Monday, March 2, 2015

Predators Dominated By the Rangers 4-1

The Nashville Predators traveled to Madison Square Garden to take on the Rangers and attempt to end a two game losing streak.

The Predators now have a 3 game losing streak.

The Rangers out skated and outworked the Predators all night on the way to a 4-1 victory.

The Predators did not give much help to goaltender Pekka Rinne, often leaving the slot wide open for uncontested snots.

Mark Staal, Chris Kreider, and Dominic Moore all tallied for the Rangers. Derek Brassard picked up 2 assists. Rick Nash finished the scoring with an empty net goal.

Matt Cullen got the lone goal past Cam Talbot off a beautiful assist from Taylor Beck.

Some observations:

  • Lines were juggled for this game. Colin Wilson moved to the top line with James Neal and Mike Ribeiro. Mike Fisher centered Craig Smith and Filip Forsberg. Mike Santorelli centered Matt Cullen and Taylor Beck. Calle Jarnkrok was a healthy scratch.
  • Once again, the Predators gave up the first goal of the game. This is the 8th straight game that the Predators have fallen behind 1-0. While the team has shown great resiliency and the ability to (usually) overcome these deficits, this is a disturbing trend that needs to change. This will be especially true come the playoffs.
  • The defense in front of Rinne has dropped off significantly. Rinne had no chance of the Rangers second goal as Craig Smith was abused by Chris Kreider going down the slot. He blew past Smith and had an easy redirect past Rinne. Dominic Moore was left alone by Taylor Beck for an easy score off a rebound. The cohesiveness and positioning has broken down on several occasions and has allowed the opposition prime scoring chances. Rinne made some great saves in this game, but he cannot be expected to clean up so many mistakes by the D in front of him.
  • Taylor Beck has been in and out of the line up recently and has been a healthy scratch the last three games. His play from his knees to set up Matt Cullen's goal was not only a beautiful play, but it was just a no quit, compete play. This is the type of play that has to happen from all of the forwards for the Predators to be successful. Beck is showing that he wants to stay in the line up with this kind of play.
  • How tough are hockey players? Seth Jones took a puck in the mouth in the second period, which stunned him and left him spitting blood. The puck was in the Predators defensive zone when this happened, so Jones kept his defensive position and blocked another shot. Once the puck was cleared, Jones got to the bench, got some attention from the trainers, and was back on the ice for his next shift.
  • The Predators have been getting a taste of playoff hockey- games that are tight checking and are a fight for space on the ice. They have come up short in these contests, and perhaps more disturbing is that they have been getting outworked for broad stretches of these games. Hopefully, these games are a learning experience and the lesson is learned quickly. Playoff hockey is a different animal, and the Predators have been the prey in these types of games.
  • The Predators power play has reverted to abysmal status. They had 3 power plays in the game that generated just 2 shots, and on two of them did not get a shot. The Predators struggle to enter the zone and get set up, and if this aspect of their game does not improve, it will come back to haunt them. The power play unit has little movement, making it easy to defend, and is awfully predictable. That predictability makes it easy to defend. Too easy.
  • The Rangers jumped on the Predators early and never let them in the game. They out shot the Predators 40-26. They had better jump, won more puck battles, and wanted the game more than the Predators.
The reality of the situation is the play of the Predators has dropped off.

No, that's not exactly right.

They opponents have elevated their intensity and level of play and the Predators have not. Like I said, this is a taste of playoff hockey as the Predators are playing some teams that are desperately fighting for playoff position. This is hungry hockey, and right now the Predators are not playing like a hungry team.

Now it gets interesting.

We will see if the Predators can get hungry and raise their game.

Or if they will continue to get outworked by their opponents.

My three stars:

1.  Derek Brassard

2. Mats Zuccarello

3. Chris Kreider

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Predators Can't Hold A Lead, Fall to Wings 4-3

Defensive breakdowns and an unlucky bounce doomed the Nashville Predators as they dropped a 4-3 decision to the Detroit Red Wings at Bridgestone Arena.

This was the Predators second loss in a row on home ice, where they have been dominant this season.

Tomas Tatar scored the game winner with the Wings on the power play as his shot deflected off the stick of Roman Josi and past Pekka Rinne.

The Wings jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals from Brendan Smith and Drew Miller. Miller's goal was one that Rinne would like to have back as he got most of the shot but it trickled over his pad an into the net.

The Predators would answer just 30 seconds after the Miller goal as Matt Cullen would gather in a rebound that Jonas Gustavsson could not handle. Cullen banged in the loose puck in the blue paint to make it 2-1.

Mike Fisher scored from in close, roofing a shot over the shoulder of Gustavsson to tie the game midway of the second period.

The Predators took a 3-2 lead on the power play as Shea Weber unleashed a bomb that Gustavsson did not see until it hit the back of the net to send the Predators into the second intermission with their first lead of the game.

Alexey Marchenko tied the game at 3 with a perfectly placed blast that went top corner on Rinne.

Tatar's game winner came at 9:06 in the third.

Although the Predators had two late power plays, they could not get the equalizer.

Some observations:

  • The Predators got 9 shots on net in the first period, but rarely challenged Gustavsson. The Predators seemed content to shoot from the point and hope to get rebounds and second chance opportunities. They did not even come close. The momentum swung to their favor in the second period when they started attacking the net. This is the Predators most effective style of play, and when they get away from that, the Predators are a very average team.
  • The Predators got very sloppy and undisciplined in the third period. Of the 8 penalties the Predators took in the game, 5 came in the third period. One was a weak embellishment call on Filip Forsberg after he was tripped. Regardless, the Predators made the hill a lot steeper having to kill off 8 minutes with Detroit on the power play.
  • Mike Ribeiro was 5 for 7 in the faceoff circle, but lost every offensive zone draw he took. this is just frankly a huge momentum killer for the Predators. he was replaced on the top line by Mike Fisher late in the game for some more prowess on the faceoff dot. However, Fisher was not any better, going 8 of 20.
  • Pekka Rinne made some huge saves in the first period as the Wings had several quality scoring chances. As mentioned, he would like to have had Miller's goal back, one that was easily stoppable. There was nothing he could do on Tatar's game winner as the puck completely changed direction off of Josi's stick.
  • The Predators were 1-7 on the power play. They had two opportunities late in the game but never seriously challenged Gustavsson. While Weber got some good looks, the Predators rarely had traffic in front of Gustavsson, and this is the aspect of the power play that has to improve. That, and just getting the puck into the zone.
  • The Predators defense has not been as sharp recently. The team has given up 8 goals in their last 2 games and some breakdowns have resulted in the puck finding the back of our net. Part of this is getting Cody Franson meshed with his defense partner. Part of it is just some uncharacteristically sloppy play.
  • Ryan Ellis was scratched for this game. His knee is still not healed well enough to play and there is no word as to when he might be back in the lineup.
  • The Predators have a much more potent offense, but this trend of giving up the first goal in the game is troubling. It will be even more troubling in the playoffs.
  • Roman Josi picked up two assists, his 8th multi-point game this season.
  • Shea Weber led the team in TOI with 30:15.
  • The Predators had 15 games in the month of February and went 10-4-1.
The Predators level of play over the past few games has fallen from elite to average. Playing average hockey against good teams often leads to a loss, and this is what the Predators are facing right now.

It is no time to panic, but it is time for the team to pay attention to the details and elevate their game.

My three stars:

1. Tomas Tatar

2. Matt Cullen

3. Drew Miller

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Wild Tame the Predators 4-2

The Minnesota Wild took down the Nashville Predators by a 4-2 margin at Bridgestone Arena by reverting to their roots.

Early in their history, the Wild were a trapping team that would try to choke the life out of the opposition and rely on some timely goal scoring.

They did just that tonight, especially in the third period, as their trap game had the Predators completely out of sync.

The Wild opened the scoring off an Eric Haula blast that Pekka Rinne never saw.

Mike Fisher would tie the game as he muscled a puck past Devan Dubnyk. That lead would be short lived, however, as Kyle Brodziak would beat Rinne under the crossbar for a 2-1 lead.

Once again, the Predators tied the game as Mike Fisher sprung Craig Smith for a breakaway and he popped the puck under the crossbar.

The Predators couldn't keep the Wild off the board as the defense broke down and left Nino Neiderreiter alone in the slot and he beat Rinne to give the Predators a 3-2 lead. at the end of the second period.

The third period was when the Wild exerted their will and completely disrupted and smothered the Predators. The Preds had difficulty even entering the zone, and when they did they rarely challenged Dubnyk.

Neiderreiter sealed the win with an empty net goal.

Some observations:

  • This game is an indication of the type of games that will be played in the playoffs, and the Predators have struggled this season with these types of games where the opponent aggressively forechecks them all game. The Predators were completely out of rhythm in the third period, having trouble getting through the neutral zone and setting up their offense. This is something the Predators are going to have to improve markedly if they want to have success in the playoffs.
  • This game also pointed out that the Predators need a truly talented center that can carry and distribute the puck. This is the most glaring weakness on the roster right now, and I don't know if it can (or will) be corrected at the trade deadline.
  • The Predators wilted under the pressure from the Wild and were a turnover machine tonight. The Predators turned it over 17 times to just 6 for the Wild.
  • Since being acquired by the Wild, Dubnyk is 14-3-2. He has played well, and the Wild do an excellent job of protecting him in front of the net. Dubnyk was spitting out rebounds, but rarely did the Predators get to them for second chance opportunities.
  • Mike Ribeiro did not have a good game. He had 3 giveaways, was a non-factor in the offensive zone, and was a -3 on the night. He won just 38% of his faceoffs.
  • Craig Smith reached the 20 goal club for the second year in a row. He has 8 points (6G-2A) in his last 7 games.
  • Roman Josi has settled in on the top D pairing with Shea Weber. How has he compared this season with the man he replaced, Ryan Suter? This season, Josi has 44 points (11G-33A) and is a +20. Suter has 30 points (2G-28A) and is a -1. I like our replacement better.
  • Ryan Ellis returned to action after missing 21 games with a knee injury. He was paired with Seth Jones on the third D pair.
  • Interestingly, Ellis and Cody Franson (who was on the second D pair with Mattias Ekholm) did not see the ice for the final 10 minutes of the game. Ellis played 11:29 and Franson played 12:50.
Not the kind of game the Predators are used to playing, and this game pointed out some weaknesses for the Predators.

There are some things that need to be tweaked and improved upon. I believe this team will do that in the regular season games remaining.

They better.

My three stars:

1. Nino Neiderreiter

2. Mike Fisher

3. Kyle Brodziak 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Avalanche Buried By the Predators 5-2

Just 4 minutes into the game, Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon scored a fluke goal. His shot was going wide of the Predators net but caromed off the skate of Roman Josi and past Predators netminder Pekka Rinne to give the Avs a 1-0 lead.

What could have been a momentum building goal for the Avalanche was answered just 16 seconds later as Calle Jarnkrok stole the puck at the Predators blue line and torched Semyon Varlamov top shelf to tie the game.

From that point on, it was all Predators as they out shot the Avalanche 41-20 and scored four more goals before surrendering a late power play goal en route to a 5-2 win over their Central Division rival.

Craig Smith, Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg, and Eric Nystrom all tallied for the Predators.

John Mitchell scored a power play goal with 1:19 left in the game for the Avs final goal.

Pekka Rinne didn't have a lot of work, but did make several big time saves to keep the Avalanche from getting back in the game.

By Contrast, Semyon Varlamov faced a barrage of rubber from the Predators before being pulled in the third period for Reto Berra.

The Predators shut down the high octane offense of the Avalanche, limiting them to 8 shots through the first 40  minutes. The Predators gave up 12 shots in the third, but by then, the game was out of reach for the Avalanche.

Some observations:

  • Big ups to Captain Shea Weber. He dropped the gloves with Gabriel Landeskog after Landeskog launched himself at Roman Josi and hit him high. Weber picked up 17 minutes in penalties (2 for instigation; 5 for fighting; and a mandatory 10 minute misconduct for instigation). But Weber sent a message to the Avalanche that those types of questionable hits wouldn't be tolerated. The Avs got the message, as no further hits of those type occurred. This is the type of leadership that Weber has brought all season, and it was good to see him step up for a teammate.
  • Filip Forsberg notched his 21st goal of the season just 54 seconds into the third period. Forsberg used his quick release from the slot to beat Varlamov under the crossbar and chase him from the game. Forsberg has 51 points (21G-30A) in 60 games and leads all rookies with a +20.
  • The Avalanche entered the game having won 4 of their previous 5 games and had scored 19 goals in those 5 contests. The Predators did an excellent job of disrupting the Avs entries into the zone and choked them off in the neutral zone. They rarely allowed the Avs to get into the offensive zone cleanly and were aggressive in the defensive zone. Their defensive play was reflected in the shots the Avs got on net. They had 3 in the first period; 5 in the second; and 12 in the third.
  • Craig Smith continues his strong play. He scored on a rocket from the face off circle that beat Varlamov to the far post. Smith has 7 points (5G-2A) in his last 7 games. Smith has been aggressive in all zones and is playing with lots of jump.
  • Eric Nystrom scored from the defensive zone on a Predators PK. Coach Patrick Roy had pulled Reto Berra for the extra attacker to give the Avs a 6 on 4 advantage. That proved to be a bad decision as Nystrom battled on the boards and got control of the puck. He fired it down the ice and the puck landed flat and slid into the net. This was Nystrom's 7th goal of the season and undoubtedly his most unusual.
  • I really like the line of Mike Santorelli and Colin Wilson centered by Jarnkrok. They have excellent speed, control the puck, and created some good scoring chances. This line looks like it can be a potent one for the Predators, and it will be interesting to see how they gel.
  • The Predators continue to be dominant on home ice. They are a League best 26-3-1 at the Bridge.
  • This is the 8th time this season that the Predators have registered 40 or more shots.
  • The Predators are 26-6-2 when they out shoot their opponent, the best in the NHL.
  • Pekka Rinne won his 35th game of the season, best in the NHL. (Can you say Vezina?)
  • Calle Jarnkrok's goal was his first in 19 games. jarnkrok has been playing well but has not been able to find the net. Great to see him respond like he did tonight after being scratched in the Predators previous game against Buffalo.
  • Last season, the Predators goal differential (goals for/goals against) was a -19. Through tonight's game, the Predators goal differential is +43. The Predators are scoring 2.92 goals per game, 8th best in the NHL. They are allowing 2.27 goals per game, 2nd best in the NHL. The turnaround in the play of this team is remarkable.
  • The Predators now have 89 points. The Ducks have 83; the Blues have 80. In the Eastern Conference, the Canadiens have 83 and the Islanders have 82.
This was a dominant win against a divisional rival that is hungry, talented, and fighting for a playoff spot.

The kind of effort that has to happen every night in this sprint to the end of the season.

My three stars:

1. Craig Smith

2. Roman Josi

3. Calle Jarnkrok

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Predators Salvage Two Points With A Shootout Win Over the Sabres

The Nashville Predators went into their game with the Buffalo Sabres with a mandate to shoot the puck.

They did just that at First Niagara Center, firing 36 shots on Sabres goalie Michael Neuvirth in regulation.

It took regulation, overtime, and for the second game in a row for the Predators, a shootout, before the Predators prevailed 2-1.

Neuvirth was up to the challenge, stopping 35 of those shots he faced, giving up a late power play goal to Mike Ribeiro.

Ribeiro's goal was critical for the Predators because they had given up a second period goal to Tyler Ennis when the a bad line change left Ennis wide open and he beat Carter Hutton to give the Sabres a 1-0 lead.

The Predators defense, other than that breakdown, was generally good. They held the Sabres to 13 shots in regulation, although they gave up two breakaways that Hutton made great saves to stop.

In the overtime, the Predators had the final minute on a power play, but could not capitalize.

In the shootout,  Mike Santorelli and Filip Forsberg scored for the Predators in a four round shootout while Tyler Ennis was the only scorer for the Sabres as the Predators won the game 2-1.

Some observations:
  • Lines were juggled once again for this game. Neal, Ribeiro, and Forsberg were reunited. Fisher centered Craig Smith and Matt Cullen. Mike Santorelli centered Colin Wilson and Taylor Beck. Nystrom, Gaustad, and Bourque remained intact on the 4th line.
  • D pairs were Weber, Josi; Ekholm, Franson; and Jones and Bitetto.
  • Paul Gaustad returned to the First Niagra Center, where he played 479 games for the Sabres.
  • In their last two games, the Predators had gotten away from what has brought them success. Too many cute plays in the offensive zone and breakdowns in the defensive zone and it has cost them. Simple hockey- getting pucks to the net and attacking have been replaced with attempting fancy passes and the results have shown in their play of late. This team is good, but getting away from their fundamentals is not going to yield consistently good results. This game saw them get back to getting pucks on net and attacking the goal. That is how they are going to have to play to continue to win games.
  •  Carter Hutton played a very good game, with the only Sabres goal coming off a bad line change by the Predators that resulted in Ennis beating Hutton on a shot that would have been very difficult to stop. Hutton stopped two breakaways and made some good saves through the course of the game.
  • The power play struggled for most of the night. The first 5 chances the Predators had did not generate much quality in terms of shots and there wasn't a great sense of urgency. That said, Mike Ribeiro did convert on the Preds 6th opportunity to tie the game. Their 7th power play, which came with 2:58 remaining in the game, was totally inept and didn't generate a shot.
  •  The 8th Predators power play came with 1 minute remaining in overtime. Once again, the man advantage unit could not get control of the puck and create any quality chances.
  • You have to give props to Michael Neuvirth. The Predators threw 36 shots at him in regulation and he made some outstanding saves to keep the Sabres in the game. You can't fault the Predators for their effort in the offensive zone and for getting pucks to the net. Neuvirth was just solid between the pipes, and this game looked for all the world like a hot goalie was going to steal a game from the Preds.
  • The Predators got 38 shots through on Neuvirth, but the Sabres also blocked another 23 shots. Think Head Coach Laviolette's message to shoot the puck got through to these guys?
  • The Predators now have 87 points, and are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. Anaheim and Montreal have 81; the Islanders, Tampa Bay, and St. Louis have 80. 

This wasn't a pretty win by any stretch, but it was a pretty win.


Pretty from the standpoint that the Predators never relented in their attack and kept persevering a red-hot goalie that almost stole a game.

That relentlessness is going to be needed in the last quarter of this season.

My three stars:

1. Mike Ribeiro

2. Michael Neuvirth

3. Filip Forsberg

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Predators Phail In Philly, Phall in Shootout 3-2

The Nashville Predators continued their three game Eastern Conference road trip with a stop in Philadelphia to take on the Flyers.

Someone should have told the Predators it was a 12:00 start.

The Predators were guilty of sleep walking through most of the game before a third period goal from Craig Smith tied the game to send it to overtime.

Wayne Simmonds scored on deflection to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead in the first period. Colin Wilson answered to tie the game at one after 20 minutes.

It was improbable that the Predators would be tied as they could only generate 3 shots on net.

Ryan White was left alone in the slot and beat Rinne stick side for the only goal in the second period.

The Predators got on the board 23 seconds into the third period as Mike Fisher set up Craig Smith for his 18th goal.

After a scoreless overtime, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmons scored in the shootout, while Matt Cullen and Craig Smith were stopped by Rob Zepp.

Some observations:

  • Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli had a day of practice on Friday and were in the line up for the Predators. Santorelli was on the third line with Calle Jarnkrok and Matt Cullen, while Franson was paired with Mattias Ekholm on the second D pair.
  • The Predators offense was totally inept in the first period. Mustered only 3 shots on goal against a 33 year old rookie back up goaltender who has played all of 6 games. This is where the Predators need to turn up the intensity and get pucks to the net and challenge the goalie. Instead, they were sleep walking in the first period.
  • By contrast, the Flyers were pumping pucks at the net. Rinne faced 13 shots and was beaten on a terrific redirected shot by Wayne Simmons.
  • The ineptitude of the Predators offense continued in the second period as they could only get 4 shots on net. The Predators looked totally out of sync and had absolutely no intensity and compete level. This is both puzzling and disturbing as the Predators offense looked totally disjointed. No one was stepping up to make plays or to try to generate any fire on the team. This is an aspect of the Predators game that we have only rarely seen this season, and now for the second game in a row, it becomes worrisome.
  • Pekka Rinne made a huge stop on Ryan White early in the third period, who had the puck alone at the top of the crease. Goodness, the compete level and athleticism of Rinne are off the charts. He would later make a couple of spectacular saves on Mark Streit and Claude Giroux. Frankly, the only reason the Predators were even in this game was the play of Rinne.
  • The Predators continue to get good production from Colin Wilson and Craig Smith. Both tallied goals to get the Predators back into the game. For Wilson, it was his 19th of the season and it was the 18th for Smith. One of the strengths of this team this year has been balanced and consistent scoring.
  • By forcing overtime, the Predators still have not lost back to back regulation games this season.
  • The Predators power play was awful. They had 2 chances with the man advantage and generated one shot.
This was a game where the Predators salvaged a point, and that is the only positive that you can take away from it. A lack of intensity and focus bit the Predators in the butt.

Hopefully, this is not the start of a trend.

For the Predators, they need to get back to simple, hard nosed hockey and quit trying to make the cute plays. That has been their formula for success, and we have seen in the last two games what happens when they get away from that formula.

They get their chance to try to play that way tomorrow in Buffalo.

My three stars:

1.  Wayne Simonds

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Rob Zepp

Friday, February 20, 2015

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

In 1971, then President Richard Nixon took the United States off the gold standard. When the U.S. was on the gold standard, every new dollar printed by the Treasury Department had to be backed by an equivalent amount of gold. This constrained the growth of dollars- and debt- and forced our country to live within its means.

Once off that gold standard, U.S. dollars became a "fiat" currency, simply meaning that the dollar was backed solely by the creditworthiness of our government and it was worth whatever we, and the markets, said it was worth.

More importantly, the growth in dollars was no longer tied to growth in our national economy but instead how fast we could print new dollars.

These new dollars, brought into existence out of thin air and at the whims of those in power in Washington, have been used to expand the entitlements offered by the federal government, on defense spending, and on numerous wasteful projects.

In essence, our government has spent well beyond the revenue it takes in from all taxes and fees it collects. Our government is no different than a person that spends beyond his income and makes up the difference by using a credit card.

How bad is it?

From the 1950's through the latter part of the 1990"s our debt as a percentage of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) stayed fairly steady at 140%. With the advent of unconstrained printing of dollars and the corresponding spending of those dollars, debt to GDP stands at 300% today.

Where has that money gone?

With essentially unlimited dollars to spend, the federal government has spent to make sure everyone has a house and car (sub-prime loans backed by the government); fought numerous wars; overseen an explosive growth in entitlement programs; and the list goes on.

It is estimated that the excess dollars created since the 1970's to the present is $35 trillion. That means we as a nation have overspent our income by an enormous amount. In essence, we have run up a credit card bill of $35 trillion.

But that doesn't paint an accurate picture. According to Dr. Laurence Kotlikoff, Chairman of the Economics Department at Boston University and former Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors under President Ronald Reagan, our actual debt should factor in our future obligations that we have promised to pay under entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. If we add those obligations, our real debt is closer to $220 trillion according to Dr. Kotlikoff.

Those numbers are staggering.

And Kotlikoff says that to pay this indebtedness would require a permanent tax increase to 59% and a cut in federal spending of 38%.

Neither of which are going to happen.

But something will happen, even if we do not not enforce fiscal discipline on ourselves.

Just like an individual that gets overextended on their debt, our country has gotten overextended.We can survive as long as other countries are willing to continue to loan us money by buying our bonds. Just like an individual can continue to survive as long as they can get another credit card.

When that credit runs out, it can be financially disastrous for that individual

And it can be for our country as well.

While our debt is being ignored by our leaders in Washington, we need to pay attention to the dire fiscal straits we are in, and we need to demand that our leaders in Washington begin to address our profligate spending.

If we as a nation don't exact some real fiscal discipline, it will be ugly and will be life changing for all of us.

And that, my friends, is my view.