Coach Barry Trotz
Anders Lindback and Pekka Rinne
The Nashville Predators concluded the evaluation phase of their preseason schedule with a 2-1 loss to the Washington Capitals in front of a rowdy crowd of 15,218 at the Bridgestone Arena on Saturday night.
Jay Beagle scored the game winning goal at 6:47 in the third period to give the Caps a lead that they never relinquished.
Mike Green opended the scoring for the Capitals with a back door power play goal, 3:21 into the game that came off of a beautiful cross ice pass from Nicklas Backstrom.
The Predators tied the game at 7:25 in the second period when Colin Wilson sent a perfect no-look pass from behind the net to Matt Halischuk who buried it in the net from the slot.
The game was dominated by defense and goaltending as the Predators outshot the Capitals 25-23.
Dany Sabourin got the win after relieving Michal Neuvirth at the halfway mark of the game. Pekka Rinne started for the Preds and Anders Lindback took the loss in relief.
What We Learned...
The Predators special teams continued to struggle. The power play is still looking for their first goal after going 0-6 against the Caps bringing the three game total to 0-13. The Penalty kill gave up a goal on its only opportunity bringing the total to three goals in eleven chances over the last three nights.
Barry Trotz is not concerned about the lack of scoring through three games. "I'm not that worried (about offense), on the other side we have been pretty good defensively. In the first game we were porous on defense and the last two games we've be good on defense. It's a work in progress on the offensive side."
Trotz continued, "Special teams are obviously a work in progress. We went into camp and the first three games were evaluation. There wasn't a lot of match-ups with everybody playing against everybody."
Several veterans played their first game including Shea Weber, Steve Sullivan and Matthew Lombardi and appeared somewhat out of sync. "Our veteran guys are rusty," Trotz explained. "They need some games. They are not ready for the season right now. We have three games left and you will see more of these guys playing."
"We are done experimenting and we have to go from there. We've had our evaluation process and now we are going to have to make hard decisions. These decisions are going to be made for the 'now'. Some guys may not have their game under them but they have a little bit of history so they may have an edge knowing that they will get their game on. Some of the young guys are really pushing from the back side to some of the veterans."
Both Pekka Rinne and Anders Lindback looked sharp in net. Rinne stopped seven of eight, while Lindback allowed one goal on 15 shots.
Lindback played his second half-game in two nights stopping 29 of 30 shots in the process. It would appear at this point that the second goalie spot may be his to lose.
Trotz was pleased with Lindback's play, "He's played really well. He's only given up one goal in sixty minutes of play. You put Peks in net or you put him in and they look the same. He's just got to gain experience. He's getting better every day."
Matt Halischuk played a solid game and is desperately trying to make the final squad. In addition to his goal, he also added three shots in 17:47 of ice time. When asked about the difference in the New Jersey Devils and the Predators' approaches Halischuk said,"Every system is different. This one involves more puck speed and puck support"
Matthew Lombardi played his first game as a Predator and logged a very heavy 21:15 minutes on the ice. He played on a line with Patric Hornqvist and Sergei Kostitsyn and appeared to develop chemistry as the game progressed.
Lombardi said "A lot of guys are getting to know each other and we just have to keep getting better as camp goes on so that we will be full force when the season starts."
Blake Geoffrion probably played his last preseason game in front of the hometown fans this year. He centered a line of Wade Belak and Kelsey Wilson and was -1 on the evening while playing 10:42. he had a good evening in the face off circle, winning seven of eleven draws.
After the game the team pared the roster down to 38 players. Trotz commented on the moves, "There's 12 guys, they are the younger guys. They are good players in the group on defense and forward that are going to eventually play but we felt that at this point that we needed to get them settled back in Milwaukee."
"It doesn't mean that hey won't play this yyear for us, it only means that there are others in the pecking order that we need to see first who have a history in the league or have played well in camp. We've got to get a little of the clutter out and bring the numbers down quickly. We've got to work on our game."
My three stars of the game...
1 - Mike Green
2 - Matt Halischuk
3 - Jay Beagle
The Predators will return to the ice for their final home preseason game against the Atlanta Thrashers on Monday night at 7 p.m.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass