I had the opportunity to be at the Garage for last night's game and while I enjoyed what went on in the stands, I did not enjoy what I saw on the ice.
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I wouldn't say that the Canucks dominated but they were persistent. They did everything the Preds should have done. They got traffic in front of Dan Ellis, they put shots on net whenever they could and they took pucks hard to the net. The first few penalties cost the Preds momentum. They didn't help themselves much on their own PP's either. Also, most of their shots were either right at Luongo's chest or to his glove side. You're not going to get much by him if that is the case.
Positives: Weber's fight with Kesler. I definitely think Weber won that one and since he only fights when someone pisses him off, he probably tried to spark the team. That plan bombed as Steve Bernier scored while the two were in the box. Joel Ward was strong on the puck all night and Steve Sullivan displayed his wheels.
Negatives: A lot here. Firstly, two words: Preds defence. This might have been the worst game of the season for the Weber-Suter pairing. I also thought Cody Franson played very poorly but I can probably attribute that to him playing in Vancouver for the first time since the Memorial Cup and with having family in attendance. The latter usually happens with Pred players born around the GVRD. While I thought Dan Ellis was strong for the most part, he gave up a TON of rebounds and nice, juicy ones too. For once, I think the Klein-Hamhuis pairing was not the worst out there. Bouillon was by far the best Preds d-man on the ice last night but that isn't really saying a whole lot. Lastly, there was virtually no physicality by the Preds that garnered notice. Noone really threw any big hits or showed that kind of energy.
Tough luck: Losing Jerred Smithson early hurt. He's a great skater, maybe the best on the team and a great PKer. This is a game in which we could've used Toots' energy.
A growing problem: Martin Erat is a great puckhandler but we have seen him spin around and do nothing with the puck in the past. I always hate to see him dance into the attacking zone and then have noone to pass to or to dump it into the corner. He's been on a tear of late. The rest of the team is gritty and hard-working. Erat is probably the last of the skill players we have on this team. He used to have Paul Kariya to pass to or get passes from. PK opened up A LOT of room for his linemates. We don't have that kind of a playmaker anymore and that would be a good use of a few million in cap space to help Marty out...
Solutions?: Well a nice one would be to make a trade for some scoring talent. We know that Poile has contacted Don Waddell about Ilya Kovalchuk but we also know from experience that nothing is going to come out of that. The Preds have the #2 ranked organization in terms of prospects in the league (ranked by hockeysfuture.com) so they do have the assets to make a big move. At the same time, it may not be wise to make such a big move as this game was probably a blip in the radar. This team has produced well of late and ran into a big wall. I also think that the Nick Spaling experiment should be over. He didn't look very good last night and didn't contribute much in the games vs. Edmonton or Calgary. I think the next call-up should be Mike Santorelli or Peter Olvecky. The other solution could very well be Toots but we don't have the luxury of having him for another month or so.
Honorable mentions: The green guys next to the visitor's penalty box were hilarious. Funny to see Scatch, in his second stint in the penalty box, throw the towel over the camera.
The team spent 3 full days in Vancouver. The Preds coaching staff were at the Blues/Canucks game scouting. Clearly, it did not pay off. This team better get ready for Chicago and 4 straight games against divisional opponents. A very tight Western Conference leaves very little room for error. The race is on.
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