The Nashville Predators dropped their third straight game tonight and first after the All-Star break, losing in the skills competition to the Calgary Flames by a 3-2 scoreline. Nashville managed to blow two one goal leads, which is disheartening even in victory. This, unfortunately, was a loss - but there were some positives to take away, namely the Predators' penalty kill, which stopped five Calgary power plays.
Ten thoughts on tonight's game:
- One of the things you worry about in the first game back from the All-Star break is a certain amount of lethargy, mainly from the "extended" vacation. That didn't appear to be a problem for the Predators, though, as they not only jumped out to a 1-0 lead, but kept the pressure on the Flames for almost the entire period.
- Speaking of jumping out to a 1-0 lead, while plaudits are due to Martin Erat for driving the net and keeping his stick on the ice, Sergei Kostitsyn's backhanded pass through traffic was nothing short of extraordinary. For a player who was the subject of so much controversy in Montreal, I think we can safely deem the Kostitsyn gamble a success.
- This was a storyline in the previous Nashville/Calgary game, but it reared it's ugly head once more tonight - the Predators, typically one of the NHL's most disciplined teams, took continual trips to the penalty box. The most disconcerting part of this, though, was that it was penalty kill stalwarts like Jerred Smithson and Nick Spaling taking the penalties.
- When the Flames were in the box, though, the Preds' man advantage showed a marked improvement over their pre-All Star break form, and the consistent pressure resulted in Patric Hornqvist's 16th tally of the year.
- Some nights, Colin Wilson shows a glimpse of why he was taken seventh overall in 2008. Others, he vindicates Barry Trotz's frequent decisions to put him on a lesser line, and tonight was one of those nights. Yes, it was a great effort to backcheck on Alex Tanguay's shorthanded breakaway, but it was Wilson's turnover that caused the play, and Wilson's lax defense that was solely at fault for Cory Sarich's equalizer. Willy is undoubtedly going places, but rounding out his game would go a long way to getting there quicker.
More frustrating than Wilson, though, is Nashville's relatively new ability to blow leads of any kind. Last season, the Predators were one of the best teams at protecting a lead. Their team defense is improved, but when you give up two leads in a game, it might not matter.
- Boy, it seems like so long ago that J.P. Dumont was lighting up the scoreboard, doesn't it?
I'm not sure what it is about the Flames, but perhaps more than any team in the league, they've got Nashville's number. Whatever it is, JR's game thread comment was right on - "they beat you boring, and that's no fun." At all.
- Before you ask, no, I will not be making anymore in-game predictions. Moving on.
- Unfortunately, it doesn't get any easier from here, as Nashville travels to Philadelphia to take on the NHL's best team in the Flyers. A point tonight was likely more than the Predators deserved, but with Detroit looming on Saturday, a win on Thursday in Philly is more important than it should be.