The Season Takes Shape- In The Corners W/Brandon Felder
The Season Takes Shape- In The Corners W/Brandon Felder @brandon_felder
The Nashville Predators began the second week of the season having not tasted defeat. Could they replicate what the Montreal Canadiens have done this week and move to 5-0? The first road trip of the young season began in New Jersey. The Devils are in total rebuild mode and therefore don’t pack as much punch as other Eastern Conference teams. The Preds led off the scoring (a year-long theme & reversal from last year) with one of the better executed powerplay efforts thus far. Roman Josi teed one up and in past the Devils backup netminder Keith Kinkaid. Then the game kind of drug on and on. It appeared the Pred felt 1 goal was enough as they played a conservative game the rest of the way. Finally the final 4 minutes of the game became interesting. The Devils pulled their goalie which led to Josi’s 2nd goal, this one of the empty-net, shorthanded, and game winning variety. It became a game winner after Kyle Palmieri tallied a PP goal. Final score 3-1 after Eric Nystrom’s empty net goal.
Next stop, Brooklyn. The New York Islanders were a playoff team last year and appear to be on that track again. This was going to be the first quality test of the year and it lived up to the billing. The Preds offense finally awoke on full go and pushed out to a 2-0 lead behind Austin Watson’s 1st goal of the year and Filip Forsberg’s 2nd. The Islanders responded by scoring 4 straight goals. Their speed really caused problems on the Preds end of the ice. Things got interesting again towards the end after James Neal notched his 1st goal of the year 14 minutes into the 3rd. Isles netminder Thomas Greiss I pressed by holding on for the 1-goal win and stopping a total of 44 shots in the 4-3 victory.
With the first loss of the season on record the road led to Ottawa, Canada’s capital for the final stop. The interesting part of this one was that Carter Hutton would be in net. More on that later in Coaching Corner. Yet again the Preds open up the scoring, this time behind Neal on a powerplay punch in at the goal mouth. As the 2nd period unfolded it felt like another weak period (a trend carried over from last season) as the Sens potted 2, but then Craig Smith salvaged the 2nd period effort with a Craig on Craig crime using a gorgeous snipe high stick side on Craig Anderson. 2-2 going into the 3rd and then James Neal used what worked, again a power play tally by punching it in at the goal mouth. The Sens did not quit and with under 4 minutes they ti d the game up at 3. So, for the first time this year the Preds would go to the new OT format. I was very eager to see how this would play out. The 3 on 3 was very interesting (especially when both sides are gassed and need a line change), but ultimately the shootout would be needed. Hutton has not had great success in shootouts so to say there was cause for concern over the 2nd point is being fair. Hutton held strong here getting 2 saves while Forsberg scored a filthy goal followed up by our first #HeroicNealGoals of the year to win the shootout and the game 4-3.
Felder’s Fickle Five:
Respond or react using the #PredsItC5
1. Offense Awakens - Week 2 is where we finally saw the Preds offense spring to life. More than just D-men participated although they were involved as well. Goals this week came from James Neal (3), Roman Josi (2), Austin Watson (1), Filip Forsberg (1), Craig Smith (1) and Eric Nystrom (1 EN). The D may have given up some more goals than the previous week, but things will balance out when this team peaks. The upcoming week ahead will need some scoring so it’s a good thing the forwards have found their touch.
2. Special Teams - 2 weeks in a row that we are highlighting how good the special teams are. I thought the PP looked dynamic for much of the week. The PK continues to be a consistent winner. It’s early on but right now the Preds PK sits at 1st in the NHL with a 92.8%. On the other side, the PP has a very respectable 5th in the NHL with 26.7%.
3. Tweaks Needed - Let’s not fool ourselves and say things have been perfect. Most games the Preds have been outshot, but they did win those games. Even so, this team is averaging 28.6 Shots/GP. That’s tied with teams like Arizona and Buffalo so I’d like to see that get to the 30 mark if possible. The other tweak is that it would be great for the Preds to get back to the neutral zone play we had seen in the first 3 games. I felt the Isles and Sens were able to gain the offensive zone much easier than previous teams. Admittedly, we are talking difference in quality of teams at the same time so that has to be a consideration. The neutral zone play will get tested plenty this upcoming week.
4. Give Me Back My TV Experience - I’m not going to harp on this too long here, but the #WeWantWeber exists for a reason. The early results are in and the Willy Daunic/Stu Grimson TV call is not a favorable one. It’s going to take a lot of fans to be vocal about their displeasure for the Preds to react. So that means you reading sending some social media pressure their way. I’ve stated I will stop the hashtag if Pete Weber comes out and says it was his idea to move to radio, or if the Preds put out a release explaining their decision. Until then we need them to know that the TV broadcasts are not representing Nashville well and are not as engaging to listen to. Very casual stuff on there so far, but I’m hopeful it gets better. In my ideal world which will never happen you have Pete with Chris Mason on TV. Aaron Sims with Stu on radio. Willy is the pre/post-game host along with Terry Crisp. A man can dream…
5. Raising to the Level of Competition - I have to admit it was nice to see the Preds adjust and up their quality of play to match the opponent. Some teams have that gear and others can’t find it. There are competitive advantages to getting just enough to win early in the season. Remember that 82 games is a lot and you can’t go all out each night. Reality is you need a few players to meet or exceed expectations each period. Some are better in the crunch than others. Early on it feels that Laviolette and staff are managing time and expectations to fit the needs so that by the end of the year there will not be a let down. You have to credit them for learning from the previous season. I like the trend this team is on and can’t wait to see what the week ahead has in store. Some serious competition is at hand and we will truly begin to see just how good this team currently is.
3 Stars of the Week:
1. James Neal – 3 goals, 1 assist, 1 shootout winner, 7 hits and 12 shots on goal.
2. Roman Josi – 2 goals, 3 assists, and 5 shots on goal.
3. Filip Forsberg – 1 goal, 2 assists, and 5 shots on goal.
Pekka Rinne - B+ - Rinne continues to impress. He did have a rough night against the Islanders, but if you go back and look at those goals I only see 2 of the 4 that you could have a little disappointment in. Both he was scored on short stick side. They were scramble plays so hard to fault Peks but those will happen from time to time. A 1-1 week in the W/L column and he stopped 47 of 52 shots against.
Carter Hutton - B- - Hutton got the nod for the Sens game. He played pretty well all things considered but to let in a puck from the blueline with a clear eyeline of the play is inexcusable. To my surprise he did notch a shootout victory as well, which he has struggled in the past with. Overall he stopped 38 of 41 shots against, 2 of 3 shootout attempts, and is now 1-0.
Coaching Corner - You may have noticed in last week’s preview I wanted Pekka to sit out a game. My theory was to go give Hutton a start against the New Jersey Devils. Well, there is a reason that Peter Laviolette and staff get paid to think hockey and I don’t. I had not exactly looked ahead to the Week 3 schedule. They did and made a better choice in starting Hutton against Ottawa, thereby giving Rinne rest for Friday through Monday. Ultimately, I love that the staff is thinking long term this early and gave Hutton some time. The gamble paid off too.
Perilous Prediction – Last week I went with a Perilous Prediction of the PK units giving up 0 PP goals on the week. It was so close as the Preds only gave up that very late PP marker to the Devils. The Preds PK unit is currently tied for 1st in the NHL fyi.
This week my Prediction is a resurgence for Mike Ribeiro. He’s had a cold start. I will go with a 3 point week for Ribs.
Join in with your own Perilous Prediction by using the #PredsItCPP
The Week Ahead – The week ahead features 3 home games in Smashville and there are some fine contests in this homestand.
Tuesday the Tampa Bay Lightning will visit Music City after a fantastic 2013-2014 campaign. So far this season the Lightning have taken advantage of lesser quality opponents and gotten all their points in those games. The 2 losses on the books for Tampa were against Detroit and Dallas. It’s going to be a very high paced game if I had to guess and the Preds D will have their own hands full trying to stop this Lightning attack. Puck drop is at 7 PM CST.
Thursday will be the only Western Conference opponent of the week with the Anaheim Ducks visiting. The Ducks started off on the wrong foot going 0-4. They recently rebounded though with a Sunday night 4-1 win against Minnesota. The Ducks are off until Thursday night so they will be rested for this road game. Interestingly, the Ducks have played the last 4 games at home. Until that win over the Wild, things were odd with Anaheim as they had only scored once all year. The question will be if the offense can continue where it left off vs Minny. Another 7 PM start time and this is my game of the week that is must see.
Speaking of teams that struggled with offense to start the year, the Pittsburgh Penguins come calling for a Golden Saturday tilt. The Pens started 0-3 this season but have since beaten Ottawa and Toronto respectively. All the talk is about Sidney Crosby and his lack of scoring production. At the time of writing he still had 0 points on the year and just 8 shots on goal. To put that in perspective Patric Hornqvist is already at 17 SOG. The other oddity would be that the Pens have not scored more than 2 goals in a game yet. That’s with Crosby, Phil Kessel, and Evgeni Malkin all healthy. They will have games against Florida and Dallas before coming to Nashville so keep an eye on them this week to see if they start scoring again. 7 pm start on another Golden Saturday in Music City. Enjoy those helmets…
My #PredsItCWAP is the Preds go 1-1-1 for a 3 point week.
Feel free to add your own prediction for the week at #PredsItCWAP.
Thanks for reading PredNeck Nation. Want to talk hockey on Twitter? Follow me @brandon_felder and don’t be shy to join in the chatter. Remember it’s a year long conversation using the #PredsItC.
Also, this season for any game I’m watching live I will be using Periscope to do Intermission chats. If you’d like to see what that looks like you can go search BJFelder on YouTube to see the videos posted from this past week. Keep an eye on my Twitter feed to see which games that occurs and please join in and talk some hockey with me there if you’d like to ask questions about the game live or just hear some analysis that is not driven by Willy and Stu. Really hope you will consider joining me there.
Till the next time,
take care and as always #WeWantWeber.