The deal is that the sky is falling, the sky isn’t falling, the Preds are terrible, Pekka is terrible, the Preds are ok, Pekka is fine. Whatever the company line you want to toe, toe it… but there’s some truth to the statement that the Preds have really screwed things up in the NHL.
A month or so ago, everyone said there would be no wildcards to come out of the Pacific Division, and that the Central Division teams that were in, were IN. Now, look at this mess. Nashville is currently OUT, Colorado is currently IN, Winnipeg is now only three points behind Nashville, and just four behind Colorado, and then over in the allegedly weak Pacific, after Los Angeles, Arizona and San Jose, look at Vancouver who LOST last night, but are actually a point ahead of Winnipeg and just two behind the Preds. Anaheim a point behind Vancouver, and Calgary a point behind Anaheim. Then, holding up the bottom is Edmonton, who are only seven points behind currently guaranteed seed San Jose, and will get Connor McSavior back after the All Star Game. That can only mean a better second half for the Oil.
Back to the Preds, who may actually be able to meet up with Seth Jones for some early golfing in mid-April, the team is dreadful to watch. Third period comeback or not, the wheels are off the bus, and the bus is skidding aimlessly down the road with no one seemingly at the steering wheel anyway.
Latest moves include a recall of the virtually useless Cody Bass and highly-touted, and barely-deserving Swiss forward, Kevin Fiala. Down to Milwaukee in the American Hockey League go Viktor Arvidsson and Cody Hodgson. The net effect isn’t necessarily a huge positive, but admittedly, Arvidsson (a personal favorite) has done little lately, and Hodgson only serves to reinforce the fact that CORSI really might not be the best method of proving someone’s value on a hockey team.
So, Fiala scores about a minute into the game, intuitively following Ryan Johansen towards the Jets net, and putting a rebound past Winnipeg netminder Connor Hellebuyck, although play did continue for some seconds afterwards. Once sorted out, and the Preds had a lead, they held it for about twenty-five minutes, until Behemoth Byfuglien seemingly wearing one of those “DO NOT HIT” stickers on the back of his jersey decided to be a one man wrecking crew, scoring two of the next three Winnipeg strikes, victimizing a number of Predators players. Granted, on his wraparound that made it 3-1, he was just a force of nature, but watching nature happen, the captain, Shea Weber, was wondering if ice fishing was a possibility about five feet in front of Pekka Rinne.
The penalty kill, ranked 28th in the league, gave up a dandy to Bryan Little, sandwiched in between the Big Buff goals, and a crazy stretch pass from Andrew Ladd to Nikolaj Ehlers who went in all alone on a cardboard cutout of Rinne made it 4-1 about six minutes into the third period. Around that point, the posting on various Preds fan sites on Facebook had people essentially hanging themselves by their guitar strings and straps. Most of the blame was placed on the shoulders of Rinne, who, of course, after the team tied the game dramatically, and saw Johansen hit the post in the overtime, was completely overmatched by Blake Wheeler, who scored the winner just fifty-one seconds into 3 on 3 play. Filip Forsberg… minus 3. Somehow Weber and Josi came out even, and then there was James Neal at plus two. It was just a mixed bag… of CRAP!
Returning home, the Preds have games against Minnesota and Chicago. You KNOW Pekka will be the starter in both of those games. The team may be sinking fast, but Coach Laviolette’s use of Hutton has been “limited” to say the least, and I don’t think he’d be considering a back-up plan when the team needs to pony up and deliver a couple of solid home wins. Now, if Rinne gets pelted by the Wild… Well, maybe pigs will fly and Carter will get the call against Chicago (who may give Crawford the night off against one of the NHL “weak sisters.”)
I hope to finish up my report card on the forwards tomorrow. I know I’ve been lax, but I’ve had work obligations, and after tonight’s debacle it was just easier to spew this venom.
And, finally, please don’t assume Colin Wilson or Gabriel Bourque are the difference makers here. Yes, they will supplant guys like Bass and probably Salomaki in the lineup, and Watson will probably not get much of a shot at getting back in if guys like Nystrom and Gaustad are going to make actual contributions. (Nystrom’s goal was a beauty made possible by Ryan Ellis, and it was Gaustad’s faceoff win that made the regulation time point possible.) As for Craig Smith, I’m heading to Publix in the morning just to see if he’s pictured on a quart of milk.
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