Friday, November 7, 2008

Predators Never Say Die in 7-6 Loss at Calgary

Shea Weber added two more goals to his team leading seven against Calgary

“Trailing 7-4 with 15 minutes left this Nashville Predator team looks like they are ready for this game to be over” – radio call from Calgary announcer Peter Maher

What Peter Maher didn’t understand in his call was the “Unsinkable Molly Brown” attitude that the Nashville Predators have had since before the franchise was offered to the city of Nashville 11 years ago. There are few stories in sports franchise history of a team that has had success on the field and within the hearts of its limited fan base than the one of the Nashville Predator’s NHL hockey franchise.

Last night’s 7-6 loss to the Calgary Flames after being down 5-0 and 7-3 is very representative of the history of the Predators in Nashville. When discussion of the viability of a team in Nashville first surfaced when the New Jersey Devils used the city as a negotiation pawn after their 1995 Stanly Cup Championship no one in the hockey world was happy. Throughout the history of the team, attendance has been an uphill struggle, which eventually led to the fiasco of 2007 with Jim Ballsille selling season tickets to the Preds in Hamilton. As we move through this season with empty seats and more litigation courtesy of shyster “Boots” DelBiaggio the Predators continue to move forward on the ice in spite of what most clubs would consider a distraction.

What the hockey world doesn’t fully understand is the heart of this Nashville Predator organization, players and fans. Together we are all hardened by adversity and don’t know the word quit! Peter Maher’s call at the 15 minute mark would have been accurate for 29 other NHL teams but not for the Nashville Predators.

All that being said, the same inconsistent play that has been the hallmark of this version of the Predators once again reared its ugly head. As has been the case repeatedly five of the ten shots faced by starting goalie Pekka Rinne (including the four goals) were situations where Rinne was the only Predator player in sight of the TV cameras. As skilled as this group of young Pred blueliners are, they have been consistent in their inconsistency of turning the puck over and leaving the goalie hung out to dry.

This turnover problem is not an issue that has happened to the current extent in the Predator’s past. One thing that is different this year has been the offensive focus of the defense with the paring of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter being a primary offensive force for the team. The problem is not limited to their time on the ice and has been fairly wide spread. It can always be remedied when you have a human wall as a goaltender but that’s not the hand we’ve been with the youngest goaltender corp in the league.

On spite of the loss and weak defense, there were numerous positives on the offensive side of the coin last night. She Weber added two goals while four others scored one each including a penalty shot goal that finally got Vern Fiddler in the goal column for his first of the year. David Legwand and Marty Erat also had three point games, each with a goal and two helpers. J P Dumont also had a pair of assists bring him to 14 on the year. Pred killer Jerome Iginla had four points (2G, 2A) for the Flames.

Both teams were two of six on the power play which helped galvanize the Predators league worst road penalty kill which is running at a 66% clip on the year. Both of the Predators PP goals came on back to back 5 on 3 situations early in the second period. There were three short handed goals in the game including two by the Preds, albeit one was courtesy of a Vern Fiddler Penalty shot near the end of the game.

In summary, this game is one that is a cinch to be included in NHL Home Ice (XM 204) wild game series. While there is no column on the standing sheet for moral victories, this game will be one that the team can point to as a character builder on their road to maturity. The bottom line remains that is very important that the Predators get six points on this six game franchise longest 16 day road trip. The next opportunity will be Saturday night in Colorado.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

1 comment:

AJ said...

A moral victory perhaps, but one that shows zero in the points column. I realize that there's a lot of season left, and the team will right the ship eventually, but at what cost? These early season games may not determine whether or not they make the playoffs, but inevitably they are crucial to playoff position, which is something the Preds desperately need to be in their favor should they hope to advance beyond the first round. Trotz has to find a way to get some consistency from this group, and find a way to win on the road, or it could very well turn into a long — and short — season.