Showing posts with label Ryan Ellis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ryan Ellis. Show all posts

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Predators Win a Wild One Against the Blackhawks

Two games to go in the season, games that are meaningless for the Nashville Predators. The first of those games would be at Bridgestone Arena against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Would the Predators mail it in against the powerful Hawks?

Absolutely not!

The Predators won a wild affair 7-5 in front of a capacity crowd that was almost evenly split between fans of both teams.

Until a Shea Weber empty net goal sent the hawks fans scrambling for the exits.

Both teams combined to score 7 goals in a wild third period. The Predators scored twice in the final minute to seal the win.

Chicago scored the first two goals of the game as Ben Smith and Marian Hossa tallied for the Blackhawks.

The ice was decidedly tilted in favor of the hawks until Craig Smith scored a beautiful goal off his faceoff win. he went top corner on Antti Raanta to make it 2-1 at the end of the first period.

Ryan Ellis tied the game at the 6:32 mark of the second period.

Matt Carey scored his first NHL goal to give the Hawks a 3-2 lead at 13:16 of the second period.

That set up a wild third period.

Matt Cullen tied the game, chipping in a rebound of a Mike Fisher shot. Colin Wilson put the Predators in the lead for the first time as he slapped home a rebound of a Shea Weber shot.

The game was tied at 4 by Jeremy Morin at the 8:00 minute mark of the third period.

Paul Gaustad gave the Predators a 5-4 lead, taking a pass from Craig Smith and blowing a shot from the slot past Raanta.

The Predators could not hold the lead as Andrew Shaw beat Pekka Rinne with a slap shot at 18:25 of the third period.

Looking like the game would go to overtime, the Predators refused to relent and pressured Raanta and the Hawks defense. That effort paid off as Patric Hornqvist drove the net a potted a rebound of a Matt Cullen shot at 19:01 of the third period.

Shea Weber sealed the win with an empty net goal at 19:46.

Some observations:

  • The Hawks had a tremendous advantage in zone time in the first period. The Predators rarely visited the offensive zone and Rinne was forced to deal with a lot of traffic in front of his net. The Hawks generally created havoc in front of the Predators netminder throughout the game and did a good job of taking away Rinne's vision on some of their goals. Rinne was not especially sharp tonight, but dis make some big saves during the course of the game.

  • Raanta had a relatively easy first period, but when the Predators started getting shots on goal and driving the net, he was unable to handle the pressure. The Predators did a good job in the final 40 minutes of getting shots on goal and driving the net for rebounds.

  • Patric Hornqvist has a goal and an assist tonight to give him 52 points for the season, a career high. Hornqvist has 17 points (9G-8A) in his last 10 games.

  • Shea Weber also set a career high of 55 points (22G-33A) with a goal and an assist tonight.

  • Weber joins Hornqvist and Craig Smith as team leaders in goals, each with 22.

  • Pekka Rinne picked up his 10th win of the year.

  • Marian Hossa did not play for the Blackhawks after the first period.

  • The Predators are 8-1-2 in their last 11 games. The captured the season series with the Hawks, winning 4 of 5 contests.
This was a resilient, character win for the Predators. They could have easily rolled over, going down 2 goals in the first period.

Instead, the battled and never quit.

This is something to build upon in the coming season.

My three stars:

1. Patric Hornqvist

2. Craig Smith

3. Paul Gaustad

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Predators Have Some Fight Left, Defeat the Coyotes 2-0

The playoffs will not happen for the Nashville Predators this season.

That doesn't mean that their remaining games are meaningless.

The Predators defeated the Phoenix Coyotes 2-0 at Bridgestone Arena, and showed they still have a lot of fight and pride in their game. They managed to send the crowd home happy on fan appreciation night and in the process dealt a damaging blow to the Coyotes playoff chances.

A scoreless first period saw the Predators turn the puck over several times in the defensive zone and give the Coyotes several good scoring opportunities. Pekka Rinne was strong in net and kept the Coyotes off the board with his play in net.

It took the Predators 7 minutes to record their first shot on net.

Once the Predators got their skates going, they managed to limit chances by the Coyotes and get some chances of their own.

After a scoreless first period, the Predators got on the board first off a shot from Craig Smith on the power play. With the man advantage about to expire, Smith skated in from the face off circle and used the Coyote defenders to screen Thomas Greiss. Smith let a wrist shot go that Greiss never saw and beat him top shelf for the game's first goal at 10:26 of the second period.

Patric Hornqvist made it 2-0 at 9:26 of the third period as Greiss stopped Hornqvist's first shot, but he got his rebound and shoveled it past the pad of Greiss.

The Predators locked down the Coyotes in the remainder of the game with Rinne making some solid saves to preserve the shutout.

Some observations:

  • Rinne recorded his second shutout of the season and his 32nd career shutout. he stopped all 29 shots he faced, and with the win moved in first place for all time wins by a Predator goalie with 162. His win tonight moved him past Tomas Vokoun, who had the record with 161 wins.

  • Patric Hornqvist and Craig Smith both tallied their 21st goal of the season.

  • Smith played a strong game. He skated well and fired 9 shots at the net, with 5 of them getting on goal. Smith has rebounded nicely from a dismal season last year and has shown that he can be a consistent producer and an offensive threat.

  • Former Predator Marty Erat played his 800th game tonight skating for the Coyotes. he played 723 of those with the Predators.

  • Patric Hornqvist now has 50 points, one shy of his career high set in the 2009-10 season. Hornqvist has 15 points in his last 9 games (8G-7A).

  • Ryan Ellis led the Predators with 4 blocked shots.

  • Matt Cullen picked up an assist on Hornqvist's goal and now has 13 points (3G-10A) over the last 9 games.

  • Mike fisher also had an assist tonight and has 10 points 3G-7A) over the last nine games.

  • Shea Weber led the Predators with 26:27 TOI.
This was a solid win for the Predators against a team that was desperate. It was heartening to see the boys compete as hard as they did when it would have been just as easy to roll over.

The playoffs aren't happening, but that doesn't mean there aren't things to be accomplished before the end of the season.

This is the kind of effort the Predators need to close out the season.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Craig Smith

3. Patric Hornqvist

Friday, March 14, 2014

Predators Perfect on the Road Trip; Defeat Balckhawks 3-2

There is no doubt the Chicago Blackhawks are one of the elite teams in the NHL.

The Nashville Predators have struggled to score and play consistently this season.

Yet these two teams still had to play the game, and the heart and the grit of the Predators prevailed over the talent and skill of the Hawks to capture a 3-2 win at the United Center.

The Predators looked as if they thought the game started later than the actual puck drop as the Hawks dominated the first half of the opening period. The Predators did not get their first shot on net until 9:18 had run off the clock.

But once they got their legs going, the Predators showed they could play with the Blackhawks.

The Predators jumped out to a 2-0 lead on a goal by Mike fisher off a rebound of a Roman Josi shot, which Hawks netminder Corey Crawford kicked out with his pad. Fisher was driving the net and banged the puck past an out of position Crawford at 15:33 of the first period.

The second Predators goal came off a Shea Weber blast that Crawford blocked but the rebound was lifted into the net by Patric Hornqvist at 18:51.

With just 14 seconds left in the first period, the Hawks got on the board as a puck jumped over the stick of Josi at the blue line and the Hawks were off on a 3 on 1 break. Jonathan Toews cashed in off a nice pass from Kris Versteeg to beat Pekka Rinne and make it a 2-1 game.

The second period ended scoreless but with the Blackhawks on the power play and Ryan Ellis in the box.

Just as the power play ended, Josi spotted Ellis coming out of the box and hit him with a perfect pass to send him in alone on Crawford. Ellis made a sweet move to beat Crawford to make it 3-1 at 19:15 of the third period.

The Hawks were certainly not done, as Peter Regin deflected a puck through traffic past Rinne at 8:32 of the period. The Predators were victimized by their inability to get the puck out of their zone, and the talented Hawks made them pay.

That goal energized the Hawks, but Rinne was stellar, stopping shots with lots of traffic in front of him.

The Predators were able to withstand the last gasp push by the Hawks and came away with a 3-2 victory.

No happy humans leaving the United Center tonight.

Some observations:

  • The defense corps has stepped up their game offensively. Roman Josi had 3 assists; Shea Weber had 2 assists; and Ryan Ellis had the game winning goal. Getting the defense involved, and more importantly contributing to the offensive effort is essential for the Predators to have an opportunity to win games.

  • The goals by Fisher and Hornqvist were quintessential Predator goals. They were going hard to the net and collected rebounds for the score. The forwards for the Predators have to consistently do this to score, and when they do, they can be productive.

  • The Predators had a bit of luck as Jonathan Toews had an open net into which to shoot the puck, but his backhand from the top of the crease hit the post and bounced out of harm's way.

  • The goal by Ellis was sweet, with a nice move to get Crawford completely out of position. Ellis struggles against larger forwards in the defensive zone, but their is no denying his offensive skill.

  • Colin Wilson and Gabriel Bourque continue to struggle offensively. They hustle and they compete, but their offensive game has completely disappeared. Each recorded just one shot on goal in 14:57 and 10:54 TOI, respectively. The Predators desperately need to get these guys going offensively.

  • With the win, the Predators are now 1 game over .500 with a record of 29-28-10.
The Predators completed the three game road trip with a perfect 3-0 record, and will return home to face the St. Louis Blues tomorrow night.

It's time to get some wins on home ice, boys.

My three stars:

1. Roman Josi

2. Shea Weber

3. Pekka Rinne

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Predators Feeling Blue: Drop 4th Straight to St. Louis

Remember when the Nashville Predators used to have their way with the St. Louis Blues?

Go back several seasons and a game against the Blues was almost a guaranteed win for the Predators.

Over that span of time, the Blues have drafted well and developed their offensive talent, and that talent has developed into one of the elite teams in the NHL.

By contrast, the Predators have devolved into a bunch of grinders that give a good effort but have a woeful lack of skill.

That yawning gap in talent was on display at the Bridgestone Arena as the Blues beat the Predators for the 4th straight time by a score of 2-1. that score belies the fact that the blues were the clearly dominant team and controlled play for much of the game.

Ian Cole opened the scoring at 4:03 of the first period as he fired a shot off a face off win through traffic that beat a screened Pekka Rinne to give the Blues a 1-0 lead.

The Predators answered at 10:28 of the first as Patric Hornqvist threw a shot to the front of the net from the goal line that was re-directed by Nick Spaling over the shoulder of Ryan Miller to tie the game at 1.

That was it for the Predators as they rarely challenged Miller.

The blues scored the game winner as Magnus Paarjarvi took a pass from roman Polak and skated past Ryan Ellis and beat Rinne to the far side post at 15:27 of the second period.

The Predators could rarely muster any offense and struggled just getting the puck through the neutral zone and establishing any offensive flow.

This was an ugly loss as it clearly exposed the talent gap between the Predators and a team that was consistently below them in the standings just a few years ago.

The troubling aspect of this game is that it clearly shows that this talent gap will not quickly or easily be closed by the Predators.

Some observations:

  • The Predators have now lost 6 of their last 7 games. This team is not bound for the playoffs, and the lack of talent is going to haunt this team and their fans for several years.

  • Patric Hornqvists assist was his 100th of his career.

  • The Predators do not have a forward that can cosnsitently carry the puck into the offensive zone against a talented defense. The Predators had to almost exclusively resort to a dump and chase game, and they lost most of those puck battles all night.

  • Puck support by the Predators was awful. Often, when the Predators got the puck in the zone, the Blues out numbered the puck carrier and forced turnovers. The Predators had 10 giveaways to 4 by the Blues.

  • How ineffective were the Predators forwards? The Predators had 21 shots on goal, and 13 of those came from defensemen.

  • Newly acquired Patrick Eaves was in the lineup, playing on the fourth line with Paul Gaustad and Rich Clune. Eaves had 6:59 of ice time and was a -1 for the night.

  • This was the Predators first game without David Legwand. Those that know me or read this blog know that he has not been a favorite of mine. My problem with Legwand was simply that I believe that he did not play with heart and was grossly overpaid for what he brought to the ice. That is simply my opinion, and I don't expect all of you (any of you) to agree with me. It is telling to me that the management of the team could not answer the question of whether or not the Predators would be a better team without Legwand. And there is the enigma: Legwand was a talented player that never played to his potential or his talent level. Time will tell if this team is better or not without him. I think his absence will not affect this team adversely.

  • Rinne was called upon to make some  huge saves once again to keep an opponent off the board. He also stopped Alex Steen on a penalty shot.

  • The woeful Predators offense has scored just one goal in each of their last three games.

  • I do not like the defensive pairing of Michael Del Zotto and Ryan Ellis. You have two puck moving defensemen that do not play a physical game. The larger and more physical forwards of the Blues pushed around Ellis in particular all night. I thought the pairing of MDZ and Seth Jones that had been used in previous games was a more effective tandem.

With the playoffs out of the picture, the Predators now have to focus on improving their game and building for next season. It is encouraging to see that this group is still competing.

It would be even more encouraging to see this team begin to produce consistent scoring.

My three stars:

1. Magnus Paarjarvi

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Ian Cole

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Predators Use Potent Power Play to Defeat Lightning

The Nashville Predators are thankful their power play was clicking. Heck, it wasn't just clicking, it was potent.

The Predators scored all three goals on the man advantage to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 at Bridgestone Arena in their first game back from the Olympic break.

Of the 5 goals scored in this contest tonight, 4 came off the power play.

The Predators are desperately trying to claw their way back into playoff contention, and every game is critical for this team.

The game did not begin the way the Predators wanted. In fact, in the first period the Predators looked like they were still on the Olympic break.

Tampa Bay jumped out to a 2-0 lead off two goals by Martin St. Louis. the first was one of the easier goals he will ever score as he gathered in a rebound off the pads of Carter Hutton and banged the puck into an open net for a 1-0 Lightning lead at 5:26 of the first period.

St. Louis notched his second goal on the power play. His shot from the face off circle appeared to be stopped by Hutton but it trickled between his pad and the post to make it 2-0 at 9:13 of the first period.

The period ended with the Predators rarely challenging Lightning goalie Ben Bishop. Shots were 9-8 in favor of the Lightning.

The Predators used the power play to get going in the second period. With Nikita Kucherov in the box serving a penalty for too many men on the ice against the Lightning, Ryan Ellis found Matt Cullen at the side of the net with a slap pass. Cullen buried a shot over the shoulder of Bishop and inside the far post to cut the lead to 2-1 at 12:05 of the second period.

Roman Josi tied the game at 13:16 of the second with the Predators again on the power play. He walked in from the blue line and wired a shot over the shoulder of bishop with Patric Hornqvist in front providing a screen.

Hornqvist had a few testy confrontations with Bishop, with Bishop throwing a few cheap ,shot punches at Hornqvist as he was crowding the front of the net.

So it was only fitting that Hornqvist would get the game winner- again on the power play at 13:56 of the third period. Mike fisher took a shot that Bishop could not control, and Hornqvist got his stick on the puck at the top of the crease and jammed it between the pads of Bishop for the go ahead goal.

The Predators did a good job of shutting down the Lightning for the remainder of the game, although they solidly rang a shot off the post after the Predators had taken the lead.

Some observations:

  • After looking sluggish in the first period, the Predators got their legs moving and upped their intensity to take control of the game. The Predators defense was outstanding in the final two periods, allowing only 7 shots in the final 40 minutes. The Lightning have a potent offense and the Predators did a great job of disrupting their offensive flow.

  • The Predators have the 7th ranked power play in the NHL, connecting at 20.4%. After tonight, they have raised that percentage to 21.7% by going 3 for 5 on the man advantage.

  • Matt Cullen's goal was his first in 29 games. he last scored November 27th.

  • Hornqvist scored his first goal in 10 games.

  • Roman Josi picked up his 12th point in his last 13 games. He now has 9 goals on the season.

  • Carter Hutton got a lot of help from his defense, but had a solid game. He is now 7-2-2 in his last 11 games.

  • Shea Weber picked up two assists and is tied for the team lead in scoring with 40 points. Weber also lead the team in time on ice, with 28:18.

  • This is only the second win of the season for the Predators when trailing after the first period. They are now 2-17-4 when trailing after the first 20 minutes.
The Predators have to amass points in this five game home stand, and this was a good start. They were resilient and determined and refused to fold when down early.

They will have to keep it up to get back in the playoff race.

My three stars:

1. Patric Hornqvist

2. Marty St. Louis

3. Shea Weber

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Predators Can't Overcome First Period Hole, Fall to Avs 5-4

The Colorado Avalanche are a very skilled team. The Nashville Predators are not. So if the Predators were going to capture a win at Bridgestone Arena, they were going to have to play a full 60 minute game and bring the effort in all zones.

Forget all zones.

The Predators didn't bother to show up and embarrassed themselves in the first period as they dug a 3-0 hole. Their furious comeback could not overcome this deficit as the Predators fell 5-4 leaving a sellout crowd disappointed and frustrated.

The Avs controlled the first period and cycled the puck at will. All three of their first period goals came off strong puck possession and the cycle.

The Predators tallied a 5 on 3 power play goal in the second period to cut the deficit to 3-1 as Patric Hornqvist took a sweet pass from Mike Fisher at the top of the crease and buried the shot for his 10th goal of the season.

The Predators needed a strong start to the third period to get back into the game. Instead, they gave up 2 goals to the Avalanche to make it 5-1 and send fans scurrying to the exits.

Finally, the Predators woke up and got back into the game. Craig Smith, Ryan Ellis, and Roman Josi all scored to make it 5-4, but the Predators could not get the tying goal as Semyon Varlamov and the Avs held the Predators off the board.

Some observations:

  • GM David Poile should take a close look at the Avalanche. They are a team that has been built with skilled offensive players. That skill dominated the will of the Predators for most of the game. The Predators are built in such a way that they have to play a nearly perfect game to win against quality, skilled teams, and more often than not their will is not sufficient nor is their game close enough to perfection to beat skilled teams.

  • That said, kudos to the Predators for battling back. Down 5-1, they could have folded, but continued to fight. The deficit was too great to overcome and the team lacks the dangerous offensive threat to consistently put the puck in the net.

  • The Predators have the annoying habit of making average players look great. Tonight, Avs journeyman defenseman Nick Holden looked like the second coming of Ray Bourque, notching 2 goals.

  • Can we agree that Viktor Stalberg playing on the 4th line is a failed experiment? Stalberg didn't have the start that he wanted to this season, but he is defensively responsible and possesses great speed that his current line mates cannot match. While Stalberg languishes on the 4th line, Colin Wilson continues to get top line minutes while doing absolutely nothing. Perhaps the coaching staff needs to look at some line changes. As it is, the lack of productivity from Wilson does not justify his current role. tonight, Wilson had no shots on goal and was a -1.

  • Devan Dubnyk got his first start tonight. He wasn't great and wasn't altogether bad. There are a couple of goals that he would like to have back, but most were the result of the dominance of the Avs in the Predators offensive zone.

  • Craig Smith tallied his team leading 15th goal. This is a career high for the Honey Badger and he continues to play a solid game. He leads the team in scoring and continues to play a high tempo game and is creative offensively.

  • I had my doubts about mini-me, uh, Ryan Ellis. I was unsure as to whether he could handle the rigors of a full time role as a blueliner, but he is proving me wrong. he has played a more physical game and continues to produce offensively.
The start was brutal and the Predators could not overcome their ineptitude and lack of energy to begin the game and at the start of the third period.

The lack of consistency from this team will cost them a playoff spot. The lack of skill on this squad cannot overcome the grit or Predator "hard" or whatever we call it now.

The task for the Predators is just to try to gain consistency- hopefully good, positive consistency- every night.

My three stars:

1. Nick Holden

2. Nathan Mackinnon

3. Roman Josi

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Predators End the Futility, Finish the Flyers in a Shootout

The Nashville Predators traveled to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers and were looking to build on a solid win from their previous game. For the Predators, consistency and a quick start were essential to capturing a road win against a hot Flyers team.

It was the Flyers that got the quick start as they tallied just 1:28 into the game as Brayden Schenn tapped in a puck laying at the side of the net. Predators netminder Carter Hutton had traffic in front on him and was fighting to find the puck when Schenn gathered in the loose puck and banged it home for the first goal of the game.

The Predators answered with a similar goal at 10:57 of the first period. Gabriel Bourque came off the wall and fired the puck toward the front of the net, where it met the skate of Eric Nystom, who was driving hard to the blue paint. The puck caromed off Nystrom's skate past Flyers goaltender Steve Mason to knot the game at 1.

The Predators took a 2-1 lead at 16:35 of the period. The Predators were on the power play when Mike Fisher threaded a pass through the slot to David Legwand, who buried the puck past a sprawling Mason.

The second period loosened up a bit and the game became an end to end contest.

The Flyers nearly tied the game as a dump in was misplayed behind the net by Hutton. The puck bounced off his stick on to the tape of Michael Raffl, who had an open net into which to shoot the puck. David Legwand tripped Raffl on the backcheck, which affected his shot, but Hutton dove out from behind the net and made a remarkable glove save to keep the Flyers off the board.

Hutton would give up the tying goal with just 3.6 seconds left in the period as Andrej Meszaros took a drop pass from Wayne Simmonds and whipped a shot over the shoulder stick side.

This was the kind of goal that could deflate a team, so it would be interesting to see how the Predators responded in the third period.

The Flyers Niklas Grossman was called for a double minor for high sticking Patric Hornqvist, and on the ensuing power play Shea Weber, much to the chagrin of Philly fans who lust after the stud defenseman, gunned a slap shot from the blue line to give the Predators a 3-2 lead at 5:10.

The Predators would continue on the power play and Craig Smith had a glorious chance on a breakaway that was stopped by Mason.

The Predators tempted fate by taking a late penalty as Mike Fisher was called for slashing and the Flyers made the Predators pay. Wayne Simmonds was parked in front of the net and he was able to re-direct a shot past Hutton at 18:36. On the play, Mason was pulled and it was a 6 on 4 advantage for the Flyers.

That late goal caused the game to go to overtime, where the Predators had not had much success this season. The Predators were 1-7 in OT sessions this season.

Neither team could score in the overtime, although the Flyers Matt Read rang a shot off the post that nearly trickled into the net before Carter Hutton smothered the puck.

It's deja vu all over again, as the teams were heading to a shootout, just like in their first meeting in Nashville.

For the first time this season, the Predators won a shootout.

The futility in the skills competition was finally over!

The shootout went seven rounds with Matt Cullen, Ryan Ellis, and Roman Josi scoring the game winner.

Some observations:

  • Carter Hutton played a solid game and came up with some very good saves. He was able to track the puck well through traffic and gave up few rebounds. Hutton has had two good outings, and hopefully he can build on this and get his mojo going.

  • In the shootout, the Predators surprisingly went to Seth Jones as the third shooter. He missed the net on his shot.

  • The Predators power play was efficient scoring on 2 of 4 opportunities including one goal on a 4 minute double minor. The power play units have been moving the puck better of late, forcing the defense to move more and opening up shooting lanes.

  • The Predators continue to put pucks on the net. They out shot the flyers 37-30 and this is what this team has to do to have an opportunity to win games.

  • With the win, the Predators get back to .500 at 21-21-7, good for 49 points and 6 points out of the final playoff spot.

  • New acquisition Devan Dubnyk was on the bench as the back up goalie.

The Predators continue to fight and claw to try to get back into the playoff race.

Essential for this team to do that will be to build consistency and avoid the losing streaks that have derailed momentum during this season.

These past two wins are a good place to start doing just that.

My three stars:

1. Roman Josi

2. Shea Weber

3. Wayne Simmonds

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Predators Snuff the Flames 4-2

The Nashville Predators were looking to end their three game losing streak and their five game on a positive note. They needed a complete game in all zones and to especially regain confidence in their ability to score.

The visiting Calgary Flames were just what the doctor ordered.

The Predators downed the Flames 4-2 at Bridgestone Arena, employing their magical formula of winning most of their games when they score first. The Predators are 17-2-4 when scoring the first goal.

That first goal came courtesy of Shea Weber, who blew a puck past Flames netminder Karri Ramo at 15:52 of the first period and with the Predators on the power play.

The Flames tied the game at 18:56 of the first period as Jiri Hudler took a backhand that Predator goaltender Carter Hutton deflected with his pad. The puck came to Lee Stempniak in the slot and he buried a shot into the open net.

After a second period that was scoreless, both teams found the net in the third period.

Just 55 seconds into the third period, Ryan Ellis carried the puck into the offensive zone. He showed great patience to wait for an open shooting lane that appeared as no Calgary player challenged the puck. Once Ellis had that lane, he blasted a slap shot past Ramo for a 2-1 lead.

The Predators tallied again on the power play as Seth Jones took a shot from the blue line that bounced around in the traffic in front of the net. Ramo could not locate the puck but Craig Smith could. He drove the net and beat Ramo glove side to give the Predators a 3-1 lead at 2:40 of the third period.

Viktor Stalberg got his 6th goal of the season as he went to the front of the net and re-directed a  Ryan Ellis slap shot to make it 4-1 at 10:52.

The Flames would cut the deficit to 4-2 at 13:07 when Mikael Backlund  came off the wall and beat Hutton with a wrist shot.

The Predators would shut down the Flames for the rest of the period, including the final two minutes with Ramo pulled for an extra attacker and snapped their losing streak with a much needed 4-2 win.

Some observations:

  • The Predators power play had been 1 for 13 in their previous four games. tonight, they were 2 for 5 (the fifth was a 55 second man advantage at the end of the game). They showed much better movement without the puck to set up shots and managed the puck well. Weber's goal was an absolute bomb that came as he worked his way open to the left of Ramo. Smith's goal came from basic Predators hockey: shoot the puck and get traffic to the net. On that play, Nick Spaling was creating havoc in front to give Smith a chance to control the puck and get the shot.

  • The Predators power play is connecting at 21% after tonight's game, good for 7th in the NHL.

  • Weber's goal tonight gives him 11 for the year, best among NHL defensemen.

  • Craig Smith's goal was his 14th of the season and leads the team.

  • David Legwand picked up three assists tonight. Obviously, Legwand read my blog chastising him for being disinterested in the Minnesota game and it lit a fire under him.

  • Carter Hutton had a solid game and made some good saves. He stopped 22 of 24 shots and picked up his first win since December 14.

  • Seth Jones picked up an assist on the Predators second power play. With that point, he is tied for second in points for rookie defensemen with Eric Gelinas of New Jersey with 18 points..

  • Ryan Ellis had a strong game, picking up a goal and an assist and was a +2 for the game.
This was a solid win for the Predators as they were sound in all phases of the game.

The challenge for this team will be to play consistently and bring this effort every night.

My three stars:

1. Ryan Ellis

2. Shea Weber

3. David Legwand

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Same Song, Same Tired Refrain. Predators Fall to the Caps 5-2

The Nashville Predators traveled to the Verizon Center to take on the Washington Capitals and were in desperate need of a win. The Predators had just ended a four game home stand by losing every game, and faced a big challenge in the Capitals and their explosive offense.

Marek Mazanec was in net for the Predators, while the Capitals went with Braden Holtby.

Mazanec made a couple of stellar saves early in the period to keep the Caps off the board. Washington would get the first goal of the game, though as Troy Brouwer outmuscled Ryan Ellis in front of the net and was able to slide a backhand past the pads of Mazanec at 6:44 of the first period.

Rich Clune was called for interference at 13:06 and Alex Ovechkin fired a shot from the face off circle that caromed past Mazanec at 13:09.

So much for an effective penalty kill.

Karl Alzner made it 3-0 for the Caps with a blast from the blue line that beat Mazanec glove side at 16:19. this was just after Mazanec made 3 great saves in close after Kevin Klein had a give away in front of his net.

The Predators finally showed some signs of life as Roman Josi carried the puck into the zone a fired a wrist shot from outside the face off circle that beat Holtby over the shoulder to make it 3-1 at 19:38 of the first period.

The Caps out shot the Predators 14-12 in the first period.

the game was not out of reach- yet- but the Predators were going to have to get better goaltending and tighten up their effort in the defensive zone.

The Predators opened the second period skating better and firing shots on net. they created some great scoring opportunities, but could not finish their chances.

The Predators also played much better defensively, limiting the Caps shots and scoring chances. In the period, the Predators out shot the Caps 12-6.

If the Predators were going to get back in this game, they were going to have to do something that had been a struggle over the last 4 games, and that was finish their scoring chances.

At 3:39 of the third period, Nate Schmidt fired a puck from the blue line that beat an unscreened Mazanec stick side to make it 4-1.

The Predators made it 4-2 as Eric Nystrom broke in on a 2 on 1 and rather than pass, took a shot from inside the face off circle that beat Holtby to the far post at 3:52 of the period. Nystrom has a deceptively good shot, and he beat Holtby with a well placed shot.

The game turned into a pond hockey affair as both teams sped up and down the ice with scoring chances. The Predators tempted fate by giving up odd man rushes, and the Caps eventually made them pay as Eric Fehr buried a shot from the face off circle that beat Mazanec stick side to give the Caps a 5-2 lead at 14:50.

The Predators never threatened again after that score, and mercifully, the Caps did not score again.

Some observations:

  • The Predators welcomed Shea Weber back to the line up after taking a puck to the eye on Thanksgiving night against Edmonton. weber was wearing a visor, which I hope he continues to do for the remainder of his career. Weber is one of the players that is grandfathered under the CBA and he can choose not to wear a visor because of his tenure in the League.

  • The Predators scratched their second leading scorer, Craig Smith, in favor of Rich Clune. The logic of that move eludes me.

  • Mazanec had to make some quality saves. The score would have been more embarrassing except for some very good play in the net. The goal by Schmidt was one he would like to have back, as it was an unscreened shot that blew past him. Mazanec was beaten stick side twice tonight on shots that seemed stoppable.

  • Once again, the inability to finish scoring chances victimized the Predators. They put a lot of pucks on Holtby and he gave up rebounds, but we had difficulty finishing scoring chances in close.

  • The Predators faced some familiar players in Joel Ward and Marty Erat.

  • Patric Hornqvist took a big hit from Troy Brouwer late in the game and went to the locker room and did not return. It appeared that he hurt his shoulder again when he landed awkwardly on the ice.
This is a struggling team that is not playing good hockey. And that is a formula for falling far out of the playoff race.

If the Predators do not get back on track very quickly, this will be a long and dismal season.

My three stars:

1. Braden Holtby

2. Eric Fehr

3. Roman Josi

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

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Predators Cruise Past Columbus 4-0

The Nashville Predators traveled to Nationwide Arena to face their former Central Division rival Columbus Blue Jackets. What had been a heated and testy division rivalry has been dampened somewhat by the Jackets move to the Eastern Conference.

Marek Mazanec was in net for the Predators, while the Jackets had their workhorse Sergei Bobrovsky between the pipes.

The Predators were once again without the services of Patric Hornqvist, who was out with an upper body injury. The Jackets were dealing with a myriad of injuries on their roster that caused Head Coach Todd Richards to juggle his lines.

The Predators opened the scoring at 9:58 of the first period. Matt Cullen skated the puck into the offensive zone and passed to Ryan Ellis on the opposite point. Ellis drew the defense to him and zipped a diagonal pass back to Cullen, who beat Bobrovsky with a one timer from just inside the face off circle. Ellis showed great patience and vision on the play and put the pass through the defense on to the tape of Cullen.

That would be the only scoring in the period. The Predators put a lot of pressure on Bobrovsky and the Jackets defense in the period, outshooting them 14-4. Bobrovsky was called upon to make some good saves to keep the Predators from extending their lead.

The Predators started the second period on the power play with 1:30 of man advantage time. A shot from the point by Roman Josi deflected off Gabriel Bourque into the slot. Mike Fisher gathered in the rebound and banged a shot over the shoulder of Bobrovsky to give the Predators a 2-0 lead 54 seconds into the period.

The Predators forecheck forced a Jackets turnover in their defensive zone. Viktor Stalberg was able to create the turnover and got a pass from Gabriel Bourque while driving the front of the net. Stalberg's shot got through to Bobrovsky, who made the initial save, but David Legwand tipped the puck into the open net to make 3-0 at 8:56 of the period.

The latter stages of the second period saw the Jackets attempt to mount an offensive push, but the Predators defense was up to the task.

In the second period, the Predators out shot the Jackets 11-8.

The Predators made it 4-0 at 2:02 of the third period as they won a face off in the offensive zone. Matt Cullen slipped a pass from his knees to Nick Spaling, and he let go a wicked wrist shot that beat Bobrovsky over the shoulder.

The Predators spent the rest of the third period shutting down the Jackets offensive push and Mazanec picked up his second career shut out with the 4-0 win.

Some observations:

  • The Predators have been playing some disciplined hockey of late. Tonight, they took one penalty until Craig Smith was called for delay of game for shooting the puck over the glass with 26 seconds left in the contest. This discipline has helped to keep the Predators fresher since they are not spending an inordinate amount of time killing penalties.

  • The line of Cullen, Smith, and Spaling has shown some very good chemistry and has become an offensive force. Cullen is playing some very good hockey right now and is the catalyst that gets this line going.

  • The Predators defensive effort, especially in the first 40 minutes, was exceptional. They limited the Jackets to 12 shots through 2 periods and did not allow the Jackets many quality scoring chances.

  • The Predators have shot the puck well and have been going strong to the net. This is a winning formula and the Predators have to continue to consistently do this to have success.

  • Mazanec continues his strong play. He tracked the puck well and gave up few rebounds. The team in front of him seems to be developing a confidence in his abilities in net, and this has helped their play.
This was a solid road win by the Predators. They shut down the Jackets and did not allow the fans at Nationwide to get into the game.

Now the Predators have to continue this kind of play to climb aback into the playoff race.

My three stars:

1. Marek Mazanec

2. Matt Cullen

3. Gabriel Bourque

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Predators Potent Offense Pours in 6 Goals Against the Avalanche

The Nashville Predators continued their road trip with a stop in Denver for their second meeting of the season against the Colorado Avalanche. The Predators looked to continue their new found scoring prowess against an Avalanche team that possessed and explosive offense of their own.

Carter Hutton got the start for the Predators, while the Avalanche had Semyon Varlamov in net.

The Predators had to wonder if this was going to be one of those games where they were snake bitten as they hit three posts early in the first period.

The Predators finally broke through at 13:12 of the period as Viktor Stalberg forced a turnover off his forecheck and took a pass from behind the net from Colin Wilson and buried the shot past Varlamov for his first goal of the season.

The Avs answered back at 15:23 off a 2 on 1 break. P.A. Parenteau took a pass from Matt Duchene and beat Hutton, who had no chance on the shot. The play was set up when Seth Jones took the puck deep in the offensive zone and had his pass intercepted, starting the break for the Avs.

The Avs continued the trend of cheap shots as Jamie McGinn left his feet and boarded Seth Jones. Jones left the game and went to the locker room after the dirty hit.

On the ensuing power play, Colin Wilson dug the puck out from the side of the net and got it to Craig Smith. Smith roofed the shot over the shoulder of Varlamov and under the crossbar to give the Predators a 2-1 lead at 19:07 of the period.

Fortunately for the Predators, Jones was able to return to the game.

At the end of the first period, the Predators held a 2-1 lead and out shot the avalanche 10-9.

The Avs tied the game at 2 at 2:15 of the second period off a 3 on 2 rush. Ryan O'Reilly took a drop pass from P.A. Parenteau and fired a shot over the shoulder of Hutton to knot the game.

Just 59 seconds later, Paul Gaustad re-directed a Filip Forsberg shot to give the Predators a 3-2 lead at 3:14. Gaustad was right in front of Varlamov creating havoc and was able to get the shaft of his stick on the shot to deflect it.

The Predators extended their lead to 4-2 on the power play as Ryan Ellis faked a shot from the point and found Colin Wilson breaking in on the weak side with a perfect pass. Wilson banged the puck into the open net at 6:47 for his second goal of the year. Avery heads up play by both Ellis and Wilson.

The Avs made it 4-3 at 13:37 as Paul Stastny drove the slot and took a pass from Jamie McGinn and his wrist shot beat Hutton on the stick side.

The Predators survived a too many men on the ice penalty and exited the second period with the 4-3 lead. Shots were 9 apiece in the second.

Colorado tied the game at 4 at 4:23 as the Predators turned the puck over at the offensive blue line as fillip Forsberg lost the puck. Matt Duchene picked up the loose puck and blew into the offensive zone. Duchene split Kevin Klein and Roman Josi and beat Hutton over his shoulder.

See a trend here? The Predators gave up too many goals on odd man rushes or breakaways to this point in the game.

The Predators answered back as Viktor Stalberg stole the puck in the offensive zone and found Colin Wilson streaking toward the net. Wilson beat Varlamov with a sweet backhand to give the Predators a 5-4 lead at 7:34 of the third period.

As the period wound down, the Avs pulled Varlamov for the extra attacker. The Predators controlled the puck in the defensive zone and David Legwand got the puck to Gabriel Bourque in the neutral zone. Bourque skated in a fired the puck into the empty net for a 6-4 lead at 19:52 to seal the win.

Some observations:

  • This team is beginning to play with confidence in the offensive zone. In previous seasons, this team has appeared to be unwilling to shoot the puck. This group is doing a good job of working for the open shot and more importantly taking the shot. And they have been very efficient in the offensive zone, which is a pleasant surprise.

  • Viktor Stalberg had his best game as a Predator. He was active in the offensive zone, picking up a goal and an assist and played a solid defensive game as well. Hopefully, this gives him confidence and his game begins to consistently produce.

  • The Predators were guilty of some very sloppy play. They gave the Avs all their goals off transitions and breakaways. Credit the Avs- they are talented and attack in waves, but the Predators are going to have to play better defense and limit turnovers.

  • Who would have thought this team could- or would- be this offensively productive? In the first 3 games of this road trip, the Predators have scored 14 goals. Certainly not "offensively challenged" against some very good teams to begin this roadie.

  • The Predators were without Mike Fisher, who hurt his foot in the previous game against L.A. The team also announced that Pekka Rinne has an e-coli infection in his hip and will miss 6-8 weeks instead of the 4 weeks originally estimated.
This was a solid win against one of the best teams in the NHL in this young season. More importantly, the Predators have shown some resiliency and fight by not wilting in the face of pressure from a very good opponent.

This team is beginning to show their potential and it looks promising.

They have to consistently build on that potential.

My three stars:

1. Colin Wilson

2. Viktor Stalberg

3. Matt Duchene

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Blues Embarrass the Predators 6-1

Embarrassing.

That is the only way to describe the Predators effort against the St. Louis Blues in a 6-1 loss at Bridgestone Arena.

The Blues controlled play throughout the game and brought Predators netminder Carter Hutton back to reality, chasing him in the third period after tallying 5 goals. Hutton got no help from his defense and was mercifully pulled for Magnus Hellberg midway of the third.

The Predators got no offensive push at all from their forwards, rarely challenging Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak. The few times they did pressure the net, Halak was up to the challenge. The Predators only goal came on a shorthanded shot from Nick Spaling 52 seconds into the third period.

The Blues are a measuring stick for the Predators, a division rival that has built their team through the draft, much like Nashville. The game tonight shows that the Blues have done a much better job of building a team of talented players that border on elite.

By contrast, the Predators have a team of grinders- guys that work hard and hustle but are not remotely elite.

That falls on GM David Poile.

The Predators have failed to develop offensive talent that can compete against one of the better teams in the league. Yes, there is some potential in a few players, but the reality is that against a team that is tight checking and physical, the Predators lack players that can create offensively and have the potential to change the course of a game.

And the Predators do not have the players on this roster that can do that.

Some observations:

  • Carter Hutton was under siege for most of the game. The 5th goal he allowed was probably the only one that he should have legitimately should have stopped. Too often, the defensive breakdowns allowed the Blues some prime scoring chances, and they capitalized.

  • The defensive pairing of Ryan Ellis and Victor Bartley was absolutely brutal. Both were -3 and were dominated by the Blues forwards when they were on the ice. Ellis does not have the physical ability to handle big, talented power forwards and the Blues took advantage of him when he was on the ice. An indication of how bad this pairing played? The Predators went nearly 6 minutes into the third period before they saw the ice.

  • Craig Smith, Patric Hornqvist, and Matt Cullen showed good hustle and attempted to get the offense going when they were on the ice. Smith had a team high 6 shots for the game.

  • David Legwand, Gabriel Bourque, and Colin Wilson were invisible tonight. The Predators need these guys to get their game going consistently. Bourque in particular needs to find the net and get his scoring touch back.
The Predators embark on a 17 game road trip. After this debacle, this team needs to find their offensive touch and confidence.

Maybe the road is the place to do that.

My three stars:

1. Alex Steen

2. T.J. Oshie

3. Jaden Schwartz

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Kings Prevail Over the Predators In a Shoot Out

The Nashville Predators and the L.A Kings engaged in a heavy weight battle at Bridgestone Arena. It took a shoot out to decide the winner, and the Kings prevailed 2-1 as Anze Kopitar scored the only goal in the skills competition.

The Kings have used their size and skill to push around the Predators in previous contests. Tonight, the Predators matched the Kings physical play and created numerous scoring chances.

Matt Cullen scored his first goal as a Predator at 10:33 of the first period. Gabriel Bourque went hard to the net and fired a shot off the pads of Kings netminder Jonathan Quick. In the scramble in front of the net, the puck bounced to Cullen and he roofed a wrist shot over the sprawling Quick to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.

The Kings tied the game at 19:19 of the first period as Mike Richards controlled the puck in a crowd and skated to the left face off dot. He froze Pekka Rinne, who had to respect his shot. Richards whipped a cross ice pass on to the tape of Slava Voynov, who ripped a shot that Rinne got a piece of but couldn't stop to tie the game a 1.

Shots were 15-15 after one period.

The remainder of the game saw both teams with offensive pushes that were turned back by both netminders. In the second period, the Predators out shot the Kings 11-5 but could not solve Quick. Both teams had stretches where they controlled the puck in the offensive zone but could not score. Rinne and Quick were sharp and both made some very good saves to preserve the tie.

In the overtime period, the Predators got two minutes of man advantage as the Kings Alec Martinez was called for high sticking. With the 4 on three power play, the Predators could only muster two shots. The best scoring chance of the overtime came with the Kings short handed. Ryan Ellis turned the puck over at the blue line and Rinne made a spectacular save on a Mike Richards breakaway.

The Predators sent Craig Smith, Filip Forsberg, and Matt Cullen out for the shoot out. Forsberg had Quick beaten with a backhand, but shot the puck wide of the net.

Rinne stopped Mike Richards and Jeff Carter before Anze Kopitar beat him with a backhand over the shoulder to win the game.

The Predators finished their five game home stand with a 3-2 mark.

Some observations:

  • The line of Cullen, Smith, and Bourque was the best line tonight. They skated well and created some good scoring chances. This line is beginning to show some good chemistry, and if they  can get rolling consistently, it will give the Predators some much needed offensive punch.

  • I continue to like the Predators compete level. In times past, this team would have gotten back on their heels when facing a team that is physical and skates well. Tonight, they took the attack to the Kings. They out shot the visitors 35-30 and matched their physical play. The second period, which has often been the bane of the Predators, saw the home team dominate the Kings.

  • I was impressed with the play of Filip Forsberg. He handled well the physical play of the Kings and showed some amazing hands and ability to work open for scoring chances.

  • Viktor Stalberg needs to show up. Tonight, he was moved to the fourth line and played only 10:09, the least amount of ice time by any Predator. He registered no shots on net. I don't know if his injured shoulder continues to bother him, but this is certainly not the kind of play the Predators need out of him.

  • With Stalberg on the fourth line, Eric Nystrom was moved up to a line with David Legwand and Filip Forsberg. I like Nystrom's play on that line as he brings grit and energy to a line that has two play makers (and yes, I am being generous to include Legwand in that description).

  • Pekka Rinne made some very good saves, especially tracking the puck through traffic. Rinne shows no ill effects of his off season hip surgery.

  • The Predators PK was excellent, killing off all four of the Kings power plays. As good as the PK was, the power play was horrid. Especially in overtime with a 4 on 3 advantage, the Predators could only get off two shots. The Predators often had trouble getting the puck in the zone and when they did, there was not much movement. The Predators made it too easy for the Kings to defend, and this has to improve and get more consistent.

The Predators will now embark on a three game road trip. The team is looking for their first road win and they need to pick up some points on this road swing. This will be a good test for this team, and hopefully they will continue to gel and compete at the level the do on home ice.

My three stars:

1. Jonathan Quick

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Anze Kopitar

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Predators Edge the Islanders 3-2

The Nashville Predators got back into the win column with a 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders at Bridgestone Arena.

Pekka Rinne faced just 16 shots from the Islanders while Evgeni Nabokov was peppered with 31 shots from the Predators.

After a scoreless first period, Seth Jones scored his first goal in the NHL on the power play. Jones took a cross ice pass from David Legwand and beat Nabokov short side with a slap shot at 1:032 of the second period.

The Islanders tied the game at 12:39 of the second as Frans Nielsen was left alone cruising down the slot. He got a perfect pass from Kyle Okposo from behind the net and snapped a quick wrist shot over the shoulder of Rinne.

The Islanders were energized by that goal and began to press the attack. A turnover at the blue line had the Predators scrambling in the defensive zone. John Tavares tried to pass the puck, but it was blocked back to him behind the goal line. Tavares made a crafty play as he saw Rinne cheat off the post and he banked a shot off his backside and into the net to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead at 15:28.

With the period winding down, Patric Hornqvist took a chip off the wall from Colin Wilson and drove into the offensive zone. He cranked a slap shot from the face off circle that beat Nabokov five hole to tie the game at 2 at 19:07 of the second.

Ryan Ellis notched the game winning goal at 3:23 of the third period on an innocent looking play. He took a pass from Matt Cullen and rifled a slap shot from the blue line that beat Nabokov over the shoulder.

Both teams traded some scoring opportunities in the remaining time, and the Predators were able to hold off the Islanders for their second win of the season.

Some observations:

  • Victor Stalberg made his first appearance of the season, logging 12:20 of ice time. Stalberg showed good speed but looked tentative. Obviously, he has to gel with his line mates, and Predator fans hope that will happen quickly.

  • Seth Jones looks remarkably poised for a 19 year old rookie. He had three shots on goal tonight, and as he gets more comfortable, I expect to see those shot totals go up. He has a good shot and as he gains confidence his scoring should increase.

  • Kevin Klein and Mattias Ekholm are becoming a dependable and solid defensive pairing. Tonight, both were -1, but they have rarely been caught out of position and have demonstrated some good chemistry.

  • Filip Forsberg is solid and will become a very good player for the Predators. However, for the second game in a row, Forsberg lost a player coming down the slot in the defensive zone and it cost the Predators a goal. His defensive play is not bad, but his momentary lapses have cost the team a goal in the last two games.

  • The overall defensive effort tonight was good. Limiting a team that has dangerous offensive players to just 16 shots shows that this team is focused on their defensive effort. tonight, the total team effort shut down the attack of the Islanders, and this is the effort that the Predators have to have every game.

  • Although he was held off the score sheet, I like the effort and energy that Mike Fisher is bringing to the ice. His physical play helped set the tone for the Predators tonight.
This team is still a work in progress. There are 8 players on the roster the either were not on the team last year or played a limited number of games. There are signs of chemistry and the talent is there to be successful, but it is going to take some games to begin to play at a high(er) level.

The quicker the better.

My three stars:

1. Seth Jones

2. Ryan Ellis

3. John Tavares

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Bernier Continues His Mastery Over the Predators, Leads Leafs to 4-0 Win

The Nashville Predators are glad they don't have to face Jonathan Bernier often.

Bernier continued his mastery over the Predators, this time in net for the Toronto Maple Leafs in a 4-0 victory over the Predators at Bridgestone Arena. Bernier's career record against the Predators is now 8-1.

After a scoreless first period that saw the Predators out shoot the Leafs 8-6, the Predators tilted the ice in the second period and out shot the Leafs 17-9. Bernier was stellar, stopping every attempt by the Predators.

While the Leafs only had 9 shots, they capitalized on 2 of them. James van Riemsdyk gathered in a puck behind the goal line and fired a pass to Phil Kessel, who was alone in the low slot. Kessel rifled a shot over the shoulder of Pekka Rinne to make it 1-0 at 13:41 of the second period. On the play, Filip Forsberg lost coverage of Kessel, giving him an easy shot on net.

The Leafs struck again with just 9 seconds to go in the second period. Kessel shot a puck in on Rinne that hit him in the shoulder and fell to the side of the net. Rinne went down to cover the puck, but before he could get his glove on it, van Riemsdyk swooped in and picked up the puck. He went behind the net and buried the wrap around before Rinne could recover.

The Predators pressed the attack again in the third period, but were unable to solve Bernier. Their efforts to get back into the game were thwarted when Mike Fisher was called for boarding Cody Franson into the curved glass by the Leafs bench. Franson was bloodied and left the game and Fisher was given a 5 minute major and a game misconduct. On the ensuing power play, Tyler Bozak and Joffrey Lupul scored to make it 4-0 and secure the victory for the Leafs.

Some observations:

  • Although the Predators out shot the Leafs 36-26, many of their shots were from the perimeter and with no traffic in front of Bernier. The Predators have success when they create havoc in front of the net. Tonight, they rarely did that. Lacking pure goal scorers, the Predators have to commit to going to the hard areas to score. Right now, that commitment is lacking.

  • The power play, which had success against Minnesota, looked stale. There was not much movement by players away from the puck to create lanes or mismatches. The Predators have to improve in this area and certainly have to be more consistent and productive.

  • Young players are going to make mistakes. Witness the error by Forsberg that led to the first Leafs goal. Yet I am impressed by the play of Forsberg. He is calm with the puck, surprisingly strong, and offensively creative. His game will continue to grow and improve.

  • Mattias Ekholm has been quietly efficient. he did have a turnover at the blue line that led to a 2 on 1, on which Rinne made a great save to bail him out. but his confidence seems to be growing every game and I believe he will develop into a solid blueliner.

  • Still not sold, though, on Ryan Ellis as a full time NHL defenseman.

  • I like Matt Cullen's game, but the Predators need him to get his offense going.

  • Not sure that Matt Hendricks is best suited for an agitator roll. He got the sort end of it in a scrap with David Broll tonight.

  • Rinne made some great saves, but he has to have some offensive support. Right now, he has to be perfect for the Predators to win a game. he hasn't been, and the Predators aren't winning.
The Predators record is now 1-3.

The compete level of this team is good, but they are not finishing. Without elite goal scorers, the Predators have to get to the net and create traffic and trouble for opposing goaltenders. The Predators have not done that consistently, and their record reflects that shortcoming.

It's time to make that commitment, boys.

My three stars:

1. Jonathan Bernier

2. Phil Kessel

3. James van Riemsdyk

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Predators Pick Up First Win, Defeat Wild 3-2

The Nashville Predators tallied their first win of the season, a 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild, that was highlighted by special teams play by both squads.

Pekka Rinne earned his first win, while the loss for the Wild could be costly, as they lost starting netminder Niklas Backstrom to an injury in the first period. Josh Harding came on in relief and finished the game for the Wild.

The Wild opened the scoring at 4:05 of the first period. With Seth Jones in the box for high sticking, Zach Parise eluded the defensive coverage and was alone in front of the net and had an easy tap in off a pass from Mikko Koivu.

The Predators went on the power play as Kyle Brodziak was called for interference at 4:15 of the first period. Just 21 seconds later, Koivu was called for tripping. The Predators made the Wild pay for these penalties.

Seth Jones took a shot from the point and the rebound caromed out to Filip Forsberg. Forsberg sniped a shot over the shoulder of Backstrom, showing a quick release and good accuracy on the score. His first NHL goal came at 5:07 of the first period.

With Koivu still in the box, the Predators continued on the power play, and just 39 seconds later, Colin Wilson fired a shot over the shoulder of Backstom to the far post to give the Predators a 2-1 lead.

Eric Nystom had a breakaway attempt, but was slashed and tripped, crashing into Backstom. Backstrom had his leg trapped under Nystrom and was injured on the play. Nystrom was awarded a penalty shot while Backstrom had to leave the game. Harding came into the game and had to face Nystrom on the penalty shot. Nystrom ripped a shot high glove side just under the crossbar to to give the Predators a 3-1 lead.

The Wild cut the lead to 3-2 as Jared Spurgeon scored with one second remaining on a Wild power play at 7:26 of the second period.

That was it for the scoring for the game, but not for lack of chances. Rinne in particular had to be sharp to keep the Predators in the lead as the Wild peppered the net with numerous shots.

Some observations:

  • As good as the first period was for the Predators, the second period was awful. The Wild dominated the Predators and the offensive effort showed the recurring and frustrating tendency of disappearing. The Wild out shot the Predators 12-4 in the second period and had a decided territorial advantage. While many of the shots by the Wild were from the perimeter, the Predators are flirting with disaster when their offense is non-existent.

Rinne was sharp throughout the game and made some big saves to keep the Wild off the board. He looks to have no lingering issues from off season hip surgery.

  • The power play went 2 for 4, and it is good to see the power play come to life. The Predators need this unit to be productive, and hopefully this give them confidence.

  • The penalty kill is another story. The Predators surrendered two goals on five power play opportunities. Part of that is the young layers on the blue line, and part of this is that the penalty killers have not seemed to gel. This has to improve for the Predators to have success.

  • I am still not convinced that Ryan Ellis is a regular and dependable blue liner. he is still dominated by more physical forwards and is not contributing offensively.

  • Seth Jones continues to impress. Tonight, he had one assist and lead the team in ice time, logging 25:02. 
The Predators needed this win, coming against a divisional rival and starting the season 0-2. Yes, there were some flaws, but the team persevered and competed well. I like the compete level of this team and over time, I believe they will gel and continue to improve.

The Predators next four games are at home in front of their rabid fans.

This is the time to start piling up some wins.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Filip Forsberg

3. Colin Wilson

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Grading the Predators: The Defense

We continue our look at the Predators as we move to the blue liners. The defense this season took on a new look with the departure of Ryan Suter and the addition of several young players that logged some big minutes.

Just as this season was a work in progress, so next season should see some changes and some opportunities for additional playing time for some younger players.

As we look at the defense, the discussion starts with...

Shea Weber  48 GP  9G 19A 28 points  -2

Weber averaged 25:55 time on ice and played against the opponents top offensive line all season. Paired with a new defense partner in Roman Josi, his production started slowly but picked up late in the season. His 28 points would translate to 48 points over the course of a full season. Weber was solid in all phases of the game, but his power play production suffered as Josi took some time to settle in as his partner on the man advantage and teams worked to take away his booming shot from the point.

Weber's leadership is not often in the public eye, but he is a solid captain and the unequivocal leader of this team. His drive and consistent play helped to steady a team that at times was unsteady.

Because of the turnover and youth on the blue line, Weber played significant minutes but showed no signs of fatigue physically or mentally. His ability to shut down top forwards makes him one of the best defensemen in the League.

Considering the adjustment to a new partner on the blue line and the youth of the team, I believe this was actually one of the stronger seasons that Weber has produced.

Final Grade: A

Roman Josi  48 GP  5G 13A 18 points  -7

The big question for the Predators was who would play alongside Weber after the departure of Ryan Suter. That question was quickly answered by the play of Josi. He proved to be very steady, calm, and a deft puck handler. Josi rarely seemed to get rattled and was good with the first pass on the breakout. Josi showed the ability to handle the puck well and was not afraid to get involved in the offensive attack. He has a deceptively good shot, which he needs to use more.

Josi is not the physical player that will deliver a crushing check, but in general he was positionally sound. He occasionally got beaten by more experienced forwards, as his +/- rating attests, but he logged some big minutes alongside Weber against top forwards.

Josi will continue to improve his game and the experience of this season will serve him well. He needs to get stronger, but at 22 years of age, that will come.

Final Grade: B+

Kevin Klein  47 GP  3G 11A 14 points  -1

Klein had a quietly solid season, and did a good job of helping Victor Bartley settle in on the blue line. Klein is not a flashy player, but he is consistently in good position and sound in the defensive zone. Klein averaged just over 20 minutes a game in time on ice in the second D pairing.

Klein did an excellent job of steadying the second pairing, especially when Bartley joined the line up. Klein helped his young defensive partner adjust to NHL play and they formed a quality duo that could play some important minutes.

Klein will not put up big offensive numbers, but can score some timely goals and contribute with the distribution of the puck. His game, however, is to play sound defense and solidify the second pairing. He has done that well.

Final Grade: A-

Hal Gill  32 GP 0G 0A  0 points -3

Injuries plagued Gill this season, causing him to miss 16 games. In the twilight of his career, Gill is not going to be counted on to produce points. What he brings to the team is his leadership, the ability to play some quality third line minutes, and his prowess on the penalty kill. Gill excels in the PK, and the Predators relied heavily on the big defenseman to play some big minutes on this special team. When he was healthy, he responded well in this role.

Gill is still adept at using his physical stature at keeping the front of the net clear at even strength or on the PK. Gill will never be an exceptional puck handler or goal scorer, but his ability to provide solid third line minutes were much need by the Predators.

Gill was often paired with different partners on the blue line, and this affected chemistry. It is a compliment to his ability that he could adjust to changing partners several times throughout the course of the season.

His durability and health remain a question, and his minutes will be limited because of these factors.

Final Grade: C+

Victor Bartley  24 GP 0G 7A  7 points  +2

Bartley was called up mid-season from Milwaukee and surprised pleasantly. Paired with Kevin Klein for most of the season, Bartley showed good defensive zone presence and positioning. He has good size and used that physical presence to establish position and police the front of the net effectively.

At 25, Bartley is older than some of the more heralded defensemen in the system, and this seemed to make Bartley more determined to stick on the roster. Rarely did he fail to bring a solid effort every game, and as he settled in, he saw more ice time as the coaches grew more confident in his game.

Like any young player, Bartley was victimized by more experienced forwards and guilty of some rookie mistakes. Those mistakes were that- rookie mistakes. There would be more concern if those mistakes were from a lack of effort.

I see Bartley on the roster next season and more upside to his game.

Final Grade: B

Jonathan Blum  35 GP  1G 7A  8 points  -1

The end of last season saw Blum at a critical juncture in his career. His mandate from the coaches was to get stronger and commit to improving his game. This season, there were flashes of that off season work. Blum had third line minutes with Hal Gill and there was a short lived experiment of a pairing with Ryan Ellis. Thankfully, it was a brief experiment.

Blum still finds himself at a crossroad. As an undersized D-man, he is not going to see top line minutes. He has to be excellent at making good decisions with the puck, contribute offensively, and not be a defensive liability. Frankly, the jury is still out on those attributes. Flashes of potential have been shown, but Blum has to be more consistent in his total game.

Final Grade: C-

Ryan Ellis  32 GP  2G 4A  6 points  -2

Another undersized defenseman, Ellis was tabbed to be an offensive defenseman that could quarterback the power play, contribute points from the blue line, and use his smarts to be a solid defender.

There is no doubt that Ellis has offensive skills and talent. The problem is that there are limited circumstances where those offensive talents can shine. The grind of being an NHL defenseman may be too much for Ellis. As much as the coaching staff tried to protect Ellis by matching him against the opponents third or fourth lines, Ellis was still at times (most of the time) overmatched physically. The Predators cannot afford to reserve a roster spot for a power play specialist and a limited minute blue liner.

Although Ellis saw a lot of action this season, I will be surprised if he sticks on the roster next year.

Final Grade: D

Mattias Ekholm  1 GP  0G 0A  0 points  -1

Although Ekholm appeared in only one game, he finally made the move to North America and spent the season in Milwaukee. Ekholm has the talent and the size to be a quality NHL defenseman. The question is does he have the drive and mental edge to make it in the NHL? Ekholm's placid demeanor gives no indication of his drive or desire, and frankly, his brief appearances this season and last in Nashville give no clue.

If Ekholm can get that edge and show that he belongs on the roster, the Predators will benefit.

Final Grade: Incomplete

Up next, grading the forwards. It won't be pretty. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Predators Gaffes Give Away Game to the Oilers

Just over the midway mark of the season, and the Nashville Predators faced the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place in a game that had to be considered "must win" for the Predators.

The good news for the Predators was that their offense was finally scoring some goals, having scored 7 in their past two games.

The bad news was that the Predators defense had totally collapsed in those two games, allowing 13 goals.

For the Predators to have a chance to win this game against an Oilers offense that can score, they were going to have to play better defense.

The Predators had Pekka Rinne in net, while the Oilers went with Devan Dubnyk.

The first period ended 0-0 with the Predators having a 10-6 shot advantage. Rinne had to make a couple of great saves to keep the Oilers off the board, while Roman Josi beat Dubnyk with a blast but rang it off the post.

The Oilers got on the board first on the power play at 8:11. Ryan Ellis was in the box for cross checking and Magnus Paajarvi tapped the rebound of a Ryan Whitney shot past Rinne from in front of the net. Rinne was left alone as Paajarvi had gotten lost behind Shea Weber and had an easy put back for the score.

The Oilers had three shots on the power play, and those were their first three shots of the period.

The Predators tied the game at 1 on their power play at 16:37 off a bomb from the blue line by Shea Weber for his 5th goal of the year. Roman Josi and Craig Smith picked up assists on the goal.

The period ended tied at 1. The Oilers out shot the Predators 10-7.

The Predators lost defenseman Scott Hannan to an injury in the second period, and he was out for the remainder of the game.

The Predators had a power play, but Sergei Kostitsyn had the puck hop away from him at the blue line. The Oilers had a 2 on 2 until Kostitsyn went to the bench, leaving the Oilers 2 on 1 against Shea Weber. The Oilers made the Predators pay for a major gaffe by Kostitsyn as Lennart Petrell  and Sam Gange broke in and Petrell hammered home a shot at 10:53.

Inexplicable decision by Kostitsyn, and it cost the Predators.

The Oilers picked up a Jonathan Blum turnover just inside their blue line and began a rush down the ice. Jordan Eberle whistled a shot over the shoulder of Rinne to make it 3-1 at 15:48 of the third.

Roman Josi scored with the extra attacker on the ice with 9.2 seconds remaining in the game.

Unfortunately, it was once again too little too late for the Predators as they lost their third in a row by a 3-2 margin.

Some observations:

Made of Glass

Right now, this team has no confidence and is fragile. Every mistake ends up in their net, and this team is tentative.  Playing not to make mistakes and tentatively is a formula to consistently lose games. And that is the way this team is playing. If they are going to reverse their fortunes, they are going to have to play more like Predator teams of the past: sound defense and capitalizing on the other team's mistakes. Right now, the opponents are making the Predators pay for their errors.

Get Out the Stapler

Better yet, don't staple Sergei Kostitsyn to the bench. His play has been so atrocious of late that he should be relegated to the press box to watch. His play on the second Oilers goal is inexplicable and inexcusable. A lack of offensive presence and a too casual attitude are killing the Predators.

Better Jump, No Finish

I can't fault the Predators for their effort in general. They had good chances, but once again, could not finish on those chances. Until they bury some pucks, their offense is all sound and fury, but signifies nothing.

Better Hope Rinne Is Mentally Tough...

because this team in front of him is making him look bad.

Final Thoughts

It is now desperation time for the Predators. Their string is short if they are going to make the playoffs, and they are going to have to start putting together a lengthy winning streak.

Right now, I don't see that.

This team is not playing with confidence. Their breakdowns are resulting in goals. Their scorers are not scoring consistently.

Not a great combination of factors.

Now it boils down to those in the room. The have to reach down inside and get their mojo back. It will not come from the coaches. It will come from those guys that put on the sweater each night.

This will be a test of character and heart.

Time to find out what you got, boys.

My three stars:

1. Devan Dubnyk

2. Jordan Eberle

3. Roman Josi

A Look at the Predators: Playoff Contenders or Pretenders

The Nashville Predators are currently 11-11-6 and sit outside the playoffs with 28 points. They have limped through their last 10 games, going 3-6-1, and more troubling, are last in the NHL in scoring.

Predator faithful are questioning if this is a playoff team.

It is a legitimate question.

There is no simple answer to that question, but we can bring some clarity by examining the various components of this team.

So let's take a look at this version of the Predators.

Goaltending

Pekka Rinne has been the workhorse for the Predators, starting 25 of the 28 games the Predators have played. Rinne has a 2.20 GAA and a save percentage of .916. He has faced 632 shots, an average of 25 shots per game. Rinne leads the NHL with 5 shutouts. Last season, Rinne had a 2.39 GAA and a .923 save percentage.

Looking at Rinne's numbers, one would conclude they are not bad. A marginal drop off in save percentage, but an improvement in GAA.

Rinne has been pulled in two consecutive games, and in seven in total this season.

There have been times that Rinne has been mortal, but for the most, his play has been solid. What has plagued Rinne has been the defense in front of him on occasion (more on that in a moment), as there have been numerous times that he has been hung out to dry by the skaters in front of him. And at times, his frustration has boiled over. Witness his slamming of the stick on the post in the first Dallas game as Scott Hannan was beaten badly by a Stars forward in the slot, leaving Rinne no chance to make the save.

One has to wonder how Rinne's frustration level is at this point of the season.

With the Predators anemic offense, both Rinne and Chris Mason have to be nearly perfect for the Predators to have a chance to win each night.

Chris Mason has appeared in 7 games, having started 3. He has a pedestrian 3.10 GAA and an .881 save percentage.

When Mason was signed, it was hoped that he would provide quality goaltending in the backup role. At best, he has been average.

Compared to last season, goaltending is comparable.

Defense

The obvious challenge for the Predators was to replace Ryan Suter. Roman Josi has been that player that has manned the other side of the blue line with Shea Weber. Josi is not Ryan Suter- yet. But the fall off between Josi and Suter has not been as dramatic as many feared. Josi has a great shot, skates well, and is poised and calm with the puck. Through 28 games, Josi is a plus 3 and has 3 goals and 6 assists. Extrapolate that to an 82 game season and you get 9 goals, 18 assists, and a plus 9. In Suter's last season, he had 7 goals, 39 assists, and was a plus 15.

I think those numbers for Josi will only improve.

In 2012, Shea Weber had 19 goals, 30 assists, and was a plus 21. So far in 2013, Weber has 4 goals, 11 assists, and is a plus 4. Over an 82 game season, this would translate to 12 goals, 32 assists, and a plus 12. The decline is understandable as Weber is getting used to a new defense partner and is being denied his cannon shot on the power play.

Kevin Klein has been quietly solid, with 1 goal, 5 assists, and a plus one. Klein is steady and is rarely noticed, which is a good thing as it means he is efficiently doing his job.

Once you get past these three, it gets interesting on the Predators blue line.

Hal Gill, who was expected to eat up big minutes, has been injured for a large portion of the season.

Ryan Ellis is...an adventure. Offensively gifted, he is proving to be a defensive liability. The coaches do a good job of trying to keep him away from the top forwards of the other teams, but Ellis is still a minus 4. While Ellis can provide some offense, he is regularly out muscled by bigger forwards, thus relegating him to more of a specialists role.

Jonathan Blum has gotten stronger, but is still on the smallish side, which is an obvious disadvantage against bigger forwards. Blum has five points (1G-4A) in 15 games, but has been relegated to a perma scratch over the last five games.

The reason for that is the emergence of Victor Bartley. Bartley was called up from Milwaukee and has been in the lineup for the past 5 games. Bartley has no points and is a plus 1, but he has good size, skates well, and makes good decisions with the puck. I don't see Bartley coming out of the lineup the way he is playing.

The blueliner that is having an absolutely miserable season is Scott Hannan. Hannan started well, playing some quality minutes and was generally solid. It seems as if Hannan has now run out of gas. He is a team worst minus 11 and is struggling with defensive coverage. He is routinely beaten in the defensive zone, and has quickly turned into a liability.

With the absence of Hal Gill, the defense has struggled once you get past Josi, Weber, and Klein. I think Bartley will settle in and be a positive contributor, but there is a huge hole in the third pairing, typically Hannan and Ellis. The play of that third pairing continues to trouble the Predators and does not look to improve any time soon.

The defense is weaker than last season.

Forwards

Being last in the NHL in scoring is indicative of how this group has struggled.


And struggle they have.

At times, some of our top forwards have been invisible. And for a team that desperately needs offense, this is unacceptable.

And beyond explanation.

Here are some numbers:

Marty Erat               2012: 71 GP 19G-39A 58 points    2013 27 GP 3G-10A 13 points  (9G-30A in 82)

Sergei Kostitsyn       2012: 75 GP 17G-26A 43 points    2013 27 GP 2G- 9A  11 points  (6G-27A in 82)

David Legwand        2012: 78 GP 19G-34A 53 points    2013 28 GP 6G- 7A  13 points (18G-20A in 82)

Mike Fisher              2012: 72 GP 24G-27A 51 points    2013 28 GP 6G-6A   12 points (18G-18A in 82)

Colin Wilson             2012: 68 GP 15G-20A 35 points    2013 25 GP 7G-12A  19 points (23G-39A in 82)

Gabriel Bourque       2012: 43 GP  7G-12A 19 points     2013 26 GP 9G-  2A   11 points (28G- 6A in 82)

I have taken the production of these forwards for the games played in 2013 and projected it to an 82 game season and compared it to the previous season. What you notice is significant drops in production from Erat, Kostitsyn, and Fisher. Legwand projects to be about the same in goals but significantly drops in assists. For a second line center that has to set up his wingers, this will affect their production. Wilson has stepped up his game, but is currently injured. Bourque shows a significant increase in goal production. The Predators have had Patric Hornqvist in the lineup for only 14 games this season, and his production is sorely missed.

Additionally, The Predators enjoyed good secondary scoring from players like Matt Halischuk and Nick Spaling in 2012. Halischuk had 15 goals and 13 assists in 73 games last year. This season, he has struggled to stay on the roster and produce, having  appeared in 19 games with 1 goal and 4 assists. Spaling appeared in 77 games last season with 10 goals and 12 assists. In 2013, Spals has appeared in 27 games and has 5 goals and 3 assists.

The slump in offensive production has plagued the Predators all season. Unless the production from the forwards improves significantly, the playoffs may not happen.

The forwards are substantially worse than last season.

Coaching

Barry Trotz continues as the coach that has been able to squeeze the most out of his talent, but this season, that talent has not produced. I like the way Trotz and the staff have coached this team, but if there is a criticism, it is sticking with non-producing players for too long. He scratched Kostitsyn in the last game, but is not quick to sit down other players that are not getting it done. Perhaps it is time to sit some of the other forwards that are not playing up to their talent level.

Coaching has remained steady from last season.

General Manager

David Poile has put this team together and these are his draft picks and trades. Is Poile "married" to these players- loath to trade some of them for other options because they are his players? I would submit that this is the case and that he is waiting, perhaps for too long, for some of these players to validate his decisions to sign them, and to sign some to long term, high dollar extensions.

Time for David Poile to make some tough decisions.


As you can see, the Predators are struggling because of the offense slump by key cogs on the team. If the play doesn't improve substantially, or if these players continue in the lineup, the Predator faithful may be looking wistfully at the the playoffs.