Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Former Predator Tomas Vokoun Adds to Team’s Misery Index

Excommunicated goaltender Tomas Vokoun helped keep the lid on the Nashville Predator’s offense by shutting down the Predators in a 3-0 shutout win in Sunrise, Florida Tuesday night. Vokoun, the Preds all time shutout leader, made Nashville the 30th and last NHL team that he has chalked up a win against during his career.

The Predators “Misery Index” (otherwise known as average goals scored) dropped to 1.17 in the last six games. During that stretch the Preds have only scored 7 goals, 3 of which came in a shutout win against Dallas on December 13. The Predators are 2-3-1 as the scoring drought seems to be hardening.

The Predators played their usual brand of tough, hard skating hockey but Florida simply was the better team on this night blistering the Predators with 43 shots. The Predator defense was not having the major breakdowns that were prominent early in the year but left Florida with far too many scoring chances. The offense garnished 27 shots but few were quality chances.

The game winner for the Cats came at 13:12 in the second period when Pekka Rinne lost his stick and was out of position leaving Michael Frolik with an open goal off a pass from Michael Boyton. The Predators were never out of the contest and you really got the feeling that they would eventually find the net to tie the game. That house of cards tumbled on a Cory Stillman slapshot at 15:28 in the third. The fat lady was still crooning when Michael Frolik kicked sand in the Pred’s faces with an empty netter with 14 seconds left in the contest.

Pekka Rinne’s continued stellar play was the only highlight for the Predators. He stopped 40 of 42 Panther shots of which almost half were quality scoring chances. In spite of the loss it was one of his better outings of the year as he was peppered from all angles from opening face-off until he was pulled for an extra skater at the end.

While the demotion of Marty Erat to what is being called the “third line” paid dividends last Saturday, it was a total failure on Tuesday. Erat, Fiddler and Peverly were each –2 on the night while only getting off four shots. Barry Trotz needs to rethink his line strategies with a focus on putting players together that have a chance to score goals.

On paper, other than the first line of Arnott, Dumont and Ward which is producing no offense, the current line configurations all look like marginal third or fourth line combos. The alleged second line of Legwand, Tootoo, and Philstrom has no more punch than the Erat, Peverly, Fiddler third unit. It would really be a miracle if you could squeeze a goal out of the Smithson, Bonk, Belak fourth line.

The bottom line is that the Predators are short one consistent 30 goal scorer. If they are waiting for the return of Steve Sullivan, they will be out of the playoff picture before that happens. The rumored trade of DeVris, Rinne and Radulov (rights) to Calvary for Matthew Lombardi and James Vandermeer is laughable. The rumor monger that came up with that needs to get off the sauce.

It’s time for the tandem of David Poile and Barry Trotz to step up and pull the rabbit out of the hat as they have done annually the last several years. Detroit visits Music City on Friday and if Dan Ellis does not recreate the magic that he had in last year’s playoffs against the Wings and the Preds offense remains anemic, the Pred faithful will be headed for an early exit from the Sommet Center.

As we wind down for a couple of days, PredsOnTheGlass would like to wish each of you a Merry Christmas and many blessings as we head toward the new year. And for the Predators, may they find a new player or two under the tree on Christmas morning.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

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