Last night in Phoenix, inopportune penalties, untimely turnovers, defensive lapses, lack of urgency, and less than typical goaltending from Pekka Rinne allowed one to get away from the Predators as they end up with their third consecutive regulation loss. All that obscured some really solid things that the Predators and their fans can take away from the game.
But first, the bad stuff.
Let’s get Rinne’s game out the way first. While yesterday was Rinne’s birthday, it certainly didn’t end on an entirely happy note. Pekka seemed to be fighting the puck on occasion and was having positional issues frequently. There were way too many times (at least three) where a defenseman saved an easy goal due to the net being wide open. As I tweeted last night, it seemed that Rinne was channeling Tomas Vokoun at times (and not in the good way) with the latter’s propensity to wander too far from the net. It boils down to the fact that Pekka would like to have a couple of those goals back.
Cody Franson had couple of significant gaffes last night- both in the third period. His first was the holding the stick penalty. You just can’t commit that penalty that late in the game while clinging to a one-goal lead. The second gaffe came after they’d pulled Rinne and he sent a long pass up through a crowded neutral zone that was almost guaranteed to cause a turnover (and it did). That essentially killed any chances for the Predators to score the tying goal.
Steve Sullivan and Cal O’Reilly had a lot of flash to their game last night. They certainly generated a few chances, particularly for Sullivan (who can’t buy a goal right now). They also gave the puck up too much for my liking. They were getting too fancy at times with drop passes or blind passes that resulted in the puck heading the other direction. It’s hard for me to explain my thoughts on these two. They seem to have a real chemistry together. But I feel that neither look to involve Patric Hornqvist. They also seem to play a more frantic tempo that really doesn’t mesh well with Hornqvist who works better in a set offense where he has time to set up and work in front of the goaltender. Regardless, Hornqvist really needs to become more involved. I’d really like to see Jordin Tootoo here, or maybe Martin Erat when he returns. Both have the speed to work at an up-tempo pace. Erat brings more finish, while Tootoo might bring more room for O’Reilly and Sullivan to operate. Dirk’s advanced stats show that this line just didn’t put the shots up that one would expect from a line with two finishers like Sullivan and Hornqvist.
Right now, almost the entire Predator’s blueline seems lost and playing in unfamiliar roles due to Suter’s injury. The pairing of Bouillon and Weber just isn’t working right now. Neither are especially adept at bringing the puck up the ice. Weber is maximized when he has someone that can do that and then feed him the puck in the offensive zone. Suter obviously excels at that, but both Kevin Klein and Alexander Sulzer can play that role significantly better than Francis Bouillon. If necessary, Jon Blum could do so as well for a short stretch until Suter returns. There is also a higher rate of blown coverage likely due to communication issues when Weber and Bouillon are paired. I already mentioned Franson’s issues above. Right now, I’d probably try Sulzer next to Weber and reunite Bouillon with Franson- which will likely happen anyway when Suter returns as I don’t see the Klein-O’Brien being split anytime soon.
Now let’s look at some of the good things from last night.
One of the best things from last night was just seeing Marcel Goc and Francis Bouillon back on the ice. Injuries were really testing this team’s depth and it was good to get a couple guys back.
The (formed on-the-fly) line of Sergei Kostitsyn, Marcel Goc and Jordin Tootoo were very effective last night. Kostitsyn has been showing increasingly effective play over the past few games as he’s healed from his broken toe and settled in with his new team. His increased hustle meshed really well with Goc, who controlled the puck virtually every time he hit the ice. Jordin Tootoo was a nice fit to this line last night and helped this line maintain possession and generate chances.
Let me officially applaud Trotz for moving Colin Wilson to the Legwand-Ward line. He had to be fairly happy with what he saw overall. That line was the best line in terms of puck possession and putting shots on goal during even strength and power play situations. Colin Wilson and David Legwand really seemed to drive the line last night. The only negative here was that Ward seemed to be invisible at times, but certainly helped maintain puck possession. They played very good defense, and helped their defense by playing offense.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t spread some love to Kevin Klein and Shane O’Brien. They were, by far, the best pairing last night. Klein is having a very good season right now. He got a lot of heat last season (deservedly so, I might add), but has really stepped it up this year. O’Brien has done a very good job as well for Nashville. He’s played a disciplined game needed by the Predators and has fit in very well with Klein.
Special Teams- Briefly
While both are still works in progress, I think both showed some good things last night. Nick Spaling really sets the tone for the penalty kill units. The first Coyotes PP goal was scored with Spaling in the box, and the second was scored with Spaling on the ice- but momentum had already shifted by that time. At this point, there were enough things to examine from last night to really worry about one less than stellar game by the PK units after so many excellent games in a row.
The power play units looked better for the most part. Nashville was able to win most of their PP face-offs. They had a lot of possession time. They still need more movement and more shots- a rebound must exist for Hornqvist to knock it in. The Bouillon-Weber pairing didn’t look good here either. Sullivan-Weber was better. However, between Sullivan being so snakebit right now and the ease at which he can be knocked off the puck I’d be sorely tempted to try Kostitsyn with Weber at the point. Sergei has played the point before, brings all the same skills as Sullivan, shouldn’t get knocked off the puck as easily, and he’s on the upswing right now. It would be an interesting wrinkle to see.
I’ve digested the game last night. I’m not too worried about Rinne. He’ll bounce back fine against either L.A. (my preference) or Anaheim. I’m a little worried about Hornqvist getting lost during even strength play as well as that Bouillon-Weber pairing. I’d like to see just a few tweaks from last night’s lines.
I’d keep the Wilson-Legwand-Ward line. I’d move Tootoo to the Sullivan-O’Reilly line. I’d move Hornqvist to the Goc-Kostitsyn line. I’d swap Bouillon with Sulzer on the blueline.
For the power play, with Suter out, I’d like to see a line of Wilson-Legwand/Goc-Hornvist with Kostitsyn and Weber at the points.
I’ll be out of town for the game against the Kings, so my next postgame wrap up will be the Anaheim game. Don’t worry, Mark has got you covered as well as all of the other great Predator’s bloggers.
You are invited to follow me on twitter: @SingletonPreds.
Humane Society of Dickson County Annual Christmas Auction
The Humane Society of Dickson County will hold their annual Christmas Auction December 3 – 4 at the War Memorial Building in downtown Dickson, TN. The auction will be open from 5pm – 9pm on Friday, 12/3, and 10am – 3pm on Saturday, 12/4.
Below is just a small sampling of the items up for auction this year. Other items include many other gift certificates (including national chain restaurants), baskets, and crafts. I’ll continually update the list below in future.
The auction is a silent auction, but for those that can’t make it to Dickson, they will offer proxy bidding.
For more information, please email my lovely wife Renee.
Commemorative Titans Memorabilia Donated by the Tennessee Titans
UPDATE: Jerred Smithson-Autographed Puck Donated by the Nashville Predators
About the Author: Nashville Predators Blogger, Software Engineer (C#.NET), Novice Woodworker, Southern Cook, Husband, Father of Two. You may contact me at David.R.Singleton AT gmail.com.