Saturday, December 18, 2010

Preds on a Hot Stretch

Welcome Home! The Preds get back home for some games and the record is improving. Hard to beat 8 wins and 2 overtime losses over the last 10 games. That results in a stretch of 18 points out of possible 20, vaulting the Preds into the #4 slot in the western conference standings.

Other Notes:
Road Warriors Again- 10 of 13 January games are on the road, so if the Preds can weather that storm they spend most of Feb/March at home and build playoff momentum
Goalie Controversy?- Pekka Rinne is the established #1 but you can't turn your back on what Anders Lindback has done. Any slip-ups by Rinne when he comes back would be interesting to see what coach Trotz does.
Center of Attention- Preds are #4 in the west without their #1 defensive center(Legwand) and #1 offensive center(Lombardi) missing large chunks of time. Just think how good we can be when they return

All for now, stay hot Preds!!!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Preds Season at the Quarter Pole

Hard to believe we are already 20 games and 25% done with the regular season. Also hard to believe after 8 games I blogged that the Preds were at the top of the conference standings and had more points than any other team in the west. Now only 12 games later they are 13th in the western conference standings, due to 3 wins, 9 losses(1 in a shootout) across that 12 game stretch.

Don't lose heart Preds fans. We are getting guys back from injuries and have played more road games than any team in the NHL. Things should start improving soon. Here are my major reasons to keep hope alive going forward:

* The power play will improve soon. It can't get any worse. A hot streak is coming.
* Top free agent signee Matthew Lombardi has played in 1 game. Concussions are tough to know when healing will happen, but each day is a day closer to his return. Once he returns and the Preds have the 4 centers they planned to use all season, the lines will improve, gain consistency and productivity will be there as well.
* Historically 20 or more goal scorers 25% into the season- Steve Sullivan 5 goals, David Legwand 2 goals, Martin Erat 1 goal, J.P. Dumont 3 goals.

Preds are due for a hot streak with 3 games in 4 days upcoming. I think the season turns starting today.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Preds Snap 5 Game Losing Streak

In the ultimate definition of much-needed-win, the Preds pull off a nice comeback and defeat the Blues 3-2 in a shootout last night in St. Louis. With Suter, Erat and Lombardi still out any points are good at this point. The 5 game losing streak was snapped and the Preds have 1 home game before hitting the road for 4 games. That will close the brutal 15 game stretch where 12 were road games. Considering the injuries and the difficult schedule recently, the Preds' drop in the standings was predictable.

Other points to ponder:
* I have said it before and I will say it again. The Preds are best when Jordan Tootoo is causing havoc and drawing penalties. Even with the injuries he should be on the 3rd or 4th line. Keep drawing the 2 penalties per game from the opposing team and pitch in 10 goals here and there. His offensive potential doesn't outweigh the power play time he draws.
* Kudos to Patrick Hornqvist. He stuck his nose into everything last night and took many cross-checks, elbows and slashes that went overlooked by the refs. He really bothered the Blues and gave the Preds a big time lift.
* Coach Trotz knows his stuff and so much more than I will ever know hockey, but I don't understand the line selection philosophy. At the first of the season, all 4 lines were clicking, had great chemistry, and knew their roles very well. The rash of injuries required adjustments and that is understandable. But instead of juggling 3 of the 4 lines, why not keep 3 in tact and juggle the 4th line. Maybe I should call Charlie from Farm Bureau Insurance, he has all the answers.

All for now. The Blackhawks arrive tomorrow night. Hope we go to 2-0 versus them this year.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Preds Looking Good and Getting Points

Eight games into the season (roughly 10%) and the Preds sit atop the western conference (and the entire NHL) with 13 points. A lot has been made of the recent 3 straight games lost in overtime, but in hockey overtime losses still get you 1 point. The Preds have scored a point in the standings in all 8 games played this year and is the reason they lead the NHL in points.

Keep in mind this success has occurred while the team has fought injuries to key components of the team. Pekka Rinne and Martin Erat have returned, still out are Matthew Lombardi, Marcel Goc and Ryan Suter. Lombardi and Goc are centers which has long been considered the weak position of the team, but the Preds are doing fine for now without them. This shows how improved and more balanced with talent this Preds team is.

Good news for a possible hosting of a playoff series(top 4 finish in the conference) and a first time playoff series win. But then again, we are only 10% into the season.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

2010-2011 Season Off to Good Start

The first four games of the season results in 3 wins and an overtime loss. Seven of a possible eight points has Nashville sitting atop the central division and in 2nd place in the western conference. The schedule is in the Preds favor to start the season with 5 of the first 6 games at home before a stretch of 11 out of 16 on the road.

I have seen all 4 games ( 2 in person and 2 on TV) and when healthy, the Preds look to have a very strong team. They have 3 solid scoring lines with the addition of Matthew Lombardi and strong center play from Marcel Goc and Cal O'Reilly. The defense core is solid again and the addition of Shane O'Brien looks to make three solid pairings on defense.

The major question mark and fear for a potential season-wrecker was an injury to Pekka Rinne in goal with no proven backup. And going with Preds luck, Rinne sustained an injury in game 1 but Anders Lindback has responded so far with 2 wins and an overtime loss. So far, the backup position looks to be in good hands with Rinne due back in goal Tuesday against the Calgary Flames.

Other points of interest to note:

* Injuries are piling up. Already missing games or out now- Matthew Lombardi, Martin Erat, Pekka Rinne, Marcel Goc. Big names the Preds can't have out for an extended period.
* Improved- Cal O'Reilly looks very good centering Sullivan/Hornqvist and has added 4 assists in the first 4 games. Colin Wilson looks better with each passing game as he adjusts to the NHL since coming out of college last year. Legwand, Ward, Klein, Goc look to have raised their game.
* Sullivan finally healthy/confident- 4 goals in 4 games says a lot. Steve looks to have confidence the back will remain healthy and up to his old "sniper" ways. With some luck he could have 6-7 goals because he has missed on some great opportunities.
* Look out for Erat/Lombardi- The Preds are off to a great start without a point from either Erat or Lombardi. You know the goals/points will come once they are healthy which bodes well for the Preds.

As I said above, if the injuries slow down the Preds look to be on the verge of a very good season. It is early but all signs point to a strong year in Smashville.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Preds Off Season Moves Graded

Take a look at my grade for each move and let me know what you think. The grade is based upon the move, necessity to be made and return value. Not all moves this off season are graded, but these are the ones I think are most important.

A Grade
Dan Hamhuis to Philly for Ryan Parent- Hamhuis was going to walk anyway for big money and the Preds get a highly valued young defenseman back from the Forsberg trade, a move they hated to make in the first place. Add in Parent's much needed size and offensive abilities, the Preds get an A considering they could have lost Hamhuis for nothing in return.

Matthew Lombardi Signing- 3 year contract at $3.5 million per year is not bad for a player coming into his prime. The Preds get more speed, save $1 million per year versus what Jason Arnott or Dan Hamhuis would be paid, add get 7 years younger when compared to Arnott. Great pickup for the Preds small market budget.

Shea Weber Named Captain- Pretty much the obvious choice along with Ryan Suter. A humble superstar who leads by example on and off the ice. If the Preds can get the money right, you hear mumblings that Weber could be in Nashville for a long time. He doesn't sound like a player looking for the highest contract, just a good home for the money. Active in the community with youth hockey, he is a great leader for the Preds at this time.

B Grade
Dan Ellis and Dustin Boyd to Montreal for Sergei Kostitsyn- Two more free agents who were more than likely going to walk for more money. Preds do lose a quality backup netminder in Ellis who has a chance to start in Tampa Bay after his trade there by Montreal. This leaves a monster hole if something was to happen to Pekka Rinne. Kostitsyn is young and a good gamble with his scoring potential. He led Belarus in points at the 2010 Olympics and has a good track record for points at the AHL level. Some good ice time and the right line combination could sprout a 20 goal scorer.

C Grade
Jason Arnott to New Jersey- The leading scorer over the last 4 years for a team that struggles to score leaves. It was probably unavoidable after the title of captain was going to be removed from Arnott. Prospect Matt Halischuk (who spends more time in minors than NHL at this point) and a 2nd round draft pick in return. You would like more for your top goal scorer and best slap shot, but considering his age and concussion issues not a bad move to get younger and free up salary. Not much in return and thus the C grade. Better grade if the 2nd round pick develops down the road.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Season Ends With Playoff Loss to Blackhawks

I think the game 5 loss will stick in Predator fans memory for years to come. At least until they win a playoff series. To give up a goal to tie the game with 13 seconds left, while on the power play, still hurts today 6 days later. I was able to attend games 3 and 6 at home and it was so electric, especially game 3 coming home after the first ever playoff road win in game 1.

All things considered a great year. Year end wrap up coming soon.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Preds Make Playoff History in Chicago

The franchise's first ever road playoff win couldn't come at a better time. The Preds now lead the best of 7 series 1 game to none over the Blackhawks. Game 2 tomorrow night in Chicago before coming home for Tuesday's game 3. My thoughts on the game 1 victory:

* Pekka Rinne very good. The only goal was a rebound off his glove he couldn't quite hang on to. Chicago did miss 1 wide open net, but for his first playoff game I am tickled.
* Joel Ward was solid and did the dirty work all night. He was very strong on the puck and won a lot of minor battles.
* David Legwand was active on offense with some good chances and really good helping on the defensive end. His game level was raised and let's hope it stays there.
* J.P. Dumont rewarded twice with goals just by getting the puck on net and hanging around the net. Good for the Preds he is scoring.

If you haven't been watching I really encourage you to do so. Playoff hockey is like nothing else.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Playoff Finish Line in Sight

Thanks to some recent good play the Preds are closing in on clinching a playoff spot. The only question remaining is can they hold off Detroit, LA and Colorado for the 5th spot. I personally hope we stay in the 5th-6th spot to likely play Vancouver or Phoenix in the first round.

Other thoughts since my last post:

* Pekka Rinne is playing very well and thus the climb in the standings. He must stay at this level for a deep playoff run to happen.
* Did you know the Preds have more goals against than any other playoff bound team in the west? Yet they sit in 4th place.
* David Legwand lights the lamp again last night against Florida. When Legwand scores consistently on offense, the Preds are an entirely different team.
* Congrats to Patrick Hornqvist on his 30th goal of the season. Where would the Preds be without his play and big time goals this year? I would guess 9th place at best.
* Cody Franson leads all rookie defensemen with a +15 in the plus/minus category. What a good insurance policy until Grebeshkov comes back. More importantly I think this means Dan Hamhuis will be leaving after the season because the Preds have Franson as a 6th D-man option. Hamhuis will not be offered as much money to stay a Pred because Franson has shown he is ready for the NHL at a much cheaper price than Hamhuis.

Five games to go(3 home, 2 away) and let's get healthy(Arnott/Grebeshkov/Ward)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Preds Win 4th in a Row

After the disastrous loss in San Jose, the Preds have reeled off 4 wins in a row and sit in 7th place in the western conference, only 1 point from 5th place Colorado(they have played 1 less game though). With 11 games to go (7 are at home) the Preds have managed to build a nice 6 point cushion over 8th place Calgary. The trick now is to somehow finish 5th or 6th to avoid the San Jose Sharks in the playoffs. Heard that one before?

My thoughts on the team with 4 weeks to go:

* Pekka Rinne has led the team on the 4 game hot streak with 4 wins and only 5 goals allowed in that time frame. When Pekka plays to his potential he is an elite goalie and the Preds can play with anyone.
* Colin Wilson in the bomb! You can see why he was rated such an elite player and looks to be the best young player in recent Preds history since Weber/Suter showed up together a few years ago. He has a knack for making the big play, something the Preds really need.
* Cody Franson may not play much this year once Denis Grebeshkov returns from his injury, but his play has been solid and gives the Preds a good security blanket if Dan Hamhuis doesn't sign another contract after the season. The game has slowed down for him and he is really using his long, Pronger-like reach on defense to his advantage.
* Dustin Boyd has settled in nicely and playing solid 2 way hockey. He has been snake-bit on offense, receiving several bad breaks on good scoring chances but you can see he was a good pickup that adds quality depth.
* Marcel Goc looks quicker and better each time out. David Poiled deserves credit for seeing his ability and making a great pickup. Goc has proven to be a solid and productive center for the Preds. You are starting to see more and more defensemen on their heels when Goc has the puck.
* Watching Scott Hartnell play for the Flyers Tuesday night made me salivate at the thought of him still with the Preds. Can you imagine our offensive productivity with him and Patrick Hornqvist both going to the front of the net every night?

Preds looking good but some big games still lie ahead. Next 3 against teams below us in the standings. Win the ones we should on the schedule and we will be in the playoffs. Lets go Preds!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Worst Loss of Year in San Jose

What a potential season-killing loss, blowing a 2 goal 3rd period lead. The Preds had no answer for the Sharks and made you realize a playoff series against the Sharks would go 5 games at the most. I hope coach Trotz or captain Jason Arnott lets the team have it in the locker room after the game. They gave away 2 points in the standings and potentially the season.

Quick Hits
* kudos to J.P. Dumont and Patrick Hornqvist for scoring 2 goals each in the game. Being in front of the net paid off for them tonight.
* My kids could have seen the replay of the Justin Boyd goal and realize it was not a kicking motion. There are some blind people in charge of goal reviews in Montreal. Would a 3 goal lead (if Boyd's goal was correctly counted as good) have been enough to win and have San Jose give up? We will never know.
* Pekka Rinne is our top goalie and we should let him have the net every night we can. Dan Ellis should only be used to break Rinne occasionally.

My gut tells me that loss will be the playoff spot breaker. I hope I am wrong. Off to Anaheim which is now a must win.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

16 Games Left in the Season

Preds get a much needed 2-1 win over Atlanta after dropping 2 straight games to the Red Wings and Canucks. Coach Trotz tried to awaken the offense and provide better all around defense by swapping his lines up. Hard to say if it worked or not. The Preds scored 1 power play goal and 1 on a terrible giveaway by the Thrashers defense. No even strength goals to me doesn't equal success. Some thoughts I had as we sprint to the finish:

* 16 games left and Preds are in 7th place, 3 points ahead of 9th place Detroit.
* Steve Sullivan still not producing goal as expected. Currently Preds have paid $312,000 per goal. I am afraid to say when you avoid the physical contact on the offensive end, you don't pick up the cheap goals.
* Even worse is $45o,000 per David Legwand goal. I know David pays dividends on penalty kill and checking the opposition's top line but David needs to produce more offense.
* Colin Wilson needs more ice time. He just seems to produce scoring chances and makes those around him better. He is young but the game will slow down and he will improve more and more as he is on the ice.

California swing starts Thursday night. The 4 game road trip is off to a good start with 2 points in Atlanta. Six or more points on the trip should have the Preds in good position for the playoffs. Anything less will have things up in the air and a nervous finish for Preds fans.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Welcome Back Predators

Preds defeat a weak Edmonton Oilers team, as they should, 4-3. Shaking off some rust from the olympic layoff, the Preds gut it out and get 2 much needed points. Denis Grebeshkov makes an immediate impact with a goal and an assist after the Preds acquire him in a trade with Edmonton. The race is on as the Preds (and all other NHL teams) face a jam-packed March with 17 games(10 home/7 away). A good start out of the olympic break should take some stress of watching the playoff race nightly.

* Grebeshkov trade a sign Dan Hamhuis is on the move? I predict Hamhuis will be moved unless he takes $3 million or less per year. If Hamhuis thinks he will get more money on the open market, then the Preds will stick with Grebeshkov and move Hamhuis.
* Something else to think about with Grebeshkov trade: I believe he is good friends with Alexander Radulov. Could Grebeshkov be a drawing card for Radulov to return to NHL?
* Shea Weber and Ryan Suter made the Preds proud with their olympic performances. Both played major minutes in high profile positions for their respective countries. Amazing that 3 out of every 4 TVs in Canada were on the gold medal game.
* Possible trade bait- Dan Ellis? Preds rumored to be getting calls about his availability. If the trade produces a top 6 forward, I say trade him. Pekka Rinne got a new contract over the olympic break so Dan Ellis is tradeable.

All for now. Watch or to catch the latest on the trade deadline tomorrow.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Preds End Home Stand with 4-3 Loss to Sharks

The Preds went 2-1-1 over their 4 game home stand and got 5 out of a possible 8 points. After a 5 game losing streak the 5 points were desperately needed. Preds currently hold the 8th and final playoff spot in the western conference if the season ended today. Now Preds are off on a 4 game road trip thru the northeast against eastern conference. Preds really need 4 points at worst on the trip, with 5 or 6 points being a solid performance before the Olympic break.

Here recently the team is winning when the big names produce and struggling when they don't. Sullivan and Arnott had big games in the win over Colorado. They have to produce. They both had opportunities to win the shootout and game against Phoenix but couldn't get it done in the 1-0 overtime loss.

Hopefully the Preds are not feeling the pressure, but you can sense it growing with each game. Let's hope there is a strong finish before the Olympic break this week.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Preds Stop 5 Game Losing Streak Against Atlanta

Preds 4, Thrashers 3
* Hello captain Jason Arnott. He drops in the game winning goal, his first goal since January 2nd. I blogged that the big guns would be the ones to stop the losing streak and Arnott delivers.
* Jerrod Smithson, one I criticized for bad play lately, added a goal by sitting in front of the net. That is a place he has not made home before, let's hope he visits in front of the net again with good results.
* Pekka Rinne was huge with 2 gigantic saves in the 3rd period to preserve the win. Leave him in net coach.

Red Wings 4, Preds 2
* Arnott, Sullivan and Dumont all miss great scoring opportunities that you have to bury in order to win
* Bad, bad, bad penalties to put the hottest team in the NHL on the power play. Detroit has been scoring on a 33% clip with power play opportunities as of late, so the Preds give them 2 goals via their own penalty. Not so smart.

Preds currently in 7th place after the win tonight. Three more games on the homestand before a 4 game road trip against the eastern conference, then the olympic break. A strong 2 weeks before the break could set the Preds in good position for the playoffs.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Another Terrible Loss and Smithson Must Sit

The Preds have now recently lost to Columbus and Toronto(along with Colorado & Phoenix), two teams that are both currently in 14th place out of 15 teams in their respective conference. Good teams put away bad teams. That is a wasted 4 points.

I touched on it with my last post but tonight's game reinforced the point even more that Jared Smithson is a liability at this point. I think coach Trotz showed he is thinking the same thing in a way because Smithson did not play a good chunk of the 3rd period. I watched him during the telecast and he is no threat on the offensive end. He was 0-2 on power play faceoffs. On the Columbus power play in the 3rd period where they scored their 2nd goal, he had the puck but couldn't clear the zone and Columbus scored 10 seconds later. He in essence neutralized Martin Erat for most of the game. Defenseman can let him roam and concentrate on watching Erat. Until coach Trotz changed lines in the 3rd by sitting Smithson, Erat was pretty quiet.

That is my tirade for now. At Detroit Friday night against the team right below them in the standings. Preds need a victory BAD!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Certain Preds Need to Step Up

A 3-game losing streak has the Preds in 6th place in the west and in dire need of a win. The Preds have a solid season going, but those behind in the standings (Red Wings, Ducks) are making their moves and getting players healthy. It is time for some veterans to step up the game and get the team going again.

* Jason Arnott- I am sorry to say I don't remember his last goal but it has been a while. Of course injuries come into play but the Preds need his offensive game to pick up.

* Steve Sullivan- He has some assists recently but they have been secondary. Not making the offensive impression on your mind you are used to seeing. Throw in the hooking call against Colorado that led to a 5 on 3 advantage goal in a 2-1 loss and you don't have a good feeling about his play lately.

* Pekka Rinne- He has played well but not the elite goalie status he showed last year. He has the ability to carry the Preds on long point streaks. Let's hope we see it soon.

* Jared Smithson- I will probably get grilled for this but I think the Preds have developed other penalty killers to the point where his lack of offense needs to be replaced if it doesn't pick up dramatically. His penalty killing doesn't offset the lack of scoring for a team that struggles to do so.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Western Canada Trip Great So Far

Can the Preds pull off the trifecta and win all 3 games in western Canada? So far 2 games, 2 wins and 4 much needed points after the Preds had dropped into 7th place in the playoff standings. They now currently sit in a solid 4th place, 5 points ahead of 8th place L.A. Kings. The Preds go for the western Canada sweep on Friday at Calgary. The Preds have more points than the 3rd place Flames, but Calgary is seeded higher because they are a division leader.

Other Notes:

* Good teams take care of business and put away bad teams early in the game. The Preds jumped on Edmonton with the first 4 goals to take control of the game tonight. Good sign.
* Good effort by Pekka Rinne as well, keeping Edmonton off the scoreboard until the 3rd period. I still feel we haven't seen his best goalkeeping yet this year and there is a prolonged winning streak in his near future.
* Patrick Hornqvist and Ryan Jones continue to do the dirty work in front of the net and get rewarded with both scoring goals against the Oilers tonight.
* Congrats to Ryan Suter who was not only named to team USA for the upcoming Olympics in 3 weeks but he was also named alternate captain.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Mid-Season Awards

Just pass the halfway point but here are my mid-year awards. I noticed a similar type article on the Preds official website but I post the truth as you regular followers of the blog know ; )

* MVP- Patrick Hornqvist. The most consistent forward who has been the leader of a scoring effort by committee. His development into a goal scorer and a true go the the net guy has been the big reason Preds would be in playoffs if they started today. Leads team in goals scored, shots on goal, game winners, power play goals and +/- rating. Don't forget he spent 2 weeks of season on 4th line despite the complaint/blogging of yours truly.
* Harry Houdini Award- Barry Trotz. Coach continues to work magic and get the most from a team comprised of home grown talent and no high priced free agents. So far his plan of using both goalies because of the olympic year compacted schedule is working.
* Best surprise- Marcel Goc. Barely edges out Frances Bullion. His solid play and forechecking have been a big surprise along with the 8 goals(tied for 6th on team).
* Two Way Player- David Legward has pitched in 10 goals and 26 assists along with going against the opposition's #1 line each night. He also is on the first penalty kill unit. His best year of career so far
* Biggest Disappointment- which is a positive because the Preds are in good shape and these 2 guys should turn around, but the lack of goals from Steve Sullivan and Joel Ward. Both were rewarded with new contracts in off-season but only have a total of 17 goals so far.

All for now and please post any comments if you have them. Go PREDS!!!!!!!!!!!!