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In the Corners

   with Brandon Felder

Jan 19, 2015 - The Ups and the Downs

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

The Nashville Predators have found some adversity to deal with. Within the process of defeating the Vancouver Canucks 5-1, Pekka Rinne was injured with a sprained knee. The diagnosis was a 3-5 week recovery time. We will discuss this in point #5 below.

So the week that was has a different feel than any other one this season. There was Rinne but then there was the emotion of Barry Trotz return. What a game that was. After staking themselves to a 2-0 lead Alex Ovechkin powered the Caps back into it with some short side tallies against Hutton. A PP tally barely into the 3rd period had Trotz and Co. thinking he would win in the Bridgestone again, but the Preds are a 3rd period team. With under 5 minutes and a critical PP opportunity Mattias Ekholm tallied to tie and thrill the Nashville crowd. Who could delight them further? James Neal of course. His 2nd goal and it was a pure effort marker. Go see the highlight as he forechecked and stole the puck for a breakaway in close.

After that emotional win it was off to Detroit for a back to back. Carter Hutton was given the nod to start again and this game proved why in most cases you don’t put a goalie in both nights. Detroit rushed out to a 3-0 lead and never looked back after Hutton was yanked. A 5-2 loss and only the 10th time this season the Preds have lost in regulation.

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

1. Top 2 Lines of Fire - With James Neal coming back from IR it was interesting to see what Peter Laviolette would do with the top lines. He chose to stick Neal on the 2nd line with Colin Wilson and Mike Fisher. This kept Craig Smith up on the top line. Immediately against Vancouver these lines lit it up. To have pieces be interchangeable up top is not something Pred fans are used to but man is it nice to see.

2. Special Teams - Just before we hit the All-Star break let’s look at the PP and PK. The PP goal late against the Caps made me remember how rare a home PP goal was at one point so let’s see where things stand now. The much criticized PP is now actually up to 24th with a 15.9%. 4 PP markers this past week and things look much improved. As for the PK it is ranked 20th. They boast a 79.4% rate. That unit had some poor moments this past week so here’s hoping they get things righted again soon.

3. The Process Adapts - One area I will be interested to see is how the Preds system will adapt to the loss of Pekka these next few weeks. It felt like the D may not be as active as we are accustomed to in the Detroit game but then again the Preds were flat the first 15 minutes of that game. I would think we see some adjustment similar to that. The reality is no matter how “confident” the team is in Carter Hutton, he is not a high caliber goaltender. You have to make some changes to give him the best chance to succeed. We shall see what that may look like Tuesday.

4. Use the Break Wisely – The break is coming at a good time for the Preds. The key is to use it wisely. There are some guys playing thru injury and hopefully they will fully rest. It’s a great chance to reflect on what has worked well and also what to remove from each individual’s game. Also, this gets us closer to the return of Ryan Ellis and Pekka Rinne. Kris updated me on Ellis injury as a 2-4 week return time frame. As for Pekka…

5. Get Well Soon ImPEKKAble - I’d rather this happen now then later. It’s never fun to see a starting goalie miss time but better around All-Star break. The team will re-evaluate his injury after the break finishes. They’ve stated a 3-5 week time frame. When looking at the schedule you have to hope Rinne returns around the beginning of February. There are a lot of games that month (15) and 3 of the 4 weeks features 4 games. Also, the amount of back to backs ramps up in that time. The debate for me is how much does Lavy really trust Hutton at this point. Leaving Magnus Hellberg in Milwaukee before the break makes some sense. However, I would like to see him up instead of Mazanec when things get back to normal come January 27th. My concern is that Hutton is not the right type of goalie for Lavy’s system. He performed fairly well under the Trotz mold but this is a different feel. I hope I’m wrong but a change may be needed if Rinne’s injury is closer to the 5 week timeframe.

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3 Stars of the Week:

1. Mattias Ekholm – 2 goals, +2, 3 shots on goal, 2 hits, & 4 blocked shots. I think Ekholm owned the last two games. He was the best Pred on the ice those nights and is the kind of player that I feel could make some sneaky noise come playoff time.

2. James Neal – 2 goals, 2 assists, +2, and 8 shots on goal. The heroic goal against Washington to seal a victory was pure effort. Love that he is back and already contributing in big moments.

3. Mike Fisher – 2 goals,  3 assists, +2, and 7 shots on goal. If you thought Fisher had nothing left in the tank how wrong you are. He’s finding his offense again but already has helped rescue this team’s penalty kill unit since returning.

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Goalie Grade

Pekka Rinne – A – Pekka stopped 20 of 21 shots against before leaving with an injury versus Vancouver. He will be missed.

Carter Hutton – B- – Hutton was thrown into that Canucks game and made 10 saves on 10 shots against. With Rinne’s injury he’s now the starting net minder. His first start of the week he stopped 31 of 34. Ovechkin victimized him a couple times otherwise he played very well. Next was a questionable move of starting him the next night in Detroit. It did not go well. 1 save on 3 shots against. All told it was 42 saves on 48 shots against.

Marek Mazanec – B+ – After Hutton was pulled Maz went to the net for the remainder of the Red Wings game. 18 saves on 20 shots. Held in there pretty well for relief duty against a very skilled Detroit team.

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Perilous Prediction – The prediction last week was that the Preds only allow 4 goals against. Unfortunately there was the Detroit game. So I blew this one.

This week I am going to go with an All-Star prediction. I have Weber with a goal and 2 assists in the All-Star game.

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The Week Ahead –  In my #PredsItCWAP I went with a 2-0-1 predicted record for the week. The Preds did a point less posting a 2-1 record with the regulation loss in Detroit.

The week ahead features just one game as we head into the All-Star break.

Tuesday night the Predators visit my favorite Original 6 team, the Montreal Canadiens. They have been battling with Detroit for the 2nd spot in the Atlantic Division. They reside in the 2nd spot after 44 games and posting 59 points. At one point as we turned the calendar page the Habs were running off a 6 game winning streak (5 of those on the road in a row). They’ve lost 3 of their last 5 but just beat the New York Islanders 6-4. This should be a great test versus yet another of the East’s best.

After that we do have the All-Star weekend. Friday at 7 PM will be the draft of the All-Stars themselves. Saturday is the Skills Competition starting at 6 PM, and then Sunday will feature the All-Star game itself with coverage starting at 4 PM. All of this is to be broadcast on NBC Sports network.

My #PredsItCWAP is the Preds go 0-1. I think the loss streak is finally started but what a run it was of never losing back to back games. Something says to me that it’s ok to have some adversity right now as we head into the break. Better now than later.

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

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Enjoy the All-Star break. It’s going to be a fast moving 2nd half of the season and we will have tons to discuss in February. Here’s hoping Pekka is back by then!

Remember to join in on the year long conversation using the #PredsItC.

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