another hole for the Predators.

This is the Predators, however, a team that fears no deficit.

The Predators had mounted good pressure against Luongo and the Canucks defense in the first period, and they continued to pressure the Canucks in the second. Time to chip away and get back in the game.

That is exactly what they did just 4:14 into the second period. Kevin Klein took a shot from the blue line, and it hit the skate of Sergei Kostitsyn, who was cutting across the slot. The puck re-directed off the skate of Kostitsyn and past Luongo. After a brief review, the goal was called good by the replay officials and the Predators trailed 3-2.

The Predators would tie the game at 3 at 5:16 of the second as Shea Weber took a shot from the blue line that hit Mike Fisher and squirted between the pads of Luongo. As Luongo moved, the puck was deflected off his leg and trickled over the goal line.

The ability of the Predators to battle back from another deficit, especially against a great team like the Canucks was heartening. It just felt as if the Predators momentum would carry them to a goal that would give them the lead.

It was not to be as both goalies took over the game. Both Rinne and Luongo made some big saves in the remainder of the second period as well as the third period to keep the game knotted at 3. There were times where the Predators controlled the puck in the Vancouver zone and created some good chances, but could not solve Luongo.

The same held true for the Canucks, as they used their excellent cycling ability to control the puck and create some chances. Rinne was up to the task, and the game went to overtime.

In the overtime period, the Predators controlled the puck and had 3 shots on goal, while the Canucks managed 2. Neither team found the net. For the game, the Predators out shot the Canucks 40-31.

In the shootout, Rinne stopped Mason Raymond and Ryan Kessler before Alexander Burrows scored off a nice backhand move. Luongo stopped Sergei Kostitsyn and Martin Erat missed the net. With the game on the line, David Legwand beat Luongo with a backhand to extend the shootout.

Rinne stoned Daniel Sedin and Cody Hodgson before Alex Edler beat him five hole. Luongo stopped Ryan Ellis and Mike Fisher.

With the game on the line, Colin Wilson beat Luongo with a backhand but the puck just went outside the far post, and the Canucks escaped with a 4-3 win.

Vancouver is one of the elite teams in the NHL, and for the Predators to battle back and force the shootout speaks volumes about their effort and their compete level. Two bad plays bit the Predators, and against an opponent the caliber of the Canucks, that can- and did- cost the game.

I especially was impressed with the play of Sergei Kostitsyn. He battled hard all night, hustled, and his effort on a back check prevented a very good scoring chance for the Canucks.

Although the Predators failed to put away the Canucks, there are positives to take away from this game. The ability to battle back against a quality opponent like the Canucks speaks volumes about the heart and character of this team. This team believes in themselves and in their ability to win every game. That is evident by the way they refused to wilt in the face of the Canucks pressure and their early lead.

Limit the mistakes, the bad plays, and the Predators will not have an opponent slip past them.

My three stars:

1. Byron Bitz

2. Sergei Kostitsyn

3. Roberto Luongo

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Nashville Battles Back to Take a 4-3 Win Over Vancouver

Facing elimination, the Nashville Predators held off the Vancouver Canucks 4-3 to send the series back to Nashville for a game 6 confrontation. Vancouver leads the series 3-2, with game 6 to be played Monday in Nashville.

This win was nothing but a character win for the Predators. Facing elimination, where they had been 0 for forever, the Predators fought and scrapped and came away with a gritty win over the Canucks.

This game was a war of attrition, as the Canucks lost Mikael Samuelson to an lower body injury and the Predators lost Nick Spaling after he was boarded. Oh guess what- no call on the boarding. Ryan Kessler took a puck to the face and required some stitches before returning to the contest..

It was a war, and the team with the biggest heart and the most grit was going to come out on top.

That team would be the Predators.

In the first period, the Canucks had all the jump and energy. They outshot the Predators by a 12-5 margin, and the Predators looked nothing like a team that was fighting for their playoff lives.

The Predators started well. With Sergei Kostitsyn in the box for another weak holding the stick call, Joel Ward slipped the puck to David Legwand, who broke in alone on Roberto Luongo and beat him to the blocker side with a snap shot at 3:42 of the first period.

The Canucks would even the contest at 5:59 of the first as Raffi Torres would be the beneficiary of a bouncing puck that eluded the Predators defense. Jannik Hansen was able to gather in the puck and slip it to Torres, who was all alone and beat Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne just inside the post.

Ryan Kessler would extend the Canucks lead to 2-1 as he took a lead pass from Mason Raymond and beat Shea Weber to the net. Kessler would slide the puck over the pad of Rinne on a beautiful goal at 15:06.

The Predators appeared as if they would tie the game as the puck slid over to Sergei Kostitsyn and he had a yawning open net into which to shoot the puck. Maxim Lapierre dove across and just got his stick on the puck to deflect it wide of the net.

Down 2-1 at the end of one period, it remained to see how the Predators would respond.

They responded very well.

The Predators opened the second period skating very well and generating numerous chances in the offensive zone. Although they could not get a puck past Luongo, there were several good scoring chances for the Predators.

The Predators would tie the game on what can only be called one of the strangest goals of the playoffs. David Legwand had the puck behind the net and flipped it over the top of the net. The puck hit Alexander Edler in the leg and caromed past a surprised Luongo to tie the game just 51 seconds into the second period.

Hey, they all count. No one grades them on style points.

The Predators sates much better throughout the second period and created some opportunities, but could not solve Luongo. At the other end of the ice, Rinne made some great saves, occasionally channeling his inner Dominick Hasek to make some saves. Because of the play of the netminders, neither team could find the twine for the remainder of the period.

One period. Twenty minutes to decide your fate and your season. How would the Predators respond?

Enter Joel Ward.

There are moments in a game when a player takes a team on his back and carries them. This was Joel Ward's moment.

Wardo took a nice cross ice feed from Mike Fisher just 1:14 into the third period and rifled a shot top shelf that beat Luongo blocker side.

Ward wasn't done, however, as he tallied again at 5:45 of the period off an assist from Jordin Tootoo. Ward ripped a shot that beat Luongo glove side to give the Predators a 4-2 lead.

This is the Canucks, and they weren't going to go away quietly. Ryan Kessler got his second of the game at at 16:14 of the third. Kessler decided to skate by the Predators bench and mock the team after his goal.

That will be remembered.

The Predators held the Canucks off the board for the remainder of the third period and skated out of Vancouver with an improbable win.

Who ya mocking now, Kessler?

The Predators have now forced a game 6 back on their home ice. It's time for the Predators to defend their home ice and force a game 7.

Do that, and the pucker factor for the Cancuks will be so high you couldn't pull a greased nail out of their ass with a tractor.

The Predators showed a lot of character and grit in tonight's win. It would have been easy to fold up on the Canucks home ice, easy to fold under the weight of never having won an elimination game, easy to succumb to the energy of the fans in Vancouver.

They didn't.

Now it is time to play one game. Just one.

Come back to your barn and play like there is no tomorrow.

Because there isn't.

Every shift, every puck battle, is all out. Nothing is left behind in this one, boys. It is all out for 60 minutes.

Do that, and you will have an opportunity to play one more game.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Canucks Down the Predators 4-2; Take Control of the Series 3-1

The Nashville Predators put up a valiant effort before falling to the Vancouver Canucks 4-2 at the Bridgestone Arena. The Canucks now lead the series 3-1 and can close out the Predators in Vancouver on Saturday night.

The Predators opened with good jump and pressured the Canucks early in the contest. They were unable to get any pucks past Vancouver netminder Roberto Luongo, while his counterpart, Pekka Rinne, was perfect in net for the Predators.

That would change at 15:04 of the first period as Christian Ehrhoff would launch a shot from the blue line. Rinne was clipped by Alex Burrows and the shot found the back of the net. There was no call on the play as it was deemed by referee Kelly Sutherland that the contact was incidental and that Rinne was outside the blue paint.

Definitely a questionable call, but the goal was allowed to stand.

Joel Ward would tie the game on the power play at 19:18 of the first period. Wardo was camped at the top of the blue paint and gathered in the rebound of a Cody Franson shot and put the puck through Luongo five hole.

The Canucks would take the lead at 9:43 of the second period as Alex Edler would pot his second goal of the playoffs with a wrist shot that beat Rinne.

The Predators answered at 3:27 of the third period as Cody Franson's bullet from the blue line eluded Luongo, and for a moment the officials. Everyone searched for the puck, and lo and behold it was in the back of the net. The tying score sent the partisan home crowd into a frenzy and gave the Predator faithful hope that they could tie the series.

That momentum would ebb away at 7:28 of the third with Ryan Suter in the box for holding, Ryan Kessler would tally a power play goal by splitting the defense and beating Rinne with a wrist shot to give the Canucks a 3-2 lead.

The Predators put good pressure on Luongo, but could not get a puck past him. With Rinne pulled for the extra attacker, Henrik Sedin scored an empty netter for the final margin of victory at 4-2.

The Predators lost Jerred Smithson after the first period after he took a Ryan Kessler elbow to the face. No call was made on the play, and the Predators were down a player that was a key part of their shutdown line. Smithson has already been called out for the game in Vancouver.

It's no secret that the Canucks are a good team. Heck, they are a great team. However, they are beatable if the Predators play their game.

Unfortunately for the Predators, their backs are now against the wall and they have one more opportunity to play their game. By the way, it will be in Vancouver in front of a raucous group of Canucklehead fans.

No small task, eh?

If the Predators focus on playing one game at a time, no, if they focus on playing one shift at a time, and battle the way they have done all season, then they have an opportunity to return the series to Nashville.

It is a steep hill, no doubt. But the Predators have climbed a steep hill all season.

The task is enormous, but the Predators cannot be daunted. They have to play balls to wall for one game. That is the priority. The Canucks are a worthy opponent.

So are we.

So here is your charge, boys.

Win one.

Bring it back to Nashville. Bring it back by playing all out. Win puck battles. Play smart. Play all out.

Play like there is no tomorrow.

Because there isn't.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tim Peel Hands the Canucks a 3-2 OT Victory

The Nashville Predators were defeated by the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in overtime courtesy of a weak second period that saw their offense disappear and an absolute horrific call by referee Tim Peel in overtime that allowed Ryan Kessler to score the game winner. With the win, the Canucks take a 2-1 series lead.

Tim Peel is a terrible official. Plain and simple. Sour grapes? Hardly. Peel watched the Canucks get caught with too many men on the ice in overtime yet failed to whistle the Canucks for the call. Yet when Kessler is holding Shea Weber's stick, he calls the Predators defense for a hooking call. Inexplicable and inexcusable. A terrible call from an official, who took it upon himself to affect the outcome of the game.

That is not to say that the Predators weren't culpable in this defeat.

They were.

After taking a 1-0 lead on a David Legwand short handed goal against Roberto Luongo at 10:18 of the first period, the Predators offense totally vanished in the second period. The Predators were outshot 9-4 in the second period, with most of those shots coming late. The Predators had only one shot on net through the first 14 minutes of the period. Their decision making with the puck through the neutral zone and in the offensive zone was woeful, and they were fortunate to be in the game with this type of play.

Vancouver tied the game at 1:00 of the second on a power play as Joel Ward was caught on a long shift and could not get off the ice. Ryan Kessler beat Ward to the front of the net and jammed the puck past Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne to tie the game.

Vancouver took a 2-1 lead in the third period as Chris Higgins scored on a broken play at at 3:03. Higgins was able to gather in a rebound and beat an out of position Rinne, who had made the save on a shot from Kessler. Higgins was able to beat the defense and Rinne, who were both out of position after the initial save.

The Predators started to swarm the net and put shots on Luongo. Joel Ward cashed in at 13:18 of the the third to tie the game. Both teams generated some chances in the remainder of the period, but neither could get a puck into the net.

For the second game in a row, we were headed to overtime.

Enter Tim Peel. Peel determined that he would decide the game on a specious hooking call against Weber. Kessler got Weber's stick under his arm and held it there. Weber tried to get his stick out, but Kessler had a tight grip on it. Up came Peel's arm. Holding the stick on Kessler was the obvious call.

However, Peel put the Canucks on the power play with an absolutely horrific hooking call against Weber. Kessler got open in front of the net and tipped the puck past Rinne for the game winner.

Thanks, Tim Peel.

If there is any justice in this world, Peel will be suspended for the rest of the playoffs. There is no place in the game for officiating that is as weak and corrupt as his effort tonight.

So be it.

Horrific officiating is part and parcel of NHL games. The Predators were victimized in part by this tonight. They were also victimized by their own lapses and poor play.

It is now time to bounce back. There is no time to hang your head or feel sorry for yourself.

It is time to come back strong against the Canucks and the officials.

Time to seize the momentum again.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Predators Cap Comeback Against the Canucks With 2-1 Double OT Win

After their first game no-show against the Vancouver Canucks, Nashville Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz said that his team would find out a lot about themselves in game 2 of their series.

So what did the Predators find out?

They are a team that is not flashy, but is all heart and grit as they fought to a 2-1 double overtime win against the Canucks at Rogers Centre. They showed the world what Predator nation has known all along: there is no quit in this team.

After standing around for most of game one and watching the Canucks dictate the pace of play, the Predators opened this game with lots of jump and took the battle to the Canucks. The Predators skated well and their forecheck was disruptive. They controlled the neutral zone, slowing the Canucks potent offensive attack. Most importantly, the Predators used their speed and attacking style to generate offensive chances.

Those offensive opportunities were thwarted by the Canucks Vezina candidate, Roberto Luongo. Bobby Lu was called upon to make several good stops, including some goal mouth scrambles that saw the Predators create some good scoring chances.

At the other end of the ice, Pekka Rinne did not have to work as hard as Luongo, but had to make some quality saves nevertheless. Rinne opened game 2 just as he had played in game one, with another solid effort in the net. For the period, the Predators outshot the Canucks 12-6, but despite good offensive effort had now gone 4 periods without netting a goal.

That trend would continue into the second period, as the Predators would outshoot the Canucks 9-4 but could not find the back of the net. Again, they created some good scoring chances, but could not solve Luongo.

Although the Canucks only had 4 shots on goal, one of them found the back of the net, and it was a shorthanded goal while the Predators were on the power play. Sergei Kostitsyn turned the puck over coming out of the Predators zone. Ryan Kessler picked up the puck and got it to Alex Burrows. Burrows took a shot that was blocked by Shea Weber, but got his rebound and put the puck past Rinne to give the Canucks a 1-0 lead at 2:00.

In the third period, the Predators kept up the attack, peppering Luongo with 15 shots to just 5 for the Canucks in the period. Despite the good pressure, it appeared as if this game would be another disappointing 1-0 loss as the Predators appeared unable to get anything past Luongo.

Until Ryan Suter altered the course of the game. He threw a shot at the front of the net from a bad angle behind the goal line. The shot hit Luongo skate and skittered over the goal line at 18:53 of the third. An improbable shot had an improbable result, and the Predators had tied the game to the shock of the Canucks and their raucous fans.

In the first overtime, the Canucks out shot the Predators 11-7, and Pekka Rinne was called upon to make some big saves to keep the Canucks off the board. Rinne absolutely robbed Kevin Bieksa on a breakaway attempt. He made several solid saves to keep the Predators hopes alive, and had another spectacular game in net.

Scoreless through the first overtime, the Predators were heading into the second OT period with a sense of confidence that they could take this game. The Canucks, however, were intent on exerting their will and were starting to take control of the contest, outshooting the Predators 7-3. Once again, Rinne made some big stops to hold the Canucks scoreless.

Oh yes, that third shot for the Predators. Ryan Suter picked up the puck in the neutral zone and got it to Nick Spaling. Spals drove down the left wing while Jerred Smithson drove to the front of the net. Spaling slid the puck to Matt Halischuk, who roofed a one-timer over the glove of Luongo for the game winner at 14:51 of the second OT period.

As unbelievable as it was to those in attendance at the Rogers Centre, as gut wrenching as it was to the Canucks, the Predators had evened their series at one.

The little team that could, did.

Big time.

The adjectives are often overused: resilient; gritty; heart; character. Yet they are adjectives that fit this team perfectly. A team that shows heart and doesn't have any quit in them.

A team that shouldn't be here, according to the pundits. A team that on paper isn't as good as the Canucks.

Never for a moment doubt the heart that beats inside the Predator sweater. A heart that doesn't quit and won't back down. Heart personified by a player like Marty Erat, who lost 4 teeth and suffered a cheap head shot in the opening series and came back. Who took a Shea Weber slapshot to the head in this game. And came back.

Call it heart, guts, or character.

This is what powers this team. A belief in themselves and what they will bring to the ice.

And this is what has brought them an improbable win and an opportunity to seize control of this series.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Nashville Drops Game 1 to the Canucks 1-0

The Nashville Predators dropped a 1-0 game one decision to the Vancouver Canucks in a game that saw the Predators play some of their worst hockey in the playoffs. Sure, the score was only 1-0, but without the amazing play of Pekka Rinne, the score could have been embarrassing. By contrast, Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo was rarely challenged by the Predators offensive effort.

This is the second round of the playoffs, and the Predators found out quickly that the intensity ramps up markedly in the second round. The Canucks were flying and generating quality chances while the Predators could not muster much in the way of offense. This was evidenced by the fact that the Canucks out shot the Predators by a 16-5 margin in the opening frame.Even more disturbing was the fact that the Predators looked disjointed and out of sync throughout the opening frame.

Fortunately for the Predators, the Finnish Wall, Pekka Rinne, was on his game, swallowing up shots and giving up only one rebound opportunity. The Predators managed to kill off two penalties with the stellar play of Rinne in net, but the fact is that the Canucks had several glorious scoring chances both on the PP and at even strength.

It was going to be imperative that the Predators offense join the party if they were going to have a chance to win this game. Relying strictly on the play of Rinne to keep them in the game was going to be disastrous.

Yet Rinne would keep the Predators in this contest. The Canucks continued to dominate the play in the second period, outshooting the Predators 13-6 and holding a 29-11 margin through the two period of play. Rinne made great save after great save, while the team in front of him lost puck battles and gave up the neutral zone.

The Predators were tempting fate.

That style of play finally came back to bite them at 12:14 of the second as Chris Higgins got loose in the low slot and roofed a shot over a sprawling Rinne. The Predators defense was caught running around and lost Higgins who had an uncontested shot to beat Rinne.

The Predators had been absolutely outplayed through two periods, and fortunately only trailed by one goal. Everything that is Predator hockey- sound defense, aggressive forechecking, and controlling the neutral zone- were completely absent in the first two periods of play. The Predators ere getting outworked in all phases of the game.

With 20 minutes left, the Predators were going to have to show the mental resolve and fortitude to change their fortunes.

The Predators generated more offense and a better compete level in the third period, where they out shot the Canucks 9-4. Mike Fisher and his line was particularly strong. yet the Predators could not get a puck past Luongo. When the Predators created some chances, the Canucks netminder was up to the challenge the Predators presented.

The Predators pulled Rinne for an extra attacker with one minute left, but it was to no avail for their offense, and the clocked ran out with the Predators looking at a 1-0 game and series deficit.

Can there be positives to be taken from this game?

Oh, absolutely.

The Predators were outplayed by the more talented Canucks for 50 minutes in this contest, yet lost by one goal. Pekka Rinne was outstanding in net. The Predators finally decided to play late in the game and showed they could create a lot of problems for the Canucks.

Here are the secrets, boys: the Canucks put their jock straps on just like you do. The game is 60 minutes, not the final 10.

Stop standing around in awe of these guys. You skate just as well as they do. Start hitting. These pretty boys don't like the contact and the gritty game. Amp up your intensity. This is your game, but you have to play your game from the opening faceoff to the final whistle.

Oh yeah, shoot the puck. Make Luongo work. Stop looking for the pretty pass and go get the dirty goals.

You know what all that is, boys?

Predator hockey.

And it is time to start playing that game.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Predators Offense Disappears in a 3-1 Loss to the Canucks




Lopsided baseball scores?

No. These were the shot totals in the Vancouver Canucks 3-1 victory over the Nashville Predators at the Bridgestone Arena. Nashville was the leader after the first period and after that, the Canucks trapped the life out of the Predators and controlled the game to secure the win.

2 shots in the third period?

Holy shnikey!

A scoreless first period saw both teams probing the defense and occasionally challenging the opposing netminder. Both Roberto Luongo and Pekka Rinne were up to the task.

In the second period, the Predators got on the scoreboard first as Jonathan Blum fired a shot that Luongo kicked out with his pad. Mike Fisher gathered in the rebound and ripped a shot over the fallen Luongo for his third goal in the last two games. The goal came at 14:01.

Unfortunately, that was it offensively for the Predators.

Going into the third period, the Predators were going to be challenged by the Canucks. That was a given. The Predators did not help their cause by giving up a score just 1:17 into the period as Alex Burrows, villain extraordinaire for the Predators, roofed a shot over the shoulder of Rinne to tie the game.

Burrows would give the Canucks a 2-1 advantage at 17:31 as he would score on a breakaway. Aaron Rome would add an empty netter at 19:51 for the final margin.

The disappointing aspect of this game was that the Predators offense completely disappeared in the third period. They were not very effective in the second, but in the third period they could not handle the trap that the Canucks employed and were completely stymied. As Head Coach Barry Trotz said after the game, the Predators got too cute, trying to make pretty passes rather than dumping the puck in the zone and retrieving it and establishing their offense. This played right into the hands of the Canucks and the Predator offense was impotent in the third period.

With the win, the Canucks evened their season series with the Predators. The Predators still stand at 92 points and their record falls to 41-26-10.

Kudos to the Predators PK, who killed all five man advantage that the Canucks had, but one has to wonder if the PK effort didn't sap something out of the offense.

The important point about this loss is that the Predators have to learn they are not a "cute" team. They are a team that has to get the dirty goals, they are a team that has to possess the puck and get through the neutral zone and establish their offense. Failing to stick to what has made them successful will result in the kind of showing that occurred tonight.

Perhaps more importantly, the Predators got a taste of what real playoff hockey will be like. There is no easy space on the ice. It takes grit and hard work and sticking to your system to make plays and generate scoring opportunities. Tonight, the Predators did not do that.

Learn from this and start a new winning streak. Don't and the playoffs will be painful.

My three stars:

1. Alexander Burrows

2. Roberto Luongo

3. Mike Fisher

Friday, March 4, 2011

Predators Blank the Canucks 3-0

The Nashville Predators rolled into Vancouver in desperate need of a win after struggling to establish consistent momentum over the past few weeks. The task at hand was going to be monumental as they were facing the number one team in the Western Conference in the Vancouver Canucks. Looking at the talent on the ice and the level of play from both teams, this game appeared to be ready made for the Canucks to grab a win before they start a long road trip.

Problem is, when you compare two teams, you can't measure heart.

The Predators exhibited heart, grit, and mental toughness in shutting out the Canucks 3-0. This was the first time that the Canucks have been shut out on home ice this season.

Pekka Rinne stopped all 29 shots he faced, and some of his saves were outstanding. The play of Rinne has been solid all season, but he is elevating his game to another level, and this will always give the Predators a chance to win games.

The game started as a tight checking defensive contest, with each team thwarting the offensive flow of the other. The Predators offensive effort did not get untracked until after the halfway mark of the first period, when Nashville finally recorded their second shot on goal at 9:29. For the period, Vancouver outshot Nashville 11-8.

Rinne made some great saves in the first period to stymie the Canucks, notably stopping Henrik Sedin from the slot. Vancouver's Roberto Luongo had to make a few good saves as well to keep the Predators off the board. However, for the most, both teams were playing suffocating defense and limiting offensive chances.

The second period was a scoreless defensive struggle as well, but both teams had chances in the last five minutes. Mason Raymond rang a puck off the pipe, and just 40 seconds later Jordin Tootoo hit the crossbar. Scoreless at the end of two periods, it was going to be interesting to see which team would crack.

It would be the Canucks that cracked first, as Blake Geofrion cruised into the slot and took a pass from Jordin Tootoo from behind the net. Geoffrion lifted the puck over the shoulder of Luongo to make it 1-0 Predators just 1:59 into the third.

A one goal lead against the explosive Canucks is not one that can make you feel comfortable. The way that we were playing defense, you had to believe that if we had one more goal, this game would fall into the win column for the Predators.

That goal would come at 17:39 as a scene that was all too familiar to Predator fans would unfold in the Canucks defensive zone. Dan Hamhuis would *cough* *hack* up the puck to Patric Hornqvist, who made a great effort to strip the puck. Hornqvist broke in alone on Luongo and undressed him with a sweet move for his 18th goal of the season. Hornqvist continues to battle and bring it every night, and it was good to see him rewarded for his effort.

David Legwand would add an empty netter at 19:25 for his 11th goal to cap the scoring, and as improbable as it seemed, the Predators had clinched a decisive and critical win at Rogers Centre.

The beauty of this win for the Predators was the fact that in a must win game, they continued to battle in the third period, exhibiting mental toughness and grit. Where in previous games they have wilted, they were resilient and unyielding. This is the type of win that the team can build upon going into the sprint to the end of the season. It is the type of win that build confidence and a belief that this team can do what is necessary to make the playoffs.

It will be necessary to continue to play with this sense of desperation and determination. This is playoff hockey right now. The intensity is there in every game that will be played for the remainder of the season. The ability of this team to step up their intensity and level of play like they did tonight will be essential to making the playoffs. This is the proving ground for the team.

Continue to play like you did tonight, with intensity and heart, and you will be well rewarded.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Patric Hornqvist

3. Blake Geoffrion

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Predators Vanquish Vancouver 3-1

The Nashville Predators overcame injuries, piss poor officiating, and the potent Vancouver offense to defeat the number one team in the Western Conference by a score of 3-1. With the win, the Predators have evened their season series against the Canucks at 1 and now stand at 70 points in the Western Conference with a 31-19-8 record.

The contest was a hard fought affair, with both teams trying to exert their will in the first period. Both Pekka Rinne for Nashville and Roberto Luongo for Vancouver were called upon to make some key stops early to keep the game scoreless. The first period saw both teams generate some chances offensively and make some solid defensive stands.

Nashville was called upon to kill out the remaining 3:28 of the first period with a man down. Patric Hornqvist was called for a (legitimate) slashing call at 16:32. Just as the Predators killed off that penalty, Ryan Suter was called for a weak and phantom interference call. Suter was close to a Canuck forward, who tripped on his own while driving to the net. However, a penalty was called by Rob Martell, who was out of position on the play. This was a weak call, the first of many on the night against the Predators.

The Predators killed off this penalty, but would have to kill off a goaltender interference penalty against Steve Sullivan, who whiffed past Luongo but nevertheless was called at 8:32 of the second. Once again, the Predators PK unit was stellar, killing off another phantom penalty and energizing the crowd in the process. The fans responded with a  television timeout standing ovation, unique to any crowd in the National Hockey League.The effect of the crowd involvement was evident, as the Predators were energized and the Canucks were definitely noticing the response of the fans.

That energy was converted into a Predator goal at 14:13 of the second period as Marty Erat got the puck in the slot and fired a shot on Luongo. Bobby Lou made the initial save but gave up the rebound at the top of the blue paint. Erat continued to fight to the net and got his stick on the puck and lifted it over the shoulder of Luongo for the first goal of the game and Erat's 10th of the season.

The Canucks would answer the Predators tally at 18:15 of the second on the power play as the Predators were called for too many on the ice. This was only the second power play goal given up by the Predators in the last 27 man advantage situations.

With the Canucks tying the game, it was going to be important for the Predators to answer and stave off the momentum of the Canucks.

Answer they did.

Nick Spaling would tally just 11 seconds after the Canucks score as he took a centering pass from Patric Hornqvist and lifted a backhander over the shoulder of Luongo. Momentum, which had been with the Canucks, had now swung back to the Predators on the sweet play by Spaling. In traffic, Spals had the presence of mind to control the puck and make a nice shot for the go ahead score.

Momentum would stay with the Predators as they kept the pressure on the Canucks. The Predators controlled the puck and Alexander Sulzer launched a shot from the blue line that Mike Fisher tipped past Luongo for his first goal as a Predator and his 15th of the season to give the Predators a 3-1 lead.

After the goal, Luongo was slumped on his knees and looking skyward in frustration. Frankly, there was never a sweeter sight in this game.

Going into the third period, one knew that the Canucks would come out and try to get their potent offense going. How would the Predators respond?

That response by the Predators was by playing one of the better periods of hockey that they have played all season. The Predators kept pressure on Luongo and the Canucks defenders, and more importantly, the Predators owned the neutral zone. They refused to let the Canucks gain the zone with speed and did a great job of limiting space and chances in the offensive zone. Rinne got clean looks at the puck and was solid in the net, thwarting any chances the Canucks could generate.

Although the Predators did not find the net in the third, their offensive chances were very good, and Luongo made some great saves to keep the Predators off the board. That offensive effort was strong and it was heartening to see that the Predators did not sit back on their heels as they have been prone to do. More importantly, the offensive pressure kept the Canucks from establishing their offensive flow. This was key to the win tonight.

The victory was not without a price. Mike Fisher took a puck to the face and played only 3:18 of the first period as he had to go to the locker room and get stitched. He returned and played a very solid game. Marcel Goc was lost in the second period as he went awkwardly into the boards and came up holding his arm. After the game, he was seen in the locker room with his arm in a sling. Hopefully, he has not re-injured the shoulder he separated earlier this season. Steve Sullivan took a puck to the face as a pass was deflected off a stick during action in the second period. Sullivan was taken to Vanderbilt Hospital for further evaluation after the game. It was reported that the puck did not strike him in the eye, but the injury did not look good.

Just a word about the officiating. It sucked. Rob Martell and Paul Devorsky were awful. Call me a homer- that's fine. However, it was apparent that Vancouver could crash into our netminder, could hold, and could trip and there was going to be no calls against them. There were several weak calls against the Predators, including Suter's interference call and Sullivan's goal tender interference call.

It speaks volumes that the Predators could overcome poor officiating and the high flying Canucks. Unlike the San Jose game, the Predators brought the effort and the intensity for a full 60 minutes tonight. Their play showed no signs of breaking, even in the face of adversity.

This is part of the maturing process. This is learning how to win the tough games. This type of contest steels a team for the playoffs.

Truth be known, with the Western Conference race as tight as it is, this is playoff time right now.

There will be more tough contests, games that will test the mettle of this team.

Play with the effort and the intensity that you brought to the ice tonight, and you will vanquish more opponents.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Marty Erat

3. Nick Spaling

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Predators Give Away a Game to the Canucks 2-1

The Nashville Predators completed a six game road trip by giving away a game to the Vancouver Canucks by a score of 2-1.

The Predators played two scoreless periods against the Canucks before taking a 1-0 lead just 37 seconds into the third period when Shea Weber potted his 9th goal of the season with a wrist shot over a sprawling Roberto Luongo.

That lead lasted until 10:39 of the period when Dan Hamhuis shot a puck toward the net that pinballed through traffic and laned at the feet of cheap shot artist Alex Burrows. Burrows was surrounded by three Predators but not tied up by any of them and was able to backhand the puck past Pekka Rinne.

Vancouver would tally the game winner as the Predators had the puck on the stick of Joel Ward with an opportunity for an easy clear. Instead, Ward fell and turned the puck over to Daniel Sedin. Sedin slid the puck to Lee Sweatt, playing in his first NHL game, and he blew a shot past Rinne.

The Predators has some opportunities late in the game, but could not get a puck past Luongo, and were left with the bitter taste of what might have been. Frankly, the Predators deserved better, but as has been their habit, they did not close out a game that they could have won.

Beyond two defensive breakdowns that cost them, the Predators were victimized by an impotent effort on the power play. The man advantage unit went 0 for 5 in this game. This has to change after the All Star break for the Predators to win these types of games.

I hate losing a game like this, and I know the team does even more than I. There are a lot of positives to take away from this road trip, and those are the aspects on which the team should focus. They won some tough games against quality opponents. The lineup at times was mix and match due to injuries, yet was competitive and productive. This group showed character and heart.

The break for the All Star competition comes at a much needed time. The team needs some rest and the time to allow some of the wounded warriors to return. The time will be good for the guys to relax and recharge their batteries and get focused on the remaining 32 games that lie ahead.

Know that in these remaining games, you are going to have to bring it, boys. Look at the positives of these first 50 games and build on them. Learn from the mistakes and tighten up your effort.

Get ready to bring it and make some noise in these last 32 games.

My three stars:

1. Lee Sweatt

2. Shea Weber

3. Roberto Luongo