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In the Corners

   with Brandon Felder

Jan 26, 2015 - Looking Ahead to the Second Half

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 headed into the All-Star break in the driver’s seat of the Central Division. Their 65 points in 45 games also places them 2nd in the NHL behind Anaheim who has 68 points although they’ve played 47 games, two more than the Preds.

This past week the Preds had one game, a Tuesday night affair in Montreal. They were seeking to prevent losing back to back games for the first time this season. The Preds really locked the Canadiens down in the first two periods and Carter Hutton played well. For once the Preds were outplayed late as Montreal’s PP clicked things into place to tie the game at one just minutes into the 3rd period. A penalty call and P.K. Subban’s one-timer won things for the hometown Habs 2-1. Still, despite their first ever back-to-back losses this season the Preds did get a point and maintained their lead heading into the break.

Next was All-Star weekend festivities. The Preds represented did not disappoint. At the Fantasy Draft Shea Weber was the 2nd overall pick for Team Toews. His teammate Filip Forsberg had to wait quite a bit longer however he was rewarded for it. Forsberg was the last pick of the draft and therefore won a new Honda Accord.

The next night was the Skills competition. The Beast delivered with everyone expecting him to win. His cannon shot registered in at 108.5 MPH, the 2nd highest ever recorded. Weber also scored his lone attempt in the Shootout competition by faking a slapped and then slipping the puck in 5-hole. Nifty for sure.

Forsberg on the other hand had one of the flashiest Shootout goals of the night. A description would not do it justice. Visit the Preds website and get the highlight. Maybe more impressive was his performance within the relay event. He partook in the puck control segment and it was a thing of beauty. Check my Twitter favorites for a slo-mo video of that. Amazing hands on the 20-year old.

Finally, we had the actual All-Star game on Sunday. It was fun to see a Pred light the lamp for the first time at the event with Forsberg potting not one but two goals. Weber was paired up with ex-Pred Ryan Suter which was interesting. Overall it was a game played at quarter speed but with a record setting amount of scoring and Team Toews won, the team Peter Laviolette was coaching.

Felder’s Second Half Five: The Five Areas I am focused on as the season wraps up.

1. Life Without Pekka - The most obvious and pressing concern coming out of the break will be Pekka Rinne and his return. In the interim I still think Hutton will get the majority of starts. If things trend closer to the three-week injury mark then we should see Pekka as soon as next week. It will be interesting to see if Mazanec gets another go in the back-to-back game later this week.

2. Securing Depth at the Deadline - This doesn’t have to be a big splash. It’s simply about getting that extra forward to make sure that you have enough depth come playoff time. Perhaps even an extra D-man if the price is right. The team makeup is such that I doubt you would need to let go of a 1st Round pick, but I want to see at least one depth move made. David Poile is usually fairly succesful with the quiet deadline moves and I feel that’s all this year would require.

3. The Balanced Attack – A key to the success this season has been the balanced attack from the Forwards and the Defenseman. That’s going to be critical down the line however this second half it will be interesting to see how other teams game plan to stop it. Being flexible and trying new things will be key to keep that balanced attack producing at the 3 goals for per game level.

4. Improving Special Teams – The team has been doing a better job on both sides of the ice for special teams. I don’t expect them to make top 10 units this year, but the 10-18 range should be the goal. As with most things consistency is key. Also timing. On the one hand I loved a few weeks ago when they buried that PP marker late vs the Caps. The other hand was this past week in MTL where they have up the OT PP goal. Improvement in consistency and timeliness will make this team that much more prepared for playoffs and those crucial situations.

5. Maintaining What’s Worked – You could call this one completing the process. Peter Laviolette has been preaching the process all year. The ultimate result of the process is being the last team standing. This is what Laviolette was brought to Nashville to do. Complete the process. If he does that, well my friends it would be the greatest season of our lives.

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3 Stars of the Week:

1. Filip Forsberg – 1 assist and 3 shots on goal. 2 All-Star game goals on 2 shots, the first ever Preds goal(s) in the event.

2. Mike Ribeiro – 1 goal and 2 shots on goal.

3. Shea Weber – 108.5 MPH cannon shot that showed the NHL why he is a Norris Trophy finalist each year. 1 assist in the All-Star game and managed to finish at a +4.

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Goalie Grade

Carter Hutton – A – Hutton performed very well in Montreal. I hope he is finding some rhythm as we await the return of Pekka Rinne. I really can’t fault Hutton on the PP markers against. Just solid hockey goals. He stopped 25 of 27 shots.

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Perilous Prediction – The prediction last week was that Weber would have a goal and 2 assists in the All-Star game.

This week we will go with a team prediction. I’m marking the Preds down for 3 PP goals or more for the week.

Join in with your own Perilous Prediction by using the #PredsItCPP

 

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The Week Ahead –  In my #PredsItCWAP I went with a 0-1 predicted record for the week. The Preds did lose but got a point within there so that’s a bit better than I predicted.

The week ahead features 4 games.

Tuesday is the first game back with a home game against the Colorado Avalanche. The last time the Preds met them the Avs were having goaltender health issues. Semyon Varlamov is back in between the pipes for Colorado lately. Game time is set for 7 PM CST.

Then it will be a set of back-to-backs. It begins in St. Louis where the Blues will be well rested as that will be their first game after the break. This one starts at 7 PM CST and is the last regular season matchup against the Blues. If the previous games are any indication I would bet it’s going to be a fantastic hockey game.

The next night they get their 2nd matchup of the week against Colorado. It’s an 8 PM CST start for this one.

The week concludes on Super Bowl Sunday with an afternoon contest in Pittsburgh. The Penguins will host a 1 PM CST contest and it should be a great test of where the Preds stack up against a contender from the East.

My #PredsItCWAP is the Preds go 1-1-2 for a 4 point week. I think the back to back presents quite the challenge with St. Louis laying in wait plus ending in Pittsburgh will be a huge test on the D and goalies. Could get very interesting as to what Laviolette does with the goaltender situation.

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

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I hope you enjoyed the All-Star break as much as I did. It’s pretty fun to see the Preds gaining national spotlight and momentum. I do know I’m more than ready for next year’s All-Star game now!

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