The Nashville Predators dropped a 2-1 overtime decision to the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center. The Predators were down a man in the extra period on an absolutely horrible call against Paul Gaustad. The officials deemed that Gaustad closed his hand on the puck in a defensive zone face off, thus sending him to the box. Replays clearly showed that when the puck bounced off the ice, it hit the back of his glove and Gaustad had both hands on the stick.
So be it. Horrible calls are part of the game, but the Predators certainly hated to lose the game in this manner.
Gaustad staked the Predators to a 1-0 lead by crashing the net and tipping home a Craig Smith shot off the rebound from Niklas Backstrom in the first period.
The Wild tied the game in the second period as a Ryan Suter shot from the the point was deflected by Cal Clutterbuck and through the five hole of Nashville netminder Chris Mason.
In the OT and with the man advantage, Devin Setogochi ripped a shot past Mason for the game winner.
I missed about half the game as I was at my son’s hockey game, but here are some observations from what I did see:
1. The Predators have a solid back up in Chris Mason. He made some great saves and kept the Predators in the game with his play. The Wild out shot the Predators 32-26, not a wide margin, but Mace had to make some quality saves to keep the Wild off the board. With the compressed schedule and 9 back to backs, having a quality backup like Mason will benefit the Predators.
2. The ineffectiveness of the Predators power play was a contributing factor in this loss. The Predators had a 4 minute power play in the the third and could not get a puck past Backstrom. The power play is plagued by little movement and no one in front of the net. Surely Patric Hornqvist is not the only Predator that can establish a presence in front of the net.
3. The Predators win games with their aggressive forecheck. When that aspect of their game is not working optimally, the Predators struggle. There were stretches where the forecheck broke down and the team struggled. The Predators have to have a commitment to an aggressive and effective forecheck for 60 minutes.
4. The Predators most dynamic forwards the past few games- Colin Wilson and Gabriel Bourque- did not register a shot on goal in this contest. These guys are some of the most offensively minded forwards on the Predators roster and they have to commit to get shots on net and create in the offensive zone.
5. David Legwand continues to frustrate me. For the life of me, I cannot understand how a second line center cannot register a shot on net or create offense. I know his supporters will laud his defensive efforts, but for $5 million a year, I expect some offensive production.
The Predators didn’t have their best game, but they were in it until getting hosed by the officials. Every team has to deal with that kind of adversity. The real test of character will be bouncing back from this loss.
The Preds will get a chance to get back on the horse quickly, as the powerful Blackhawks come to town tomorrow night.
Be prepared to bring it boys.
My three stars:
1. Devin Setoguchi
2. Chris Mason
3. Niklas Backstrom
About the Author: A native Nashvillian that grew up with minor league hockey, I'm now a devoted Predators fan and NHL follower. I have had the privilege of allowing my children to grow up watching the Predators and seeing the joy on their face when they are at a game. By day, I am a partner in an independent investment management company in the Nashville area. I played collegiate football and graduated from the University of South Carolina and graduated from the LSU graduate School of Banking. So yes, there are real true southern hockey fans in these non-traditional markets.