Predators vs Stars Recap

With the looming realignment that is set to being next season, the Nashville Predators were left to wonder who their new rival would be. Since the Detroit Red Wings are leaving for the East, Nashville no longer has that divisional opponent who you knew everyone would be geared up to play. Luckily it seems that the Predators and their fans have found a new team who they can love to hate…the Dallas Stars.

Considering the Predators were without two of their top forwards (Hornqvist and Wilson, both on injured reserve with upper body injuries) it seemed that the bad luck would follow. After their meeting a little over two weeks ago, you knew this game promised to be high in physicality and emotion, and it did not disappoint! The first period started off slow, well slow compared to the previous game, and it wasn’t until a bit past the mid-way point that someone would find the back of the net. Nashville’s Matt Halischuk (who was recently recalled from Milwaukee) had a pretty sweet takeaway in the netural zone. Halischuk fed the puck to teammate Nick Spaling, who put the puck past the Stars’ Kari Lehtonen.

During the second period things would begin to heat up. Nashville would convert a power play goal thinks to Shea Weber, and it wasn’t his rocket shot that did it, but rather a heads up backhander that Lehtonen wasn’t prepared for. A few minutes later, Nashville’s Rich Clune would get whistled for roughing and sent to the box. What looked like a bad call, actually worked to the Predator’s advantage. Once Nashville killed off the penalty, Clune jumped from the box and grabbed the puck on a breakaway. Dallas’ Jordie Benn hooked Clune to which the officials awarded Clune a penalty shot. Clune, making it look easy, beat Lehtonen though the five hole and put the Predators up 3-0. At that moment you could just feel the air being let out of the Stars’ bubble.
If you thought things couldn’t get any crazier than a Rich Clune penalty shot, then all you had to do was wait for the third period. With about seven minutes left in the game, Dallas could not hold back their frustration. Stars’ Eric Nystrom went after Predators’ defenseman Ryan Ellis and both players dropped the gloves. You should note here that Ellis isn’t prone to fighting, especially considering that the majority of players are twice his size. Nystrom would serve 5 minutes for fighting as well as 2 minutes for roughing, which put the Predators on another power play. Oh but wait, the fighting was far from over. After being cross checked in the back several times, Nashville’s Mike Fisher laid into Dallas’ Stephane Robidas. It looked like Fisher got in about seven punches to Robidas zero, but who’s counting. While that was going on, Weber fought Dallas’ Antonie Roussel and Nashville’s Bobby Butler fought Brenden Dillon. Once everything was sorted and the players were in their respective boxes, the Stars’ Jamie Oleksiak tried to go after Clune immediately after the face off. Clune, rather smartly, had no part of it. Oleksiak would receive a 10 minute major and leave the game. Now, back to hockey play, with the Predators still on a power play, Nashville’s Gabriel Bourque would add another goal on a beautiful shot from close range.

Nashville would go on to win 4-0, giving Pekka Rinne yet another shutout. Rinne now leads the NHL with five shutouts this season. To say that Rinne was in true from last night would be an understatement. While everyone was fighting each other, Rinne fought that puck like a ninja.

Here are some of my thoughts after the game…

1. Rich Clune?!?
At the beginning of the season, I was as bad as everyone else. The idea of Rich Clune being a Predator didn’t excite me. When Clune didn’t get off to a great start and was taking bad penalties, I was yelling for him to be benched. My how things have changed. I’m not sure for the reason, but Rich Clune has been playing good hockey lately. He now has three goals on the season (as many as Martin Erat, let that sink in) and seems to be playing with more hockey smarts. While I’m sure Clune will more than likely take bad penalties at the worst time, it’s nice to see the good that Coach Trotz had been talking about.

2. Injuries
While last night’s win gave the Predators a much needed boost in the confidence department, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Faceoff specialist, Paul Gaustad went out with an upper body injury. The Predators have a tendency to struggle in the faceoff department when Gaustad is a no-go. Injuries were going to be a problem in this shortened season, but you just hope for Nashville’s sake that they can continue to overcome.

The Predators continue their road trip with back-to-back games on Thursday and Friday. Thursday they will be in Vancouver to take on the Canucks before they travel to Calgary to take on the Flames Friday night. The goal has to be for the team that showed up last night to keep going and pick up some much needed points this week. The Predators are usually good for having a great game, and then lose it before the next game even starts. Nashville has to have confidence in the way they played in Dallas, now they just have to contain that momentum and keep moving forward.

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Monkey Off Their Backs: Predators vs Kings Recap

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Finally. Finally the Nashville Predators came away with a win in a shootout. Finally goalie, Pekka Rinne, gets his first win of the season. Finally Nashville played Predator-like hockey. Sure there are still issues to be resolved in the Predators game play, but their showing late in the 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings has to be a breath of fresh air for Nashville.

The Predators jumped on the defending cup champs early. With just 0:58 seconds off the clock, Brandon Yip took a feed from Gabriel Bourque and snapped it right into the net. Nashville would hold on to the lead until the 13:08 mark when a fluke of a goal would cost them. After a shot went high and banked off the glass behind the net, the Kings’ Dustin Brown was able to find the rebound and score the goal while everyone else was still looking for the puck. The next two periods, and overtime, would go scoreless, but not for lack of effort. It seemed that especially in the third period, both teams picked up the intensity and started playing desperate hockey. Well, if you can call three shots on goal in the third period desperate for the Predators. Neither team could break through, so it was no surprise that the ensuing shootout would go eight rounds.

In the shootout, David Legwand started Nashville out on the right foot by sinking his shot and giving the Predators the 1-0 lead. Shots were then traded between the Kings’ Mike Richards and Dustin Brown and Predators’ Craig Smith, making the shootout 2-2 after three rounds. The tie would keep going in the sixth round when both LA’s Anze Kopitar and Nashville’s Gabriel Bourque would score on their respective tries. Then, in the eighth round, after a miss by the Kings’ Simon Gagne, the Predators’ Sergei Kosititsyn would seal the deal and give Nashville their first shootout win of the season.

Here are my thoughts after the game:

1. Think Outside the Box
I’m not talking figuratively. I’m literally talking about the penalty box. At one point in the first period, the Predators had as many penalty minutes as they did shots. That is unacceptable! Nobody can expect to consistently win games, if someone is always taking a penalty. And I’m not talking about “good” penalties here. I know that sometimes a player has to take a penalty to prevent a sure goal, but the penalties committed in the first period last night by the Predators were not smart. The fact that defenseman, Scott Hannan, was in the box three times during the course of the first period should tell you something. The LA Kings’ twitter account made a joke about there being free pizza in the penalty box. I don’t care if there is a free car; the Predators have got to stay out of there!

2. Skate and Stop
If you know me at all, then you’re not surprised when I say that I am a huge Patric Hornqvist fan. I love how he plays the game. He is someone who is not afraid at all to skate to the front of the net, stay there, and do what he can to score a goal. The Predators need more Patric Hornqvists, especially considering his absence right now. I did see a slight improvement last night on traffic to the net. What I didn’t see, however, was anyone willing to stay there. Several times I would see a Predator player skate down to the front of the net, stay there for a couple of seconds, and then skate to somewhere else on the ice. I don’t know if they got bored, or scared, or what, but when there is nobody there to pick up rebounds, you are missing prime scoring opportunities. It’s also not just about depositing the rebounds, but when you have someone standing there, screening the goalie, it allow shots from the point to get though.

The biggest victory to come out of last night’s game was not the two points the Predators received for the win, it was the fact that the Predators’ Pekka Rinne finally got the monkey off his back. I know that wins are important, but I think the way that Rinne played with last night will not only pay dividends to his own confidence but will also pay off for the team. How Pekka plays is part of the backbone of Predator hockey. Maybe now Nashville can find their identity again as the scrappy team who plays for a solid sixty minutes. If, and notice I did say if, the Predators can use this momentum and focus on fixing the lingering problems (like passing and shooting in the offensive zone), they may be able to rid themselves of the slump they fell into.

Nashville has one more game out on the west coast during this road trip. They will move on to San Jose to take on the Sharks Saturday night. I’m more interested in how they play in this game, having now found a bit of their groove. Can they continue to improve? That will be the true test.

Post Game Thoughts: Predators vs Blues

In professional sports there is a need to chase perfection.  Baseball has the perfect game, football has the perfect 2-minute drill, and evidently, in hockey, the Nashville Predators are chasing the perfect shot.  In last night’s 4-3 shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues, the Predators were outshot 39-24 and took no shots in overtime.  I don’t care how little you know about hockey, everyone knows that is not a recipe to win games.

The Predators lack of shots on goal was not due to lack of opportunities.  They did a much better job last night getting into the offensive zone than Saturday night against Columbus.  It seemed once they got in to position to shoot, they passed instead.  The worst example of the “pass first, shoot second” mentality came in the 3rd period during a Predators power play.  The Preds had every opportunity to shoot and put the game away, but instead they skated around and passed the puck.  Now, I will agree that the Predators passing and puck handling does need practice, but during a power play is not the time to do so.  Sitting in the arena I actually thought the fans were going to jump the glass and go shoot the puck themselves.  I’m not sure if this is Coach Barry Trotz’s game plan or if it is due to the fact that the “shooters” don’t have the confidence to pull the trigger.  Either way this is an issue that needs a remedy…and quickly!

Here are some other questions after last night’s game against the Blues…

  1.  Craig Smith

What in the world is wrong with Craig Smith??  Reports out of the shortened training camp was that Smith looked bigger, stronger, and on the brink of a great season.  If that’s the case, where is that guy?  Last I checked NHL forwards are expected to take shots.  Then tell me why Smith literally whiffed on two shots last night?  And why, after that happened, do you put that same guy in the shoot out?

 

  1.  Defense

Where was the defense last night?  (and don’t give me the whole “we don’t have Ryan Suter” story).  Roman Josi is doing just fine filling the gap that was created when he left.  It seems that more often than not, the defense was out of position last night.  Shea Weber doesn’t seem to have his top game back and there is only so much a guy like Ryan Ellis can do.  I’m not sure if its lack of communication on the ice or just the fact all 3 defensive parings are relatively new, but something is not working.  Pekka Rinne is an excellent goal tender, but when your defense leaves you high and dry you can’t expect him to be Superman.  The Predators need to realize that it’s not Rinne’s job to bail them out of games and he’s just as human and prone to mistakes as everyone else.

The game against the Blues was not all bad.  In fairness, the Predators did look much improved from their game on Saturday.  There were even a couple of standout players in Colin Wilson and Patric Hornqvist.  Wilson seemed to have found his groove and his home on the second line with Hornqvist and David Legwand.  His goal in the first period off a feed from Hornqvist seemed to boost his confidence and Wilson played with more intensity than he did in the first game.  He even managed to stay on his skates!  Patric Hornqvist looks like a guy who is in midseason form of a contract year.  His work playing in Sweden and Switzerland during the lockout is obviously paying off.  Hornqvist finished the night with 3 points (2 assists and 1 goal) and where was he for two of those points?  In front of the goal of course! 😉

To say for the Predators to go into Minnesota tonight and pick up their first win of the season is a tall order, would be an understatement.  This will be the third game for the Preds in four days where two of those games went into overtime/shootout.  You know these guys have to be feeling the effects.  It would also be irresponsible to say that the Suter storyline is not going to play any factor in tonight’s game.  If the Predators can go in as a cohesive group willing to shot the puck, I think they can pull off the win.  If not…it’s going to be a long seven game road trip.

 

Meet the Newest Member of the Team

Hey everyone! My name is Amanda and I’ll be your guide to everything Nashville Predators.
I’ll be honest; I haven’t always been a hockey fan. Sure, I’ve always been an avid sports fan my entire life, but until recently I’ve only had a passing interest in hockey. Over the past few years that has changed. I’m now going to and watching every game I can. I’m able to list the players, coaching staff, and statistics. I pride myself on being a woman who really knows sports. I may still be relatively new to the hockey world, especially compared to some of you fellas out there, but I’m not afraid to call it like I see it…both good and bad.
If you’re interested in my other random sports thoughts…or just random things in general…give me a follow on Twitter: @sportygirl04