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In the Corners

   with Brandon Felder

Dec 22, 2014 - Laying in Wait

All opinions expressed below are just that, opinions of a long-ago Predators blogger who had his time covering the team. They in no way reflect the thoughts or view of The Predatorial or its’ staff. Brandon Felder has a unique perspective that can be viewed as negative, although he prefers it to be called realistic. You can respond to said views in the comments below or reach him personally on Twitter via @brandon_felder

It’s odd that having just 2 games in one week can feel so light. The Nashville Predators have successfully mounted another 4 point week. First glance at the standings may cause a Preds fan to pause but then you notice the caveat: games played.

So a quick look back at the week. Tuesday night in Nashville was a rare visit from the Boston Bruins. A physical match that saw both clubs tested and ultimately stretched into a shootout. Pekka Rinne stood tall, stopped all of Boston’s attempts and Derek Roy’s lone marker secured the 2 points for the Preds winning 3-2.

The only other game of the week was the first matchup of the year with the Minnesota Wild. This one felt like a classic Central rivalry. Goals, hits, terrible officiating: it was all there. The Preds truthfully gave a point away asat one point they had a 5-3 lead in the 3rd period. A PP goal against and late tally with the Wild netminder on the bench pushed things to OT. Cue the D-man OT goal for the win. Don’t keep reading until you go see what Mattias Ekholm pulled off to win this dramatic game.

So 2-0 with some bumps but results. The Preds are in 3rd place in the Central with 44 points. St. Louis is still in 2nd with 45 points but they have played 2 more games. Chicago remains king of the Central for now with 48 points but also 3 games played more than Nashville.

Felder’s Fantastic Five: Respond or react using the #PredsItC5

1.  Toughening Up – The Preds played some physical hockey this week even if it was just 2 games. I think these games served them well to see how they handle teams trying to slow them down with physicality and pressure. Then they were mentally tested in Minnesota with some questionable officiating. Again, battling through and getting wins. This team is successful for many reasons but it never hurts to be tested in different ways so that you continue to become thick skinned for the playoff battles.

2. D Still Vital – I continue to find myself on a weekly basis remarking aloud at how balanced the Defense can be. They find times to shut down the offense of the opponent. Then they find ways to create more pressure as an offensive force of their own. I realize when we see 4 goals given up versus Minnesota it doesn’t maybe click that this was a great defensive week, but there were moments where you could get nothing going in the Preds end. Then, we had two less common names providing the offensive punch from the blueline: Roman Josi, Victor Bartley and Ekholm. As the season wears on I expect more and more attention to be shown to this unit who have found a way to balance things out without costing the Preds tons of goals against.

3. Pekka the Performer – The man just plays big when needed. I think we are seeing a different side of Pekka this year where he is perhaps more focused then before. There is no real way to prove this, but his confidence level is so high and I would imagine the amount of work he’s getting is helping. We can all see how much Peter Laviolette enjoys having that option of running Peks out there whenever possible. It’s going to be quite interesting to see which game Peks gets the nod for in the back-to-back this week.

4.  What is the Ceiling? – Perhaps an interesting question as we head to the Christmas break is just what is the potential of this team? Is there a ceiling on what they can accomplish? At this point lets go ahead and place an expectation of reaching the playoffs. So within that context then what?This could be the part I was most giddy for when Laviolette was announced as the head coach. I had certain preconceived notions about a Barry Trotz playoff team. I have No idea what it will be like to see someone else guide the Nashville club in that wondrous time. As of now… I’d say a 2nd round exit would be a success. Could they achieve more? Certainly. One very particular moment in the spring can provide what is needed for that. Trade deadline will be a factor. There are too many UFA contracts for it not to be. So for now let’s say 2nd round ceiling but it could all change with the ring of a phone.

5. Beneath the Ice Continues – If you have yet to go to the Predators website and watch these videos you are missing out on enriching your experience this season. I love the behind the scenes of the players, but now that they’ve added in-locker room footage more frequently I’m thrilled. Just hearing Lavy fire up the boys at intermission is fun. Do yourself a favor and make this appointment viewing when they are released. I’m hoping if they do big viewing numbers they will increase the episode length each time out.

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3 Stars of the Week:

1. Shea Weber – 3 assists, +1, and 7 shots on goal. The Captain really provided some great play on both sides of the ice and I felt was a factor in a physical week.

2. Mike Ribeiro – 1 goal, 1 assist, & 5 shots on goal. His one goal is my favorite Ribeiro goal so far. To roof it with power like that was really fun to watch.

3. Craig Smith – 1 goal, 1 assist, and 7 shots on goal. He’s moved to the top line with James Neal out for sickness and fit right in. Nice to see the depth work there when the team is a man down.

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Goalie Grade

Pekka RinneB – I know Rinne is likely very dissatisfied with the Minnesota game. He’s very unaccustomed to 4 goals against. The reality was he wasn’t beat cleanly on most goals as the Wild did a good job creating rebounds and deflections. 2 wins is 2 wins folks. There are going to be nights like this. On the stats side Pekka stopped 55 of 62 shots against.

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Question of the Week – If you’d like to submit a question for next weeks “In the Corners” simply tweet it using #PredsItC or email it to me using the subject In the Corners Question. My email is brandonfelder@gmail.com

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Perilous Prediction – This past week my #PredsItCPP was that the Preds will allow 3 or less goals in their two games combined. Well that’s a big fat miss.

This week I’m going to go with Colin Wilson amassing a goal and 2 assists.

Submit your predictions using the #PredsItCPP. Be sure to get those in before puck drop of the game. The more of you who participate the more fun it can be.

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The Week Ahead –  In my #PredsItCWAP I went with a 1-0-1 record and marked the Wild game as an OT loss. The Preds did a point better and won the OT Wild game. Never turn down 4 points.

For the first time since Oct 17-18 the Preds will partake in back to back games starting tonight.

Tonight the Preds visit Columbus for a 6 PM start. At the time of writing it’s unclear whom will start in net for the Preds. I’m hoping Hutton goes in this one though. The Blue Jackets have been playing much better as of late posting a 8-1-1 record in their last 10. Should be a close one as usual.

The next night is Boston. One week later we will see if the Preds can topple the Bruins again on a Tuesday night. 6 PM start. It will be interesting to see if this can get down in regulation. The Bruins have gone to extra time the past 4 of their 5 games. Nashville has played in extra time 2 games in a row. My expectation is we won’t see Rinne in both games.

The week closes up Saturday night back in Nashville. The Philadelphia Flyers make their trip to the Music City for a 7 PM start. The offense is starting to perk up and this is also the return of Laviolette against Philly. It’s going to be a fun one I would bet.

My #PredsItCWAP is that the Preds finish the week 2-1. I’m going to mark the Boston game as the regulation loss. These back to back games will be a test of energy level but I know they are an opportunity to get on a roll and catch some of those points back up from the games in hand. The Preds are just laying in wait to get back towards the top of the Central.

Feel free to add your own prediction for the week at #PredsItCWAP.

Thank you so much for reading each week. It’s been a great season to cover so far. My hope is you all have a very Merry Christmas. I know I am looking forward to the New Year with this great hockey we’ve seen.

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Remember to join in on the year long conversation using the #PredsItC. Lots of great hockey talk on Twitter every game.

Till the next time, take care.

To get in the conversation, use the Twitter hashtag #PredsItC

To get in the conversation, use the Twitter hashtag #PredsItC