Predators: It’s just a mess…

I’ve sat at the computer a few times over the past couple of days hoping to put into words my feelings about the recent rough patch the team has gone through over the past couple of weeks, but I really want to address the rough patch the fans are going through as well. I think it’s a bit disturbing being subjected to some of the crap people spew on the internet regarding the team, their personnel, and the options moving forward.

 

Now, understand, I may be part of the problem rather than part of the solution, but at least I know how to spell and can generally put a cohesive thought down on the screen, and force conversation that might include some objective viewpoints.

 

Let’s start with when the wheels started to come off the bus. That would be when the season started, despite a strong record, the forward crew, specifically the “top 6” just could not seem to get untracked with any level of consistency. If I were handing out quarter-mark grades, based on RESULTS, you would see failing marks for Ribeiro, Smith, Wilson and barely passing marks for Forsberg and Fisher, with Neal getting a decent grade, and honestly, I don’t generally care for his play most of the time. Careless, needless penalties, and shockingly invisible at crucial times in any given game, Neal continues to figure out ways to put up numbers, but still feel as unsatisfying as a meal at Panda Express. You know it’s not good, you eat it anyway, and two hours later, you’re desperate for some real food. As for Forsberg, there’s no doubt the kid is an exceptional talent, but we are now looking at 29 other NHL teams, and their young stars, and realizing that perhaps this one isn’t going to stand out among the others. On the Predators he’s perhaps the most gifted we’ve got, but on teams with more still, he’s just another very good player (which is never a bad thing.) He’d benefit from some more creative types, or a return to form by Preds alleged “number one center,” Ribeiro, who has taken such a decided downturn this season you have to wonder if the bridge contract he signed that kept him in the league last year was more the motivating factor, or perhaps he’s just seeing an erosion of his skill set as he heads towards age 36. Not a lot to be said about Wilson and Smith. Both cashed in with contracts that could have been considered bargains if both had improved on their 2014-15 seasons, and though there are still 60 games to do so, the results over the first 20 have been marginal at best. On the other hand, high marks have to be given to third line center Calle Jarnkrok, who started the campaign on the wing, but flipped with free-agent acquisition Cody Hodgson, and has shown marked improvements in all three zones. With the top 6 faltering, Jarnkrok has slotted in a bit on the PP and has at least looked quick and creative. A final forwards shout-out to some rookies. Austin Watson has been a bit of a revelation at times with his play, and fellow Admirals call ups, Miikka Salomaki, Colton Sissons, and Viktor Arvidsson have all been far more visible than most of the returning cast and crew with varying degrees of success.

 

While bringing up the name Arvidsson, I would like to go on record by saying that it is ghastly reading tweets, and internet posts vilifying Arvy for his careless (reckless?) actions in the Sabres game the other night. Yes, he dented the trachea of journeyman defenseman Carlo Colaiocovo, and yes, he was penalized for the play, but to think for even a nano-second that the young Swede would have any malice or forethought in his actions is objectionable to the nth degree. Have you watched this kid play? His height and weight coupled with his youthful exuberance equals spirited play that often fails because of his inability to stay on his feet, or stay strong on the puck, but his effort is admirable and his “shoot first” mentality is refreshing, though occasionally comical. Arvidsson got jobbed out of his second goal of the season a few minutes before his penalty allegedly took the team out of the game, but I submit that the gang that couldn’t shoot straight needed to fire a hell of a lot more pucks on net against Chad Johnson, who they had knocked out of the game just a few nights prior in Buffalo. When you give up two power-play goals during a five-minute major, sure, you’ve given the opposition momentum, and in this case, a lead on the scoreboard, but there were 55 other minutes that the Predators could have made a far bolder statement, especially with young Juuse Saros making his first NHL start.

 

Which bring me to the “Why the hell was Juuse Saros making his first NHL start in that situation to begin with?” portion of the program. I have rarely been critical of decisions made by Coach Laviolette during his brief tenure here in Nashville, but the past six games have been mind-boggling as it relates to goaltending, and who’s manning the crease.

 

The team embarked on a five game road trip, and had back-to-back games that started the sojourn. Coming off a hard fought 3-2 win vs. Anaheim on a Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena, the team had two days off before facing the Blue Jackets in Columbus. Knowing that the following day the team would be facing off against division rival Minnesota, you have two options. One, let Pekka sit, and give Hutton the Jackets, knowing that you want him to get some action, and knowing that the division game means a little more than the Eastern affair vs. a team that, although it has given the Preds a hard time in the pre-season, came out of the gate flat, and only with a recent coaching change has rebounded to play a shade above .500 hockey. Or, you could give Pekka the game, knowing he’s starting the next night in any event. As it turned out they went with the Pekka decision and the team lost BOTH games by identical 4-0 scores. Pekka may not have been at fault for either loss, as when you don’t score ANY goals, even Carey Price, Jonathan Quick or the ghost of George Vezina would not have come up with a win. Personally, I would have gone with Hutton in Columbus. So, after the two losses, the Preds went to Madison Square Garden for a tilt against the Rangers, and it’s a given that Pekka gets the net, because he’s opposing Henrik Lundqvist, and what better stage is there, than New York, and the goaltender that is the only import that can be considered better than our guy on any given night. Well, he was, as again the team continued to flounder offensively, and Rinne was the second best goaltender in the building on that night. Now you go to Buffalo, and at this point you finally give Hutton his game, and lo and behold, the team responds with a win, and Carter is now 4-0-0 against the Sabres. The team concludes the trip with a Friday game vs. Philly, and will return home to face Buffalo again on the following evening. OK, so… it is assumed that despite finishing the game, Hutton gets hurt during the Sabres affair. Saros is NOT recalled for the Philly game, and Rinne plays, and loses in OT after the Preds manage to tie the game with 20 seconds to go in regulation. It’s a carbon copy of last year’s game in Philly, where their backup goalie (last year, 34 year old journeyman Rob Zepp, this year, Michael Neuvirth) bests our best. As the team returns home, with little to no explanation, Saros is recalled and starts against Buffalo. Here’s my problem with this. If Hutton was injured, why not recall Saros and let him get the Flyers game in? He’s going to face a weak team in the other Conference and he’s going to do it coming off a win, and in a far dimmer spotlight. You KNOW you want to see Pekka lead the team onto the ice at Bridgestone, coming off a 1-3-1 road trip that was one of the more dismal road trips in team history. When Preds PA announcer Paul McCann shouts, “and… in goal… NUMBER THIRTY FIVE, PEKKA RIIIIIINNNNNEEEE” the crowd is amped up perhaps more than at any other part of a night in Smashville. It made TOTAL sense to give the first home game to Pekka. Saros performed fine, and that’s again, not the issue with his goaltending, but he was not set up to succeed. The team sucked for long stretches of the game, and inevitably, coupled with the five minute major, he was left hung out to dry. Sorry, Lavy… you and Poile screwed this one up badly. Hutton, Rinne, Rinne, Hutton, Saros, Rinne… not Rinne, Rinne, Rinne, Hutton, Rinne, Saros… Nope, no one can convince me that was wise.

 

Now, the latest transaction includes putting spare defenseman Victor Bartley on waivers. Everyone up in arms thinking Bartley, a healthy scratch in all but one game this season, is some valued piece in the Preds system. In fact, he’s a spare part that has little to no value in trade. By putting him on waivers, Poile was actually REWARDING Bartley by giving him a shot at another NHL job. GM’s do this often. You like a player personally, and appreciate the job he’s done within the organization, so rather than have him sit in the press box night after night, he throws him the bone that includes the prospect of losing him to another club. Despite his best efforts, Poile sees Bartley clear, and they’ve assigned him to Milwaukee of the AHL.

 

Recently the team picked up Peter Granberg on waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Already on IR, Granbarg has more than decent size (6’3, 200) and played internationally with current Preds Swedes both here in Nashville (Arvidsson) and Milwaukee (Alm.) With Anthony Bitetto already in street clothes, and Granberg expected to be healthy enough to have a roster decision made on him, Poile did the honorable thing in offering Bartley around the league, and if he had been plucked off the waiver wire by an NHL team, we’d have wished him well, and hope he had an opportunity to play elsewhere, but bottom line, all you would have lost was a depth guy that wasn’t going to crack this year’s top 6. Now, in case of injuries the team still has Bitetto and Granberg to fill in, with Bartley a short plane ride away in Wisconsin.

 

There’s more. Lot’s more, but I need to put the brakes on. Invite you to follow me on Twitter, and let you digest the bits of Pred truth I’ve served up this afternoon.

Keep striving towards literacy and sanity 🙂

Marc

Poile: “Last year, our forwards improved tremendously.”

Well, what if last year was the statistical anomaly, and you overpaid Smith and Wilson because they are consistently inconsistent? What if Filip Forsberg isn’t the elite talent that you thought he was. What if Mike Ribeiro is the player Phoenix (now Arizona) bought out and said, “Good riddance” to. What if James Neal is the James Neal that has played himself off Dallas and Pittsburgh, and looks more like the James Neal that pretty much sucked for the Preds in his first season in Smashville?

You get the picture, and it ain’t pretty. The Preds haven’t scored in over 10 periods of hockey, and their next stop on this runaway train towards futility is the four consecutive shutouts the Oakland (soon to be “California Golden”) Seals had to endure back in 1967-68 when that team was 15-42-17 and were virtually eliminated from the post-season in the pre-season!

 

Look, the good news is that the Preds defense and goaltending will not permit that kind of collapse (the Seals sandwiched their four shutout losses in between a 6-3 defeat, and a 9-3 defeat.) Pekka was the second best goaltender in these past three games, and yet he made enough extraordinary saves so as to save the team from losing by far wider margins.

 

Defensive culprits over the past three games? Statistically, from a +/- perspective:

The team gave up 11 goals. 3 were power play goals. 8 even strength goals.

 

Weber: -4

Ekholm: -4

Josi, Ellis, Jones, Jackman each: -2

 

Up front, Craig Smith leads the suckitude with a -4 (that’s -2, -1, -1 in the three games) Fisher, Forsberg and Ribeiro are all -3 (with -1 in all three games.) Both Watson and Wilson’s -3’s came in two games (-2, -1) and Neal had a pair of -1’s, Jarnkrok had a single game -2. Both Salomaki and Hodgson had single -1 games.

 

Throw into the mix the distrubing penalties… I won’t even bother to detail (cough Ribeiro, cough misconducts…)

 

Clean slate tonight. Sabres in the toilet. Chad Johnson NOT Bobrovsky, Lundqvist or Dubnyk. Fire should be lit. Coach has been calm, and knows team is getting their chances…

 

But, what if this group of forwards is actually as bad as they appear to be? The mind boggles.

Preds and news around the NHL

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With a generally myopic look at the Nashville Predators, fans forget there are 29 other teams that compete in this league. Today, I’m in the mood to take on each one of them, as they may relate to the Preds in some fashion. Enjoy.

ANAHEIM: The Predators won 2 of 3 games already played against the Ducks, who continue to play under the Mendoza line, and not qualify for a post season spot, despite having been picked by many to win this year’s Stanley Cup. Former Predator, Mike Santorelli has 3 goals and an assist this season… with Nashville, having been acquired at the trade deadline with Cody Franson, he netted just one goal and three assists in 22 games, and sealed the team’s fate heading into the post-season with his suckitude.

ARIZONA: The Coyotes are surprisingly better this season, due in part to rookies Anthony Duclair and Max Domi. Domi, son of former NHL pugilist Tie Domi, has 8 goals and 8 assists in his first 18 games. Duclair, his linemate, has 7G and 4A, with 3 PPG. Former Predator Anders Lindback has won 2 and lost 3, with reasonable GAA (2.41) and SV% (.915) — both a bit better than starter Mike Smith, who is 7-5-1 and considered to be having a “comeback season.”

BOSTON: Beginning the season 8-8-1 is considered a disappointment in Beantown, and while top stars David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron play at a point a game pace or better, All-Star goaltender Tuukka Rask is just 5-7-1 with a GAA of 3.18 and a SV% at a dismal .890. No former Preds to discuss, but a look of disgust is on the faces of the Bruin fan base who pay big money to see mediocrity.

 

BUFFALO: The Sabres organization is raving about the play of #2 pick Jack Eichel, who has 6G, 3A in his first 18 NHL games. They also see off-season acquisition Ryan O’Reilly step up and lead the team in scoring, averaging over 21:30 of ice time per game. A couple of former Preds to mention: Franson has been excellent for the team, with 2G, 7A (and 5 PPA) and David Legwand continues his slide into futility, looking for his first goal, netting just four assists and averaging less than 10 minutes on ice per game.

 

CALGARY: For most of last season, Rookie Of The Year talk surrounded the Preds Filip Forsberg and the Flames Johnny Gaudreau. When the season drew to a close, neither Forsberg, nor Gaudreau grabbed the hardware, with Forsberg missing  being named one of the three finalists all together, as Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad, and Ottawa forward Mark Stone crept into the picture. Flash forward to this year and it’s Johnny Hockey’s world in Calgary and Albertans are just living in it. Gaudreau leads the Flames with 18 points (4G, 14A) and shows no signs of slowing down. The Flames however, could use a more robust pilot light, as they find themselves among the “have-nots” in the West.

 

CAROLINA: When your team is from a fictional place… expect problems. With less wins than the Columbus Blue Jackets, who began the year 0-8, expect changes… an over paid center, Eric Staal and an underrated defenseman, Justin Faulk lead the team in scoring with 12 points apiece. When your next players on the score sheet are Victor Rask and Kris Versteeg, and a guy like Jeff Skinner has just 3G and 1A after the team’s first 18 games … expect futility. Neither Cam Ward nor off-season acquisition Eddie Lack are making timely saves, and the biggest save of all may be Coach Bill Peters’ job.

 

CHICAGO: Ahhh, the Blackhawks… I bet you thought they’d be dead right about now… Last year’s Cup winners dealt with negative Patrick Kane press, lost some key cogs to their great playoff run (See: Saad, Oduya, Sharp, Richards) and have had all-world defenseman Duncan Keith miss 10 of the team’s first 18 games. Well… Kane… on the “DID NOT RAPE” list, has amassed 13G and 15A, is a +14, has 6 PPG, and is on the ice 21 minutes a night. Well done, Patrick. And, who had Artemi Panarin on their Calder Trophy list? 6G and 12A makes this kid the NHL’s leading rookie scorer. Former Preds farmhand Scott Darling is 2-2 on the young season, backing up handy, capable Corey Crawford, whose 2.40 GAA is competitive, and unaffected by the beatdown the Preds look to bestow on him when the two teams meet for the first time this season on December 8th in Chi-town.

 

COLORADO: Holding the bottom slot in the Central Division, the Avalanche make their first Bridgestone appearance on December 12th. At that time, we will be treated to 20 year-old Nathan MacKinnon, whose 8G, 12A leads their team in scoring. Also in the 8G category is center Matt Duchene, who has been subject of trade rumors since time began. Any chance a skilled #1 C like Duchesne could find his way into the home team locker room by 12/12 appears slim, but you’d sure love to have him. The Avs are a general mess, and the corporal punishment being laid out by Coach Patrick Roy indicates change up ahead.

 

COLUMBUS: After losing their first seven games, the ownership jettisoned Coach Todd Richards, and brought in cancerous cells named John Tortorella to right the ship. The Jackets bumbled their way through loss eight, before winning two, losing two, winning two, losing two, and now, heading into a back-to-back Thursday in Ottawa, and Friday home to face Nashville, have won three in a row behind goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Columbus is led on the scoresheet by former Predator Scott Hartnell (8G, 6A.) Boone Jenner and Brandon Saad both have 9G, 4A and of course Ryan Johansen, with 2G, 11A is the guy who always goes too high in your fantasy pool.

 

DALLAS: Surprise! The Stars have 30 points, and the Preds have 25… and Surprise! The Stars don’t miss James Neal one bit… (nor do the Penguins, but that’s another story for another time.) Right now, a look at the team we don’t get to see play until New Year’s Eve, in Dallas and February 15th in Nashville. Former Pred Vern Fiddler has 3G, 6A and is part of a solid shut-down line that also kills penalties and wreaks havoc. The other Former Pred is Patrick Eaves, who has made the same impression on this season’s Stars fans (4 pointless games) as he did on Preds fans (5 pointless games) back in the 13-14 campaign. The Stars are the #1 scoring team in the league, and feature Tyler Seguin (10G, 17A) and Jamie Benn (12G, 14A.) Second year defenseman John Klingberg is no flash-in-the-pan, as he has 4G, 16A (with half of those coming on the PP) — the aforementioned Patrick Sharp, Jason Spezza, and Ales Hemsky make it look easy around the opposition’s goal.

 

DETROIT: Two December meetings is all Preds fans get against former arch-rivals, the Red Wings. Sure they’re in the East, and sure you remember when Bridgestone would be a sea of red with gold flecks, but it’s 2015, and you have to save up your hatred for Chicago. Besides, if Detroit is any good, and have a shot at the Cup, you want to see them in JUNE… WHEN IT REALLY COUNTS! The team that handed us Calle Jarnkrok in exchange for the invisible David Legwand has moved on… Oh sure Zetterberg and Datsyuk are still there, but youngsters… er, young stars named Tatar, Nyquist and Larkin do most of the heavy lifting these days. Get to know and hate them in December, because that’s probably all you get.

 

EDMONTON: Oh boy, Connor McDavid! Step right up and see the great Gretzky incarnate… A 2-0 loss to the Preds during the second game of the season didn’t give us much of a glimpse at the great McDavid, but a broken collar bone vs. Philly on November 3rd has spelled 1-5 in the win/loss column since he went down. On the upside, however, last year’s version of McDavid, now 20 year old Leon Draisaitl scored just 2G, 7A in 37 games for the Oilers as a rookie and began the season in Stockton. With the injury bug biting Edmonton, Draisaitl was recalled and has been a revelation, netting 6G and 8A in just 9 games, and if you were to combine his stats with that of McDavid, you’d have a #1 center with 11G and 15A in just 24 G… not bad for a couple of teenagers 🙂 Former Predator Matt Hendricks is a part time guy with a goal and an assist.

 

FLORIDA: The Panthers will arrive in Nashville on December 3rd. They will be led by 43 year-old Jaromir Jagr, who scored his first NHL goal in 1990. Yes, you read that right. This man also took 3 years off from the NHL to play in the KHL. He is on pace to have a 35 goal season. The Predators will more than likely not have a 35 goal scorer this season. Jaromir Jagr defies description. Second year D Aaron Ekblad defends his Calder trophy with solid play so far this season. Guys like Trocheck, Bjugstad, former Bruin Reilly Smith and Jonathan Huberdeau are solid NHL forwards. Still, the Panthers tease, surge, tease and eventually get put to sleep prior to the post-season.

 

LOS ANGELES: Halloween night provided the Kings a 4-3 OT win vs. the Preds, and despite the loss, it was a very well played game by Nashville, and one 3 on 3 sequence aside, the two teams might still be playing. When LA started 0-3 most people flinched and decided that the anomaly of missing the playoffs last season after having won the cup the year before might have been the norm instead. Since then, the team has gone 12-3, and no one is expecting them on the golf course in early April. No former Preds on this roster, but you’d sure wish GM David Poile had slid an offer sheet under the pillow of Tyler Toffoli. The young winger has 10G, 7A and a natural ability to find the net. I hope someone creates an All-Star format that allows Toffoli and Forsberg some alone time on the ice in late January. Dynamite to ensue.

 

MINNESOTA: That 3-2 win vs. the Wild on November 5th? Horrible… The Wild were by far the better team… but you know the drill… some days you’re the windshield, some days you’re the bug. The two teams meet again in Minnesota this coming Saturday. Let’s talk about Devan Dubnyk. 37-13-4 since arriving in Minnesnowta last year. The Wild were dead last and Double D brought them into the second round of the playoffs. This is the same guy that had a body of work as a Pred that made Carter Hutton look like Georges Vezina reincarnate!! Another former Nashville player is Ryan Suter. I’m not going to debate the Suter vs. Weber thing on this page, but I will say, Suter has a far weaker supporting cast than Weber, but manages to lead the team in assists, time on ice, and power play points. Not terrible 😉

 

MONTREAL: Reeling off nine straight victories to start the season was impressive. Going 5-3-2 in the next ten, most of which were without Carey Price… not so shabby. Four guys lead the team in scoring with 17 points; Plekanec, Pacioretty, Subban and Gallagher, and familiar names like Desharnais, Markov and Fleischmann slot in close behind, but who expected Dale Weise to have 8G, 3A to this point in the season? The 27 year old has played for the Rangers, Vancouver, and now Montreal and he hit the 10G plateau playing in 79 games last year. A fourth round draft choice in 2008, Weise is the big surprise on Montreal’s roster.

 

NEW JERSEY: Having been fined 2200 dollars earlier in the season, and having 2G and 2A to date should come as no surprise to Preds fans, who still rave about Jordin Tootoo and his time in Preds colors. All four of his points have come on the power play, and the sporty -13 leads the team, and I don’t mean in a good way nonetheless. Mike Cammalleri leads the skaters, and Cory Schneider is the dependable starter in nets. Nashville beat the Devils 3-1 back on October 13th in Newark, and don’t make an appearance until March 3rd. It may be too too late for the Devils at that point.

 

NY ISLANDERS: John Tavares leads the charge at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, but it’s former Preds Marek Zidlicky, and Taylor Beck that we’re going to focus on at this juncture. Zidlicky remains a capable defenseman, averaging a shade under 16 minutes a game. Beck, having played a majority for the team’s AHL affiliate in Bridgeport has just one game of service with NY, who acquired him at the start of the season from Toronto. Goaltender Jaroslav Halak has a sub-2 GAA (1.90) and his backup, Thomas Greiss is 5-1-2. Thursday, March 17th is the date on the Preds calendar for that Beck tribute, and the revenge for the 4-3 Islanders win vs. Nashville in Brooklyn back in mid-October.

 

NY RANGERS: Having the stingiest defense in the league means something if your top 6 D are NOT named Weber, Josi, Ellis, Ekholm, Jones and Jackman… and your goaltender is NOT Pekka Rinne. No, it’s having King Henrik (Lundqvist) between the pipes, along with former Preds blueliner Kevin Klein, who is second on the Rangers in ice time and has contributed 3G 2A and is a +12. The other former Preds player is Viktor Stalberg, who continues to prove his uselessness by chipping in a goal and four assists in sixteen games. The Rangers host Nashville, in a tearful Stalberg reunion this coming Monday. Pekka and Henrik. Could be epic.

 

OTTAWA: Our season series is over between these two clubs. Shame. We won ’em both and scored early and often. Now all that remains is watching Erik Karlsson attempt to extract another Norris Trophy from the cold dead hands of Duncan Keith, and if the sophomore slump that has slightly affected Filip Forsberg will also affect Mark Stone, who has 3G, 13A in 16 games (compared to FF’s 2G, 9A in 17 games)

 

PHILADELPHIA: Last year I made the trek to Philly to catch the Preds in their first post-trade deadline game with Franson and Santorelli against the Flyers. The team had gotten pasted by the Islanders the game before, and the new acquisitions put Bitetto and Taylor Beck in street clothes. The deck seemed stacked in favor of Nashville, as Philly was throwing 33 year old career minor leaguer Rob Zepp into the nets against Pekka. Well, Zepp out played Peks on the score sheet, and in the shootout, and I left the arena to a giant snowstorm and a train back to NYC wondering if the two losses were just a blip on the Preds radar. UGH. Memories. This year I’m staying away from Philly the day after Thanksgiving, and let’s hope for a far better outcome. Former Predators defenseman Michael Del Zotto leads the team in ice time at a shade over 23 minutes. He’s a minus 9 and has yet to score a goal this season. Teammate Jakub Voracek just got his first, and he’s a top line forward. This team is a bit of a mess, and their 6-8-4 record puts them 5 points behind the Devils, who NO ONE predicted would have a snowball’s chance in hell of playing in the post season. Oh yeah, the Rangers, Caps, Isles and Pens are ahead of the Devils too 🙂

 

PITTSBURGH: Were you amazed at how many Penguin jerseys were careening around the concourse at Bridgestone on October 24th? Were you disgusted 41 seconds into overtime when Phil Kessel beat Pekka on a rebound of his shot for a 2-1 Pens win? I know I was both… Meanwhile, Pittsburgh is the home of former Preds favorite Patric Hornqvist, who has twice as many goals as Sid the Kid, and then there’s Matt Cullen, who toiled diligently for two seasons in Pred gold, and he’s just a single goal behind Crosby to this point. Malkin and Kessel both have six goals to lead the club, and Marc-Andre Fleury is stopping about 93% of all shots he is facing. This team will contend come April. — Good thing we play them again, in Pittsburgh, in March 🙂

 

SAN JOSE: Remember the night the Preds top 6 took the night off, but the bottom 6 supplied enough offense to snare a victory from the jaws of a deadly shark? That 2-1 win in San Jose was the start of this year’s Calle Jarnkrok love-fest, and one of a number of nights when the guys you expect to score haven’t, only to be picked up by the guys (Eric Nystrom?) who usually have hands of stone. As for the Sharks; Pavelski, Thornton, Burns, JOEL WARD, Marleau… Joel Ward? Sure… the late blooming former Pred already has 8G, 6A in 18 games for the Sharks. He played in Washington longer than he played in Nashville, so it’s less of a wound to see him lighting the lamp as often as he does, but he’s a solid citizen nonetheless.

 

ST. LOUIS: Saturday, November 7th. Blues 4, Preds 0. Bridgestone Arena. Came home to the sky falling on Preds fans throughout Middle Tennessee. I thought the team played great for the first two periods. Yes. Great. 45 shots, and another 30+ were either missed or blocked. “It wasn’t from a lack of trying,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “Attempts, opportunities, quality scoring chances were all heavily stacked in our favor. The kid (Jake Allen) played a good game in net. We hit the post six times and couldn’t get it to bounce.” In a far different lifetime, Scottie Upshall, now a Blues forward, played for the Predators. His 3G, 0A in 15 games includes one of the four that beat Rinne on 11/7.

 

TAMPA BAY: About a month ago, the Lightning came to Bridgestone Arena and dropped a 5-4 shootout decision to the Preds, with Filip Forsberg netting the game winner against Ben Bishop. The Bolts represented the East in the Stanley Cup Finals last season. This year, they currently sit below the line of teams punching a playoff ticket. Bishop has a respectable GAA (2.26) and SV% (.916) and Stamkos has 9G in his first 20 games, but “the triplets” have been held in check, and Filppula has one goal and is a minus 9. John Cooper is one of the finest coaches in the league. He will figure it out before long.

 

TORONTO: The Leafs were 2-8-4 when they visited first place Dallas, and then second place Nashville about 10 days ago. Two surprise wins, a tough 4-3 loss to the Eastern Conference leading Rangers, and then a return home to paste Colorado has the 6-9-4 Leafs getting points in 7 of their last 8 games, and the belief that Mike Babcock is the miracle worker who has Helen Keller and her teammates firing on all cylinders. They may not make the playoffs, but they signed Rich Clune to a new two-way deal that netted him some AHL scratch, and a two game look with the big club that ended with a stupid penalty. Nick Spaling has just two assists in 15 games, but is getting close to 17 and a half minutes a game. Mark Arcobello was pointless in 7 games before he was sent to the AHL, where he is en fuego. You may remember Arcobello  played four games with Nashville last year, and actually scored one of his 17 goals, with the remainder coming in Edmonton and Arizona.

 

VANCOUVER: Preds fans won’t see the Sedin kids until mid March, when the two teams face-off on the 12th in BC, and the 24th in Smashville. Until then, you’ll just have to believe that despite rarely showing up in the box scores, veteran defenseman Dan Hamhuis is playing a regular shift for the Canucks. Veteran goaltender Ryan Miller will not make anyone believe he can play proficiently enough to contend for a Cup, but his 5-7-5 record, along with his 2.51 GAA and .911 SV% will support Daniel and Henrik until tee time.

 

WASHINGTON: Coach Barry Trotz returns, once again, to the Bridgestone Arena on February 9, 2016. Mark it on your calendar, if only to see if he’s got a visible neck line. Michael Latta may be all that’s left from the Forsberg trade, and he’s played in 8 of the team’s first 17 games, netting a goal and an assist. Not-former Pred Alexander Ovechkin should fly past 500 goals at some point this season, and with new acquisitions Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie making valuable contributions, we should expect a hell of a “twirl around the block” as the Caps make their presence felt into the post-season.

 

WINNIPEG: Pasted 7-0 at Bridgestone, the Jets, on paper, are a formidable lineup. Youth, speed, creativity, grit… Winnipeg has it all. That being said, Paul Maurice has to do a lot of juggling to do to find a combination that can vault the team into Stars, Blues, Preds, Wild territory. Oh, did I say Chicago? Yes, the Hawks are in that division as well. (Read: it’s going to be an uphill climb into the playoff race this spring.)

 

 

Sorry, but here’s how I feel…

Nashville has some of the stupidest hockey fans I have ever had the unpleasant task of having to listen to (or read on the internet.) It was a sad day when computers became accessible to all, and broadband access made it so any moron with an opinion could flood perfectly good hockey websites and fan pages with nonsense…

Oh come on, you know I’m not talking specifically about YOU… you read my posts because you generally agree with most of the crap I have to say, and you know you wouldn’t think something like “Send Seth Jones To Siberia” when in fact Ryan Ellis made a couple of far worse plays tonight but no one would think to ship him in that general direction.

After forty minutes of play tonight a number of things were abundantly clear.

1. Nashville was playing excellent hockey, but they either couldn’t shoot straight, or shot straight into Blues goaltender Jake Allen.

2. Despite giving up an easy PPG to Blues rookie defenseman Colton Parayko, the Preds absolutely dominated much of the play through the first two periods, and had 31 shots, and by game’s end had (drumroll, please…) … FORTY FIVE SHOTS, SIXTEEN SHOTS BLOCKED, and SEVENTEEN MISSED SHOTS… That’s a nifty 78 pucks launched at Jake Allen… and he surrendered nothing. St. Louis on the other hand took 28 shots, had 13 blocked and only misfired 8 times. That’s 49 attempts at Pekka Rinne. Guess what, THE PREDS DID NOT SUCK TONIGHT. Even Pekka didn’t “suck” tonight, but if that had been Carter Hutton, you’d have him and Seth Jones all wound up in the filming of the Human Centipede IV.

3. The Preds out hit the Blues 26-15. The Preds actually WON 61% of the draws tonight, with Mike Fisher winning 14 of 21!

And so, to come on line and read things like “This was the worst game of the season for the Preds”… well, someone needs to send you to an optometrist, because you’re not watching the game. You must be the guy who yells “SHOOT IT” every time a Pred has the puck along the sideboards with a defender sprawled out two feet in front of him. You must be the person who asks “What’s wrong with Pekka?,” instead of saying, “Wow, I had no idea Jake Allen was so good.” Yeah, Jones was a -1 tonight, and was victimized on the two PPG’s as well, and he was only able to get one of his shots on net tonight, with two HUGE misses, but I’m not so sure he was the culprit specifically. I’m not so sure ANY single Predators player was the culprit tonight. When you move your feet as well as the Blues did on that first power play, you find a guy like Parayko hovering by the back door, and no one was going to stop him on that one. Not Jones, Rinne, or Jackman, Gaustad or Bourque.

Someone claimed the refs had their heads up their asses during this game. Ten minor penalties were called. Two were “coincidental.” That left eight… FIVE to St. Louis and THREE to Nashville. Nashville was 0 for 5 during 8 minutes and 28 seconds of power play time (in which they were also awarded TWO stretches of five on three time) and were credited with NINE shots on goal. St. Louis converted 2 of 3 chances with the man advantage during a stretch of just 3 minutes and 29 seconds. They had four shots on goal, and two went in. Where are the refs at fault? Not calling that one time Neal was tripped? Calling that trip on Neal where his skate made contact with the Blues player, making it look kinda like a trip? Get over it. Nashville had EVERY chance in the world to tie and take the lead in this game when it was 1-0. Even at 2-0 there was plenty of time given how many shots they were launching in Allen’s way. Things went south from there, and it became “the worst game the team has played” for some…

I like the effort, and if it had been Brian Elliot, it may have been a different story, but it was Jake Allen and he ruled the net tonight, outplaying the usually stellar Rinne by a mile and a half.

Colin Wilson was reinstated on the second line at some point midway through the game, moving Salomaki down to line 3, but honestly, since Gaustad’s line has gotten as much ice time as Hodgson’s line, it’s more like line 3B…

Tuesday night the Preds have a chance to get back in the win column as they face off against Ottawa, who don’t boast half the talent the Blues have… and Anderson (see, Craig) should crack if he faces 45 shots. Promise 🙂