Friday, December 12, 2008

Predators Lose to Columbus 3-1 in Shootout in Lifeless Effort

Winter Wonderland in Tennessee

While we sat in the middle of a freak December snowstorm in Columbia, Tennessee, the Predators suffered through their fifth game in eight days losing to Columbus 3-1 in a shootout. For the fourth time in nine games, the Preds entered the third period in a scoreless tie. It was an absolute miracle and only through the strong effort in goal by Dan Ellis that they even got a point out of the game.

The week started for me riding high in the saddle thinking that the Predators had four games this week in which they had good chances for wins. I was figuring in my head that if we could get between six and eight points that we would have a solid lock on fourth in the Western Conference. By 9:00 Thursday night the Preds were still mired in eighth place with only one more point to show for our efforts in the last three games and fourth place is still four points away. I was correct in my original higher math prognostication but the Predators were too tired to follow through on their end of the bargain.

Back to reality now. Despite my high expectations after last weeks run, the Predators are really starting to look fairly average again. There is not another coach in the league that gets more bang for the buck with what he has than Barry Trotz. The team gives every ounce of effort they have every night. Unfortunately, the team is currently at a point were they are physically, mentally and emotionally out of gas. The Preds were so tired that there wasn't even a fight which may be a first for a game with the division rival Blue Jackets. The Preds have good reason for being tired as they have played the second most games in the league and 17 road games which also second in the league. Fortunately, after the game against the Stars on Saturday, they have four days off and only play two games each of the next two weeks. The negative side of that is that there will be few points available to help maintain their eight place position.

Other than Dan Ellis’s strong play in goal for the first 65 minutes of play, there were few real highlights for the Predators. Ellis stopped 35 of 36 for the game but allowed two of three in the shootout dropping his shootout record to 1-3 for the year. He has only stopped 5 of 11 shots in shootouts this year. Pekka Rinne was perfect in his one shootout match. Trotz has indicated repeatedly that he will never change goalies for a shootout regardless of the success or record of either.

Marty Erat broke his goal scoring drought with the Preds only score halfway through the third period. His eight goal was his first in 13 games since November 6th. The Predators best opportunity prior to Erat’s goal was on a 5 on 3 in the second period but they only were able to get off a single shot. The Predators were solid again in the face off circle winning 63% of the 54 draws they had. Individually, Radek Bonk continued his good face off season going 10-2 in the circle.

Ryan Jones was the winner of the injury recall sweepstakes as the Predators were forced to go to Milwaukee to replace the ailing Jordan Tootoo and Scotty Nichol. Jones was fairly solid in his return to the Preds after having a very good run for the Admirals where he had 6 goals, 4 assists and a +4 rating in 8 games since being sent down three weeks ago. Last night Jones played 13 shifts logging 10:43 in ice time and copped a 2 minute minor for diving which I’m sure was frowned upon by Barry Trotz. I would imagine that once Tootoo and Nichol return, Jones will see some more AHL action.

The Predators return to action Saturday night to face the circus formally known as the Dallas Stars at the Sommet Center. This is the last game of Sean Avery’s suspension so they will be without their number one clown. Hopefully, the Predators will get plenty of rest today and play with a little more energy at home and pick up the points they so badly need.

Against the Stars, I would imagine that Dan Ellis will start in goal coming off his strong outing last night. As has been the case for the last three years (Vokoun-Mason, Mason-Ellis, and now Ellis- Rinne) the team really seems to play better as a unit in front of the backup goalie. I for one would like to see Pekka Rinne play at least half, if not more, of the games for the next few weeks to really get a look at who will be the best goalie as we wait for the David Poile – Barry Trotz due to pull another rabbit out of their hat to get the Predators into the playoffs.

Steve Sullivan Update – I about drove off the road yesterday when I heard on the radio that Steve Sullivan was close to being able to practice with the team. As much as I like Sully, I still maintain that he will never play another NHL game. If he is finally able to skate well enough to practice, he needs to thank the Lord for his improved health and retire before he really does more permanent damage to his surgical back. At this point, no one would begrudge his retirement and then David Poile could quit dreaming about Sully’s return and try to round up the additional scoring forward that the Predators so desperately need. I wonder if Alexander Radulov is ready to come play with the big boys again.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

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