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 www.hockeybuzz.com or www.tsn.ca to catch the latest on the trade deadline tomorrow.