I like Nashville
They're sort of like the anti-Caps - consistent - hardworking - overachieving - battlers. They leave it all out there on the ice every time I watch them play. I watched many of their games during last season's playoffs and enjoyed seeing them overcome the Anaheim Ducks and push the Stanley Cup Champion finalist Vancouver Canucks to six games in round two. All but one of those six games were one-goal games. That says a lot for Nashville.
Maybe it's something about David Poile's teams since the last one I admired was that 1997-1998 overachieving Stanley Cup finalist Washington Capitals team led by stellar play in net from Godzilla, aka, Olaf Kolzig. Pekka Rinne's played a similar role for Nashville with his performance during last season's playoffs. Poile's reputation is about creating hard-working teams that overachieve on small budgets and he's done it again in Nashville. He had to do it for Abe Pollin, during his Washington years, because Pollin never really cared about the Caps.
The Predators signed Rinne to a long-term deal recently, 7-years and $49 million. For a 29 year-old goalie, this deal could turn out to be a disaster for Nashville, but he played in the goalie zone during last season's playoffs and there's no reason to believe he won't again. Keeping defensemen Shea Weber (Norris trophy finalist) and Ryan Suter is still an issue for this team. They need those three to stay competitive.
But, right now, I enjoy watching the Preds, even when they play my Caps. To give the Caps credit tonight, they battled well, for once, didn't leave Nashville much offensive space and paid attention to their transition game and defense -- until the last five minutes of the game. That's an improvement over their play in New Jersey. They didn't, however, crash the net, even after they knew only a garbage goal might get past Rinne. He tracked the puck perfectly and didn't leave any rebounds. Rinne stopped 39 of 40 shots from the Capitals.
Tom Vokoun played equally strong in net for the Caps, stopping 28 of 30 shots he faced. He left a few more rebounds out there than Rinne did, but he played solid overall. Both goalies got lucky bounces.
Troy Brouwer broke the scoring drought at 15:14 in the third period, with a pretty goal shot above Rinne's head, off of a perfectly placed pass by Marcus Johansson. Then, LESS THAN 30 SECONDS LATER, the Caps let the Predators score. This is so typical of this team that it makes me want to scream. Nichlas Backstrom should have been back sooner, John Carlson needed to stop that pass from Weber to Martin Erat and Jeff Schultz should have pushed Weber out of the way. The checking line should have been out there anyway, holding on to a fragile one goal lead, late in the third period. It was obvious the Predators were going to press after the Caps goal.
The 4th line gets my star of the night for the Caps. Mike Knuble hustled all game, like it was his last chance to play hockey, and he tried, unsuccessfully, to bat a puck over Rinne's head from the back of the net. Matt Hendricks and Jeff Halpern played just as gritty as Knuble for that line.
Even though my heart is with the Caps, I like the Predators and Coach Barry Trotz. He gets the most out his players. Most importantly, they're not the - inconsistent - overly talented - underachieving - non-battling Washington Capitals that drive Caps fans, like me, insane.
Other Brief Notes:
- Much has been said in the press recently about Alex Ovechkin's play this year and the fact that he needs to change his game with Coach Bruce Boudreau agreeing. I also agree he needs to change his game, but I don't agree it's all on him to figure it out. I think he needs someone to help show him the way and a team system that puts him in the best position to succeed. Then, it's all on Ovie to practice his "new" game so it's as natural as his "old" one used to be. He needs to commit to it. That's all on him, too. I always think of the Scotty Bowman/Steve Yzerman duo when I think of Ovie as it's still my dream that Ovie turns into a late blooming Yzerman type. I'm the Capsdreamer for a reason though. I keep dreaming and things never change.
- Florida shutout Dallas tonight 6-0. The Caps got shellacked by Dallas 5-2 last week. Are there any Caps fans out there that think the Caps are a shoo-in for the playoffs this season? Hmmm.
Let's go Caps!