Pittsburgh Penguins 4, Nashville Predators 1: I Blame the Media

The Predators wrapped up their 7-game road trip in lousy fashion tonight, dropping a 4-1 decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Tennessean beat writer Josh Cooper has triggered a death-spiral by the Nashville Predators over the last week, invoking a double-dose of hockey karma which has directly led to a four-game losing streak. Including tonight's stomping 4-1 by the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Predators have now been outscored 17-2 in their last four.

Remember how optimistic things looked after the Preds beat the Colorado Avalanche 6-4 on November 6th? That followed a 4-3 win at Los Angeles and 5-4 shootout loss at Phoenix, leading to hopes that perhaps this team could score goals consistently, after all:

The Predators have long tried to model themselves after the Red Wings, a team that likes to throw pucks at the net and bury rebounds. Unfortunately for Nashville, it never had the same prolific offensive personnel as Detroit.

This season the Predators decided to simplify their game around the net. Coaches have instructed players who see a rebound to fire it on the net instead of trying to make an extra move with the puck.

--- "Predators score with simplified net game", November 7

Immediately following that article the Predators were shut out in consecutive 5-0 defeats at Winnipeg and New Jersey. The goal-scoring struggles continued into the third period of the Islanders game as well, part of a 3-1 loss Tuesday night. Clearly, the hockey gods reacted to Cooper's hubristic portrayal of the Preds' scorers.

Not content with deflating Nashville's offensive game, however, Cooper put out the call for bad mojo once again this morning, highlighting the importance of scoring first:

One of the top hockey clichés is that a team needs to score the first goal. After all, the winning percentage of a team scoring first is much higher than if it allows the first goal.

But for the Predators, who play the Penguins here today, the first goal is more than just guaranteed points. Nashville is 9-for-9 in getting points (7-0-2) when scoring first.

In the past three games, the Predators were outscored 7-0 in the first period. They are just 1-8-0 when their opponent scores first.

--- Nashville Predators proving that scoring first matters, November 15

Naturally Nashville scored first tonight, only to see the Penguins steamroll them from that point on. See, Preds fans, this losing streak has nothing to do with a lack of talent, effort or experience. The fault lies entirely with Josh Cooper, who may have written completely sensible things, but did so at the precise moment that caught the attention of those vengeful, vengeful hockey gods.

The Predators limp home in last place, with a 8-9-2 record, and the defending Stanley Cup champions lying in wait.

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Random Observations

  • Mazanec had a nice moment in the second period, making a show-stopping glove save on James Neal after a sick feed from Evgeni Malkin. While we're all (quite rightly) pointing out the bad goals being coughed up these days (Sutter & Letang), it's only fair to highlight the big stops, too.
  • Once the Preds were behind 4-1, Eric Nystrom dropped the gloves with Tanner Glass, after Glass gave him a big hit into the end boards. Nystrom took a couple hard, solid blows from Glass that left him groggy, and he left the game with an "upper body injury".
  • At least Carter Hutton didn't get lit up playing the 3rd period in relief. Odds are he'll get the start tomorrow night against his old team, Chicago.
  • The Preds had 9 shots in the first period, 6 in the second, and 3 in the third. That's, um... real bad, and doesn't speak well of the team's effort.
  • Clearly, something has to change. This is a bad team, and it goes much deeper than the goaltending situation (which is a serious problem). David Poile doesn't have a couple more weeks to wait and see how Pekka Rinne's upcoming MRI looks, unless the team is comfortable with flushing another season down the drain and going for a high draft pick.

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