Allow me to lead this post with an apology. This post will probably be a lot more erratic and grammatically mangled than usual. I’m tired. I’m frustrated. I trust you’ll bear with me.
Frustrations abound for the hockey faithful of the Nashville Predators as the team returned from the Olympic break on Tuesday. The team made a statement in goaltending in signing netminder Pekka Rinne to a 2 year extension during the break, and as the team faced off against the Oilers, he nestled between the pipes as the established future of Predator goaltending for at least the next few years. Thanks to goals from newly acquired defenseman Denis Grebeshkov, rookie Colin Wilson, all-star blueliner Shea Weber and captain Jason Arnott, the Preds sloppily squeezed out a 4-3 win in the venue’s debut game as the Bridgestone Arena. Rinne was not tested frequently, and turned aside 22 of 25 shots in the win. Both teams showed a lot of rust in the game, and I felt that the line of Wilson-O’Rielly-Tootoo was the best forward line of the night. Wilson’s game was particularly strong, having a couple of takeaways, playing strong along the walls, winning battles, and one of those little things they call a goal. On Thursday, the Preds wrapped up a nice birthday present for me in the form of a 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings, who are one of several teams involved in the race for the final playoff spots in the West. Rinne again got the start, looking more comfortable in net than he had on Tuesday, but once again was not tested heavily, stopping 20 of 22 shots. I’ll be honest, I didn’t get to watch Friday’s game at Detroit. However, from following the tweets of my fellow Pred fans throughout the game, as well as the game recaps provided by much more capable bloggers than myself, it seems as though the only Predator who came to play was goalie Dan Ellis. The Preds were never in this game and lost the game 5-2, as well as Olympic goaltender Shea Weber with what appeared to be an arm or hand injury. Weber has been listed as day-to-day and Cody Franson was recalled to fill his spot on the roster. Today the Preds had a matinee faceoff against the Northeast Division leader Vancouver Canucks. In all 4 games played since returning from the break, the Preds have allowed the first goal, this time allowing Edler to find himself alone in the slot, who quickly wired a wrist shot past Rinne. Arnott struck on the power-play to even the score, and Tootoo brought the Preds into the lead in the 2nd, tapping his own rebound over the shoulder of Luongo. Simple breakdowns allowed Samuelson and Hansen to get 2 goals on Rinne in the 3rd period, and an empty netter allowed the Canucks to leave The Bridge with a 4-2 win and, more importantly, a HUGE 2 points in the standings.
*The goaltending HAS to improve. Rinne had a very strong opening 2 periods tonight, but the 2nd goal was from a terrible angle from distance and was not a quick, surprise shot. Rinne has a history of giving up these bad angle shots. I have wondered about whether his height factors into it. Could he be having to bend over so far to get under the crossbar, that it exposes the area between his body and the post? If so, it is up to him and goaltending coach Mitch Korn to make the necessary adjustments.
*I’m very encouraged by the continued strong play of rookie Colin Wilson. I have been curious if the addition of Boyd would force a numbers game that would result in Wilson being returned to Milwaukee, but Wilson is certainly making a case for himself.
*Everyone wants to know what Trotz has refused to split Hamhuis and Klein, and you can count me among them. This pairing isn’t working. It hasn’t all season.
*Boyd certainly was an encouraging part of tonight’s game, his Predators debut. I am curious about how much of an opportunity he’ll get to succeed. He comes onto a team loaded with 3rd- and 4th-liners, which has actually been handling itself well in terms of secondary scoring, while the top 6 “big guns” continue to struggle. If he continues this strong play, he makes his case to become a fixture in the lineup.
*It’s been a real treat to not see Belak in the lineup. Belak seems a nice guy, but does not provide a contribution to the games, and therefore I label him “useless boob.” I will not change my mind.
*I miss Jan Hlavac. I still think Poile was foolish to let him walk.
*I had the pleasure of bumping into fellow Tweeter @predsaddict for a post-game meal at the Murfreesboro Steak & Shake, though quite by accident. I had a great time discussing the team with her and her friend and look forward to speaking with her again.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below! Until next time, God bless! – Big Kev