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Preds Torched in Buffalo

Into every NHL season a lame effort or two will happen to any team, but with Wednesday's 8-4 debacle in Buffalo, the Predators have now given up 6 or more goals three times in the last two-and-a-half weeks (previously to Chicago and Dallas at home). Perhaps most disturbing, there seems to be no single cause for these repeated train wrecks; they encompass a combination of marshmallow-soft goaltending, shoddy defensive zone coverage, and a total lack of composure. A few horrid examples:

Dan Hamhuis stepping up and totally whiffing on an attempted hit on Derek Roy as the Sabres crossed into the Predators zone; instead of staying in position, his miss allows Roy to head to the net uncontested for an easy goal that made it 6-3.

Scott Nichol lost it again, sucker-punching one of the Sabres who was tied up with Vern Fiddler. Nichol dropped his glove and came at the guy from the side and cold-cocked him. I wouldn't be surprised to see a suspension come out of that. For a decent PK'er and faceoff guy, Nichol shows little to no maturity when the pressure's on, and Trotz needs to make it clear that something's got to change. This is exactly the sort of thing that ended Nashville's hopes against San Jose in the playoffs last spring, and it can't be tolerated.

After Andrew Peters was left all alone in the slot for an easy goal at 4:13 of the 2nd (as if that wasn't bad enough), Ryan Suter could have been whistled for throwing a shot at one of the Sabres celebrating the goal, but the refs (who lost control of things in the 3rd) let it go. The same applies here as to Nichol's nonsense above. Act like a pro out there, already!

A couple of those early goals should have been stopped by Mason, whose only weak spots were to his left, right, or through the 5-hole.

On the positive side, Jan Hlavac looked impressive. He was strong on the puck along the boards, and picked up a goal while the game was still competitive. Jason Arnott scored twice and David Legwand popped in a rebound goal as well, but things simply caved in beginning late in the 2nd period.

So what happens next? Some form of dramatic statement needs to be made by the coaching staff at this point; either lineup changes (play Klein and Koistinen!) or a shift in tactics to emphasize a return to shut-down hockey. As of this morning the Predators are on the outside of the playoffs looking in, and that's pretty much entirely due to these continuing defensive lapses over the last few weeks.

Not all is lost, by any means, but this ship needs to be righted quickly.