The Predators have been outshot in each of their first five games, 163-115 total. That's an 0-5 effort; the team is pretty lucky to even be 2-2-1. Tonight's story was more of the same--Pekka Rinne outplayed Nikolai Khabibulin for two periods, while most of the rest of the team putzed around. The Preds did strike first, at least. Sergei Kostitsyn amazingly decided to shoot instead of passing on a 2-1 and reaped his just reward, as the puck bled past Khabibulin.
In the third period, however, that familiar house of cards fell. The Oilers finally converted on one of their five power plays--a Taylor Hall one-timer from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at 5:29. Then Ryan Smyth got open on an unaffordable blown assignment at 7:31 and converted. The Predators had an opportunity on a late man-advantage to get the equalizer, but the power play couldn't even muster a shot, much less a goal.
During last season's playoff series against Anaheim, we harped on the importance of the Preds playing at even-strength. The Ducks had superior special teams and could easily win any game that devolved in a power play shootout. Tonight, when it became apparent the referees were going to call a really tight game, I couldn't even decide whether that helped the Preds or not. The power play still isn't great, but the Preds don't even have their bread-and-butter even-strength game to fall back on now.
More (mostly angry) thoughts and highlights after the jump.
- "Pekka is the exception. He's the only guy playing his balls off right now and if it wasn't for him, we don't have any points." --Jerred Smithson, after tonight's game.
- Honestly, though, Weber and Suter are the exception too. I wonder what they're thinking (and saying) right about now.
- The lack of chemistry on tonight's lines was painfully apparent. Communication was poor, passes were missed. A few forwards were genuinely hustling--Tootoo, Halischuk, Smith--but they had no one with whom to connect.
- Speaking of, Craig Smith would really benefit from better teammates. If you had told me before the season that Smith-Geoffrion-Halischuk would be a top-6 line, I would have assumed you were talking about Milwaukee.
- One would expect the Spaling-Smithson-Tootoo line to have better chemistry, at least, especially after last year's playoffs. But the fact that I'm looking at the Smithson line to step up offensively is probably a bigger comment on this team's problems than anything else.
- Despite the crippling 0-5 performance tonight, the power play did look alright at times and does give me a little hope for the season. The first unit--Weber, Suter, Legwand, Wilson, Kostitsyn--is getting a lot of good looks and moving the puck really well. Last year's power play was obsessed with having Weber get low-percentage shots off from the point, with the hope Hornqvist would tip it in. The first unit is making it much harder for opponent's defenses to key on any one player. They've also got Weber sneaking back door a lot, where he was honestly as effective last year as he was from the point.
- That said, the second unit looked terrible. O'Reilly simply couldn't get the puck into the offensive zone. Hornqvist is obviously not 100%.
- Sergei only got credited with one shot, but had two great chances, to my mind, beside his goal. He nearly scored on the second power play, only to be denied by Khabibulin's left pad. And he got another shot off in close with 2:15 left in the second period.
- Linus Omark is a stud. His puck possession game was totally unlike anything any forward on the Preds could sustain tonight.
- My computer broke after the Smyth goal and I missed the rest of the game. But it's probably for the best.